I was a Kickstarter supporter of the Pictar camera grip for the iPhone, which isn't really an accurate name for the gadget, since in addition to being a grip it also offers an easy way to control the basic iPhone photo features while adding new ones through some software magic.
Having recently gotten my Kickstarter reward, I tested it out on a dog walk here in rural south Salem, Oregon. Before sharing some of the photos I took and my first-impression review of the device, here's what the Pictar grip offers:
Well, you don't get an iPhone with it, obviously.
You slide your own iPhone (in my case, a 6s) into the Pictar holder. All the holder does is -- no big surprise -- hold the iPhone in place. Which surprised me at first, because I figured there would have to be some physical connection between my iPhone and the mechanical buttons, wheels, and such on the Pictar grip.
This review explained the creative way the Pictar grip, which has a battery, communicates with the Pictar app you download before using the device.
The way Miggo’s Pictar communicates with the phone is worth dwelling on for a moment. Instead of paying Apple’s Made For iPhone fees to communicate using the Lightning connector and narrowly averting the bullet of getting made redundant by iPhone 7’s lack of headphone socket, the product uses a really elegant solution. It communicates with the app by playing high-frequency sounds, inaudible to the human ear. The phone app, in turn, uses the microphone built into the phone to listen to the signals and act accordingly.
I'll offer up my impressions of the Pictar grip as commentaries on the photos I took, wanting to experiment with key features of the device.
Right off the bat I liked being able to hold the Pictar in one hand and take photos with a push of the shutter release button, just as I can with my "real" camera, a Panasonic Lumix.
So I could hold our dog's leash with one hand as she sniffed delectable scents along our rural road, and not only snap photos with my other hand, but also zoom in and out and select other Pictar features, as described below.
By the way, the Pictar grip held my iPhone just fine with its thin neoprene (or whatever it is) case on. In fact, it seemed more secure with the case on than with it off.
I then tried out the macro mode on the smart wheel feature. This was a really small flower in the grass our dog was sniffing. I think the Pictar did a good job with the photo. Again, I could choose the macro mode and take a photo with one hand.
Here's the ten modes accessed by turning the smart wheel.
Moving along, dog and I came to a field normally occupied by a herd of llamas. Today there was only one critter sitting by itself. This is a non-zoomed Pictar photo.
Using the zoom wheel (again, one-handed) I went all the way to the max: 10x, much greater than the stock iPhone camera offers. Via some sort of software magic the Pictar app enables extra camera features that normally aren't accessible to iPhone users.
The 10x zoomed image was shaking quite a bit when I snapped the photo. The image above must benefit from image stabilization. It isn't perfect, being less clear than my Panasonic Lumix can take photos at a much greater degree of zooming. (My Lumix has a 60x telephoto feature.) But it isn't bad.
I could have lightened the bottom half of the photo more, of course. This is the sort of exposure control that until now I've had to perform after taking a photo when using the iPhone Camera app. So it was cool to be able to fiddle with the exposure on the spot.
Lastly, I took a couple of indoor photos to see how some of the preset image adjustment modes worked.
These sorts of image adjustments are available in many other iPhone camera apps, but it's nice to have them built-in to the Pictar app. Well, sort of. I paid $10 to unl0ck all of the image adjustment modes after realizing that only some of them were available to me otherwise.
Bottom line: I can heartily recommend the Pictar iPhone "grip" (as mentioned above, it is much more than a mere grip) after one day of using it.
I liked how the Pictar grip with my phone in it fit nicely into my small hip pack. It adds about half an inch to the width of an iPhone, which means it can be easily slipped into a pocket or anywhere else an iPhone usually is carried.
My main gripe, which isn't a huge one, is that the Pictar controls feel quite flimsy and plastic'y. Maybe as the device evolves it will feel more solid/substantial. But for $100 (on Amazon), I feel the Pictar grip is worth the money.