Let’s get one thing out of the way — this is not a hit piece on Profoto. I’ve been an avid user and proponent of their gear for almost a decade. Their lighting is consistent and nearly bulletproof, and the system has come through for me for nearly a decade.

However, in the last couple of years, I feel like Profoto has relied on their reputation and heritage more than the customer experience. Everything from the new products they’ve introduced to customer support for existing products. It’s time Profoto start behaving like the premium brand they claim (and price themselves) to be.

I love Profoto — I’ve been an avid user of their system for years and the results are simply sublime. However, the last couple of years have been a bit less than reassuring

Three issues that brought me here

1. Support for existing products is lackluster

Many professional photographers rely on their lighting systems in their day to day operations. I’m no different — I take professional portraits in my studio and I rely on my Profotos.

Occasionally, I assess the new gear landscape and make decisions on purchases for the business to evolve with the times.I shoot Canon and prefer cameras with two memory card slots. We ordered a Canon R6 in July.

Here we are in November of 2020, and Profoto has yet to update the firmware of their triggers or strobes to be compatible. I’m sitting on a $2,500 asset (the R6) that I can’t use in the studio because my lighting system isn’t compatible with the latest Canon cameras. Nearly six months after it was introduced. 

On the Profoto support page, the last firmware update for the triggers and the strobes was in November 2019.

Profoto needs to update their firmware more frequently for their triggers. The last update for the Air TTL triggers was November 2019. That’s almost a full generation of new cameras ago.

2. Repair service leaves a lot to be desired

This is another price to value relationship blunder. Whenever I’ve had to send in a strobe to be repaired, not only is the service crazy expensive, the time to get the item back is weeks. I know there are parts shortages due to a global pandemic — but even before COVID-19, turnaround times were totally unacceptable — especially for gear in this price category.

3. Changing flashbulbs should be easy

Instead of just plain old plug and play, Profoto has this pin mechanism that wraps around the bulb. You can untwist it (with a pair of pliers) and replace the bulb, but I’ve yet to do it successfully. I always seem to disconnect the unaccessible pin mechanism. And you know what that means — another expensive trip to Profoto.

Bulb replacement should be a simple plug and play self service fix, but not with Profoto. Replacing the bulb requires untwisting that metal clamp that’s wrapped around the bulb without simultaneously removing that pin that’s anchored to the housing. I’ve yet to do it successfully, and even for a bulb replacement, it’s a $299 fee (plus shipping) to send it to Profoto, and potentially 4-6 weeks of down time.

What Profoto can do to improve

1. Faster firmware updates

I’m sure there are reasons, but if you’re going to charge what Profoto charges, then they need a better handle on firmware updates for the latest gear in the marketplace. Six months after a mainstream camera brand introduces a camera is way too long. I’m assuming of course that there will be an update for the R6 soon, but there’s no indication of that from Profoto.

2. Shorten the repair cycle

Four to six weeks to replace a flashbulb is ridiculous. Now I admit, when I’ve called Profoto and spoken to someone, I can often get my gear back faster. And one time when I needed the bulb replaced when I did it myself, they fixed it and shipped it back to me complimentary.

3. Improve the UI of triggers

Profoto has done a great job improving the UI on their latest strobe lights. But the triggers are not only expensive — the UI is Pong Atari 2600 style. Unintuitive and with a digital display akin to a 1980s VCR. Plus, it doesn’t display the strobe’s current power setting.

The triggers remind me of a 1980s VCR display. Moreover, they don’t display the current power settings of the strobes themselves, which is inconvenient during a shoot.

4. Re-engineer flash bulb replacements

This should be a simple plug and play procedure. The way it’s set up right now with the B1, B1X and B2, it’s almost automatic that I’ll have to send it to Profoto and wait potentially weeks for something I should be able to do myself in a matter of minutes.

Profoto is still great, but …

I’m not giving up on Profoto, at least not yet, but it’s discouraging for me to see an inexpensive competing system like Godox innovating and updating their firmware regularly and offering compelling products for a third to a fifth of the price.

Bottom line to Profoto is, if you’re going to charge like a premium brand, then it’s time to start acting like one. Upstarts like Godox are offering products that are “good enough” for considerably less money and fewer compatibility issues with new gear.

I want to hear from you! Share your experiences with Profoto in the comments below!