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|Category:||Portable Flash and Lighting|
|Product:||Splash Mono 40L|
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.
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 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.
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.
- Weatherproof casing
- Rechargeable battery
- Full to 12% power
- 5600K flash temperature
- 1/4000sec flash duration
- 500 Lumens modelling light
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.
|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.
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:
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.
The results are all over the place. I put this failure to Peter at MagneFlash and his response was:
So I tried with a brolly (below) and the exposures were still inconsistent which suggests the unit may be faulty."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."
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.
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|
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.
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.
Value For MoneyAt £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 ProsVery natural light
Good spread of light
Works and synchronises with digital compacts to boost power
MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L ConsHand built feel
Limited angle adjustments
Slow recycling time
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
MagneFlash Splash Mono 40L Specifications
|Flash Guide Number (ISO100/m)||40m|
|Battery Type||built in rechargeable|