I’m six foot four and built like a pro wrestler. If it weren’t for TSA Pre my camera bag would be dismantled every time I fly. It just seems that I attract attention from “authority figures” just about every single time. Toss in dark skin and my propensity for bringing a camera just about everywhere I go, and I am a magnet for the “tripod police.”
An Alternative to Tripods
I’ve found the perfect solution… the Platypod Pro. This tripod alternative lets me use a full size ball-head without the need to carry a tripod. So let’s break down what the heck this thing is (and why I have now bought five of them).
Cost: $50 for the kit which includes 4 things
- Platypod Pro Base: the metal plate which can hold a ball-head and an accessory attached.
- Case: mounts to your belt and can expand to fit a full size tripod head.
- 3 x Spike/Screw: used to level the plate on uneven surfaces or prevent it from moving.
- 1/4″-3/4″ Female Spigot Adapter: Useful if you need to attach accessories (especially if you wall mount the plate in a studio space).
How it Works
I took the unit on the road for two weeks and shot with it under all sorts of conditions. I went into museums with it, shot outdoors day and night, and hiked over 20 miles carrying it). Across the board it met or exceeded my expectations (more on that in a bit). Find just about any surface and its easy to shoot from. A rock, the ground, the roof of your car, a sign, a railing. Because you can both level the plate and the bullhead, it was easy to shoot with tack sharp stability.
Functionally, its the simplicity and durability that makes this a winner. This sturdy plate is perfect for low angle shots from the ground or shooting from any surface as it’s easy to level the plate with the three screws.
The unit gets its name because the metal plate is shaped like the bill of a platypus. The plate is 4mm thick plate of aircraft grade aluminum measuring 3×5 inches. While this is solid, the weight of carrying it was inconsequential as it only weight just over 3 ounces.
Welded through the base are two titanium screws. One is sized for a full size ball-head. The other works well for GoPro cameras, flashes, or mini mounts for things like cellphones or tablets. The unit doesn’t come with any of these as the company figures you likely own them already. They do have a useful page or gear recommendations as well as identify a few products that don’t work well.
Shooting in Many Situations
I figured vacation would be an excellent test for this unit. I was shooting in a wide range of situations and the Platypod was rock solid stable.
I went to a lot of places where a tripod was either banned or impractical. Not to worry, the Platypod worked very well. The kit includes three Spike/Screws and Roundness. The bolts are just under two inches long and one side has spiked feet to prevent slipping (and the other rubber caps to avoid scratches). These are easily added or removed by hand.
Also included are some roundnuts which help hold the spikes in place and prevent wiggle. After rapidly descending the hill into Crater Lake I lost one. Of course we were jogging the mile and a half and made the descent twice as fast as we should of to catch our tour boat on time. An extra set of spares will cost you $10 and I recommend either getting one or removing them if you just leave the unit hanging at your side. Of course the travel case that’s included would have solved this problem too…. This was operator error on my part, but it wasn’t a big deal. I was still able to easily balance and stabilize the platform.
While I tested the Platypod Pro in the field, it has several other uses too.
- I ordered one with the tablet mount to hold my iPad mini. This is quite useful when I am in the field and I use the tablet to control my camera for timelapse shooting or bracketing. I love TriggerTrap and this makes it easy to tether the two devices.
- The plate has has four un-threaded holes to allow permanent or semi-permanent attachment. This makes it perfect to mount to a studio wall or to a place where you need to frequently shoot (like a tabletop setup). I picked up a few extras just to leave drop in mount points in my studio. They sell a kit of just two plates if you don’t want the field accessories.
- Panoramic shooting is important to me and the unit worked well. I was able successfully spin the camera to capture a wide view while still keeping a stable platform.
The Bottom Line
The Platypod Pro was rock solid. After two weeks of shooting with it nonstop, it was still in perfect shape. I learned to keep the roundnuts secure for extra stability and to take advantage of the included carrying case. At $50, it’s a bargain and I love that it works with the many bullheads I already own for both full-size and GoPro cameras. The screws have even been tested to hold at least 90 pounds of gear.
If you’re looking for a holiday gift for you or another photographer this is rock solid. I’ve bought five of them… I think the only other piece of gear I can say that about is spare batteries. Highly recommended. Pick it up here
Note: For those of you who are wondering, yes Platypod has decided to sponsor Photofocus. I tracked down the inventor of the product because I thought it was awesome. He liked the site so much that he decided to work with us. Still doesn’t change the fact that I’ve bought a ton of these and absolutely love them.
Rich has published over 100 courses on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.
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