Pixel Mago Flash Review

Danbo and the Pixel Mago

As you know I do the occasional beta test and product review of photography equipment. I was given the opportunity to test and review the New Pixel Mago X-600 speedlight. I was excited because it looked very promising.

The Pxel Mago is a Canon ETTL-II flash. It can act as a ttl wireless master and slave. It boasts guide number of 65 @ 100ISO at 200mm.

Features/Specs:
-GN 65 @ 200mm 100iso
-Manual and auto zoom
-TTL/M/Mult Flash modes
-1-500Hz Stroboscopic flash
-360 degree head adjustment.
-Manual power 1/1-1/128 in 1/3rd increments
-Recycle time 4sec 1/1 power
-dot matrix lcd screen
-Power 4xAA batteries
-USB, PC, and Battery pack ports
-EV and FEB 1/3 power increments
-Battery Life 150 flashes at 1/1 with Sanyo Eneloop’s
-LED fill light for video..
-Over heat warning on flash tube, lcd video light, and battery’s
-AF assist beam
-s1 s2 optical slave modes..
-USB firmware upgrades

First impressions:

The flash came in and I of course tore in the package like a kid at Christmas. However I was like wait, I need to do unboxing pictures first. :) My first impressions of the box was it is very colorful. Inside the flash is protected by a very well designed padded air bag. The flash also is in a flash case. It came with a flash stand, diffuser, flash, case, and manual. My first impression of the the flash was wow this is big. Next thought was cool a Canon like locking foot and wow look at that lcd. The build is quite solid. I would say on par with my RF60 and close if not the same as my Canon 580EXII, and SB24. Giving it the head squeeze test. It did not flex like my YN568EX flashes on the head. Next I noticed that the rotation of the head is not all clicky like most flashes. It takes a little pressure to turn but not bad.There are minor resistance ports to get an idea on where you are on the head adjustment. The resistance will be good with heavy modifiers. There is a grove that looks like it would be a place for the weather seals on a canon flash. I pointed this out. I don’t know if they modified an existing case. Or if they are planning seals. I pointed this out.

I did notice that the off/on/lock switch takes a bit of pressure to turn on. More than my Canon 580EXII.. The adjustment dial moves a little easier than the Canon 580EXII. It has the usual battery pack port, pc sycn, and canon accessory thread. However the Battery pack is not Canon compatible. You have to get a Pixel specific battery pack.

IMG_0240 - Version 2 Large Dot-matrix LCD screen:
One really cool feature that we are starting to see in flashes is LCD screens that can be modified via firmware. One of the most flexible ways is by using a Dot-matrix lcd screen. The Pixel Mago has this. I hope it is used in the future for refinements and so on.
IMG_0343 (1) Button Layout:
The layout of the buttons seems to be intuitive. The top row you have dynamically depending now hats on the LCD then you have a mode button, the dial and ok, and then of course the on off and lock switch.
IMG_0341 (1) Quick lock lever
One feature that really lacked on third party flashes is quick release leavers. You always had to fight with the wheel. Pixel implemented a quick lock lever almost exactly like the Canon leaver however if you look at the action it is slightly different. However still works good. I tried to force the flash off. It seems to hold well.
IMG_0342 (1)

Ports:
The Pixel Mago comes with a HV port *need peel brand pack*, PC port, and a thread mount for Canon accessories. I kind of was disappointed we did not see a 3.5mm port here they are much more reliable than a PC port and becoming more standard.
IMG_0344 (1) Battery Compartment:
The battery compartment is what you would expect. However Wait a second is that a USB port.. Yes thats right kiddies firmware upgrades.
IMG_0352 Video Light and Panel:
One unique feature is the video led up front. It gives another quick light source with the ability for modern DSLR’s to capture video. In addition we have the panel for the sensors and the IR focus array.

IMG_0376 (1)IMG_0372
Diffuser panel and bounce card.
The normal diffuser panel standard on many flashes now days so nice to have.

Usage:

This flash I was able to pick right up and start using. It is quite intuitive to use it seems. I keep however trying to do fec adjustment the way my 580EXII does by pressing the set button and turning.. I am going to talk to pixel about if this can be added to the Mago. The slide touch is a nice tocuh not many third party flashes have this at all. It looks like it is models after canons, however it is not exactly the same mecinisum in comparison. Performance on camera seems on par with my other ttl flashes. with bounce I did have to add a tad of FEC co compinsate for the bounce. This is normal with every single one of my ttl flashes. I have been using it a few weeks as my main flash. Works well as bounce as expected. I have not occasionally ev adjustments However that is normal for my other flashes also..

I have been flowing my quick moving daughter around and it works great..

IMG_0526

Power testing:

The first thing I saw when I got this flash was the guide number. I was like wow that’s impressive. So I had to test it out my self. It is kind of hard to compare it against competition without doing it at the separate zoom levels. I have noticed over the years much 3rd party flashes verry depending on zoom level and brand flashes are a little more consistent. The mayo performed pretty well for being a third party flash. My test setup was the flashes at full power at 10 feet 100iso.
Photo-2014-07-28-18-32-59_0483

power

E-TTL testing:
I wanted to test out the EV accuracy between my different flashes in my collection and the Mago seemed to perform well. The mayo goes -3EV to +3 EV what I thought was kind of nice is it will show ether LAMP or CAM next to the EV setting to tell you if the EV has been adjusted on the camera or from the flash.

IMG_0363

In testing the Mago seems right in what you would expect with E-TTL flashes. Mosibly not as refined as the Canon but it will work just fine. My set up was a tripod with camera static switch out the flashes, and testing 1 stop EV values.. Unfortunately on -3 it was to low for the light meter so you will see DNR which means did not register.

combined

HSS testing:

The Mago seems to perform will in HSS work. This worked off camera with YN622C’s and on camera fine.. Of course you lose some output power in HSS but that is expected.

IMG_0516

Multi-mode:

In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. The lower the power the more pulses you can get in of course. It seems pretty easy to setup.

IMG_0368

Manual mode:

The Mago has power adjustments in the 1/3 increment’s. It seems set on 1/3 increments even if you sent the camera at 1/2 increments although this may be expected.

IMG_0367

Master Mode:

One thing the Mago does over even higher priced third party flashes is it has a master mode. The master mode you can control basically everything you can with a canon flash. Only issue I seem to see when using in master mode it emanates a slight pulse like the on camera popup master does.. So as far as I can tell it can on use IR as master. You can set for the flash to emit to add to the picture or not but either way it still needs a pulse. So outdoor use may be limited.

You can control the functions through either the flash its self or through the camera flash control menus.

Pixel Mago Master

On flash control:

IMG_0365

In camera menu control:

VRAM3

VRAM9

VRAM5

VRAM10

VRAM12

Slave Functionality:

You have the ability to set the flash to ttl slave in group A, B, or C across 4 channels.

IMG_0366

Issues:

The only issue I saw was when adjusting the ev the display ISO would not match the camera, and some times when you turn it on it would flash a different ISO value. It seems to of not effect the pictures however I believe this can easily be fixed via FW.

Conclusions:

If you want a E-TTL flash with HSS, and master functionality you can not beat the Mago. When I got the flash I was expecting it to be in the 200$ range but it ended up being ~92$ and you can not beat that. My first flash was a Vivitar DF400MZ and was about the same price and was absolute junk. So thing since then have improved leaps and bounds. I am tempted to pick up another one of theses one day if I need an extra flash. As in long term reliability the jury still out but I have yet to really have issues. However like any new flash I normally try and wait a few months to make sure all the kinks are worked out of it before buying. However with fw upgrades it is not really that big of a deal any more.

Pros:
-Low Price
-Good build
-Large clear LCD
-USB firmware upgrades
-Slide locking foot
-Master and slave modes
-HSS
-High guide number

Cons:
-Proprietary HV port
-Use of PC port instead of the almost new standard 3.5mm port
-No 1/4-20 mount thread on side.
-a few bugs like the ISO display bug
-With YN622C you can not do manual power adjustments
-Will not work with Cactus V^ because digital protocol does not match Canons exactly and no analog quench pin.

Availability Now on Ebay or contact pixel directly.