Earlier this year, there was a lot of hype drummed up about a new speedlight grid + gel system that promised to do away with all the annoying velcro-based systems that have vexed wedding photographers for years. The problems with the velcro systems are numerous: the grids and gels do not stay put, they’re noisy and obnoxious, clumsy, slow to mount, hard to trust etc etc.
MagMod promised to eliminate these problems by doing away with the velcro altogether and, instead, using a combination of grippy rubber and extremely strong rare earth magnets to hold everything in place. I’m sure most people stopped reading at the mention of magnets and photography in the same sentence. Magnetics have long been though to be extremely destructive to electronics–hard drives, in particular. While I haven’t owned the MagMod’s for more than a few days, they have been extensively used without issue by several top pros in the field of wedding photography, professional wedding photographers such as Chrisman Studios and Two Mann Studios. Spencer, the creator of the product, actually has a Youtube video where he waves the magnets all over his camera and memory cards, then proceeds to shoot away without any problems. Magnets do not affect solid state memory, which all CF and SD cards utilize. Granted, it’s not advised to get these magnets anywhere near conventional disk hard drives, and it’s a good idea to play it safe and store the Magmods so they’re not making direct contact with your camera.
It was actually Erika & Lanny’s use of the MagMod system that first caught my interest; I absolute love the spotlight effect that grids provide, but I simply assumed that zooming out my flash head would do the same thing. I regularly use grids on my studio strobes, but never really understood the point of using them on speedlights. Lanny explained that this isn’t the case, and I’ve since seen visual proof of this from the Fred Miranda forums : MagMod vs. Zoomed Speedlight. So I ordered a pair of the MagMod modifiers to test them out. What follows is simply my brief experience testing out the MagMod system, along with an example of the strobist fun you can have with these modifiers.
The Magmod packaging is very minimalistic, and fans of Apple products will definitely like what they see. Though there is a more personal element: when I opened the package, a fun-size bag of M&M’s fell out!
Putting the Magmod MagGrip on your speedlight seems like a two person job, and I could easily see someone accidentally breaking their speedlight from the sheer force it takes to stretch the heavy duty silicone rubber to more than twice it’s size to get it to fit over your flash head. It took me several attempts, and I honestly think they could’ve mad the MagGrip slightly larger to facilitate mounting this to your flashes. Once it’s on, it’s on; and it’s unlikely that you’re going to want to wrestle with the MagGrip every time you want to use it. Yes, it does add some bulk to your speedlight; so you’ll have to take that into consideration when packing your camera bag. If you’re the OCD type that likes to have everything in it’s place, and always use the speedlight pouches that come with your flashes, then you may want to think twice about the MagMod.
The MagMod kit also comes with a silicone rubber radio trigger band for when you want to have a speedlight on-camera, and trigger off-camera speedlights hooked up to radio transceivers. It works, but the rubber band essentially blocks the LCD screen on your speedlight, and blocks the battery door. So there’s definitely a loss of functionality, though I wouldn’t call this a deal breaker, especially if you use a hotshoe transceiver system like the Yongnuo YN-622’s that allow you to place your speedlight on top of the unit. With the FT-16S trigger I use with my Neewer TT850 speedlights, I could see myself resorting to the old velcro technique to keep the trigger in place without obscuring the LCD.
Once on, you simply hold the MagGrid up to the MagMod, and it’ll pull itself into place. No need to fuss with noisy velcro. Swapping modifiers on your speedlight has never been easier. With the MagGrid, you get massive control over the spread of your flash that zooming the flash head simply will not provide. The MagGrid narrows the flash beam spread down to 20 degrees, perfect for isolating your subject. The grids enable you to spotlight your couples with dramatic fall-off, add rim lights pointing directly into your camera without getting any flare, and simple let you control exactly where your light goes.
Once the MagGrip is mounted on your speedlight, things become utterly simple, and you really start to see where this product shines. Gone are the days of taping gels to your speedlights; the MagGel is a silicone rubber frame containing two neodymium magnets and accepts up to 3 of the rigid MagMod gels. These gels are semi-rigid and will not crease, crinkle, or get beat up like typical gels made of a thing substrate. The durability of this system is definitely something to take notice of. You don’t have to baby the MagGels; they look like they could definitely take some serious abuse. Mounting the MagGel is so utterly easy. You just pop it on, and the magnets do the rest. So when you need to CTO gel your speedlights to match the color temperature of ambient lights once the sun goes down, this system is truly a godsend.
The MagGrid and MagGel let you get creative with your speedlights, and they let you do experiment with different gels and lighting setups with the utmost ease. I’m most definitely looking for to putting the MagMod system to use this weekend at a wedding. Stay tuned for updates.