Light modifiers. Anyone who has have even a passing acquaintance with a strobe or flashlight will know that light modifiers are fantastic ways for controlling and manipulating light source. One of the most common ways is to soften up light from a flash as with the common Sto-fen diffusers. One of those rectangular, plastic contraptions that can fit over the top of a flashgun to defuse light.
However, designs are now popping up in the same vein, which produce different qualities of light, such as the MagSphere by MagMod. There are similar designs on the market, such as the Gary Fong Lightsphere, which we will come to later, but its the MagSphere which we will concentrate on to see if it can produce pleasing results in a variety of situations.
The design as per the website is quoted as being an ‘omni-directional flash diffuser’ with the addition of a gel slot for adding color to your light source. The specs also say that the Magsphere is 2x brighter than other competing modifiers with the same settings. This should equate to longer lasting flash time and battery life.
The unit itself is a bulbous plastic attachment, feeling very durable, which fits over the top of a flash with the dimensions of 2.500 x 5.000 x 3.250 inches and weighing in at .5625 lbs. The MagSphere attaches to the flash via the magnetic Maggrip which uses magnets to lock everything in place, rather than a belt or velcro attachment. This has the benefit of being just that bit simpler and quicker to use on the go. The Maggrip is a separate piece of kit, but once bought you can use with the rest of their modifiers.
In reality, the Maggrip is the hardest to fit and lineup, but once in place the MagSphere just simply pops on top of the Flash and off you go.
The quality of the diffused light is the key aspect here and the MagSphere doesn’t disappoint. The ‘sphere’ aspect to the design means light is evenly dispersed and for close-up shots gives a rough interpretation of natural window light. In many ways, you can compare the results from the MagSphere to bounce flash in a white room. The MagSphere seems to produce more light when pointed up in the same way as bounce light, without any shadows. On its own, it will still give under chin shadows in portraits, but this is to be expected with just one bounced light source
Point the flash forward and the light is stronger, starting to create minimal shadows, but providing softer light than an equivalent regular diffuser. The light will not be as directional from the MagSphere as no matter which way you point the thing, light will generally be omitted all around. The idea here is that on camera flash can give a nice even spread of light, ideal for situations like weddings, where sometimes you just don’t have the time for off-camera flash set-ups.
If there are some low ceilings capable of reflecting light, the MagSphere bounces light very well without any harsh shadows. The same goes for outside lighting for example, with portraits to give a even coverage of light, but you will need more power for your light source and be quite close up to your subject. And here’s the main caveat. If you require an even spread of soft light and are close to your subject, the MagSphere works fine. Outside, no reflective surfaces or more than a few feet from your subject, you can lose quite a few stops of light, so the MagSphere won’t work for every situation. In other words, these type of diffusers are neither completely good or bad, they are good for certain situations, especially for the convenience of a quick diffuser.
How Does It Compare?
So, how does the MagSphere compare against other modifiers on the market? The Gary Fong Lightsphere works in a similar way, being an omni-directional light. The Lightsphere is collapsible for easy storage and in the right situations can produce some nice soft light. Probably the most well-known of these type of diffusers.
Soft boxes and octabox light modifiers are a given for large areas of diffused light. The MagSphere is in the same category as a light diffuser, but a completely different thing. Soft boxes are the number one choice and the MagSphere simply can’t give the same spread of light as it’s not designed that way. Which means if you have the time to setup a softbox, that would be the go to, but for more shooting on the fly applications, like weddings, a simple diffuser like the MagSphere can do the trick.
|MagMod MagSphere||Gary Fong Lightsphere|
|Weight||.5625 lbs||.39 lbs|
If you need a light modifier that is small, compact and gives an even spread of light in most directions, then the MagSphere could fit the bill. It works best closer to the subject and as bounce flash, but can also be used close up for outside portraits. Its clearly not a cover-every-situation modifier, but it does have its place.
This is where I tend to differ from most reviews of this type of light modifier. I’m not completely bowled over by everything you can do with it, but neither hate the thing as nothing is as good as large softboxes. The MagSphere has its place where a large softbox is inconvenient and can provide nice lighting when on the move. It’s definitely worth adding to your arsenal as a general-purpose light modifier. It’s not a one-stop solution or can take over the duties of a soft box, but it definitely has its place and can be very useful in the right situations.
General soft lighting
Light goes everywhere