Miniatures gaming is an inherently visual hobby – if it wasn’t we could all play hex-and-counter games on the piles of money we’d save not buying miniatures. And with that the desire to share pictures of our miniatures online.
But photographing miniatures isn’t an easy task – macrophotography never has been. The Macromat, by TableWar Designs, promises to make that a little easier. But does it work?
Having been fond of the F.A.T. Mat, I was an early backer of the Macromat on Kickstarter, and I must say from a fulfillment perspective, it’s second to none. Fast, with minimal fuss, following many of the things I think other Kickstarters should follow – simple pledge categories of standard packages, and few if any stretch goals. For those who don’t know, the fundamental premise of the Macromat is to take the familiar mousepad-esq material of the F.A.T. Mat and print one of the classic photography background images like you might remember from when you got a school photo taken. The idea is to allow the camera better focus, draw the eye to the miniature, etc.
This is what came:
A nice carrying case to hold everything, all the parts nicely packaged, but one thing is notably lacking: instructions. It’s easy enough to piece together what should be done based on pictures from the Kickstarter page, but even the most rudimentary of instructions would have been nice. I’d even have waited a week or two added to the otherwise breakneck pace of the Kickstarter. It’s a pretty easy setup, though getting everything in place takes a bit of time – I can’t see using the Macromat to snap off a picture of the night’s progress for something, but for a finished miniature or squad it’s pretty simple. I struggled a little bit with the long vertical orientation of a backdrop – I think ironically the “expanded” horizontal version is likely a touch easier to use.
In terms of quality, I have few complaints, save for what I believe is a sewing error in the case that matched two strips of velco hook-to-hook instead of hook-to-loop. A small problem, all things considered.
But does it work?
Using all three backdrops as well as my living room table (a lovely Pine table from Ikea), under the same lighting and with an iPhone 6 (pretty much the use case for the Macromat) I took pictures of two units: a Eldar Hornet in my Black/Purple scheme, and an Imperial Fist Rapier Laser Destroyer. That gives us both a cold and a warm-spectrum comparison. On the advice of Todd from TableWar, I matched them with the opposite color backdrop – so the Imperial Fists got the cold-ish backdrop, while the Hornet for the warm backdrop, and the blue-white gradient backdrop for good measure.
The pictures are notably better focused, and the lighting on the models is better, despite the lighting in the room being identical (indeed, the lighting on the Macromat pictures might be marginally worse as the sun is going down).
So does it work? To my mind, yes, the Macromat does exactly what it promises to – makes miniatures photographs done with household lighting and the cellphone in your pocket better. The full kit is $70 at TableWar for all three backdrops, and I think that’s a decent deal for a kit I can see getting a lot of use if you care about photographing your miniatures. It’s a little spendy for the initial outlay, though less so than a more elaborate permanent or collapsable photography setup.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Specialized gear, and lacking some instructions, but otherwise does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well.