As smartphones have become thinner and thinner, taking pictures with them has become more and more uncomfortable — once you have to turn those things on their sides, there’s not much to hold onto! We just saw LG try to address this with a modular accessory for the G5 that adds an ergonomic camera grip, and now someone’s out to do the same for the iPhone. Miggo has created Pictar, a camera sleeve that adds a grip handle and physical dials for settings control. It’s going to make iPhone photography so much better.
The iPhone fits securely into a slot that covers up a little more than half the phone, leaving more than enough room to ensure that the rear and front camera lenses remain unobstructed. The slot can be adjusted to fit several models of the iPhone — Miggo says everything from the iPhone 4 on is good to go. On the far side of Pictar is a nice, thick camera grip, of the sort you’d find on a point-and-shoot or a DSLR. Instead of iPhone picture time being a balance between taking the shot and not letting the thing fall out of your hands, you can just focus on getting the shot right — and there are lots of ways Pictar helps you do that, too.
Pictar doesn’t do anything to improve the quality of your photos directly, but it’ll definitely help you get the most out of them. On the topside of the grip, there are physical controls of the sort you’d usually find on a DSLR. There’s a multi-state shutter button that will focus with a half press before triggering the shutter with a full press. There’s also, wonderfully, a zoom ring, which means the days of pinching to zoom while taking to take a picture with a 7 mm thick phone are over. Give the zoom ring a click, and you’ll swap to the front camera and vice versa. There’s also a handy exposure wheel, along with a second dial that can be programmed to whatever setting you want — you can use it to cycle through shooting modes or change the aperture or ISO settings. Normally, doing all this on an iPhone would require setting up the shot, pulling it back to toy with the settings, trying to frame again, and repeating way too many times. Now, you can just use it like any other camera.
It can even help you use peripherals to liven up your shots. There’s a tripod mount and a cold shoe that can be used to attach external flashes or microphones, in case you’ve got some really serious photography to do. For a little extra security, there’s a wrist strap on Pictar, too.
The most unexpected part of Pictar is how it communicates with the iPhone — if you guessed Bluetooth, you’d be wrong. Believe it or not, it uses ultrasound waves to communicate with the iPhone, allowing you to use all those physical controls to make changes to the iPhone’s camera settings. Using ultrasound waves in this way isn’t a new idea, and was originally conceived as an alternative to NFC, two communication methods that require virtually no setup on the part of the user. Using this method means you can just slip the phone into the slot and go — no fuss. And, in true camera fashion, it has a replaceable CR 1/2 AA battery that you can swap out when you need to (one battery should last six to eight months, according to Miggo).
Pictar is looking for crowdfunding on Kickstarter — its campaign kicks off today. If you’re interested in getting in early, you can secure one for $90. Shipping is scheduled for December 2016 — it’s worth mentioning that a newly designed iPhone will likely be among us at that time. Miggo is saying they’re already making efforts to ensure that Pictar will work with future iPhones, so those of you set on the iPhone 7 should be safe.
UPDATE 04/26/16: After much demand and Kickstarter funds, Pictar has confirmed that they will make an iPhone 6/6s Plus model.