Apple has continually done a top-notch job of improving the iPhone’s internal camera system with each release. That said, third-party manufacturers have made a mark with accessories focused on upgrading optics in a variety of ways. Olloclip has made a name for itself with add-on lenses while other brands like Aukey are now pushing low-cost alternatives.
When it comes to replicating a true camera experience, the options have been much more limited. DXO released a Lightning-attached add-on last year, but the price tag and form-factor have remained a deterrent for many. That’s where PICTAR comes in. This retro-inspired accessory add physical controls and functionality via a companion app. The best news is that the price isn’t going to break the bank.
The company behind PICTAR is Miggo, a brand that is primarily known for its lineup of SLR accessories. Now it’s turning its attention towards the iPhone. The $90 retro-inspired camera grip just hit Kickstarter a few days ago. Since then, it has used a blend of vintage styling and functionality to raise over $141,000, easily surpassing the initial goal of $100,000. Designed for the iPhone 4 through 6/s (excluding Plus models), the driving force here is to add greater control without overwhelming the user.
Interestingly enough, the PICTAR doesn’t use a Lightning connector or Bluetooth to communicate with your device. Instead, it leans on sonar to actuate the lens system. How so? The free iOS app listens for soundwaves from the accessory and makes the appropriate adjustments on-screen. So if you zoom or adjust the ISO, you’ll see the changes but won’t hear any audible sounds signifying input. I’m not certain that this is a better way of connecting your device but it certainly is unique.
On top of PICTAR you’ll find a number of analog controls, starting with a multi-state shutter release not that much different from a DSLR. It is “electronically calibrated to provide maximum sensitivity” so you’ll get that high level of feedback when clicking the button. Just below that is a zoom ring on the front that enables one-handed functionality for adjusting optics when needed. Additional features include a selfie button (self-explanatory) and a dial for setting exposure.
App functionality goes a step further with PICTAR’s Smart Wheel. This “fully customizable” dial can be paired via software to rotate through a variety of pre-set favorites. Advances photographers can use the wheel to articulate through shutter, ISO and other settings. Technical capabilities aside, having an ergonomic grip helps keep your device in hand and not on the ground. A 1/4-inch tripod socket is also available on the bottom for mounting your iPhone if needed.
Currently, a pledge of $90 will deliver a PICTAR unit in November. It ships with a wrist strap, padded pouch and the free iOS app. Additional funding levels bring more accessories and multiple units, if so desirable. In the meantime, if you’re after more functionality for your iPhone but don’t want to spend the extra cash, we recommend taking a look at AUKEY’s popular lens kit.
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