The Snappgrip is a fantastic idea, with not-too-bad hardware to back it up. It’s an accessory grip for your iPhone that adds a Bluetooth shutter release, zoom buttons and control dial to the phone’s camera, as well as a wrist strap and a handy handgrip.
But in practice, you’ll be better off with the iPhone’s own volume switches if you want a hardware shutter release. Which is a shame, as I was super-excited to try the Snappgrip out.
The Snappgrip comes in two parts: a case that attaches permanently to the iPhone 5/s, and the grip itself, which clicks into place on the home-button end of the phone, secured by a switch-released latch. The case is nice enough that you can leave it on all the time, although it actually covers up the edge of the LED flash on the iPhone 5, which is unforgivable for a camera case. Strike one against the Snappgrip.
The grip itself is very lightweight, coming in at around 50 grams (just under 2 ounces), and the case part weighs half that. The buttons are arranged like they would be on a compact camera, with a shutter release, a rocking zoom in/out button and an eight-position click-stopping dial. Underneath is a metal tripod socket, on/off switch and microUSB charging socket, and on the side is the button to release the grip from the case.
You need to use a compatible app to get anything out of the Snappgrip. It’s actually possible to trigger the built-in camera app with Bluetooth, using the volume up or down keys on a Bluetooth keyboard, for example. This is how many little key-chain remote-control dongles work. But the Snappgrip uses a different system, and the free Snappgrip app is a piece of junk. It shows the iPhone’s native status bar all the time, even when the app is in landscape mode and the rest of the UI has flipped 90 degrees to fit.
Wait, did I just say “the rest of the UI”? My mistake. I meant the rest of the UI except the icons that flip between modes. They stay put.
Another feature of a regular Bluetooth keyboard is that you can tap a key and the iPhone or iPad will wake from sleep mode. This would be awesome in a camera controller, right? You could tap the shutter release to wake the camera (and bypass the lock screen), and then maybe tap another button to sleep it again.
The Snappgrip doesn’t do this. Whatever app you’re using (there are a few third-party cameras apps that work with the accessory), you’ll need to manually unlock the screen to get to the app. And because it won’t work with the built-in camera app, you can’t use the camera shortcut on the lock screen.
Speaking of apps, there are currently three that use the Snappgrip API, in addition to the free Snappgrip app. The best of these is ProCam 2, which presents a simple UI plus a lot of extras – filters, video, time-lapse and more. It’s just a buck, too. The other apps — 645 Pro and Pureshot — are fuller-featured but much clunkier.
Paired with the Snappgrip app, the iPhone controls will frustrate you. For instance, the hardware supports a half-press on the shutter release to lock focus. Try this in the Snappgrip app and it just keeps acquiring focus, over and over and over, and beeping every time it does. (Thankfully, ProCam 2 handles this function better.)
The zoom buttons work, but they use the camera’s digital zoom (of course), so you’re degrading the image with every press.
And the mode dial is plain terrible. The clicks are soft and woolly, and the dial is almost impossible to turn with your thumb while holding your rig one-handed. You’ll need to shift your grip and use two hands. In this case, the on-screen buttons are often easier to use.
Still, the grip does work as a tripod mount, and it also works as a remote control if you detach it from the case (it’s Bluetooth, after all). But it can’t do both of these at once, as the grip and tripod mount are in the same unit.
The case can also be used with screw-in accessory lenses, but these only work with the Snappgrip case. I already have a set of Olloclips, plus a box of screw-in lenses for an Optrix underwater case, so I don’t want to buy a new set of lenses, each of which costs another €25-€35.
The Snappgrip feels like someone had an idea and then rushed it to market without any testing or even much thought. Maybe there’s a reason it can’t use the standard volume-button triggers, which would solve 90 percent of the trouble, but then again maybe not. Ironically, I find Shouldergrip’s S1 grip, which is just a dumb finger grip for the iPhone with no radio connections, to be a superior accessory.
Which is a shame, as the promise of the Snappgrip is a great one. It’s just ruined by bad execution.
|Snappgrip by Snappgrip ($70 list)
The good: Nice to hold, adds a wrist strap.
The bad: Terrible software paired with half-designed hardware.
The verdict: A great idea with too many flaws to recommend buying it.
Buy from Snappgrip