Backscatter MF-1 & OS-1 Review

By Jon Anderson, December 16, 2019

I was fortunate to shoot the new Backscatter Mini Flash MF-1 and Optical Snoot OS-1 for the last week in Cozumel, Mexico prior to its official release and was very impressed! Cozumel is best known for its drift dives with strong currents, beautiful reefs, and endless visibility. Most think of turtles, eagle rays and parrotfish rather than blennies, shrimp, and sea slugs. The strong currents make it a place many wouldn’t think of shooting macro, let alone snooted macro. The guides at Aldora Divers were awesome at helping find the amazing macro subjects that live in Cozumel!

The powerful visually centered modeling light made aiming the snoot easy, even in bright sunlight in water as shallow as 20 ft. The concentric aiming light and strobe spot made it possible to create attractive snooted shots in a handful of frames rather than the dozens frames like many of us are used to. In areas with less current, I was even able to successfully snoot subjects being magnified with a +13 diopter, something I have found very difficult with other snoots I have used.

The MF-1 and OS-1 is certainly the easiest to use snooted strobe that have tried and that will be the reason most people buy them. It’s performance as a traditional (unsnooted) strobe (and focus light) should not be overlooked though. I love snooted macro shots as much as anyone and they have even won me some great prizes in photo competitions, that said I believe particular subjects and compositions are better left unsnooted. The OS-1 is easily attached and removed from the MF-1 underwater giving you the flexibility to shoot both types of shots on a single dive with a single compact strobe.

With products as fun and powerful as the MF-1 and OS-1 its easy to only talk about the positives. I did however find the location of the button and power control knob a bit awkward for how I setup my strobe arms. I use 2 arm segments which leave the strobe inverted on the bottom of the last segment for many placements. Most strobes have the controls on the back making them visible and easily accessible in this configuration. The small size and single 18650 battery design of this strobe moved the controls opposite of the mounting ball making them a bit difficult to see and reach in some strobe positions. Luckily, I didn’t find myself changing the power often and the focus light button could be operated by feel. Though this location felt like a bit of an inconvenience to me, the functionality, ease of use of the snoot, power, and light quality more than made up for it in my opinion.

As underwater photographers, we are all used to traveling with too many bags and paying overweight luggage fees to bring all of our gizmos and gadgets. The flexibility of the MF-1 and OS-1 combined with its size and weight is what makes it such a game changer for macro shooters at all levels. I look forward to shooting macro in the future with a single MF-1 and OS-1 on my housing, significantly reducing the size and weight of my camera rig while maintaining confidence that I have the tools needed to get the shot!

Thanks so much to Becca Boring at Backscatter for getting me one of these to test in Cozumel prior to its official release!

All photos shot by Jon Anderson in Cozumel, Mexico in December 2019 using Backscatter MF-1 strobe and OS-1 snoot. Other equipment used: Nikon D850, Nikon 105mm Macro lens, Nauticam housing, & Kraken Sports +13 diopter.

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