(NOTE this is an infomercial for Platypod – I include it here because it is frankly pretty darn good at explaining the product in a way that a written blog post cannot.)
While Rich & I were walking the show floor at Photoshop World in Las Vegas last August, we came upon an ingenious little product invented and sold by a mom & pop company called Platypod Pro. The inventor of the Platypod is a doctor from the NYC area. He’s a photography enthusiast who wanted to solve the problem of camera stability in places where tripods aren’t allowed. Like most great inventions, it took an actual photographer trying to solve an actual problem to come up with something this simple, yet this fantastic.
Rich and I were so taken with Platypod, we took them on as a client. While I usually don’t go into the “inside baseball” behind the scenes here at Photofocus I will make an exception because it illustrates just how much we like this product. You’ve seen some pretty big names as sponsors here at Photofocus: Adobe, Apple, Drobo, Animoto, 500px, etc. Small startups rarely have the capital necessary to reach an audience as big as ours. Every once in a while we feel the need to bring attention to someone who can’t really afford us yet. Platypod is one of those companies.
Larry and his family are pretty much the whole company. They are passionate about helping photographers get rock-steady shots without the fuss and muss of a full-blown tripod. Rich and I found that passion contagious and hence our love affair with the Platypod Pro began.
What is a Platypod Pro? Simple – The Platypod Pro Camera Support Deluxe Kit is essentially a camera support that fits in your pocket and that (with an additional ball head) can do the same job a tripod does without hassle (or attention) that comes with packing a tripod everywhere you go.
The device is really quite ingenious. Its solid as a rock (as you would hope with a camera support) and is made of aircraft grade aluminum. It features a titanium screw that you can use to attach any ball head. With the right ball head (sold separately) you can mount pretty much any DSLR (Canon 5D MK III/Nikon D810) and certainly any mirrorless camera with confidence. You could also use it to mount action cameras, 360 panoramic cameras, video cameras, etc. There are many uses for this fun accessory. It can also be used to mount speed lights, video mics and anything else that you would ever put on a tripod. I even mounted a small reflector holder on mine for a portrait shoot.
The Platypod Pro sits on any flat surface (and with the help of small spikes) can even be steadied on a set of rocks or other uneven surface. You can also use zip ties to secure it to any vertical. I never have needed the spikes but it’s nice that they are there just in case. You don’t need any tools to set this thing up. All you need is a ball head of some sorts. The size of ball head depends on the size of your camera. (Believe it or not you can support up to 90 lbs. with the Platypod.) I am lucky to have several ball heads laying around so I took one of my smaller heads and just stuck it in the cool little pouch you get with the system. (I stick the pouch in my pocket or I use the loop on the case to mount it to my belt. It’s small enough you can tuck it just about anywhere which is the really spectacular feature of this device. You can take it places where you will not be allowed to take a tripod.
As for the ball head, literally just about anything you already have will do, but if you aren’t looking to support a giant DSLR with battery grip etc., the Photography & Cinema Compact Tripod Ball Head is one of my favorites. It costs about $40, is small but very sturdy. It also has a bubble level and markings to help with panoramic photography. I have several of these I use for speciality work and I dedicated one to my Platypod.
To test the Platypod’s acceptance in places that are not tripod friendly, I used it in a hotel lobby, a museum, at a restaurant and at a play. Not one security guard even said boo to me – and all of these places are places I have been personally asked to leave because of my tripod. That was the first test for me. The second was to use the device and see how much stability it offers.
In practice I found the Platypod absolutely delivers on its promise of camera stability and portability. It fits in just about anywhere – including on your belt, in a purse or in a pocket. I use my Fuji X-series on this device all the time. It’s stable, very stable in fact. It’s secure and it’s convenient. Like anything, it takes a few minutes to become familiar with setting it up. I recommend practicing with it a few times in your home or office before taking it into the field. The only “caution” I offer is this. If you are using a relatively heavy camera and a long telephoto lens, be sure to keep the lens perpendicular to the Platypod base. If you twist the lens too far to one side or the other, you start to run into the laws of physics and the Platypod becomes less stable (as would even a full fledged tripod.) It won’t generally fail even when tasked like this but no reason to test it. The easy fix for this is to simply lift and move the Platypod when you want to drastically change the viewing angle of your lens rather than swiveling the lens on the bullhead. See the illustrations below. In the first illustration, the Platypod is perpendicular to the lens. This is when it’s most stable.
In the second illustration below, the Platypod is at a right angle to the lens and is a little less stable. Depending on the weight and length of your lens, you can push this too far.
For the record, I still haven’t been able to make the thing tip over 🙂
With the war on photography in full swing in many places, tripods are harder and harder to use. So many public places now ban them that I rarely even bother to try to bring one. But to date, not one Paul Blart Mall Cop has challenged my use of a Platypod.
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