Photography is all about light, as any pundit will tell you, and this is especially true when you want to make the most of limited light indoors or in otherwise less than perfect environments. Most cameras and camera phones use on-board flash units to try and solve the problem, but they’re seldom up to the job, and the results they give can be awful. We’ve all seen those stereotypical New Year’s Eve party snaps which are the result of crude flash photography.
The good folk at MagneFlash have been fighting this battle for years, on behalf of consumers and professional photographers and we’ve been impressed with their products in the past. Now Peter and his team have developed the MagneFlash P102S Flash Panel, and once again delivered a quality lighting panel at an affordable price.
For those who don’t understand the difference between something like the MagneFlash and a conventional camera flash unit like a Speedlite, it’s all about the quality and color of the light, and the short flash durations which deliver more flexibility. The top of the range Speedlite products will deliver great results, no question, but at the budget end of the range, not so much.
There’s also the issue of using Speedlites with compact cameras and smartphones, which poses problems since they typically don’t support sync cables or any sophisticated triggering mechanisms. The MagneFlash overcomes all these issues and does so elegantly.
The P102S unit itself is robustly made and solid, with few superfluous elements. There’s an on/off switch, an LED indicator and a button to switch between manual and automatic (remote trigger) mode. In the former, you’ll need a sync cable running between your DSLR and the panel, in the latter, the panel flash will fire when it detects an external flash go off. Simple and effective.
Because of the larger size of the MagneFlash, which you don’t get with a Speedlite or default on-camera flash, the possibilities for different light effects is much greater. A larger and more powerful light source means you can experiment with different diffusion elements, and make much better use of bounced light to give moody results. The short 1/4000th second burst and full color spectrum output means that there’s no grey/blue caste on the shots and the flash can handle a wider range of camera settings.
The other advantage of the panel is the fact that it is not camera specific, it can work with just about any DSLR, compact or mobile phone (as long as the latter has a Xenon flash, rather than an LED flash as a trigger). We particularly like the fact that the panel is powered by nothing more than two AA batteries, which give between 100 and 200 shots per set (5 secs between shots). Rechargeable batteries can be used, which gives even more cost benefits while retaining flexibility. No more worrying about finding a spare charge socket mid-shoot.
As with all light sources like this, it takes some experimentation to get the optimum results, but having such a high quality light source on hand really makes it easy to deliver the kind of options you need. It’s like carrying around a portable full sized studio keylight, without the hassle. It’s very cool. We can see the product being extremely useful for eBay users and other prosumers who need high quality product shots from static and mobile environments. Finally, there’s the issue of price. At just £85.00, this is the right kind of price to entice both amateurs and professionals. Recommended.
The above have not been altered except for cropping, and were taken quickly without any experimentation just to show the obvious difference between the default phone flash and MagneFlash. In other words, don’t blame me, I’m a lousy photographer!