Is the MagMod System Right for You

Is the MagMod System Right for You?

The MagMod system is a group of light modifiers for small flash. The company is starting to make strides into support for the strobe market. Many photographers love MagMod products because of their durability, ease of use and ability to create beautiful light.

MagMod isn't an inexpensive set of products, but they have value for photographers who need to quickly move from one shot to another using a lightweight kit. We'll describe the products in the MagMod system so you can determine if it's right for you and your photography.

What is the MagMod System?

MagMod creates a series of small light modifiers that connect using very strong magnets. The products are very durable and small. You can easily crumple them up, toss in a bag, and pull out when you need them.

Compare this to using other small flash light modifiers. Some use velcro, rubber bands, and even one that uses a ratcheting plastic band to attach their products to your flash. You may even end up using gaffer tape to attach some gels, which is yet another bulky item to store in your bag.

The magnets use in the MagMod system are very powerful. There's no fiddling around to get everything lined up just right to attach a modifier to your flash. You can literally toss a Magmod light modifier toward your flash and the magnets will attract to each other when using this system.

Why Choose the MagMod System?

MagMod products offer a lot of flexibility for various lighting situations. You can easily switch or combine their products, including grids, gels, snoots, diffusion and masks that allow you to create patterns with your flash.

Unlike a lot of competing products, the items in the MagMod system are built to last. No flimsy gels that you have to worry about protecting and take time to tape to your flash. MagGels are hard polycarbonate that easily fit into a gel holder that attaches to your flash.

Need a grid? Slap it on the front of your flash and you're done. Want a grid and a gel? They stack on top of each other.

The MagMod products were designed with the intent of quick, ease of use, and the ability to combine light modifiers to create unique light.

Who Benefits From the MagMod System

Although any photographer using flash can benefit, the MagMod system is very popular with wedding and event photographers. They're light, quick to use, and allow photographers to run & gun with different lighting options they can quickly deploy.

Some of the products even benefit wildlife and outdoor photographers by allowing them to extend and direct their flash to highlight animals or objects in their scene.

I even use the MagMod products in product and food photography. They're create for creating just the right spot of light, or also turning a bland background into something exotic.

What's in the MagMod System?

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There are a number of light modifiers in the MagMod system. Most of them are hard light modifiers. If that concerns you, give it some thought. Hard light can still be beautiful and interesting light. It's not something to avoid in every case.

Remember that we're still dealing with small light sources, so the shadows won't have the same kind of fall-off as if you used a 53″ octabox on your subject. On the other hand, a 53″ octabox is a lot more unwieldy to use on the go, and it won't do many of the things you can accomplish with the MagMod system.

Let's take a look at what you can use.

MagGrip

MagGrip

The MagGrip is the first piece you need. It's how you attach the light modifiers to your small flash.

Essentially, it's a piece of heavy-duty rubber that stretches around your flash. There are a pair of magnets, one on the left and right of your flash. Not little, flimsy magnets. These suckers have some power to them, and they work very well when you connect modifiers to your flash.

When you first attach the MagGrip to your flash, you may struggle a bit. Although flexible, they have a very tight grip on your flash and don't slip around. Many photographers light to leave them in place once attached.

Once you have a MagGrip on your flash, you just slap the light modifier you need on top of your flash. The magnets do all the work to attach the modifier. It's quick, secure and accurate.

The magnets help to align the modifier, as the field won't allow you to put on a modifier incorrectly.

MagSphere

The MagSphere is a diffusion modifier design to turn the harsh light from your small flash into a softer, omnidirectional light. There's a gel slot integrated in the MagSphere so you can easily use color correction with it.

To me, the thing looks like the top of a chef's hat. With the MagGrip already attached to your flash, this thing is easy to mount. You just plop it on top and you're ready to start taking photos with softer light.

The MagSphere is still a small light source. While it's much better light than a bare flash, it won't have the same wrapping light of a large soft box. Yet the transition from light to shadow isn't as hard as bare flash. Given it's small size, it's much easier to get this light closer to your subject than a soft box, which helps provide softer light overall.

Remember, soft light isn't about the size of the light source. You get soft light by the relative size of the light to you subject. The sun is a large light source, but it's relatively small to us due to the distance between light source and subject. The advantage with small flash is that you can mount it on a monopod or paint pole and fly it in very close to your subject to get beautiful, soft light.

One of the things I like to do is use the MagSphere for a round spotlight effect behind a portrait subject. Just combine it with a MagGrid and you get a perfectly round circle of light against a wall or backdrop.

MagBounce

The MagBounce is my favorite light modifier when working events. It's a white silicone bounce modifier that makes the source of your light three times larger than bare flash. The result is a nice bounce of light when you need wide coverage of a scene.

Sometimes you just can't find a white wall or walk around with a white reflector to bounce your light. The MagBounce works with your flash aimed straight up, and reflects light forward to fill in your subject. I've used this with on-camera flash to good effect, but I prefer using it off-camera just to change up the axis of light relative to the camera lens and get some directional light.

I probably look awkward. Typically I'll use this with my Flashpoint eVOLV 200 (Godox AD200) in one hand and my camera in the other. Except I hold things cross-body. My camera rests on my left shoulder while my left arm reaches across my body to hold the flash on the right side of the camera.

So I look funny using the MagBounce, but I like the results.

It's very similar to a setup I previously used with white foam paper attached to my flash with a rubber-band. Only now it's much more durable and works for more than one use. Now I don't have to keep going back to an office supply store when I work events.

MagGrid

The MagGrid is useful for creating directional light and eliminating light spill to the side.  It narrows the spread of light from your flash. What I love about it is how easily and effectively it combines with other MagMod light modifiers to change up your lighting options.

With one MagGrid, you get a 40 degree grid to narrow your light. Stack another MagGrid on top and now you have a 20 degree grid. The more you add, the tighter your light pattern.

I mentioned in the MagSphere section that you can use both of these light modifiers together to get a beautiful round spotlight effect. Most flashes have a rectangular shape, which may not be the most pleasing light shape if you're using this for a background spot.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to buy a new flash with a round head. Just combine the MagSphere and MagGrid to get a beautiful round shape for your background spot. It's a lot less expensive than a Profoto A1.

MagSnoot

Another way to create a directed beam of light is with a snoot. The MagSnoot is collapsible, which gives you different four different stages of light control. You can extend (or collapse) the MagSnoot one section at a time to either tighten or expand the beam of light on your subject.

It's a great way to make something stand out. Use it for a hair light, wedding rings, to give an extra kicker light on any part of the frame that you need.

Compared to other snoots, the MagSnoot is a breeze to use. Pull it out, slap it on the MagGrid, and adjust the collapsible portion with one hand (because the magnets are strong) to suit your need.

In the past, I've worked with foil, metal snoots and even gaffer tape to create the beam of light I wanted. Nothing was as fast, easily configurable or usable as the MagSnoot.

Have you ever tried to collapse or expand a metal snoot? Imagine how the gaffer tape sticks when you want to change the opening. Don't mess with that stuff.

As with some of the other MagMod system light modifiers mentioned here, there's a slot on the flash-facing side of the MagSnoot that allows you to include a MagGel – either for color correction or creative expression.

MagGel

The MagGel is one of the really cool parts of the MagMod system. I alluded to this a few times already, so here's why I think this is such a great light modifier to have in your kit.

Flashes create a burst of white light. Different intensity, but always white light.

What happens when you don't need white light in your photo? Perhaps it doesn't match the color temperature of your ambient light. Will it blend?

No.

It's going to look awful and fake. Photos with obviously mismatched lighting and color temperature are pathetic and useless. That's why we use gels. Sometimes to correct, sometimes to express creativity.

Most gels are flimsy and easily ruined with scratches, bends and folding lines. You may get a sheet of a gel and then you have to cut them to size for your flash. I have a pack of Selens gels in different colors, already cut to the correct size. They have little cut-outs that run along the side of your flash and you're supposed to attach them with a rubber band.

It's garbage!

Rigid Gels Are Better

Why waste time with a flimsy set of gels that don't do a good job of preventing light leaks when you can use a MagGel and just be done with it in a second?

The MagGels are hard polycarbonate. They don't bend, fold or even scratch with regular use. You slip them in the holder (or one of the previously mentioned light modifiers) and then slap them on your flash using magnets.

MagGel Color Options

Most people start with the MagGel Standard gels, shown here.

  • • 1/4 CTO
  • • 1/2 CTO
  • • Full CTO •
  • 1/2 Straw (great for skin tones!)
  • • 1/2 Plusgreen
  • • 1/2 Blue
  • • 3-stop Neutral Density
  • • Opal Frost Diffusion

Life comes in many more colors, though. MagMod has more gels as accessory kits, including the Creative gels and Artistic gels. There's even an advanced gel kit for more color correction options.

Think about it. No more crumpled gels. No tape or rubber bands. You get rigid gels that you can use over and over again. No scissors needed to cut them to size. Just a fast and efficient system to create color for the light bursting out of your flash.

You can even get a clever wallet to organize all of your gels. It closes up with – what else – magnets.

MagBeam

Your flash probably comes with a fresnel head, but only one. Imagine if you could change the fresnel for different uses – a wide angle or a tele lens to cast your beam of light even farther.

Well, that's part of what MagBeam does for you. It changes the distribution of light coming from your flash. However, you can do something else with it, and this is what I use most often.

The MagBeam allows you to combine a MagGel and a MagMask to create colorful and interesting patterns on a wall or other surface. Is your background boring? Change it quickly with something colorful and creative.

You can see the basic MagMask patterns that come with the MagBeam. There are two more accessory kits with different patterns. If you're creative, you could even make your own masks that fit inside the MagBeam.

The MagBeam is similar to the MagSnoot, in that it is extensible and collapsible to change the pattern of light. Extend it all the way to get a tighter pattern with a hard edge. Collapse it in stages to create a wider pattern with softer edges.

There are times when you need to extend your beam of light in a wide angle shot. You can't have the flash in the frame, so what do you do?

Some people will take the shot and try to edit out the flash in Photoshop. Other people will put on a MagBeam and light their subject without getting to close.

That benefit is really helpful for some wildlife photographers who can't get too close to their subjects – either because they may frighten off the subject or the animal may decide to eat their face. MagBeam saves the day!

The Worst Way to Buy the MagMod System

I knew about the MagMod light modifiers for a while before I ever bought anything. Lots of photographers raved about them, but I hesitated. I did that because I thought they were overpriced.

That's because I've purchased a lot of other light modifiers for small flash, and many of them were disappointing to me. I didn't want to sink a lot of money into something that I hadn't tested.

So I started small with the MagMod Basic Kit for $89.99. With that, you get a few components we've discussed, including:

  • MagGrip
  • MagGel
  • MagGrid
  • MagGel Color Correction Set

You also get one more thing. It's a MagMod Transmitter Band. If you're still using a PocketWizard or external radio trigger of some sort, this band will allow you to attach it to your flash in a rather snug fashion. No danglers.

I've never used mine, as my flashes have built-in radio receivers. Click here to see my current flash/strobe kit.

The problem with buying this little kit is that I liked it. I liked the MagMod system a lot. Then I wanted more. Finally, I bought more. One piece at a time.

The most expensive way you can buy anything – piece by piece.

If this is something you think is useful for you, check out one of the many kits including various light modifiers and accessories. There are too many for me to mention here, ranging from this Basic Kit up to the MagMod Mega Kit at over $500 – and several other kits in between. One of them may be right for you and you can save money when you buy in a Kit collection.

Of course, it's hard to know if you want a collection of MagMod light modifiers without having tried them. All I can say is that they work well for me. I find a lot of value in using these light modifiers, despite the initial sticker shock.

Is the MagMod System Right for You?

Let's start off with people who shouldn't buy the MagMod system.

  • Anyone who doesn't have a small flash
  • Anyone who has a small flash and doesn't know how to use it
  • Someone who has a strong aversion to magnets
  • A person who likes flimsy products

If you want to get creative with your flash, the MagMod system can help. It gives you tools to control your light and shape it the way you want, to add color and direction.

What if you shoot with strobes?

Well, I have the MagBox system, which is another can of worms in itself. You get brilliantly designed tools like the MagShoe to hold and adjust your strobe. You get the MagRing – several types, actually – that work with small flash (requires MagGrip) or studio mounts from Bowens, Profoto, Elinchrom, and Paul C. Buff.

There's only one soft box right now, which is the MagBox. However, it has some cool accessories, also.

There are a number of MagGels sized and shaped for studio strobes. There's also a Focus Diffuser – an external baffle that both diffuses and directs the light as if you had a grid on your octabox.

Having been pleased with my other MagMod system light modifiers, I didn't even bat an eye when the MagBox hit the market. I just bought the MagBox Pro Kit and got everything in one shot. Haven't regretted it a bit.

I really love and recommend MagMod products. They may not be the only light modifiers you buy, but they're a valuable addition to any flash photographer's kit.

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