Spencer from MagMod was nice enough to send over this little bag of goodies from the very first batch of MagMod speedlite modifiers released way back in February, and I’ve finaly had a chance to put together a hands on review of these great modifiers.
MagMod launched on Kickstarter with an initial goal of just $35,00, and raised over $200,000. With over 1200 backers on-board in the first week, the demand for a good convenient speedlite modifier system was pretty clear.
The MagMod system uses a tough silicon elastic mounting band, as well as unique durable silicon rubber modifiers. All with powerful Neodymium “rare-earth” magnets placed inside, allowing very fast, simple, and secure attachment of grids and gels to the flash head.
MagMod are not just practical though, they look great as well, and provide a very professional look to the flash units. Spencer obviously has a talent for design, and even the packaging have a great funky, though elegant minimalist styling –
First up the MagGels are made of thicker firm plastic, so they are easy to handle and won’t crumple up like regular thin gel sheets.
And the simple silicon rubber gel holders are very durable and easy to handle as well.
And again the MagGrids all made of silicon rubber, so they are also very durable.
And the slim clean profile allows them to easily slip in and out of a pocket when not in use.
The MagGrip mounting band is a tough elastic silicon, which stretches over the flash head for a very secure fit.
And being elastic the MagGrip is universal, fitting just about any speedlite head very neatly.
Once the MagGrip is mounted on the flash head, the Gels and Grids literally almost jump into place on the flash head by themselves.
And that’s really all there is too it. It would be hard to find a faster or simpler mounting method than this. And you can also stack as many Gels and Grids as you like.
The MagGrip is the foundation of the Magmod system, and provides a secure mounting base on the flash head for the modifiers to attach to. The elastic silicon rubber mounting band simply stretches over the flash head.
Once in place the MagGrip is very secure, and molds nicely to the shape of the flash head. Providing a shapely mount which really looks like it was designed to be part of the flash.
And the MagGrip could even provide some protection for the flash head, a bit like we have seen previously with silicon rubber camera armor.
And when I say the MagGrip is secure on the flash head, I mean its really secure. You could easily lift the flash, and camera… and possibly a small monkey clinging to that, all by the MagGrip and it still wouldn’t slide off the flash head!
That very tight fit on larger flashes like the Canon 600EX-RT may arguably be overkill though. And as discussed further below, can possibly work against the MagGrip to some extent. Making it a bit less convenient than it likely could be to mount and remove quickly if needed.
You can see below how the MagGrip is really stretching to fit over the Canon 600EX-RT. A larger Nikon SB-910 etc would be even tighter.
When mounted the MagGrip does also add a little bit of extra size and weight to the flash head. Its the extra size that can become a limiting factor though when using some softbox mounts etc.
For regular off camera Grid and Gel mounting though the MagGrip is generally fairly unobtrusive. And the added speed and convenience provided makes it well worthwhile.
The Neodymium “rare-earth” magnets placed inside each end of the MagGrip are strong, but probably not quite as strong as I was actually expecting. I wouldn’t rely on them to support the flash like this anyway.
This has obviously been tuned intentionally though, because if the magnets were any stronger they would start to make the removing or re-positioning the grids and gels more difficult than needed. As they are now, the modifiers are more than secure, and still very easy to manipulate.
The genius of this system is the that the one universal MagGrip will stretch to fit most flash heads regardless of their variation in size. With smaller flash heads the spacing between the magnets may not quite match the gels and grids anymore, though the magnets still have enough strength to hold the modifiers securely.
This would have all taken a lot of thought and consideration in the development process.
The MagGels are actually the thing that initially grabbed my interest most in the MagMod system.
Obviously like a lot of other people as well, I though there had to be a better method of mounting regularly used gels, than messing about with flimsy crumpled up gel sheets.
And I always thought solid gels would be the way to go. Its just a matter of finding a convenient way to mount, and even stack them on the flash head.
Luckily Spencer was thinking the same way. And the simple MagGel holder comes with a set of solid gels, which are very easy to tuck inside the silicon rubber holder.
You can even stack 2 or 3 gels inside the one holder, or have a few holders handy for even faster mounting. Using just one gel does move around a little in the holder, though nothing really rattles inside a silicon rubber mount, so that’s not really an issue.
Mounted on the MagGrip and flash head the MagGrid provides a very professional and elegant looking solution. Not to mention a very fast and convenient one.
The MagGel Kit comes with the commonly used color correction gels – Full, 1/2, 1/4 CTO, 1/2 Blue , 1/2 Green, and 1/2 Straw (matches sunset etc). As well as a 3 stop neutral density filter, and a white or Opal Frost diffuser. A separate creative color gel set is also available.
One issue has been that it can be very hard to actually see which gel is which without any markings on them. MagMod are reportedly on to this though and will be adding descriptions at some point. I would assume likely just stickers, as that is all they would need really.
The Gels do also scratch up quite easily. If you happen to carry them loose in the MagGel box where they can rub around against each other, you will likely see just how much they can scratch up pretty quickly.
You could possibly find a nice credit card like holder or similar to store and protect them. Though I’m not sure its worth worrying too much about scratching, as its going to happen to some degree anyway, and it has no real effect on their practical use.
The MagGel are otherwise excellent for bare flash use, or mounting with the the MagGrid. And provide a really neat clean and organised system. I’ll go into compatibility with other modifiers further below.
The MagGrid is again made from silicon rubber, making it very durable and tactile, unlike other honeycomb grids which tend to get beaten up and damaged quite easily.
You could even drop a MagGrid on the foor in a quiet room, and it would just bounce off quietly, without hardly being noticed or damaged.
The slim profile of the MagGrid is again very intentional, so that it very easy to slip in and out of a pocket when not in use.
The MagGrid’s can be stacked with the MagGels, or a number of Grids can be stacked together to provide a tighter beam.
One Grid is alone is a nice 39 degree beam, 2 grids will provide a very tight 19 degrees.
The MagGel and MagGrid align nicely together on the flash head.
I have stacked the grid in front of the gels here, though in general the gels should likely be mounted in front of the grids as explained further below.
MagGrid Light Pattern -
The effects of adding a MagGrid to the flash can be seen below, compared to a bare flash set to 24mm zoom.
This comparison also shows the light loss when adding the grid. Which is a little more with the MagGrid than some other honeycomb grids, likely due to the slightly thicker wall thickness of the rubber honeycomb.
All test images are straight out of the camera, and the flash is 1.2M, or 4 feet, from the wall.
So the MagGrid provides a nice tight beam with a fairly circular light pattern.
As with most speedlight grids though, the pattern is not as even as a bare bulb flash for producing a nice background highlight. And the MagGrid are probably a little less even than some of the thinner honeycomb grids as well.
People often complain about speedlites in general not producing the best gridspot highlights. Though there is one simple trick I find produces very nice results, and that is simply using the flip down wide angle diffuser on the flash head before adding the grid over the top.
This may sound counter intuitive, though generally produces very nice even results in comparison –
As you can see the light output is reduced again, though that is normal when using the wide angle diffuser in any case.
Bumping the power up again though produces a really nice highlight pattern –
When the light can not be hidden directly behind the subject, placing the light just bellow or above the frame, and as straight on to the background as possible, provides nice results. Lighting from the side can also creating a reasonably even circular highlight, or more dramatic gradient effects.
This is all just producing an even highlight pattern on a plain background. For simply gridspot lighting a subject, non of the patterns above would really be noticeable in the image anyway. So the bare MagGrid would generally be fine on their own for most uses.
MagGrid and MagGel -
Generally mounting the MagGrid to the flash head before the MagGels provides the most even light patterns.
I found there is a good practical reason to generally mount the MagGrids first though too. As when mounting the MagGel first, the larger magnets in the MagGrid can eventually pull the smaller magnets out of the MagGel holder when the MagGrid is pulled away.
This is not a big issue in any case, though mounting the MagGrids to the flash head first saves any possible hassles there.
Inside Modifiers -
Using the MagMod system to gel the flash when using umbrellas, or umbrellas softboxes, is no problem, as there is plenty of room around the flash head to fit the MagGrip and MagGel inside those.
Even the pop up Ezybox style softbox brackets should be ok, as the flash head is usually fine to sit just outside the speedring.
Where the MagMod does run into trouble is with brackets like the recent Godox S-Type Bracket, and the Phottix HS Speed Mount II. Which is a bit of shame as these are great brackets, and becoming very popular for mounting regular S-type mount softbox and modifiers. But the MagGrip itself simply won’t fit through the mounting ring in these brackets.
And that is understandable, as no system is going to work with everything. But this also highlights why it may be better if the MagGrip itself wasn’t quite so tight on the flash head. So you could still slip it on and off a lot easier when needed. The MagGrip is not actually that hard to mount, its just that Velcro is more effortless in that case.
So this is an area its really going to depend on what other gear you commonly use. I know a lot of wedding and event photographers have their preferred set up well refined, and use one or two modifiers at most. So the MagMod is likely either going to fit into that set up or not.
I’m thinking in terms here of the ideal scenario of standardising all the flashes to MagMod. Or being able to use the flashes with the MagMod mounted all the time. Even if this is not possible though, the MagGrid and MagGels are still going to be very valuable to wedding photographers etc used by themselves (which is likely the majority of the time anyway).
Flash On Camera -
On camera flash use is the other area that is really going to depend on your preference in modifiers.
For gelling the bare flash the MagGel are brilliant. They attach to the flash silently effortlessly, and the are ideal to slip in and out of your pocket when not mounted on the flash. And the they look great.
EDIT / UDPATE – The Stofen caps will actually hold quite well in the top of the MagGel!, provided they have the small taps on the outer edges to tuck under the gel holders lip like the gels do.
I know people have their own on-camera modifier preferences (and are often quite passionate about them), though I personally like the simple Demb Flip-It style bounce card. Or even just funny foam used in the same manner. The concept being that the card is mounted on the short side of the flash, so for portrait shots the flash head is simply tilted 90 degrees to point straight up again.
MagMod do have a bounce modifier of some form coming next. Though in the mean time it literally took me 15 minutes to make up a great little bounce card out of plastic ice-cream container. One magnet simply stuck to the card is more than enough to hold this very securely, and its easy to remove or swivel.
With the camera turned to portrait the flash head is simply tilted 90 degrees.
The card above really only took 15 minutes to make. Though I have played for hours attaching different things to the flash head. If you have some spare magnets around its a lot of fun attaching flags and reflectors etc. Regular gel samples etc can also be attached under a couple of regular magnets. Magnets will even attach to the side of the MagGrip (or flash head).
For larger bounce cards like a Rogue Flash Bender, the MagGel should still sit in place ok. Where this may run into problems again though is for people that like to use the Black Foamie Thing or similar. I’m sure you could still use those, though that may become a bit of a hassle if removing the MagGel often, or trying to re-position the Foamie Thing around the flash head.
Which brings me to the next thing on the wish list, which would possibly be a smaller Gel holder. The current one is great for off camera use, though being universal its almost twice the height of the (Canon or similar) flash head. If made more specifically to fit the most common flashes, this holder could almost be half the width. Matching the flash head and more closely and allowing modifiers to still be strapped around the MagGrip without any issue.
I did try simply making a smaller Gel with 2 magnets stuck straight on that. Though Ideally a plastic gel holder could even be 3D printed. I did actually find my smaller DIY gel was less convenient to handle and pocket etc, though I still think it would be a nice option to have just for on-camera flash use.
Other Flash units work just as well with the MagMod by the way. I’ve mainly pictured the Canon 600EX-RT as it will no doubt be the most common flash used with the MagMod. The Nikon SB-910 would likely be next, though I don’t have those. And the Phottix Mitros+ (with Odin radio transmitter built in) is becoming another favorite among many wedding and event photographers –
The first optional accessory from MagMod is a radio transmitter mounting band, which was actually supplied as a bonus with the first MagMod kits. The larger loop goes over the flash head, and the smaller loop holds a radio transmitter to the side or top of the flash.
I think MagMod have now redesigned the band to provide a larger radio trigger loop, as this one is too tight to fit most current transmitter units. And the new band will be black as well.
The earlier band (apart from the color) is however still ideal for the Cybersync transmitter, which for those in the US at least, has been one of the best manual transmitter options for wedding photographers (due to the very small size when strapped to the on-camera flash, and great range and reliability).
The next accessory to come from MagMod will be the all important on-camera bounce modifier.
And as mentioned above, I don’t think a simple small bounce card will be a big issue, as you can easily DIY one now if needed (a nice molded silicon one would still be better of course).
Its some other styles of on camera modifiers that may be a little more tricky (practically to produce, and because of all the existing patents). There is a huge market for on-camera modifiers though, so there is plenty of incentive for MagMod to develop and offer some great options.
My main wishlist would likely be a silicon version of the Black Foamie Thing, with a number of magnets in the base so that it could be easily swiveled 360 degrees on the flash head. A smaller white reversible card could also sit inside that, so that it doubles as a bounce card as well. And possibly even a larger white bounce card could attach to it as well, so that the larger card can fold flat or roll up.
MagMod are a fantastic system for anyone looking for a fast, durable, less fussy, (and even quiet), speedlite gel and grid system.
And they are really an amazing achievement for a first product from Spencer and MagMod. We definitely need more well thought out quality products like this, which are really trying to make practical improvements.
The price is a bit higher than some other options (though completely reasonable, and understandable for what they are), so I’m sure if you have heard of MagMod already you would have a pretty good idea if you are wanting to invest already as well. Hopefully this has offered a little extra insight though.
For a stand alone off camera Grid and Gel system for wedding and event photographers I think the MagMod would be hard to go past. To completely standardise to them, or for on-camera flash use, its really going to depend on your preference in modifiers etc. It will be very interesting to see what MagMod have coming.
Price and Availability -
The components are all available separately in the MagMod Store as well.