When speed lights aka hot shoe flash became easier to use, we started to see the advent of light shaping tools for speed lights. These took two forms, the first being relatively portable and directly mounting to the speed light, and those that were downsized from their strobe origins to allow speed lights to be used in ways similar to a strobe, albeit with less power.
Both have their strengths, but portability and ease of use is a primary use case for speed lights, so the idea of locally attachable light shapers is a powerful one. We have seen multiple offerings, so attaching with Velcro, some with elastic bands, some with glue (yuck) and others with all manner of weirdness of dubious value.
At the root of everything is the speed light and as is the case with cameras, no two speed lights are identical in size and shape, unless the second one is a POS offshore clone. Moreover, all these disparate connection systems require more dexterity than really wanted and tend to produce stuff that flops around, flies away or simply falls off when the cheap plastic clips break.
That's why I am so excited by MAGMOD.
The products have been out for a while and I ignored them when I first saw the pricing, believing that since the average speed light buyer is budget conscious, and many don't like using a flash at all, that the line would be an uphill sell. Certainly nothing that I saw on the web or in magazines, told me a different story. Then I got to try one in real life.
And that is the big missing for MAGMOD. They are not yet widely found in stores. Many list them, but few keep the product in store stock, and it's a tough sell until you try one.
The idea is based around a medium large rubberized flat ring called the MagGrip that stretches around the head of your speed light. At first glance, I was certain that this would never fit on the larger head of the Canon 600 EX II RT, that I had at hand. I was wrong. It took about 20 seconds to get the large band on the head. The band has two ears. They are much more solid rubberized material and each hold a rather strong magnet.
The MagGrip makes the flash head larger in the wide dimension, but not so that it will not longer fit in the camera bag. If it did and the band had to be removed when not using it, this would kill the product. No worries there.
The MagGrip in and of itself does nothing to the light. It is the attachment point for the light shapers. As a confessed strobist, I nearly never shoot a speed light without some kind of modifier, and Magmod bring a lot of options to bear. The starter kit includes the MagGrip, a filter holder, a set of rigid filters that fit into slots in the holder, a grid, and a strap to allow the strapping of a receiver to the flash. Since my speed lights all have radios built in, I won't likely need this part, but if I did, I would not have to go out and buy something.
Attaching a light shaper, like the MagGrid to the MagGrip is as simple as holding it in front of the mount. The magnets grab and you are done. Alignment is automatic and excellent and you are shooting instead of trying to make a strap or band or Meccano fabrication hold everything in place. Done? Pull the shaper away from the magnets and while not hard, the connection remains firm so things don't get knocked off inconveniently.
I also ordered the MagSphere, additional filters called MagGels, a MagSnoot and the MagBeam kit, plus two more MagGrips. I decided to go all in, except for one modifier that I will discuss later.
The MagGel options include creative colours, as well as corrective colours. All the filters are semi rigid so not like gels as you may have experienced elsewhere. No elastic bands, gaffer tape or other sticky something required. The filters fit into a slot on the rubberized filter holder. The filter holder is designed to be part of a stack so you can put it between modifiers if you wish.
The MagGrid is a similar offering. It is narrow and easy to use, with a 40 degree pattern. It too can be used between the mount and other modifiers. You can also stack MagGrids if you wish a narrower grid angle.
The MagSnoot is a very innovative construction. It uses the magnetic mount system but collapses in stages for specific angles of coverage. It is still usable fully collapsed and stores easily being about 3/4 inch high collapsed. There is a filter slot molded into the MagSnoot
The MagBeam kit includes a large collapsible hood, which offers three distinct coverage areas, that can also take two different lenses. The first is the one offered in the wildlife kit and is a fresnel like concentrator akin to a Better Beamer. It's designed for wildlife and gets the job done very nicely. The second is a reversing lens that acts to spread the light much wider. I can see this being very useful for interiors and groups where setting up a bunch of different speed lights may be location and time prohibitive. There are also four thin metal plates called MagMasks that act as Gobos, basically a plate with a pattern cut into it for customized light patterns. I like this sort of thing to change the pattern of light on a background, very much like a cuculoris for a small head. These plates are light, in fact they reminded me much of erase shields from my drafting days.
The MagSphere is for when you want to hurl light in all directions, some say similar to a Gary Fong device. I can understand that interpretation, the difference being that I don't find the MagSphere to be a pain in the ass. Unlike the Fongs, the sphere is very flexible and therefore easy to pack and the magnetic mount is very fast. Also unlike the Fongs, you do not lose as much power. I used the MagSphere to light some macro work of some N and Z gauge electric trains and the light was perfect and I wasn't having to jack the power to the rafters to get nice light. There is a filter slot molded into the MagSphere. My wedding photographer friend, Stephanie in Kentucky, loves this device for on the go work in her profession but she calls it the "boob" because, well because it kind of looks like a breast implant. MAGMOD is not going to call either of us for product naming assistance.
While I am a huge fan of the Lastolite EZYBox Speedlite, as well as the excellent reflector bounce systems from Rogue, I also ordered the MagBounce. It's another product that you do not appreciate until you try it. It is collapsible so travels well and instead of just two magnets, it has four so you get the orientation that you want whether shooting in landscape or portrait orientation.
I bought additional MagGrips, because I have more than one speed light and it is not very likely that I would use the same modifier on each flash. I also know myself and if there is one speed light, there will likely be at least two more, thus the decision at this point to have three mount kits. I expect that two more will follow as I use the MAGMOD system and learn which if any modifiers I might want more than one of.
In summary, the MAGMOD system does what I want. It delivers consistent light shaping, that I can control in a very fast, very efficient attachment method and the light shapers are of a level of quality that will hold up to regular use for a working professional. They are more expensive than some offshore offerings, but quality speaks as does ease of use. I will get more out of my speed lights with these tools and so can you. In fact since I received my initial shipment, I have ordered two more MagGrids and optional sets of MagMasks.
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I'm Ross Chevalier, thanks for reading, and until next time, peace.