Miggo Splat Review
Photographers love accessories. Countless gadgets and gizmos, looking cool, pleasure to fiddle with. Some opening new ways to use our cameras and take different kind of shots; some making it easier to do what we do, and finally some promising all that but never delivering, eventually being relegated to the bin of maybes - as in "Maybe some day I'll find use for it." Rest assured that day will never come. Rest equally assured that won't stop any of us from purchasing yet another one, in hope it will fall in one of first two categories.
One of such accessories is all kinds of camera support. Aside of traditional tripods and bean bags, there are table tripods, mini-supports and creative solutions for non-standard outdoor situations. One of the newest offerings in this field caught my attention with its promise. It's a hybrid of a table tripod and Gorillapod, combining the compactness of the former and universality of the latter. With table tripods generally being not very sturdy and Gorillapods being not too compact, the promise of Miggo's latest product Splat looks, well, promising. According to the website description, it's small; it's light; it's sturdy; it allows almost infinite number of positions, wrapping around tree branches, hanging from the nail in the wall and staying on camera without adding much bulk. There are three versions offered: for Go-Pro cameras, for Point-and-Shoots and smaller mirrorless, and for DSLR. First two being priced at $19.99 didn't look right for me. My Olympus OMD EM-1 with grip and several 4/3 lenses is not the smallest combo, so I looked at the DSLR version. At $24.99, it was difficult to resist the urge. So, does it deliver?
The package in which it arrived looked just right. Functional, attractive yet unpretentious, easy to open without scissors (unlike a clamshell atrocity), yet reliably protecting the goods.
Taking it out of the packaging and bending its legs (flexible stainless steel and silicon, according to Miggo's website), I threw it in my light box to take a few shots for you. Legs feel sturdy, easy to bend yet giving reassuring sense of being capable to hold under the load.
As seen here, it takes the camera about 4 inches above the surface. Manipulating the legs, you can get about 5 inches. Brass 1/4 screw is a standard fit to your camera tripod connection:
On the opposite side there is a locking ring, convenient to operate with your fingers:
Looking at the feet, there are multiple non-slip dots
and en eyelet on one of the feet, intended to hang your camera on the nail in the wall:
That about exhausts overview of the Splat's external features, although I probably shouldn't have failed to mention pretty blue color. From here I moved on to test its functionality. I have started with easy stuff:
Sure enough, being rated to hold 2.6 lb (1200 g), Splat hasn't even noticed Yongnuo 560II' 350 g. The only thing I wanted to check here was the stability of the whole combo with the flash head directed forward at 90 degrees. No problem there at all.
Now, let's move to a bit more involved stuff. E-M1 with HLD-7 battery grip, both batteries in and 12-40/2.8 in front of it weighs 1165 g - that's just under claimed 1200 g (and probably right up there with wrist strap), and in my experience those claims are often a tad exaggerated. In practice, those exaggerations mean that as you approach the weight your support gizmo claims as max load, it may still hold but you need to be extra-careful with its position, angle, type of the surface etc. Slight deviation from optimal can lead to noticeable creep in the best case and send your camera down crashing in the worst. So, this test was to determine whether Splat is one of those accessories that formally match the specifications but require you to lower your expectations in real life situations, or it's truly useful within the parameters the manufacturer claims.
Putting the combo on a tripod, I opted for the crash-forgiving airbed (you will notice the slight give under the Splat's legs), set it on the surface and probed its stability by pushing it in all directions with my hand. Not only did the legs hold firmly under camera's weight with no slightest tendency to creep down, the tripod also held very nicely against the side push - it returned to the vertical position unless I simply overturned it.
At this point I was ready to pronounce the Splat a smashing success and gather enough bravery to move outside and the the hard surface - not that it added much to the test above but the weather was nice and you may get tired of the sterile studio photos:
Just as sturdy and stable. No surprise there though, I wouldn't expect fresh air to influence Splat's performance. My next thought was to put a flash on top of the combo, but it felt like a pointless exercise. When I pushed the camera down with my hand applying force that obviously exceeded the weight of the flash, tripod held with reassuring firmness, without slightest feeling of being close to its maximum capability. So I changed my mind and decided to go for broke.
If I put my Zuiko 50-200 with tripod collar, EC-14 teleconverter and MMF-3 adapter on my E-M1 with battery grip, I am at 2065g! With that wrist strap, ~2100g - that'll show this little thing who is da boss.
If you are inclined to check my numbers, here they are broken down by weight in grams:
E-M1 with battery - 497 g
HLD-7 with battery - 286 g
MMF-3 - 42 g
EC-14 - 170 g
50-200 with tripod collar - 1070 g
Here is what happened: nothing. The thing held its own as if I haven't exceeded its max load almost by factor 2!
This angle shows the whole contraption with both the teleconverter and adapter a bit better:
That's 4.63 lb load vs. 2.6 max per specifications. Impressive overdelivering. Have I remembered to put my flash on top of this combo? You bet. You can guess what happened - that additional 350 g changed nothing. The thing held.
On this pleasant note, I moved outside again to test the practicality of the advertised ability to hold the camera in "countless positions." Tree branch was of course first thing to try, and Splat worked as promised:
Do make sure to wrap those legs tightly and test the stability with your hand by trying to rotate the combo around the branch before letting go.
The car door was the next thing that came to my mind. No problem there:
Before taking the Splat out for a walk, I tried to wrap it around the camera and see how that works as a carrying/protective position. Looks somewhat odd but again, works as advertised. Here is the view from the side-bottom:
With all the testing in and around the house, this review would be incomplete if I hadn't taken the Splat for a field trip. Oceanside seemed appropriate for the occasion. First case has been pretty straightforward, as putting a camera at the rock requires very little creativity. Nonetheless, setting the Splat on the surface and leveling the camera by manipulating the legs was quick and easy.
You'll have to forgive the quality as my tablet is not exactly the grand low-light shooter.
Here it is a bit closer:
Here I had to get a bit more creative. It takes some try and error to find the way to stabilize the contraption on the round bar. Using the vertical pole as a support for the front leg solved the problem. I'd suggest to use some kind of insurance when you do it first time - neck strap for instance - to guarantee the safety of your equipment.
In this case I used the back of the bench. You really can adjust this thing in a myriad ways.
Finally, one more way to use it that I came up with on the go: thanks to thin profile of the tripod legs you can put it in a delicate setting without harming anything. Here you can see it in the middle of the flowerbed, flowers undisturbed.
CONCLUSION: Splat delivers on all its promises, and massively overdelivers on one, namely on its max load. Being light (111 g) and small, it's easy to throw it in your bag and have it ready for the appropriate conditions. Will it replace your conventional tripod? In some cases, sure. It's easy also to think of situations where your traditional tripod can do a job which Splat can't, so let's think of it as an addition to the tripod rather than replacement. All in, all, it takes permanent place in my bag.
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