Miggo Pictar Review
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Miggo funded the launch of its Pictar iPhone grip through Kickstarter, where it has managed to raise a staggering $318,000.
In essence, it’s an accessory for your iPhone, which claims to turn it into a “real camera”. In fact, on the box, there’s a bold claim that it will “DSLR your iPhone”.
There are two versions of the Miggo Pictar, one of which is available for standard sized iPhone models, and the other for the “Plus” size iPhone models. It is compatible with different iPhone models from the 4 onwards, not just the latest versions.
Ease of Use
Attaching the Miggo Pictar grip to your iPhone is easy, a spring-loaded clip mechanism expands to fit your iPhone, which is how it is able to be compatible with models ranging from an iPhone 4 all the way up to an iPhone 7. The spring feels relatively strong, as if it could withstand repeated use - which you’re probably going to need if you intend to use the grip often.
The Miggo Pictar grip only covers half of your iPhone, so the top part of the iPhone will be left sticking out of the top. That also means that half of your iPhone has no protection whatsoever. You could try leaving an existing case on, but if you do, it may not fit in the holder - especially if you have one of the wider models, such as an iPhone 6S, which we were using for this test. According to the box, it is compatible with Apple covers - if you have a very thin case, you might get away with it.
Either way, as a result, the overall effect is slightly strange looking. You have half an iPhone sticking out of what looks like a relatively cheap compact camera. The plastic casing doesn’t look particularly high-end, especially not compared to the stylish lines of an iPhone, and seems at odds with the relatively high price the Pictar commands. On the plus side, only covering half the phone means you’re free to use your iPhone with clip-on or add-on lenses, if you so wish.
In the box, you’re provided with two straps which you can attach to the Pictar. A wrist-strap, or a neck-strap. You’ll definitely want to consider using one of these, especially as part of your iPhone is left uncovered.
Assuming you want to continue to use your iPhone as a phone while it is housed in the Pictar, you may find that it becomes difficult to use the right hand side of the keyboard, thanks to a lip from the Pictar which restricts you from being able to touch it properly. You’ll probably also find it next to impossible to use your keyboard one-handed. The grip also covers the iPhone’s charging port, so you can’t charge it while it is in the grip. Therefore, you’ll find that you’re taking the phone in and out of the case at very regular intervals - the spring better be strong.
The Miggo Pictar comes with a carry bag, which suggests that Miggo anticipates people will carry it around separately from their phone. That seems to be missing the point somewhat of using your iPhone to take pictures - if you’re happy to carry around an additional device, it might be a better idea to pack a real camera in the first place.
In order to connect to your phone, the Pictar cleverly uses audio signals, rather than a more power intensive Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. That means that a single battery can keep going for several months - that’s good news considering there’s no way to turn the Pictar off (short of removing the battery altogether). Similarly, there’s no way to charge the battery. The Pictar uses a 1/2 AA battery - it is claimed that it will last between 4 and 6 months, but with no way to charge it, you’ll need to make an additional outlay at some point - furthermore, these batteries are also not always the easiest to find.
The only way you can use the grip is if you have the Pictar app. It is free, but if you have any hopes to use the grip in conjunction with any other picture taking application, then think again. When you first download and open the app, you’ll be asked to configure the grip so it can work using the audio signals (which you won’t be able to hear).
Once in the app, you can use the buttons and dials on the top of the camera. There’s a shutter release button, which you can half press to acquire focus. This is supposed to be akin to using a DSLR, but in reality, the button is small and a little flimsy. On the plus side, you can continue to use while wearing gloves.
The left hand dial gives you quick access to the different shooting modes available through the Pictar app, such as manual, shutter speed, ISO and so on. One thing to notice, here “A” stands for Automatic, not aperture priority - something which could potentially confuse enthusiast photographers. The dials are similarly as flimsy as the shutter release button, and are definitely on the small side when compared to the DSLRs the grip is supposed to be trying to emulate.
On the bottom of the Miggo Pictar is a tripod thread - this proves very handy when taking long exposures, or perhaps group shots. There’s a cold shoe on the top of the grip, which you could use for attaching external accessories, such as LED lights or microphones.
Let’s take a look at how manual mode in the app works. With this mode, you’ll see that all of your common settings are displayed, giving you the opportunity to take control - something which marks it apart from the standard iOS Camera app. The second dial now comes into play, giving you the opportunity to change the ISO. The function of the two dials can be customised in the app’s menu, allowing you to change a different setting if you desire.
Other modes include macro mode, shutter priority, selfie mode, ISO mode and so on. It’s worth experimenting with the different modes the app offers to discover which is the best for you.
Back to the main screen, and you can control shutter speed by swiping along the right hand side of the screen. There is no way to control aperture, since the iPhone’s lens aperture is fixed. Furthermore, although Apple allowed raw format shooting to be accessed in iOS 10, this app doesn’t have this functionality - so you won’t be able to use this grip and shoot in raw format.
The app is well laid out and intuitive to use - in fact the app is arguably the best thing about the Pictar grip.