Sure, most of us know that we’re supposed to use a tripod when making great photos. A stable camera means sharper photos and the ability to shoot in lower lighting levels without camera shake.
Why Use a Tripod
In my own photography, I often find that stability is essential. Of course it’s a must in my timelapse and video work, but it also comes in handy when shooting in lowlight. I also love long exposure photography, to drag the shutter and slow down motion. I also use HDR for my black and white as well as product photography, so alignment is critical.
But knowing and doing are two very different things. According to a recent survey of our readers, only 23% of you use a tripod regularly.
Why is this? The reasons are many… ranging from physical issues (like weight and size) to the dreaded tripod police (who swoop in and hassle you as soon as you set up your shot). Well, I’ve got the perfect solution.
The Platypod Pro Max — A Field Review
I’ve been a big fan of the Platypod Pro (you can read my review here) which offered a easy way to attach a camera and a ballhead. As much as I loved this unit, it wasn’t the best with all of my large cameras or heavy lenses. It was a bit difficult to fit a larger head and the plate was a little short for long lenses. That’s where the Platypod Pro Max comes in.
While it may look a tad unusual… let me dig into the details.
DISCLAIMER: I was invited to test a final version of the product. This was a pre-release model that matches the specs of the ones being manufactured now as part of the Kickstarter campaign. My initial input was used to refine the product, and I got to test the final version. What I tested matches what is being manufactured. Several members of the Photofocus team are also testing the unit and will share their views and uses in other articles.
I took the Platypod Max into several museums around Washington, DC and Gettysburg, PA. Not once was I bothered or asked to move. The unit was small and inconspicuous, yet still gave me a rock-solid shooting platform. That’s due largely to how the Platypod Max is designed and manufactured.
- It’s made of aircraft grade aluminum and titanium
- This keeps the wight low at only 13 oz (plus any ballhead that you add)
- The unit measures 5 mm thick and 5.25 wide x 7.75” long
- It’s rated to hold up to 300 lbs of gear (as long as your ballhead is too)
What Comes in the Box
Let’s cover what you get with the Platypod Max. As long as you already own a tripod with a removable ballhead you should be set. The unit is tool-less, which means you don’t need to carry anything to build it or adjust your gear.
Max Base — This is the plate itself. I’ve already ordered two more so I can keep them in each camera bag. Welded through the base is a titanium screw sized for a full size ball-head.
Storage Pouch — If you like to keep your gear pristine… a much is included. But this thing is durable as heck and doesn’t need it. I took my unit through the deserts surrounding Dubai and not a scratch.
4 spike screws — These screws work great in soft ground. They also have smooth tips so you can use them to level the plate on uneven surfaces. More on these in a second.
Removable box — The screws are stored in a small box with magnets. If you want to remove them, that’s easy to for packing in a small space.
1/4-1/4-inch male cross-nut for pocket wizards — If you need to attach a flash controller (or similar accessory) that’s really easy
NOTE: You do need to provide your own ballhead (the company figures you likely own one already.) I shoot mainly with Really Right Stuff heads and I had no problem attaching their smallest and largest ballhead. As long as your head has a thread mount on bottom… attaching is easy and takes only two seconds They do have a useful page or gear recommendations.
How it Works
In order to give the Platypod Max a full test I took it out under MANY environments to test. I found that I could shoot from just about any surface. I got the benefits of a tripod without the weight, bulk, or hassle.
Flat surfaces — All it took was a ledge or railing and I was shooting. Without the spiked feet in… the Platypod Max rests easily on a range of surface types and is stable.
Slick surfaces — The rubber feet are also good to resist movement if shooting on a slick surface. I’ve also stuck a small piece of sandpaper on the bottom of one of mine for extra resistance.
Uneven surfaces — The screws are easy to adjust and level. This means that warped surfaces are no problem for shooting.
Soft ground — Need to dig in? Those spikes work great.
Rounded Surfaces & Poles — You can easily use a tension strap or zip ties to mount to a pole.
Angled Surfaces — The screws are great for leveling the Platypod Max. But they also work great for a ledge surface. I was able to set the camera to grab onto the front of museum signs and easily shoot in low light.
Low Angles — Getting the camera low to the ground can also change the feeling of your photo and really give a different viewpoint.
(Semi)Permanent Installs — Several screw holes exist on the plate so you can mount it for longterm work like construction projects.
The Bottom Line
I find myself standing by my review of the original Platypod Pro.
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 screws.
I have taken the Platypod Pro Max in all shooting environments. From the desert to museums, from the studio to the mud. The unit is rock solid. After two months of shooting with it, the unit is still in perfect shape.
I don’t usually recommend Kickstarter projects, but this is one that I’ve personally shot with. I’ve been a big fan of the Platypod Pro (having bought 8 of them at this point). I’ve now pre-ordered two more units so that my bigger cameras and ballheads have the perfect platform to shoot from.
If you’re looking for a tripod alternative or even just a backup plan to thwart the Tripod Police, I highly recommend this unit. Pick one up early and get the best price. They even have some great bundles that get you both the Platypod Pro and Max.
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.