LensVid Exclusive: miggo Pictar – iPhone Camera Grip First Look

Earlier this week we had a privilege of being the first website on the planet to actually try a prototype of a new product announced today on Kickstarter by the Israeli company miggo. The product called Pictar is an advanced iPhone grip designed to allow iPhone users a completely new and improved way of taking pictures with their iPhone which is much more similar to using a real camera.

If you are not familiar with miggo (a company who’s products we covered here several times in the past), here is a quick reminder about Miggo. In 2014 we published  a LensVid exclusive interview with one of the founders of Miggo following the launch of their first kickstarter campaign called Strap & Wrap. The three founders of Miggo came from another Israeli bag manufacturer – KATA (now integrated completely into Manfrotto Bags). Since than they proved themselves to be at least as innovative as they used to be in KATA, introducing several new products including the Agua Water Resistant Camera Holster – which we recently reviewed (and liked – especially the excellent included strap).

The Pictar turning your iPhone into a real camera

DSC_6745Now they seem to do it again with a completely new product which isn’t a bag or a strap or even a tripod but an actual electronic device which is pretty ambitious. Several manufacturers and developers tried to create somewhat similar concepts – most of them with very little success (if they even past the concept stage). Miggo on the other hand has a real working unit (which we had a chance to play with – see below).

Pictar is both a physical device (iPhone grip with a battery, electronics and dedicated buttons) and an iPhone app. At least initially the device will have to work with miggo’s dedicated app (because of the specialized communication technology it uses – more on this below).

Miggo decided not to use conventional wireless technologies like BT or WIFI or even low energy zigbee and instead went for a completely different ultrasonic communication between the iPhone and the Pictar. The reason – energy. According to miggo this technology uses high-frequency dual tone (in the 18,500 – 20,000 khz range) which is inaudible to the human ear and using a small battery (we really wanted it to be AAA but it will probably be something smaller and a bit less common) the Pictar will be able to work for 4-6 months (!). Now how many devices can work for that long without changing/charging the battery? (well there are a few but it is still impressive if they can pull this off).

Physical buttons, dials and a nice grip

DSC_6746So what features will the Pictar offer? Here is a quick list:

  • Five user programmable wheels/buttons for full user control – there are actually 3 buttons and one wheel with a push capability.
  • Ergonomic grip for one handed use – the grip is comfortable to hold even in one hand – we would like an even deeper one but miggo wanted something compact and portable.
  • Revolutionary communication between hardware and App via ultrasonic sound – this is a very interesting solution which according to miggo should give the unit a battery life of several months.-
  • Compatibility with most iPhone models – including the 4, 4s, 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6s, SE but NOT the 6 Plus (there is also said to be planned support for future models, as much as you can count on Apple we are guessing).
  • Control over iPhone camera features not possible in the native App – the current app is still a work in progress but it does allow much more control of the camera than the native Apple shooting app does – it is possible that future 3’rd party apps will be able to work with the Pictar as well but this is up to 3’rd party implementation).

As for size – according to miggo, Pictar is suited for iPhones only (at this stage), including models: 4, 4s, 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6s, SE and is ready for future models. It isn’t capable of working directly with the iPhone 6 Plus which is simply too big to fit in the sping loaded mechanism of the Pictar (otherwise it should work – but it kinds of takes the edge out of using the unit when the phone isn’t inside the grip).

Our impressions:

We had a couple of chances to play with the current prototype of the Pictar. It is one of the company’s work prototype so as you would expect it is still in a development stage with some debugging but the important part is that we saw the basic functionality working –

As for look and feel – again for a prototype it looks O.K. and from past experience miggo have great industrial designers who are very open to suggestions for improvements so

In general though, the unit is small and light, very easy to hold with one hand, the spring mechanism is there to allow the unit to hold different size iPhones (there is no other physical connection between the iPhone and the Pictar – everything is done through the ultrasonic interface so as long as future iPhones will not be super bug (like the 6 Plus) and have a microphone – the Pictar should be able to work.

From the side – slim, but with a nice feel

DSC_6749As for the general usability it is a bit too early to tell with the current version of the app but we were able to focus, and take pictures using the shutter bottom (half press/press), zoom in and out (with the wheel), mind you this is the iPhone’s digital zoom – no fancy optical zoom is hiding in the Pictar and we could control the exposure compensation and the modes (including manual mode – although it lacks aperture control – which is basically Apple’s fault and not miggo’s).

The buttons and dials/wheel feel O.K. for a prototype and should be better in the finished product – we would not expect the same quality as a $1000 DSLR buttons from a sub $100 unit – but we will see in a few months when the Pictar final version is ready.

Finally the Pictar has a cold shoe – we used it with the Lume Cube LED light that we are testing for video which seemed to work O.K. and the unit has a 1/4″ 20 connector on the right side for mounting on tripods etc. This is very useful but it would be cool if this was centred (we are guessing that it isn’t possible with the thin center of the Pictar though).

This is not a review – as we mentioned the Pictar is still a work in progress (although from what we saw the prototypes are indeed working although they still need some “polish”). The way we see this – if you are an iPhone user and you love taking pictures but hate the horrible ergonomics of a smartphone and want something more comfortable and convenient to hold (and press) while you take your holiday pictures (and let’s not forget about those all important selfies), than spending under $100 for a device like the Pictar seems like a no brainier.

Pictar – taking pictures should be enjoyed

DSC_6718We promise to keep track of Pictar and bring you more updates on this interesting projects later on (as well as a few other interesting products that miggo is working on).

To the Pictar Kickstarter project page.

You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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