The New Profoto D3 Pack-In-Head 750/1250: Should You Upgrade?

 In News, Profoto, Steve Hendrix

The Profoto D3 Continues the Revolution that Profoto Started

15 years ago, Profoto introduced the Profoto D1 Studio Monohead. This product really changed everything when it came to studio lighting. Up until that time, if you used a monohead in the studio, it often was because you couldn’t afford a pack and separate lampheads, since no monohead could approach the reliability and performance of a quality generator pack and studio lampheads. But the D1 completely changed that game. Here was a powerful light source built with Profoto quality, with a super easy and attractive user interface that immediately on launch was the best in the industry, and the Profoto Air communication protocol, built-in to the head. Remember, in 2009, most of the industry was still using Pocket Wizards with no real ability to do anything except pop- the lights.

On 2016, Profoto released the D2, a follow up to the D1, that upped the ante in terms of performance. The D1 rivaled many studio generators in performance (recycle time, flash duration), but the D2 approached the levels of the very top performing studio packs. Now, not only did one seriously consider using a studio monohead instead of a pack generator, but one might even prefer it from a performance standpoint. Soon after, the D2 Industrial was announced. We have some very very high volume clients, and while these products were solid, they had limits in terms of industrial level reliability, so the D2 Industrial was intended to meet those needs.

The Profoto D3 Pack-In-Head is for Studios That Require The Most

The most what, one might ask? The most ease of use, the most performance, the most reliability. Importantly, the Profoto D2 remains a current product. What we found with our testing was that the Profoto D3 performs quite similarly to the Profoto D2. The difference is that it maintains this level of performance with reinforced reliability, beyond what the D2 Industrial proposed. And with more power. But what we also found was that the D3 performs well even compared to the Profoto Pro 11 Generator Pack.

Flash Duration Test: The Good Ole Fan Test For Stopping Power

Power Level 1-2-3, Top To Bottom: Profoto D2, Profoto D3, Profoto Pro 11 – Solid

Power Level 6, Left to Right: Profoto D2, Profoto D3, Profoto Pro 11 – Yep

Power Level 8, Left to Right: Profoto D2, Profoto D3, Profoto Pro 11 – Holding, holding ….

Power Level 10, Left to Right: Profoto D2, Profoto D3, Profoto Pro 11 – Bridge too far

Flash Duration Test – What Did This Test Show?

For me, what it showed was that for flash duration performance, the D2 and D3 compare well to each other and even to the Flagship Pro 11. Maybe you could say the Pro 11 eeked out just a teensy bit more crispness, perhaps a bit more at the very low power/ very fast end, but it’s pretty darn close. And the specs seem to closely mirror the actual real world performance.

 Profoto D3 750wsProfoto D3 1250wsProfoto D2 500wsProfoto D2 1000wsProfoto Pro 11
Flash Duration t0.5Freeze Mode:
1/1900s (10) - 1/75000s (0.1)
Freeze Mode:
1/1400s (10) - 1/62000s (0.1)
Freeze Mode:
1/2600s (500ws) - 1/63,000s (1ws)
Freeze Mode:
1/1600s (10) - 1/50,000s (1ws)
Freeze Mode:
1/1000s (2400ws) - 1/80,000s (2.4ws)

So Should You Upgrade?

Today I notice a lot of new products get slammed because they don’t offer game changing advantages over the previous generation product. This is unfair to manufacturers. Photographic products, whether they are cameras, lenses, or lights, are better than they ever have been. It’s hard to dramatically improve upon such great products.

You could make an argument for any of these lighting solutions – a D2 for great performance, reliability, and price. A D3 for more power, great performance, unparalleled reliability and durability. A Pro 11 for ultimate power and performance, particularly for recycle time, where it cuts a half second off the best performance of the D2 or D3 at full power, and also has more light shaping ability due to the externally exposed flashtube configuration.

If you’re a studio shooting D1 monoheads and you need a performance boost, whether it is recycle speed or flash duration, you could be a candidate. If you’re shooting 500ws and need a power boost, now you have a 1250ws super robust and reliable pack-in-head option. Even if you’re at 1000ws, sometimes you have those days when it’s like – If I just had like another half stop … For a high quality product photography studio, the idea of adjusting by raising ISO is not ideal, you’re in control of the lighting environment, so you want the light in order to create the highest possible quality. You rely upon the light, because you’re in complete control over it, vs an ambient light environment. So why compromise on the image quality by raising an ISO, or reducing depth of field by opening up an aperture?

If you’re not upgrading but starting a studio, you could go D2 and save some money, but a D3 is going to last longer and produce less down time, plus offer more power. One might think the Pro 11 Power Pack might be the ultimate, and it still would occupy that position, with a 2400ws output, but that’s at a steep increase in price over a D3.

What About Pricing?

Profoto D2 500ws start at $2,295.
Profoto D3 750ws start at $2,995.
Profoto Pro 11 Pack and Head start at $20,814.

My take – if it was me, vs D2, I would opt for the D3. I know it’s easy for me to spend the money of others. But there are solid reasons for spending a bit more – it’s all newer tech, it performs similar to D2. But it has more power, it will have substantially higher reliability (it is literally built like a tank), CoB LED modeling light that is brighter than the 300ws hot Halogen modeling lamp of the D2, and Air-X built-in (D2 is only Air-TTL).

The CI Take

At the end of the day what photographers want are more options. Yesterday for ultimate studio performance, you had the choice of a Profoto D2 Monohead, or a Profoto Pro 11. Today is better than yesterday, because you have yet another choice, the Profoto D3. The choice is yours.

By Steve Hendrix

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions feel free to reach out!

Steve Hendrix – 404.543.8475

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