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Pixel Mago review

On Monday, 25th August I received my Mago speedlite from PIXEL.
When I was told that PIXEL was going to give me the opportunity to have it
to try and to test it, I was looking forward to get it in my hands.
Fortunately it took very short to arrive to Italy from Hong Kong,
less than 3 working days. So, first of all, I want to thanks PIXEL for that.

The Mago is a powerful speedlight. Its GN, 65, put it in direct competition to
the Canon 600EX. So it will be compared to it.
For my test I will use:

Intro

The device arrived very well protected in its box. In the box there are:

  • Mago speedlight
  • Carry bag, very well done and similar to Canon speedlites ones
  • User manual, very synthetic: a A3 paper format, single side printed,
    referring the principal instructions
  • Stand support

No USB cable for software update or light diffuser have been provided.
I wish PIXEL will improve the user manual documentation for definitive
product and will insert the diffuser in the box.

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:2014-08-25 20.58.32.jpg

As the box refers, here are the main functions of Mago. First of all "For Ca" means Canon compatibility. Here are the principal characteristics compared with CANON 600 EX-RT ones:

GN 65
Mode TTL mode
Manual mode
Strobe mode
HSS mode
Wireless Optical
SW update capability YES
via USB port


First impressions

The first comparison between PIXEL Mago (on the left) and CANON 600EX
(on the right)
is about the aesthetics, external dimension and constructive quality.
Mago seems to be bigger than 600EX-RT. Looking at the pictures,
dimensions are quite similar, being CANON more "round shaped".
As a consequence, it seems smaller but not so much.
The parabola size of Mago is 73mm x 52mm, the 600EX-RT one is
73mm x 50mm. As a first feeling, the Mago is heavier.

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:002.pngMago user keys and commands are more "user friendly". Main functions are directly accessible from key operation. 600EX-RT philosophy is based on contextual menus

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:001.png
Mago has a modelling lamp made out of 2 high intensity LEDs covered by a white diffuser. The 600EX-RT has the white balance compensation for gelatine use (the 2 sensors on the upper part of the head)

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:003.png
No lock for head swivel and tilting. As a result there is the risk to move the head by mistake

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:004.png
Mago head is 2mm thicker. In the hands it seems that speedlite centre of mass is higher than 600EX-RT one, thus resulting in a sort of "bending" feeling.
To be clear: the speedlite is well fixed on the hot-shoe, but during operation I had this feeling

   

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:005.png
Both are equipped with wide-angle diffuser and catch-light panel

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:006.png

Some positive aspects immediately results:

  • Construction quality of Mago is very good: no big differences are
    evident if compared with 600EX-RT but the tactile feeling of the
    plastics.
  • The LEDs modelling lamp is very useful for video-makers
  • Keys feeling is comfortable
  • User interface is exhaustive and intuitive and the dot-matrix display
    is pleasant

I have only some remarks about some design choices:

  • The ON/OFF lever has an additional position to lock the user panel
    to avoid unwilled operations. On CANON the sequence is -
    OFF-LOCK-ON: if the user wants to lock the speedlite can switch
    it ON then to pull the lever back to LOCK.
    On PIXEL the sequence is OFF-ON-LOCK: if the user switches it on
    "at fly" it remains to LOCK position and he has to pull it back.
    Also the lever position is not so "handy" if compared with CANON
    and the accessibility is worse when the speedlite is in top of the
    camera
  • No swivel/tilting head lock retention: it is very likely to bend the head
    towards down by mistake.
    The relative logo prompts out on the display to advice the user,
    but I would have preferred the lock
  • Speedlite display is not so contrasted and I found no way to tune
    its brightness and contrast

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:2014-08-30 17.38.55.png

The user interface is well done, the software is reactive as CANON's one. Some small "snags" will be likely fixed with SW update.
Current one seems to be "E7S 001", as the device prompts out at the startup.

Technical data comparison

Here is a technical comparison between the 2 devices:

TECHICAL DATA PIXEL
Mago
CANON
600EX-RT
GN - ISO100 @ 200mm 65 60
eight without batteries (g) 525 483
Height (mm) 196.5 142.9
Width (mm) 80.7 79.7
Depth (mm) 64.4  
Parabola size 73x52 73x50
Parabola focal length adjustment (mm) 20-200  
Parabola tilting angle -7°, 0°, 45°, 90° -7°, 0°, 45°, 90°
Parabola swivel angle +-180° +-180°
Connections Hot shoe
USB
PC-Sync
Hot shoe
PC-Sync
External power
supply
Flash mode TTL
M
Multi
E-TTL
TTL
M
Multi
Manual mode 1/1-1/128
(+-1/3stop)

EV compensation

+-3stop
(+-1/3stop)
FEV bracketing +-3stop
(+-1/3stop)
Wireless mode Master/Slave
IR communication wireless YES
RADIO communication wireless NO YES
Power supply 4xAA Alkaline / NiMH 4xAA Alkaline / NiMH /Lithium or
Dedicated external power supply
Battery life (full power) 150 100

Indoor test

I prepared a small set with a doll and a Lego construction set
(#5893, if you like it).
No doll has been abused or Lego piece has been lost for this test!

pixel-mago-images pixel-mago-images

By the way: the picture above on the left was taken using my new
Fujifilm X-T1 with Mago on its hot-shoe.
No TTL, obviously, but setting manual parabola length
to 20mm, 1/128 of output power, f/8 and 1/180s
(the flash sync speed of X-T1). Not so bad… the one on the right,
with Mago on the X-T1 unfortunately comes
from my HTC One M7. Not so good…

For all the tests I used a 4 AA set of 2000mAh Amazon Basics.

Coming back to the matter, I used a 7D (an APS-C camera),
with a 50 f/1.4 lens.
Camera is on tripod at about 2.5m from the subject.
Shooting condition is the subject
against the window. A bad situation for in-camera light meter:

Camera on tripod
Av mode
ISO100
f/8
1/10s
No flash
[IMG_0008]

The first test was with 600ET-RT: using the Sekonik and a trial-error
method. I calculated the shutter time to have a correct ambient and
flash exposure with a f/8 set according to the light meter.
As I never tuned the Sekonik it with
this camera, we will consider its information only for comparative
evaluations. I put 1.3s the result is the following:

Camera on tripod
M mode
ISO100
f/8
1.3s
CANON 600EX-RT
E-TTL mode
[IMG_0009]

2.1: Camera in AUTO mode, flash in TTL/E-TTL

This test is for basic users, using the camera in "green mode".
I took 3 identical frames for every flash, with the head straight -
to the subject. No differences in the 3 frames, so I put only the
third ones here:

PIXEL Mago

CANON 600EX-RT

[IMG_0040]
[IMG_0037]
The result of Mago is better,  as it is more "natural".

2.2: Camera in MANUAL mode, flash in TTL

This test is for more advanced users. I set the camera parameter
to the following:

  • Camera mode: MANUAL
  • ISO400
  • f/5.6
  • 1/125s
  • Flash mode: TTL Mago / E-TTL 600EX-RT

The aim it to evaluate the TTL protocol effectiveness in manual mode
(with fixed camera parameters). In this condition the camera stops the
light output as the flash exposure is the correct one. CANON uses E-TTL
(with pre-lamps), I had no idea about TTL protocol of PIXEL.
Again I took 3 shoots and here are the third ones.

PIXEL Mago

CANON 600EX-RT

[IMG_0046]

[IMG_0043]

No differences are present from the previous set, so TTL protocol
works quite fine, regardless of TTL/E-TTL. Mago, in my opinion,
gives a better result in terms of exposure, more "natural".

2.3: Camera in MANUAL mode, light meter, flash in TTL:
about the PIXEL protocol

As I said, I did not calibrate the light meter with my camera. Pity.
What we can do is a comparative test.
The aim is to understand PIXEL TTL way of working.
So I set the previous manual parameters:

  • Camera mode: MANUAL
  • ISO400
  • f/5.6
  • 1/125s
  • Flash mode: TTL Mago / E-TTL 600EX-RT

And I shot at the target with the light meter in front.
No sync cable between camera and light meter:
the Sekonik was "waiting" for measuring in flash mode.
The aim is to cause the light meter to be "disturbed" from
any pre-flash. We know that CANON does: what about PIXEL?

The result is the following:

PIXEL Mago

CANON 600EX-RT

[IMG_0058]

[IMG_0056]

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:2014-08-30 16.49.42.jpg

FusionHD:Users:marco:Documents:Fotografie per review:2014-08-30 16.50.37.jpg

   

AUTO mode
ISO400
f/3.2
1/125s
TTL/E-TTL mode

AUTO mode
ISO400
f/5
1/125s
TTL/E-TTL mode

Calculation for CANON gives a narrower aperture than PIXEL.
Exposure with PIXEL is even more bright: this means that, differently from
CANON E-TTL, PIXEL TTL does not uses pre-flash to calculate the exposure.

2.4: HSS function

For me HSS is a very important function that a speedlite has to own.
I take a lot of outdoor portraits; with wide aperture shutter speed has
to go far above to camera sync speed. Canon 7D sync speed is 1/250s.
Here a comparative
session for Mago, from 1/250s up to 1/2000s.
Camera parameters:

  • Tv mode
  • ISO400
  • TTL mode

1/250

f/4

[IMG_0070]

1/320

f/3.5

[IMG_0071]

1/400

f/3.2

[IMG_0072]

1/500

f/2.8

[IMG_0073]

1/640

f/2.5

[IMG_0074]

1/800

f/2.2

[IMG_0075]

1/1000

f/2

[IMG_0076]

1/1250

f/1.8

[IMG_0077]

1/1600

f/1.5

[IMG_0078]

1/2000

f/1.4

[IMG_0079]

1/8000

Limited by lens aperture to f/1.4

[IMG_0081]

As the speed increase there is a certain under-exposure.
This happens with 600EX-RT as well.
The most important thing is that no shutter band is visible,
as I usually work with HSS and flash manual mode.

2.5: EV/FEV compensation

Both functions can be set on the speedlight panel. If you want to use the
camera menu
you have to put EV=0 in the speedlite panel before trying to modify the
value with the camera. User manual also gives this advice.
With 600EX-RT, CANON decided to make things easier:
the speedlite panel has priority on camera.
The item in the menu is greyed.

pixel-mago-images:2014-08-30 17.36.14.png

pixel-mago-images:EV-FEV-Mago.png

Mago display
EV = +1stop
FEV = -/+1stop

pixel-mago-images:EV-FEV-600.png

600EX-RT display
EV = +1stop
FEV = -/+1stop

What I do not like is the graphic for EV/FEV setting on the display:
it is not so clear and can be confusing. 600EX-RT graphics is much
more clear. I suppose that PIXEL designer wanted to inform the user
about the FEV sequence,
as the display highlights the current step of bracketing shot after shot.
CANON display not, the sequence is a custom function.
By the way: there are no custom function settings in PIXEL user interface:
everything is graphical.

2.6: Swivel/Tilt head, diffuser

I have already spoke about the swivel/tilting system of the head.
Now I present a set of comparative shots with PIXEL and CANON taken with
tilting head. The ceiling of the room is completely white, so we can appreciate
the effect of bouncing light of both devices.

  • Camera mode: MANUAL
  • ISO400
  • f/8
  • 1/50s
  • Flash mode: TTL Mago / E-TTL 600EX-RT
 

PIXEL Mago

CANON 600EX-RT

Head facing the subject

 

[IMG_0123]

[IMG_0120]

45° head

 

[IMG_0124]

[IMG_0121]

90° head (boucing)

 

[IMG_0125]

[IMG_0122]

The results from PIXEL Mago are much better, in particular at 90°.
Light catch panel will be tested outdoor.

2.7: Wireless

As 600EX-RT Mago has a wireless master/slave mode.
The user manual is not clear at all, unfortunately,
but if you are used to this kind of utility you cannot do it wrong.
Communication is optic, so the speedlites has to see each other
(swivel head is a must!).
I tried 2 set for test: one with CANON master and Mago slave and the
other with 600EX-RT slave and Mago master. Both tests gave a very
good result. Mago can trigger a 600EX-RT slave!
Here's the set:

pixel-mago-images review:set.png

Set light parameters are:

  • Camera mode: MANUAL
  • ISO400
  • f/8
  • 1/30s
  • Flash mode: TTL Mago / E-TTL 600EX-RT
  • In-camera flash: Master, A-group
  • Off-camera flash: Slave,  B-group
  • A:B ratio = 4:1

600EX-RT in-camera, Master, A
Mago off-camera, slave, B
EV = +1stop

[IMG_0140]

Mago in-camera, Master, A
600EX-RT off-camera, slave, B
EV = +1stop

[IMG_0142]

Mago in-camera, Master, A
600EX-RT off-camera, slave, B
EV = +1,7stop

[IMG_0144]

Using the PIXEL as Master there is an under-exposure.
It can be recovered with a +2/3step, according to Sekonik measurement.

2.8: LED modelling lamp

This is a very useful function to predict shadows and light path.
LED is very bright, but the effect is hardly visible at 2.5m away.
I think it rather more useful for video
shooter.
The LED turns off during shooting sequence, then it turns on again.
No effect occurs on the exposure measuring
(except if you use an external light meter, as it has impact on
ambient light calculus). A downside of LED is the battery consumption:
it's very high with modelling lamp on.
I know that PIXEL has developed an external power supply, TD-381.

2.9: Output measure in Manual mode

I put the flash at 2.5m from the light meter and measured the aperture at
1/250s and ISO 100. The test has been done for both CANON and PIXEL.
The result is here below.

PIXEL CANON
Mago 600EX-RT

Output Power

f/values

1/128 f/1.6 f/1.8
1/64 f/2.2 f/2.5
1/32 f/3.2 f/3.6
1/16 f/4.5 f/4.5
1/8 f/6.3 f/6.3
1/4 f/8 f/9
1/2 f/13 f/14
1 f/18 f/20

This comparative test, done with a light meter put at 2.5m, shows how the PIXEL is a little bit less powerful than what the GN 65 would suggest.
At very high power the difference is near the 10%.

 

Outdoor experience

I decided to leave the 4 AA batteries in the compartment since
30Th August to 14th September. I know it is not a good idea, but I wanted
to have an idea about the power consumption in idle according to 99% of
non-professional photographer  habit.
When I powered up the device the batteries were at
75% of power left.
On that day I attended to a marriage event
(I was not the official photographer…).
It has been an interesting situation where to test the Mago speeedlite
"on the job".

For this event I used a Canon 5D MK III with the PIXEL Mago on camera,
M or Av mode, TTL flash mode.
Here are some shots in the church and during the event.

Canon EOS 5D MK III
EF 24-70L f2.8
PIXEL Mago

f = 35mm
M mode, f/8, 1/50
ISO 400
TTL

Canon EOS 5D MK III
EF 24-70L f2.8
PIXEL Mago

f = 48mm
M mode, f/8, 1/80
ISO 2500
TTL

I have to point out a certain flash overexposure when shooting at bride's
white dress at high ISO.
I made many attempts using FEL function on her dress.
In such a situation a -1 step of EV compensation is necessary.

I made some shots of children during the wedding party: I used the
HSS function with Auto ISO and Av mode. Here are the results:

Canon EOS 5D MK III
EF 85f1.8
PIXEL Mago

Av mode, f/8
Tv = 1/800
ISO 400
HSS function on, TTL

No post production

Canon EOS 5D MK III
EF 85f1.8
PIXEL Mago

Av mode, f/2.8
Tv = 1/4000
ISO 400
HSS function on, TTL

Non-relevant post production

Canon EOS 5D MK III
EF 85f1.8
PIXEL Mago

Av mode, f/2.8
Tv = 1/800
ISO 400
HSS function on, TTL

No post production

Canon EOS 5D MK III
EF 24-70L f2.8
PIXEL Mago

Av mode
f = 64mm
Av = f/2.8
Tv = 1/800
ISO 400
HSS function on, TTL @ -1EV

Non-relevant post production

What I discovered is that no flash information can be obtained from file EXIF information.

Conclusions

The Pixel Mago is a very well built device.
His Canon protocol works flawlessly,
I like the way the speedlite works in TTL mode
(except when you try to calculate the right flash exposure using FEL
function on white dresses.
As it is a new device it has some small SW bugs in user interface
(such as mis-pressures on keys): I think that a new SW release
will fix the actual small issues.

Question: does it worth the money?
I think this is the most important question we have to find an answer
before buying photographic equipments. The final price of Mago has not
been disclosed.
So I can tell you I would spend up to 200Euro for the Mago.
I would prefer the Mago to the Canon 430EX-II to save money.
I would get more power than 430EX-II and the capability to drive a
600EX-RT speedlite
slave in infrared wireless mode. IMHO, for non-professional job I would
not pay the money gap between a 600EX and the Mago.
We will see what Pixel will decide about the price to market.

Pros

  • TTL measuring during indoor and outdoor shooting
  • User interface, main operation can be done "at fly"
  • Value per money ratio
  • LED modelling lamp

Cons

  • Loss of mechanical retention on swivel head movement
  • Power ON knob switch
  • Flash compensation and bracketing information on the display:
    it is not so clear
  • Idle power consumption could be improved

About myself

Marco Nozzetti is a non-professional photographer.
In my life I am a mechanical engineer.
I have a great passion for photography: I own a Canon set and a
Fujifilm XT-1. On my Facebook page, Salicelucente Foto you can find
many portraits pictures,
landscapes, infrared landscapes (I have a permanently modified Canon 550D
for infrared pictures), events and so on.

https://www.facebook.com/Salicelucente

Recently I started cooperate with Diana Andreotti, a fashion designer.
She owns a brand, "Diana Andreotti Couture".
Our last project was a T-shirt for no-profit organization "Pink Project".
I am looking forward to read your comments and suggestions, as it is
my first review.

 

Comments on the PIXEL MAGO review here!

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