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Another handy little item we picked up at the recent conference in Atlanta was the MagSphere, a magnetically mounted rubber flash diffuser that several fellow attendees raved about to us. And we do mean raved! So we had to see for ourselves.
First of all, let’s cover the look and feel. Like its cousin, the MagSnoot (reviewed in this post), the MagSphere is made of durable rubber and incorporates rare earth magnets that allow for easy installation and removal. The shape is also interesting, because it allows for light dispersion not only facing the subject, but also at peripheral angles. It feels sturdy during handling, and it mounts with a solid snap.
We set up a series of test shots from three different angles, both with and without the MagSphere attached, to see the effects this gear actually has on a subject. In each set of photos, the unmodified image is shown on the left while a photo using the MagSphere is shown on the right.
NOTE: Exposure settings were kept constant throughout this series at ISO 100, f/1.8, and 1/80 shutter speed. The lens used was a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 prime. The speedlite was set on manual at 1/16 power.
Test #1: Front Lighting. This is not normally a favorite of photographers, but it’s often a necessity in environments like weddings where informals have to be shot with a shoe-mounted flash. There is still a catch light visible on the subject with the MagSphere mounted, but it is not nearly as harsh.
Test #2: Rembrandt-Style Lighting. This is the classic elevated 45 degree key light most often flattering for portraits. Ideally a secondary light or reflector would help in an indoor setting like this, but it is illustrative of the effect. NOTE: The speedlight was mounted off-camera on a stand for this series.
Test #3: Ceiling Reflected Light. Again this is a favorite for informals, especially when the ceiling is light in color and can act as an impromptu light source. Again the speedlite was hotshoe mounted for this series.
Conclusion: Final Thoughts. As with all diffusers, the object of the game when using the MagSphere is to create a softer light source, which means spreading the light over a larger area with a wider angle of dispersion. In the past, photographers have either had to reflect the light from a flash unit, mount their speedlite on a bracket above their camera body, or use a clamp-on modifier of some sort. But the ease of mounting and dismounting the MagSphere, coupled with its sturdiness and very wide dispersion, shows that it will reduce portraiture headaches for many togs.
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