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MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Review

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Category: Portable Flash and Lighting
Product: Splash Mono 40L
Price: £420.00
Rating: 3.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 5

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Review - The MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L is a portable flash unit with a unique design to give it a better performance when used with modifiers such as brollies and softboxes. We put the system to the test.

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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

The Splash Mono 40L is one of a range of five portable flash units designed by technical Wizard Peter Louden. Peter was technical director of Bowens studio lighting and the man behind many of the monoblock and powerpack designs that exist today. His Splash Mono 40L was developed to fit a niche in the flash market and provide a truly portable flash with a studio light style output. At £420 it's more expensive than the fully specified Speedlight flashes from the likes of Nikon and Canon, and portable studio lighting from Interfit, so what makes it so special? We're about to find out.

Splash Mono 40L 3/4 view

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Features

The head weighs 800g and is about 2.5x the size of a Speedlite. Unlike many battery powered units it has a modelling light that's white balanced and flicker free so can be used for video illumination.

Splash Mono 40L compared with Nikon SB800 front view Splash Mono 40L compared with Nikon SB800 side view
Splash Mono 40L compared with Nikon SB800, with views from the front and side.

It's mounted on an acrylic square bracket with a standard diameter tripod connector. The front is an unusual sealed set of eight flash tubes in a circular array, angled at approx 50 degrees. In the center is an array of LEDs that provide the 500 Lumens modelling light.

Around the back is the control panel with five touch pad push buttons - one as a flash test fire and the other four to control the output. The 3.5mm jack sync socket is below the panel and above are two on and off buttons for the flash and modelling light. On the left side of the housing is a socket for the power charger.

Splash Mono 40L front viewSplash Mono 40L rear view

An optional £49 adaptor is available to convert the head to accept S type accessories used by the likes of Bowens and Interfit. MagneFlash also produce the Airobox 50 fold-flat softbox for £87.

The head comes with a sync lead that splits in two by unplugging the 3.5mm jack so you can reduce the length.

What's interesting about this head compared with other studio flash that are designed for outdoor use is this one has no additional battery pack. The battery is housed inside the unit and can be charged in two hours. And, unlike many other brands of outdoor lighting, the head offers a degree of weatherproofing.

Key Features

  • Weatherproof casing
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Full to 12% power
  • 5600K flash temperature
  • 1/4000sec flash duration
  • 500 Lumens modelling light

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Handling

The Splash Mono looks like a crudely built item. It feels very plasticky and almost like something you may have created following a Blue Peter episode. The plastic casing offers weather protection but behind this is the company logo/design and black panels. They look like they've been cut out and stuck in as there are some rough and uneven straight edges. And the touch pad control panel on the back appears stuck on, almost as an after thought. It has a hand made feel about it and squeaks as you adjust the angle of the head.

Looks pass on to a few of the aspects of handling. The stand connector looks like a plumbing connector with the usual twist to lock ring as well as a standard locking knob. I'm not sure why there's a need for both locks.

The head tilts and locks with a locking knob on each side. One lock would be preferred to speed up use. It's also very limited in range. The downward tilt is only about 20 degrees so pointing the head directly at the subject from a height is not possible. The upward tilt is restricted if you're using a flash sync cable as the plug gets in the way.

Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - cable issue Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - toch pad controls Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - stand connector
Cable issue Touch pad controls Stand connector

On the back is the power switch. There's no on light so on first use I wasn't sure if the unit was working. Several seconds later the LEDs light up indicating the flash is charged but there's no ready beep! While audio beeps can be annoying they're also very useful, especially when the light isn't in your direct vision as you need to know when it's ready to use and a beep is reassuring.

Also when you switch the modelling light on it kills the flash so you have to switch this off before using flash.

I don't see why four buttons are needed for power adjustment. The main two up and down could be used to scroll through the various settings, but here they just go through the four full settings and a second set, marked nudge, let you set in between ratios. These push buttons however are positive and make a pleasant change from rotating dials.

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Performance

First test is the guide number. The specification claims a guide number of 40 in meters with ISO 100 and a 50deg reflector. As we didn't have the Bowens S adaptor to attach a reflector we've done a straight reading. The flash pointed directly at a wall one meter away and the meter reading taken from the wall using a Minolta Flash Meter V.

First comparing it to some other flash options:

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L   Full Power   f/16.2
Strobeam DL 250 MkIII   Full Power   f/16.2
Elinchrom D-lite 4   Quarter Power   f/16.7
Nikon SB800 Speedlight   Full Power   f/22.7

As you can see the output is over a stop less than that of a Speedlight, but this is because of the very wide angle output of the Splash unit without a reflector. To overcome this, new versions of the Splash Mono have a second, forward facing set of flash tubes that doesn't affect the wide angle performance, but gives +1.5 stops of light when using the unit without a reflector.

Next to check out the exposure at the Splash Mono 40L's various output settings:

    +   0   -
100   f/11.9   f/11.3   f/11.2
75   f/11.1   f/11   f/8.4
50   f/8.5   f/8.3   f/8.1
25   f/5.6.9   f/5.6.8   f/4.5

At this point I realised that the flash may not be delivering consistent results so I took several shots (below) using the flash on full power. I've included the timings so you can see how long the battery was given to charge. The ready light was always on when a photo was taken. The fastest charge is about 8 seconds so it's not much use for action photography.

Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-1 11:35:10
Exposure Variation 1
11:35:10
  Magneflash Exposure Variation-2 11:35:19
Exposure Variation 2
11:35:19
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-3 11:35:28
Exposure Variation-3
11:35:28
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-4 11:35:38
Exposure Variation-4
11:35:38
Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-5 11:35:49
Exposure Variation-5
11:35:49
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L Exposure Variation-6 11:36:00
Exposure Variation-6
11:36:00
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-7 11:36:11
Exposure Variation-7
11:36:11
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-8 11:36:23
Exposure Variation-8
11:36:23
Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-9 11:36:36
Exposure Variation-9
11:36:36
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-10 11:36:53
Exposure Variation-10
11:36:53
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-11 11:37:07
Exposure Variation-11
11:37:07
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation-12 11:37:44
Exposure Variation-12
11:37:44

The results are all over the place. I put this failure to Peter at MagneFlash and his response was:
"The light output of these units is very wide, optimised for large umbrellas etc, as a studio light. It could be that if the unit is measured without a reflector of any sort, the meter angle, which measures only a small area when close up, could be critical. With a large reflector at a distance this apparent exposure variation should not happen."
So I tried with a brolly (below) and the exposures were still inconsistent which suggests the unit may be faulty.  

Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation Brolly-1 11:40:49
Exposure Variation-1
11:40:49
  Magneflash Exposure Variation Brolly-2 11:41:25
Exposure Variation-2
11:41:25
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation Brolly-3 11:40:54
Exposure Variation-3
11:40:54
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation Brolly-4 11:42:06
Exposure Variation-4
11:42:06
Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation Brolly-5 11:42:33
Exposure Variation-5
11:42:33
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation Brolly-6 11:43:11
Exposure Variation-6
11:43:11
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Exposure Variation Brolly-7 11:43:39
Exposure Variation-7
11:43:39
   

Rather than leave the review with that question mark looming over it I requested a second unit and tested that. Here's how it performed straight from a fully charged battery.

    +   0   -
100   f/16.5   f/16.2   f/16
75   f/11.8   f/11.8   f/11.2
50   f/11.2   f/11.2   f/8.0.5
25   f/8.0.2   f/8.0.2   f/4.6

I then tried a consistency test and the exposures were better than the previous version, but still not within what I would consider an acceptable tolerance range. For example on 100% full power the unit started to reduce in output after about 30 shots. I got readings anywhere between 16.2 and 8.7. I started to wonder if other flashguns were just as poor in latitude.

In the same conditions the Strobeam DL 250 Mk III varied between f/16.8 and f/22.2, the Nikon SB800 between f/22.4 and f/22.8 and the Elinchrom D-Lite was consistent at f/32.5. So there is some inconsistencies but no where near that of the Splash Mono.

Also worth pointing out - as the number of flashes increase so did the reacharge time. That lengthy 8 seconds ended up being 30 seconds towards the end of the battery's life... and the LED didn't glow as bright so not only was there a lack of audible recharge noise but also a dimly lit LED that couldn't been seen easily in daylight.

But there are good points!

Flash coverage is an important factor and Magneflash designed the Splash Mono to efficiently fill a 100cm+ umbrella and provide high quality light over a large area, something a Speedlight would struggle with, even on its widest setting.

Here are our findings - the first row is the flash positioned one meter from a light coloured wall taken with a lens at around 20mm and the second row is the same lens setting with the flash at about 1.5 meters from the wall and a 53cm softbox added to diffuse the light. It has a similar output to the Strobeam.

Splash Mono 40L   Nikon SB800 Strobeam DL250 MkIII   Elinchrom D-Lite 4
Magneflash-test Splash Mono Coverage  f/16 | 19mm | ISO 200
 
  Magneflash-test - Nikon SB800 Coverage
 
Magneflash-test Strobeam Coverage f/16 | 19mm | ISO 200
 
  Magneflash-test D-lite Coverage f/16 | 19mm | ISO 200
 
Magneflash-test Splash Mono softbox Coverage  f/22 | 19 mm | ISO 200   Magneflash-test - Nikon SB800 Softbox Coverage Magneflash-test Strobeam with Softbox Coverage f/22 | 19mm | ISO 200   Magneflash-test D-lite Softbox Coverage f/22 | 19mm | ISO 200

It's claimed that the flash will syncronise with a point and shoot digital camera. To confirm an old Olympus Mju 600 was used and the first photo is with just the camera's built in flash. Then the Magneflash was placed one meter to the right and on full power. The flash synchronised with the camera, but the camera didn't adjust exposure so the result was overexposed. Reducing the flash to 25% resolved this and provided a good balanced exposure. Various combinations were then tried to see what could be achieved using a point and shoot. As you can see it's quite impressive. This dramatically increased flash power could be used by estate agents who use compact cameras to photograph interiors.
 
Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin No Flash
Olympus mju 600 straight flash
  Magneflash Mannequin Full Power
Splash Mono 40L at full power
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin 25 Power
Splash Mono 40L at 25% power
Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin Brolly
Splash Mono 40L with brolly
 
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin Backlight Side
Splash Mono 40L pointing at the background
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin Bounced Side Light
Splash Mono 40L bounced off left  side wall.
Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin Backlight
Splash Mono 40L behind  mannequin pointing at backdrop
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin Hairlight
Splash Mono 40L behind and pointing at mannequin for hairlight
  Magneflash Splash Mono 40L - Mannequin Hairlight Filter
Orange Sainsburys bag added as a colour filter

Now for a little more sophisticated lighting using a Nikon D200 with an SB-800 Speedlite in TTL mode on an extension cable positioned under the perspex shooting table and pointing up from behind. The D200's TTL flash system did all the work adjusting exposure to compensate for the light added by the Splash mono 40L, so it can be used as an extension to your TTL system. All shots include the same positioned SB800 but the Splash Mono 40L was moved around.

Vase Lit with speedlite from underneath
Vase lit with just SB800 from underneath.
  Vase Lit with speedlite from underneath and Splash Mono 40L from left with softbox
Splash Mono 40L from left with softbox.
  Vase Lit with speedlite from underneath and Splash Mono 40L behind
Splash Mono 40L placed behind the perspex and vase.
Vase Lit with speedlite from underneath and Splash Mono 40L above
Splash Mono 40L positioned directly above the vase.
  Vase Lit with speedlite from underneath and bare Splash Mono 40L right
Bare Splash Mono 40L positioned to the right.
  Vase Lit with speedlite from underneath and Splash Mono 40L above vase pointing at background
Splash Mono 40L above vase pointing at background.

Value For Money

At £420 the Splash Mono 40L is more expensive than the fully specified Nikon and Canon Speedlights with full TTL control and zoom heads, but its coverage is far wider. It provides a similar output to the recently reviewed Strobeam DL 250 MkIII but the Strobeam has a 9fps recycling speed and a separate battery pack, with the benefit of an incredibly large capacity, so is a better portable option.

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Verdict

I really wanted to like the SplashMono as the concept is an interesting one. It seems a lot of effort has gone into the electronics and trying to overcome many typical issues with modern flash, but the appearance has been overlooked. It's a shame because the almost Blue Peter finish detracts from what is essentially a brilliant flash system. The colour balance is very good so you could use it as a fill in in daylight, synchronised with your camera's flash if required, and the wider spread means it will suit those who need coverage with wider lenses. The inconsistent exposure is a real issue and the slow recycling time reduces its value for fashion photographers, but the 1/4000sec consistent flash duration will be appreciated by others. It reminds me of a custom built or specialist car - you grow to love it and put up with all its idiosyncrasies.

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Pros

Very natural light
Good spread of light
Works and synchronises with digital compacts to boost power
Modelling light

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Cons

Hand built feel
Inconsistent exposures
Limited angle adjustments
Slow recycling time

FEATURES  
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
VERDICT

MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Specifications

Flash
Flash Guide Number (ISO100/m) 40m
Camera Dedication
  • Not dedicated
Flash Duration 1/4000sec
Power Source
Battery Type built in rechargeable
Dimensions
Weight 877g
Width 137mm
Height 170mm
Depth 146mm

View Full Product Details



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