As the quality of smartphone cameras has dramatically improved over the years it’s not really surprising that more and more of us have adopted them as our primary photo-taking device. Considering we’re taking more photos than ever to upload to our various social media accounts, our phone is the camera we’re always going to have on our person so naturally we’ll find ourselves relying on it more.
That said, as convenient as the smartphone camera is, it doesn’t beat an actual camera when it comes to things like ergonomics and creative control which is why we’ve seen the smartphone accessory market flooded with adaptors and grips that attempt to make our smartphone cameras more like actual cameras when we need them to be. It really can’t be understated just how many of these products exist, from grips that slide on to those than clip on, to entire cases, but one that’s actually captured our interest is Pictar.
Pictar, from camera-accessory creator Miggo, claims to be “probably the best iPhone camera-grip ever built!” That’s quite a claim to make, given the fact that the competition isn’t particularly strong.
Coming in somewhere between a slide-on grip and a full case, Pictar and its companion app have some interesting features to help users get more out of their smartphone cameras than a quick photo captured on auto. Even before we get to the technology, the case offers a much more solid grip with a ridge on which users can firmly rest their fingers and a wrist strap for added security that should at least reduce the adrenaline rush we feel when we hold our thin, slippery smartphone close to a ledge or in the vicinity of water. There’s also a 1/4″ thread tripod socket for when you need more stability and a cold-shoe mount for attaching a variety of camera accessories.
When it comes to the actual photos you take, the case aims to bring a greater degree of external control to the iPhone camera to help users stop shooting in auto and explore their phone’s capabilities more. There’s a multi-state shutter release button to lock focus and exposure; a zoom ring to allow you to zoom one-handed (this ring can be reprogrammed on the Pictar app to give control over things like flash and white balance instead); the zoom ring can also be clicked to switch between the phone’s front and back cameras; an exposure compensation wheel; finally, there’s a smart wheel which allows users to switch between the phone’s different shooting modes at a beginner level but it can be adapted for more advanced features like ISO and shutter control.
Rather than using Bluetooth to connect the case and the app on your phone, Pictar uses a high-frequency dual tone (18,500 – 20,000 kHz). Each physical control on the case is assigned a specific tone and when you turn a dial or press a button the case emits a sound which is then detected by the app to put your command into action. Using the connection method of high-frequency dual tone means that using Pictar should go much easier on your phone’s battery when you have a long day of picture taking planned. The Pictar case itself is powered by a watch battery and Miggo say that users should get 4 to 6 months out of it before it will require changing.
Pictar is compatible with iPhone models 4/4S, 5/5S/5C/SE and 6/6S models, but not the 6 Plus/6S Plus. It’s also unfortunately incompatible with Android phones. I was initially up in arms about this but Miggo state that their decision to focus on Apple devices was dictated by the unified OS and the more manageable range of device sizes which is, I grudgingly acknowledge, perfectly reasonable. It does, however, make it seem highly unlikely we’ll see the case for Android devices any time soon.
Pictar is seeking funding on Kickstarter now, where Miggo are trying to raise $100,000. At time of writing they’re more than halfway to their goal with 35 days of their campaign remaining. If you’d like to pledge and get a Pictar case in November 2016 as well as the app, wrist strap and protective cover it’ll cost you $90 (£62). We can see this case appealing to casual users looking for a more secure way to take photos on trips and those with a burgeoning interest in photography as the familiarity of the iPhone could be a good gateway to understanding more in-depth DSLR camera controls prior to investing in a full DSLR camera.