New “Magnum” Strobes from Aputure… and They Rock!

New “Magnum” Strobes from Aputure… and They Rock!

Remember Dirty Harry… he had a Magnum too. And when he pulled it out and asked the punk if he felt lucky, he created a legendary phrase that lives on and on.

And now it is your turn to get lucky… with these pretty damn cool strobes from Aputure. Full disclosure: they sent me a pair of these to use and I am very excited to tell you that they are pretty darn cool light. (NOTE: You can see my TOS/Disclosure Info right here on the site.)

I have been working with speedlights for a long time, and while they were not my first choice, I have been doing so many more things in the studio with them. A bunch of speedlights in grid spots is so much fun to play with.

The "Magnum" line of speedlights from Aputure sure impressed the heck out of me. The absolute simplicity of the operation is superb.

The “Magnum” line of speedlights from Aputure sure impressed the heck out of me. The absolute simplicity of the operation is superb.

In the image above you see both flavors of the Magnum Flash units. On the left is the MG-68TL – a full ETTL solution flash for your DSLR. My chosen sub-flavor is Canon. On the right  is the MG-68 Manual Flash unit… and I really like these all manual flashes.

First up, let’s discuss the manual MG-68.

From a 4 sec recycle time, external power port enabling 2 second flash recycle, direct brightness control, 3 different flash modes, optical slave sensor, to power saving mode, and PC sync port, these lights have most everything you need to make it a part of your gear choice.

Features:

1. 4 Seconds to Recycle to Full Power
2. Manual Flash Power from Full to 1/128 (One Stop Increments)
3. 3 Flash Modes(M/S1/S2)
4. Optical Sensor
5. Power Saving Mode
6. External Power Port
7. PC Sync Port
8. Overheating Protection

First up are the three different modes on this flash: Manual, S1, S2.

Full manual is the way I use my flashes. S1 is the optical slave mode, and I tested mine all the way across my studio with the skylights open and it fired every time – even when tilted up toward the skylight, and even when the slave was turned toward the side wall. I am a big fan of optical slaving in the studio.

S2 is very cool. It ignores the pre-flash on ETTL and fires in optical mode on the second flash. This works really well as an off-camera flash for point and shoots.

Apeture "Magnum Flashes"

Each unit is packaged with a soft, cloth bag. These will keep your lights looking good for quite a while.

The build quality feels very good. The finish on the units is very satin like to the touch, and the units have some weight to them that makes them feel much more substantial than some other units I have tested.

The control on the MG-68 is one of the best and fastest control UI I have seen. Simplicity itself, there is an on switch, a mode switch, an easy to push “pilot” button (flash) and a zoom button. The flash is already set to change power when you turn it on, and by clicking on the zoom, a green light comes up  in the panel and you toggle it quickly to the zoom setting you want.

Another feature that I am very pleased with is that when I turn it on, it goes immediately to 1/16 power, zoomed to 35MM. One click to 1/8  power, or one click to 1/32 power. Most of the time I use these flashes they are not on full power, so having the unit come up in the middle of the range makes so much sense to me. (Me of the infamous “Wizwow Rope Meter”… heh)

And for keeping the units from being scratched in your bag, they come in a very sturdy soft bag with draw string closures.

"Magnum" flashes by Apeture.

The design is similar to most makers of on-camera flash. On the left is the TTL version and on the right is the full manual version.

The front of the units are nearly identical, and are pretty much in the style of speedlights from most other manufacturers.

Magnum Flashes in TTL and Manual.Versions

Both Magnum Flashes in TTL and Manual.Versions have a very solid diffusion screen for ultra wide lenses, and an optional “popper” for adding catchlights in bounced light situation.

The units have both a wide angle diffuser and a “catchlight” panel. Great for bouncing flash when on camera or subtle washes when off camera as a second unit. Both also ship with a typical “foot” mount for standing the flash as well as a small user manual that is pretty concise.

The "Magnum" Flash line - back side of flashes

Controls are neatly laid out, and the ease of setting power/zoom could not be better. I love the intuitive nature of the interface.

Let’s talk about the MG-68TL.

1. 4 Seconds to Recycle to Power
2. Manual Flash Power from Full to 1/128 (1/3 Stop Increments)
3. 5 Flash Modes(TTL, M, Stroboflash, S1, S2)
4. Optical Sensor
5. Power Saving Mode
6. External Power Port
7. PC Sync Port
8. Overheating Protection
9. Settings Recall (remembers where you left it set after last use)

I usually do not use TTL when shooting, but I felt I should test it out on my camera for this review.

Flawless.

As a matter of fact, I was having a blast with on-camera TTL shooting stuff – and buds – all over the studio.

You can expect to have all the control you would normally have with 1-3 incremental power settings. The Manual, S1 and S2 settings are the same as the MG-68.

And the interface is so simple, you will most likely not need the manual. (Now that is a far cry from many of the strobes out there with 2″ manuals and more settings than I would ever need.) For my shooting, I want simple and direct.

Magnums deliver that.

The “Stroboflash” feature is really fun. This is a repeating flash setting for making multiple flashes on a single frame. Think “stroboscopic” and you will know exactly what this setting does.

Now for some nitty gritty… the way they work when shooting.

First, there was not a single misfire in an afternoon of fairly heavy testing. I used the Aputure triggers for part of the test, and the Commlite triggers for another part. Both trigger sets worked exactly perfect… and that was very cool.

Both units have guide numbers of 48. I learned a long time ago that those numbers may or may not mean a lot when I am actually making photographs.

So to get a precise idea of the power, I measured out to f-4 at ISO 100 with the flash at 1/8 power and the zoom setting at 50MM. (Wizwow’s famous string meter setting.)

In order to get an idea of what the numbers would mean, I took a first reading with my LumoPro 160 (still a favorite flash for me… I love those things – have two.) I then followed up with the Magnum at the same settings. To get an f-4 reading with the two flashes the distances are noted below.

F-4, ISO 100, 1/8 Power, Zoom at 50MM

90″ for LumoPro 160
107″ for Apeture Magnum

(In other words, you could use a string at 107″  to make the “rope meter” and be very close to dead on.)

Magnum flashes were a bit more powerful… 17 inches longer to expose f-4.

This puts the units at roughly the same power point as a Canon 580. Maybe slightly less, but more than the Canon 430.

Spread of light is as one would expect from these small flashes, and by zooming the flash out (tighter spread) you can gain an additional 2/3 of a stop. I tested them in my three favorite speedlgiht modifiers, and they performed well. Those modifiers are the Kacey Beauty Dish, Gamilight 43, and the Westott Apollo 28.

Bottom Line: I like these flash units. I am purchasing another MG-68 very soon, and they will round out my speedlight kit. They will be offered soon through E-Bay, Amazon and LinkDelight.

Current Scheduled Pricing:
MG-68: $79
MG-68TL: $129

Current Main Kit:
2 – Magnum MG-68’s
1 – Magnum MG-68TL
2 – LP 160’s
Additional Kit
1 Canon 55o EZ
1 Canon 580 EX
1 Canon 430 EZ
1 LP 120
2 Sunpack “old timers”…

Yep – I can get a lot done with this set of portable strobes.

If you are looking for a great flash unit, with a dead simple interface and total ease of use, you should definitely check out these Aputure Magnum Strobes.

NOTE: They will be available soon. Look for them by the first of August.

———————

I was recently on creativeLIVE and have received some rave reviews of the workshop. If you are interested in taking a look at the workshop, you can find it on creativeLIVE’s web site here. I think it is a tremendous value and if you are unable to attend any of my workshops, this may give you a ton of information you will want to have to push your photography to the next level.

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

9 Comments

  1. Great posting Don! Very thorough. I will consider these for my next speedlight purchase.
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  2. Thanks for the review, Don. These look like they could be a great – and nicely priced – addition to the arsenal. One question, though, regarding the PC ports. Do you know if they are threaded? I’ve found that using a threaded connector between my trigger and my 580s really cuts down on misfires when directly connected. (Granted, I realize that using these in S1 mode would probably the way to go with these.)

    • No, not threaded. They are pretty tight though. A good fit.

  3. Looks like a very comfortable build here with regards to control visibility and the button styling itself. They’re certainly priced right
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  4. Will they work with Pocket Wizard Mini TT1’s and Flex TT5’s?

    • Hi Buddy, yes. I think they will work with any type of trigger.

  5. There are so many speedlights in the market, it is onfused to choose, thanks for your review, I will try this brand.

  6. What type of external battery pack can these use?

  7. Will the Canon version of the TTL flash accommodate high speed sync?