I'm on vacation from 20.09.2014 until 05.10.2014. I'll have no access to my mails so please expect a delay of answers during this period.
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I was kind of excited when I've got the mail with the tracking data from Pixel Enterprise for the Pixel Mago Speedlite. They were searching for some tester and I handed in my application. So now this thing is laying in from of me. Is it any good? Let's find out.
For the general feature set I actually can save myself a lot of work describing everything in detail. If you take a Canon 580EXII you'll have an equal feature set plus some nice additions. You have the common three flash modes: Manual, TTL and Multi. Wireless slave and master modes are build in too. 1./2. curtain sync implemented as well as high speed sync up to 1/8000s.
The unboxing process is pretty unsurprising. The box contains the usual thing you expect:
If you hold it for the first time in your hand you'll notice it's larger than any other speedlite you had before. It's even larger than the Canon 600EX-RT. The build quality is pretty good. The battery compartment door should last longer than the one of the YN-568EX. You'll notice some edges here and there. There is no visible rubber weather sealing like you can find it at Canon speedlites.
Let's talk about the good things about this Mago speedlite
First of all I have to praise the LCD display. It's a dot matrix display which has a green background light and is pretty good readable. Unlike other speedlites it shows you all of the current settings. There are not sub menus for custom settings or anything like this. If you look at the display you know how long the light will stay on, how long it'll take until the speedlite goes to sleep mode or if the AF light is enabled. Speaking of the LCD background light: you can have it on all the time. I like this. Operating this flash unit is pretty straight forward. Just one button has two functions, that is for switching between normal flash mode and wireless flash mode. All the other buttons have the function which is visible in the display above them. There is a dedicated test button and a button to change the flash mode like to manual or TTL. Another highlight is the battery status. Seems like it's possible to see more states than just full or empty. This should help to decide if you need to bring spare batteries. Controlling the slaves in wireless mode if pretty nice too. You see exactly the settings for each channel very easily
The flash head supports zooming from 20 to 200mm and can be tilted 180° to both sides. Pixel claims this unit to have a guide number of 65. Compared to the Canon 600EX-RT I was not able to see a significant difference on the power output. Fine for me. The hot shoe mount features a quick lock. This enables you to mount and remove the flash from your camera very easily.
It beeps :) A common feature today but I need to mention this.
One pretty unique feature is the LED at the front. It's kind of powerful and can help to add some light if you shoot video. Or you can use it as a AF light. It's up to you. My son currently uses it as a flashlight ;-) That's actually not a bad idea. I don't know about you but I do need sometimes a flashlight to find things in my camera bag. No need to turn on the mobile phones LED any longer.
Since this unit is still in the testing phase I'm happy that it features an USB port to update the firmware.
There are some glitches which I need to mention too. First of all the diffuser cap does not fit the flash head. It falls off as soon as you look at it. The flash head does need some love too. Currently it does not click clearly into position. Especially if you want to point the head straight forward it's hard put it into the right position. The upper swivel positions are okay but this -7 to 0 degree position has this issue.
A little bit more annoying is the center scroll wheel. If you're assume that one click executes one action you're sometimes out of luck. It really needs to be more precise. Sometimes a click is doing nothing, sometimes there seems to be a lag.
There are two features I miss: a dumb wireless slave mode and the ability to control the brightness of the LED. The first one would allow to trigger this flash with another flash without using any remove protocol. The second one would allow to use the LED as a kind of modeling light for the poor man.
A short test with the YN-622C and the YN-622C-TX showed that the manual flash mode does simple not work. If you adjust the flash power at the YN-622-TX it's not transmitted to the Mago speedlite. Not sure which part if this combination is responsible for this but this is a major issue me. Nobody uses optical wireless triggering anymore, right?
Some years ago this one would be considered as an awesome flash unit. This year it's an okay unit. From my perspective it's the best speedlite I saw from the Chinese manufacturers given the fact that they solve some issues mentioned above until they're going to sell this officially. It's has not quite the build quality of a Canon 580EXII but it has a larger feature set. One thing that is very surprisingly for me is the price tag. It's only about 90$! It'd expected a lot more. If they can fix the compatibly issues with the YN-622C or if you don't use those triggers at all the Pixel Mago is highly recommended! You need to keep in mind that it's not a match for the Canon 600EX. But given the price tag that is fine for me.
There is a new site which informs you greatly about this speedlite: http://www.pixelhk.com/Proshow.aspx?id=292. In addition I received some information about improvements. Keep in mind that I've got my hands on a beta unit. Here is what they told me:
Sounds like launching this beta test was a very good idea and customers of the final product can expect a pretty good quality.