MagMod has quickly become the go to flash modifier for a ton of photographers. Being able to quickly and easily attach grids, gels, and diffusers to your flash via small magnets makes shaping your light super simple. So when MagMod announced the new MagBeam, a lot of people got really excited. So excited that they demolished their $25,000 goal by raising just over $300,000 via their Kickstarter campaign. But does this new modifier live up to the hype?
First let's talk about what this new modifier does, because it can be used for two completely different things. The first use is as a traditional fresnel lens, which focuses the light from your hot-shoe flash in order to produce a brighter beam of light. Traditionally this feature is used by wildlife photographers in order to light subjects that are super far away, but it's also very useful for portrait photographers in order to get a little more brightness onto your subject.
When using the modifier in this setup, you use one of the two fresnel lenses that the company offers. Once the zoom lens is in place and on your flash, the modifier has three different lengths that it can be set to. As you make the modifier longer, you make the beam of light tighter and more concentrated, which in turn gives you more brightness.
The second use for this modifier is as a gobo. In order to use the modifier in this configuration, you attach the second of the two fresnel lenses to the modifier. This wide fresnel lens is used in addition to a small metal disk that has different patterns cut into them.
These disks are known as MagMasks and whatever pattern that is cut into the mask will be the pattern of light that is projected by your flash. This feature can be used to create interesting textures and light patterns for a background, but what I found I enjoyed using them most for was to project interesting light onto my subject.
One of the biggest benefits to using the modifier in the traditional fresnel lens setup is the ability to add power to your flash. The thing to be careful with here is that you are not actually getting more power from your flash, because the output of your flash is pretty much set in stone and no modifier can change that. Instead, what you are getting is the power you do have focused into a tighter, more concentrated beam of light. Similar to the effect you get when focusing the light from the sun with a magnifying glass.
In order to get an idea of just how much more “power” I could get with this modifier, I took a series of images with my flash 15 feet away from the wall and set to full power. The first image in the series is with a bare flash and the camera set to 1/250th of a second, ISO100, f/8. The Next image is with the zoom fresnel lens attached and the modifier set to the longest length (giving the tightest and most concentrated beam of light) with the same camera settings as the first. As you can see, the light is much brighter with the modifier in this configuration. For the next image I wanted to get a similar exposure as the first image, but with the modifier attached. In order to do this, I had to bump my aperture down to f/16 and move the flash from 15 feet away to 25 feet away. That's a pretty big gain. The last image is with the wide fresnel lens attached to the modifier and the flash set back to 15 feet away. Using the same settings of 1/250th of a second, ISO100, f/8 you can see that the light is a bit brighter than the bare flash, but not near as bright as when using the zoom fresnel lens.
Using the modifier is as simple as using any other modifier from Magmod. It attaches to the flash with the exact same MagGrip so there is no need to purchase anything additional aside from the MagBeam itself. The Magmasks attach to the modifier similar to what's used in their current gel system. At the back of the MagBeam is groove that the MagMask slides into, although i found the fit to be pretty tight. This made it a little more difficult to insert a mask then I normally deal with when inserting a gel. Because the masks are metal, I wish they would have just had it configured so that you just slapped the mask onto the back and had them held in place with the magnets.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when using the Magbeam and zoom fresnel lens, you can get a very tight beam pattern, which can be a little difficult to get placed onto your subject. This is not a negative trait by any means and just comes with the territory of this type of modifier, but it can add a little extra time to getting your light placed in the correct area. Most of the time I was able to use my light stand to make the needed adjustments, but other times I needed to adjust the grip system on my flash to fine tune my placement.
Lastly, this modifier has some very technical things going on with it, which makes it so that you need to know some specific details in order to set it up correctly. For example, when using the MagMasks to create a light pattern, you must use the wide fresnel lens and the magbeam must be fully collapsed. Not terribly complicated, but if you get the modifier and try to jump right in, you may find yourself lost and confused as to why things are not working the way you expect.
What I Liked
- More power
- Super awesome light patterns
- Uses the same attachment system
What I Didn't like
- Wish the MagMasks attached easier via magnets
- Can be a little difficult aiming the light when completely zoomed in
This modifier 100% lives up to the hype. After learning the correct ways to set everything up, I found it very easy and intuitive to use. Having the ability to get two amazing light shaping tools out of the same modifier fantastic. I see myself using the Magbeam at pretty much every shoot from here on out.