Pixel have released their first HSS enabled ETTL speedlite in the new Mago, and they are available now from an incredibly low $90.
This is around half the price of the current comparable YongNuo YN-568EX II, and very likely the beginning of the end of premium prices normally associated with HSS enabled TTL hotshoe flashes.
UPDATE – 1st November 2014 – PLEASE NOTE – Although the initial Mago flash units where providing quite good ETTL exposures, this has unfortunately gone backwards with later firmware updates. And there have been quite significant issues reported with ETTL exposures and consistency with E9A_003 and E9N_004 firmware version units.
UPDATE – 10th April 2015 – A new major firmware update, version F2A_008, is now available HERE. And should resolve the issues noted above.
The Mago are surprisingly well built for flashes of this price, better than YN-568EX II in a some ways. And also providing a few significant extra features like –
- 20-200mm zoom (compared to 24-105mm)
- External HV Battery Port
- USB Port for Firmware Updates
- LED Video Light
- High Definition Dot Matrix LCD Screen
- Quick Lock Foot
In terms of functions, the Mago really only lack the basic manual S1 and S2 optic slave modes. UPDATE – S1 and S2 may now have been added with later firmware updates.
More of an issue for some people though, will be the lack of compatibility with other third party TTL radio triggers like the YongNuo YN-622C (currently working in TTL, but not in remote manual) and Phottix Odin etc. The Mago should offer a great inexpensive HSS enabled option for Pixel King and King Pro users though.
Also at the time of writing this the Mago are still a work in progress to some degree regarding some TTL exposures and a few other small quirks, which will all likely be resolved over time with new firmware. The Mago are 90% of the way there already, and completely usable, though Pixel can sometimes to take a bit of time to resolve things completely with new firmware updates.
Hardware wise the Mago appear to be fairly well resolved (though there a few small issues as mentioned below). Otherwise the Mago are full power flashes, with fast recycle times etc, and very well built for the low price.
Features and Specs –
- Flash Index – 60M@ISO 100/105mm
- Flash Mode – ETTL /M / Multi
- Auto Zoom / Manual Zoom: 20 – 200 mm
- HSS to 1/8000th
- 1st Curtain Sync / 2nd Curtain Sync
- FEC / FEB – 1/3rd Increments (±3 stops)
- Manual Flash – 1/128 – 1/1 output control (1/3rd increments)
- Canon Optic Wireless Master and Slave Modes
- AF-Assist Light
- 2W LED Light
- Sound Prompt
- High Definition Dot Matrix LCD Screen
- USB Port – Firmware Upgradable
- External Power Pack Input (Pixel Style Socket)
- PC Sync Port
- Full Head Tilt & Swivel – UP/Down: -7/90 degree Left/Right: 180/180 degree
- Flash Recycle Time – aprox 2.8 sec (1/1 full power output)
- Internal Power Source – 4 x AA size batteries (Alkaline or Ni-MH are available)
- Flash Times – 150 times (1/1 flash output, with Sanyo Eneloop batteries)
- Overheating Warning – multi dot-matrix temperature control, battery & tube overheat warning.
The Mago also provide full control through the Canon flash control menu –
The Mago have a good simple interface, with larger buttons and main dial than the Canon 600EX-RT, making them a little easier to access and manipulate.
One issue with the main dial though, is that the flash does not always react to every movement of the dial. I’ve noticed this is similar with a number of Pixel LED light panels as well, so I’m not sure if this is something that will be improved. It is a minor annoyance, though you do also get used to it.
Also the relatively loud beep sound goes off with every single click of the main dial, or button press on the flash interface. The beep can be turned off, though this disables the very useful recycle ready indicator beep as well.
Otherwise the Mago’s interface is very simple, and really quite fast and easy to use (for a Canon style interface).
The Dot Matrix LCD screen used in the Mago has very fine pixels, even compared to the Canon 600EX-RT. So its very crisp. Though it does have a slight mirror like appearance when view straight on, and with the back light on. Or from any angle really other than slightly from the right.
So the LCD screen can actually be a little difficult to see at times. The trick seems to be to view it slightly on an angle from the right side, where you can then get the full contrast.
I’m not sure if this is somehow intentional, as it does coincide with holding the camera in portrait, with the flash tilted down to the left and viewed slightly above. Pixel do promote the LCD as having a wide viewing angle, though a slight angle really appears to be the main viewing option.
In a direct comparison with the Canon 600EX-RT you can see Mago’s backlight is considerably brighter, and the pixels are much finer. Though the 600EX-RT has a lot more contrast and is easier to read.
The 600EX-RT LCD screen is larger, and displays the flash range scale along the base, which the Mago does not have. Also the Mago flash body itself is quite a bit larger than the 600EX-RT.
Pressing the mode button simply scrolls through the 3 main flash modes, TTL, Manual, and Multi (or stroboscopic mode).
Pressing the Function button scrolls through the function options displayed clearly on the right of the screen at all times: Sound Prompt, LCD Back Light, AF Assist, and Sleep Mode.
Keeping it simple, these are the only custom functions available with the Mago. There are more options displayed in the cameras flash control menu, though as far as I can see these can not be changed through the camera menu.
Unfortunately there is still no option to leave the LCD screen on permanently, 10 seconds is the maximum option.
Master & Slave Modes
Holding the Function button for a couple of seconds brings up the left menu display, with Canon Optic Wireless Master and Slave modes.
The Slave mode is very straight forward. Group and channel can be selected.
Master mode is also quite straight forward when set to “ALL”. FEC or power level changes are made as usual. And the the Master flash can be set not to fire in the image if preferred.
Switching to more complex A:B C ratio control is where the display starts to get a little complex, and possibly even a bit confusing. Though it is fairly easy to make adjustments here.
At this point though you may prefer to control things through the Canon flash control menu instead. As you make changes there they will update on the flash as well.
With inexpensive TTL radio triggers available now, the more restrictive Canon Optic Wireless System and interface is often less of a priority now though anyway.
The manual Master screen can also be seen here.
One interesting and unusual addition to the Mago display is an indication of CAM or LAMP for where the FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) has been set, either through the camera or directly on the flash itself.
This still functions exactly like a Canon flash, in that any FEC setting made directly on the flash will override the cameras FEC setting (not add to it). Any FEC already set on the camera will be restored when the flash FEC is adjusted to zero again. ±3 stops of adjustment are provided.
Another unusual display is the addition of a First Curtain Sync icon. Pressing the Sync button scrolls through First Curtain, HSS, and Second Curtain Sync modes.
This is just a small criticism, though the addition of the First Curtain Sync icon is not really a great thing. As its easy to mistake with the Second Curtain Sync icon. Its generally much clearer to know which mode is selected if there is no icon shown at all when in First Curtain Sync mode (as most other flashes do).
As seen in the light pattern images bellow, it can be a little difficult to accurately measure and compare flash power between different speedlites, as the light pattern is not always even.
Though the Mago are generally quite clearly matching the Canon 600EX-RT for light output. Bouncing or diffusing the flashes in direct comparisons the light meter readings are virtually even.
With the flashes direct at 20mm flash zoom setting the readings are also equal. As the flash zoom is increased, the 600EX-RT can get ahead up to around 3 tenths of a stop. Though in actual on camera images with the lense matching the flash zoom there is really not much in it.
So the Mago have a solid maximum light output, where many other third party flashes like the YN-568EX II etc are at least 2 or 3 tenths bellow.
Below is a direct comparison of the light patters produced by the Pixel Mago and the Canon 600EX-RT at each flash zoom length.
These are all shot at the same 17mm zoom length (on a Canon 7D) so that the full light patterns can be seen.
The Mago results are a little less even, though really quite good still for a third party flash.
(These are shot at 5500K so you can also get an idea of the color difference between the 2 flashes).
Althought the Mago is a little hotter in the centres at longer zoom lengths, when matching the lense zoom with the flash zoom, theres not a lot of difference in the results. Below is an example at 105mm flash and zoom setting.
(Although this example is using a 7D crop frame camera. At full frame settings there likely would actually be more vignetting starting to show in the image from the Mago.)
Manual Power Levels
Accuracy between manual power levels is also quite good, all within 2 to 3 tenths of a stop between levels.
Even the Canon flash has some variation here, though its definitely a little more consistent over a number of shots. The variations in the Mago’s results are generally very small though anyway.
|PIXEL MAGO||CANON 600EX-RT|
|Diff. EV||Diff. EV|
|1/1||F 16||F 16|
|1/2||F 11||F 11|
|1/4||F 8||F 8||+ 0.1|
|1/8||F 5.6||+ 0.3||F 5.6||+ 0.2|
|1/16||F 4||+ 0.2||F 4||+ 0.2|
|1/32||F 2.8||F 2.8||+ 0.4|
|1/64||F 2||+ 0.2||F 2||+ 0.5|
|1/128||F 1.4||+ 0.4||F 1.4||+ 0.5|
The Mago’s ETTL exposures are likely a work in progress to some degree, as by the time you are reading this Pixel will likely be shipping flashes with updated firmware anyway.
From initial testing with the original firmware though, the Mago appears to be fairly good already. There are generally no major discrepancies of a stop or more like we have experienced with a number of other new flashes (when bouncing or changing zoom lengths etc).
FEC adjustments are reasonably close to the 1/3rd or full stops etc as they should be.
I did notice using the flip down wide angle diffuser does have an issue where that requires over a stop of FEC to compensate for though.
Also, although it may be hard to see in regular use, while doing a lot of testing in a fixed environment, it is possible to see the Mago’s ETTL exposures are not always consistent at times. Most of the time this is within 3 tenths of a stop, so its often hard to notice, or pin down the cause in regular use.
I have no doubt Pixel will tweak firmware updates over time to fix any obvious anomalies. Though I do wonder about the smaller inconsistencies, as they are harder to detect. To be fair this is a $90 flash though.
In general though the Mago TTL exposures are pretty reasonable at this stage, and completely usable.
High Speed Sync
HSS (High Speed Sync) also appears to work quite well, and as it generally should.
Light across the frame may be slightly less even than the Canon 600EX-RT, though generally not really noticeable.
Full power recycle times with Sanyo Eneloops are around 2.6 to 2.8 seconds.
Half power recycle is around 0.8 seconds.
This is comparable to, if not a little faster than the 600EX-RT.
Again the Mago overheat protection appears to be a work in progress to some degree. The original beta flash units had some issues with the front lense melting too easily. So these lenses have been updated, and the protection changed with later firmware as well.
The Mago have separate battery and lamp overheat warning though. And the battery warning at least does not just run off a simple count of pops.
I can get close to 50 full power pops from cold before the battery protection warning first cuts in. Then the flash is locked for around 5 minutes. This is with the flash head set to 50mm so that the flash tube is not too close to the front lense of the flash. Even at 50mm 50 shots is still quite good though.
With later firmware others have reported the lamp protection will cut in after just 15 full power pops, if the zoom is set to the 20mm wide setting. This is not unusual though when the hot flash tube is positioned right up against the front lense.
So in general the Mago can physically hold up to decent levels with heat. Though this method of locking the flash completely while in protection mode is not really ideal. Most third party flashes now just slow recycle times to 10 or 15 seconds, so that the flash can at least still be fired.
Again its possible this may be further tweaked in later firmware, and hopefully Pixel may consider a slow down rather than lock out.
Tilt Swivel Head
The Mago has full head tilt and swivel motion, and without any locking or release buttons.
Like a number of third party flashes lately, and through the use of a very sticky grease, the flash head has a very firm, though very smooth motion.
This is gives the flash a quality feel, though swiveling the flash head without holding the flash body will put a lot of stress on the flash body, and foot in the camera hotshoe. So manipulating the flash head really needs another hand to be supporting the flash body first.
The Mago flash head itself is also larger than the Canon flashes. Actually its about the same width and height as the 600EX-RT, though with squarer corners. So I’m not sure which Stofen style caps etc would fit the Mago.
Lever Lock Foot
The Mago has a lever locking foot in the same style as the Canon 600EX-RT. And this is the one area I would personalty be a little concerned about build, or engineering with the Mago.
Unlike the Canon 600EX-RT, which are rock solid in the camera hotshoe, the springs in the Mago foot mechanism allow the flash to rock forward and backward a little in the cameras hothshoe. A bit like the flash has a spring base.
The main concern here is just that this may potentially cause communication issues between the flash and camera in the future, through the contact pins not making a good connection. The Mago contact pins are also rounded instead of pointed at the tip like the Canon flash now uses. These were changed from round tips to avoid dirt and grease breaking signal contact between the pins and hotshoe contacts.
Combined with the stiff swivel head above, you really don’t want to be putting too much stress on this flash foot. Pixel and YongNuo have struggled with engineering good hotshoe connections and even locking rings from the beginning, and its likely the coming YN-600EX-RT will have similar issues to Mago with this as well.
I don’t really blame Pixel for following the latest designs and engineering a lever lock foot, though a simple locking ring would be the more secure option in this case. Time will tell if the current foot mechanism does become an issue though.
AF Assist Light
The Mago has a fairly decent AF assist light, which projects a nice contrast pattern covering a number of focus points (depending on how close you are to the subject, or how zoomed in).
This is not as elaborate as Canon’s dual light AF assist system, though it covers the AF points better than the lazer style AF lights commonly used by YongNuo and Godox etc.
The examples below were with the camera at 1.8M (or 6 feet) from the subject.
LED Video Light
Another nice bonus feature in the Mago is a 2W LED video or modelling light. This is not exceptionally powerful, and there is no power adjustment. Though it is certainly a great help if you would like to shoot some quick video in low light, and really something every on camera speedlite should offer now as an option.
A supplied white diffuser cap normally clips over the 2 LED lights.
When the LED light is on though, the flash is otherwise disabled, with the LCD screen locked. So no flash images can be taken while the LED light is running.
Its a little bit of a pity there is no way to switch the LED light on remotely through the Pixel King Pro radio triggers, as this would have also been handy as a modelling light, and to help focus etc with the flash off camera.
External HV Battery Port
The Mago come with a high voltage external battery port. Though one catch here is that Pixel have made the socket to suit their own new proprietary plug.
Ironically though this will still fit the Canon style plug if you are prepared to cut the lower of the 2 notches out of the Mago’s socket (with a hobby knife etc).
A number of the Mago beta testers / reviewers discovered this, as it was the only way currently to test an external battery pack with the Mago. And most Canon compatible packs do appear to work fine. The risk though would be voiding your warranty.
No doubt Pixel will have their own compatible battery packs available soon though as well. Pixel do already have one of the most popular AA packs for Canon and Nikon etc.
PC Sync Port
The other port shown below is a regular screwlock PC Sync port.
And the third socket shown to the right, is a threaded mounting point for the Canon SB-E2 reporter style flash brackets, which mount the flash down beside the camera. This is a fine thread, not a regular 1/4″ 20 thread for attaching to umbrella swivels etc.
The Mago has the USB port cleverly located in the battery compartment. Where it does not require any extra dust cover, and also automatically disables the flashes battery power while the battery door is open.
The USB port is used for firmware updates. (More on firmware versions at the bottom of the post).
The Mago should make great inexpensive HSS and TTL off camera flash options for owners of the Pixel King Pro, and original Kings.
There may be some compatibility with other third party TTL radio triggers, though this appears not to be a priority for Pixel at this stage. Use of the proprietary external battery socket (as seen above) likely goes some way to show the way Pixel are likely thinking in regards to compatibility with other third party products.
With the early Mago firmware, the YongNuo YN-622C do appear to work with the Mago when used with ETTL. Though the manual side is not working, so there is no remote manual power control possible at this stage.
The Phottix Odin would not fire the Mago at all. I had to use a manual Stratto II as the receiver (to the Odin Tx) to have the Mago fire at all.
Pixel King Pro
As far as I can see everything appears to be working with the Pixel King pro and Mago. Though with the early Mago firmware I have, there are issues with random blowouts in TTL mode. This is the flash and triggers not communicating completely.
This issue will no doubt be fixed with updated firmware eventually (and possibly even installed in production flashes by the time you are reading this).
Other than that the Mago should be a great option for King Pro owners after well priced, full power, HSS and TTL enabled flashes for off camera use.
With the Mago mounted on top of the King Pro on camera I still have the random blow out issue (which again should be fixed in time with firmware).
Though I would have to say this (as shown below) is still not the greatest combination to use on camera for any serious use. Its an accumulation of less than ideal hotshoe connections, combined with a stiff swivel head which will test all the connections to their limits (unless you really support the flash body). For occasional flash on camera use this should be ok though.
The Mago come with a nice base stand and padded case. The case is nothing out of the ordinary, though it does at least has a good belt loop on the back.
The packaging the Mago comes in is also a little unique. Its an air bubble tube, which protects the flash pretty well. And goes straight into the outer box without any other packaging needed.
One last point worth mentioning, is that he Mago really is quite a big and heavy flash (around 35 grams more than the 600EX-RT) . And with the low price, a lot of Rebel and XT owners etc will be looking to the Mago as a first TTL flash.
Its certainly worth having a full power flash like the Mago, though it is going to be big and top heavy on a small camera, especially if not using a heavier lense, or possibly a battery grip to balance it out. The Mago is hard to go past at the price, though this is something to at least be aware of.
|Flash Coverage Range:||20 to 200mm|
|Auto Zoom:||According to shooting angle and image to auto adjust the coverage range|
|Manual Zoom:||According to camera or flash setting to adjust the zoom range|
|SYNC Mode:||High Speed Sync, 1st Curtain Sync, 2nd Curtain Sync|
|Adjustable Angle:||Up/Down: -7/90 degree Left / Right: 180 degree/180 degree|
|Manual Flash:||1/128-1/1 output control (1/3rd increments)|
|Recycle Time:||About 4 sec (1/1 full power output)|
|LCD Display Screen:||High definition dot matrix screen|
|Internal Power Source:||4×AA size Alkaline or rechargeable batteries (4×1.5V)|
|External Interface:||Hot shoe, PC port and USB port|
|EV:||1/3rd increments (±3 stops)|
|FEB:||1/3rd increments (±3 stops)|
|Battery Life:||150 times (1/1 flash output, with SanyoEneloop batteries)|
|Fluorescent tube:||Ultra long battery life design|
|Special Design:||LED fill light and supplement to background settings|
|Overheating Warning:||Multi dot matrix temperature control, battery & fluorescent tube overheat warning.|
|Weight:||452g (excluding battery)|
Pixel Flash Models
There has been some confusion over the naming of the initial Pixel Flash models, so Pixel have provided this description. The Mago does not have any numbers in the name.
Before release of the Mago Pixel sent out 20 flashes to various people for test and review. Which is great because they get tested on a wide range of gear, and with people having different needs and priorities.
You can also see some of the people comparing notes on the forum as well.
Below is a list of the some of the reviews. If I have missed your review please let me know and I’ll add it here as well. Thanks.
And more reviews on the forum here.
Production MAGO – Updates available here.
Beta MAGO / X-650C – Updates available here.
UPDATE – 10th April 2015 – A new major firmware update, version F2A_008, is now available HERE.
UPDATE – 1st November 2014 –
Although the initial Mago flash units where providing quite good ETTL exposures, that had unfortunately gone backwards with later firmware updates. And there have been quite significant issues reported with ETTL exposures and consistency with E9A_003 and E9N_004 firmware version units.
This should be resolved from version F2A_008 onwards.
Beta MAGO / X-650C –
The Beta Mago units, and some early production Mago units, are basically the Chinese version of the flash, called the X-650C (although still branded Mago on the flash head). And these units now require X-650C firmware, which is a different strain of firmware to the production Mago.
The Beta Mago / X-650C started out with firmware from around E7A_003. And early Mago units being sold with E7S 001 are likely the Beta Mago / X-650C as well.
These flashes require firmware updates from the Chinese Pixel website here.
Production MAGO –
These are the current production Mago flashes, which started out with firmware around E9A_003. All flashes available now should be production Mago.
If you load the wrong strain of firmware into the flash it will produce a “firmware error 01” displayed on the flash screen.
So its always a good idea to save the old firmware file which you will remove from the flash when updating the firmware, in case you need to replace it again.
The Mago are looking to be a very impressive flash for the price. And they are sure to shake up HSS speedlite prices in general from now on.
The Mago should be a great inexpensive full power on camera HSS flash option. And a great bonus for Pixel King and King Pro owners.
YN-622C etc owners may be a bit disappointed with the limited compatibility, though as mentioned the Mago are sure to also impact the rest of the HSS market, with more competitive options and prices becoming available now.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Pixel Mago for Canon are available now from around $90 –
Pixel – Website