Smoke and haze have been a long-time tool of the trade. But smoke-in-a-can and giant fog machines beware. This pocket-sized fog machine lives up to the name of Smoke Genie.
So by now, I am sure you have all seen the whole smoke-in-a-can type thing right? Which, don’t get me wrong, they can work great. But my issue is that the cans are pretty big and they always seem to go empty at the exact wrong time. This makes it so I end up needing two cans just in case, which takes up even more room. Even then, these cans aren’t the safest thing to be breathing in. With things like propane and butane inside of them, I know I don’t want to breathe that in, so I never want to subject my clients to that type of thing either. Thankfully when using these cans in the past, before I knew what was in them, I never actually had any big issues. But I have a buddy of mine who had a client go into a coughing attack from the spray and couldn’t continue with the shoot.
So enter the Smoke Genie. This is a battery-powered smoke machine that runs on rechargeable batteries and features a refillable tank. The smoke comes from a glycerine-based fluid and has been tested 56 times by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. These tests include toxicity as well as skin and eye irritation. While you definitely shouldn’t inhale the smoke directly from the machine, the smoke produced is much safer than the smoke produced from most traditional machines and is even food-safe and odorless.
The unit features a nice LCD screen that will tell you the battery level as well as the smoke and fan settings. You can then use the selection button paired with the up and down buttons in order to set the machine to your desired levels. You can have a low smoke level and high fan or a high smoke and low fan. Plus any setting in between. For both the fan and smoke, you have 5 levels of adjustment, but if you need to be really particular with these settings, you can long press the power button to go into “Pro Mode” which gives adjustment levels 1-10 for both the fan and smoke. This pro mode also gives you extra output from the device.
Other buttons on the device are the power button, which uses a three-button press feature to prevent the device from accidentally turning on in your bag. And you use the same three-button press action to turn the device off. Then on the back, there is a dedicated button for actually triggering the smoke.
Now when it comes to the smoke fluid, this is placed in this little clear vial. The best part though is that the veil is designed to have an air-tight seal. Which means no fluid will leak out into your bag. I have actually used a much cheaper pocket-style smoke machine in the past and found out the hard way that not everyone pays this close attention to the real-use details. This led to me having a camera bag full of slimy fluid. So I much prefer the higher quality found on the Smoke Genie.
Another pretty cool feature of this air-tight seal is that the rubber is actually heat sensitive. So when the vial gets hot, the rubber changes color. This way you know when you go to refill the fluid or remove the tank for some reason, you have a visual cue as to whether it’s too hot to touch. The vial is also clear, so there is no need to hope and assume you have enough fluid in the tank before you leave for a shoot. You can visually see how full the vial is and refill it as needed. And the fluid actually lasts for a decently long time. When I fill a vial, I can usually go multiple sessions without needing to fill the tank. And the latest version of this device features an upgraded vial that can be struck with a hammer and still not break. So no need to worry about things getting smashed in a camera bag.
From here the machine has a nice little cage-type cap that protects the vial from being touched or banged into, and this cage is held on with friction paired with magnets so you don’t have to fuss with tools to take it on or off. On the back, the battery door features similar magnets to hold the door closed and they even put a nice little QR code inside the door in case you need to quickly reference the user manual when out on location. The device even has a USB-C port that can be used for charging the batteries as well as for any possible firmware updates in the future.
That’s essentially all about the device, so you would think we would be done. But, one of the coolest parts about this machine lies with the accessories you can use to manipulate the smoke. For me, I tend only to use the genie itself, but if you are a product photographer or if you want to try some cool smoke effects on your portrait subjects, you’ll definitely be interested in all the little tools you can use with this device. The Smoke Genie even has this little remote so you can mount the smoke machine via ¼-20 and trigger things remotely. While these quick examples can give you an idea, I won’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of these tools and their various uses since I tend to only use the machine and possibly the fan. But if you want more examples, I recommended going to check out the PMI website as well as their dedicated Facebook group.
Speaking of the fan, PMI Gear has actually just released a new updated model of the Smoke Genie that really helps users when using the fan. This new model comes with an additional head cage that allows you to mount the fan to the machine. In the past, you had to hold the machine in one hand and the fan in the other. Which made it hard to do anything else while triggering as well as making it difficult for any type of remote triggering. But now with this new head, it’s super easy to haze a room even when using the remote-triggering option
What I Liked
- Small and lightweight
- Refillable air-tight chamber
- Powerful and adjustable
What I Didn’t Like
- Coming in at $595 for the starter kit, It’s a bit pricy compared to other offerings.
- If you bring the entire kit with the machine and accessories, it can be a bulky extra item to pack. Especially with the case, as awesome as it is to have.
At the end of the day, this item is as pricy as it is nice to have. If a fog machine or hazer isn’t something you need very often, then this might not be right for you. But if you find yourself using fog in a can, or a machine that plugs into the wall, this item just might lighten your bag or give you a drastic increase in versatility.