Saga Magic Tube Underwater Review
I have to admit, when I started seeing underwater macro photos with strange, colorful circles popping up all over the internet, I didn't know what to make of it. I was a little skeptical at first. I thought perhaps that there was a new editing software that was creating the effect. But when I found out it was actually a little reflective tube known as the Saga Magic Tube that was gaining popularity among underwater macro photographers, I became intrigued at the concept. I began to see the beauty in the new style of photograph and the potential to create wonderful new perspectives. So when I had the opportunity to take the Saga Magic Tube with me on a Bluewater Travel and Underwater Photography Guide trip to Anilao, Philippines - the macro capital of the world - I was very excited!
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U.S. MSRP: $175
After diving with the Saga Magic Tube for a week in the Philippines, I’m sold. Literally. I bought one for myself. Although some photographers feel that the device is gimmicky, I personally feel that the magic tube is a very specific tool for a specific kind of photograph. But it’s also a tool that can open new dimensions and concepts to underwater photography.
The magic tube is essentially a metal tube with a reflective material on the inside surface. The device can screw into the front of any 67mm port thread on the front of a macro port. It is designed specifically for use with a Nikon 105mm or Canon 100mm macro lens. However, I’ve had a lot of success shooting it with the Sony 90mm macro lens as well. I would expect that the magic tube could also work with the Olympus 60mm macro lens, but I have not been able to confirm that myself.
Once you screw on the magic tube, it eliminates some of your field of view and produces a circle in the middle of the image. The light that reflects into the tube from the subject will bounce off the inside of the tube until it reaches your lens. This produces a circle of color around your subject that mirrors the subject itself, creating a unique effect. During my tests, I used this circle of color to create affects as if the subject were bleeding out into the rest of the image. It creates fluidity in the image. I also find the magic tube is great for creating the concept of a “sphere” or “globe” surrounding your subject. It almost appears that the subject is in its own world.
The magic tube doesn’t really affect the minimum focusing distance of your lens. You can still focus close using the magic tube. The end of the magic tube will act as the front of your lens. This can be helpful, because you to move your body and camera farther from the subject. I found that the added working distance keeps subjects relaxed and easy to photograph.
In practice, the Saga Magic Tube is actually pretty easy to use. Because the tube’s field of view is in the middle of your frame, the focal points are all in the middle. Although this can limit composition, it makes shooting easier. Because there are less focal points to choose from, it can be easier to lock focus. Underwater lighting with the magic tube is similar to lighting a normal underwater macro photo. However, you do need to make sure your strobes are far enough forward that you can light the subject in front of the tube.
I ending up finding that the magic tube was so easy to use, that I decided to try an additional level of difficulty by adding a fiberoptic snoot. This produced spectacular photographs with a black background so that the color of the subject was highlighted in circle surrounding it. The trick to magic tube photos with a snoot is to place the tip of the snoot at the edge of the tube. It can be a little more frustrating than using a snoot by itself, but well worth the effort.
All in all, the Saga Magic Tube has become one of my favorite underwater tools for macro photography. That being said, it’s a specific tool for limited situations and subjects. Although I use it sparingly, the additional dimension and emotion the circular effect invokes is well worth the investment.
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