I recently got the chance to try out the new Platyball (which is an inverted ball head). While it looks a little bit different from a normal ball head, it works amazingly well for the precise positioning of a camera.
Let me walk you through this new piece of gear as well as a couple of time-lapse tricks for the iPhone.
A rock-solid platform
The Platyball comes in two models, the Ergo and the Elite. It’s from the same company that makes the Platypod, which is one of my go-to pieces of gear. The ball head is inverted, which means the part that tilts is actually on the bottom. While this may seem a little off at first, it’s an ingenious design that makes it easy to level and pan evenly — with just one hand.
I tested the Platyball Elite. I ordered mine as an Early Bird on Kickstarter … so mine has actually shown up before most of them. If you order today, they are expected in April/May 2022 with retail stores getting them in the summer.
- Price $360
- Dimensions: 5.1×3.2×2” (130x82x50mm)
- Weight: 1lb 6oz (624gm)
- Ball Diameter: 35mmCapacity: 22lb (10kg)
- Mech. Operating Temp: -40° to + 170° F
What’s in the box
The Platyball also includes a Neoprene cover and a disc that actually works with the Arca Swiss-style mount. The disc also helps with a second bubble level for balancing the head.
Adding the base
I attached the Platyball to the Platypod Ultra. This is a super lightweight tripod alternative. It’s about the size of a smartphone and weighs only 3.2 oz. While it looks tiny, the is more than enough for the iPhone, as well as mirrorless, GoPro and compact DSLRs.
A tip: Whichever way you’re tilting the camera, be sure to put the foot backward. This way the leaning ball head has full support.
The key difference between the Ergo and Elire (besides the luscious red color) is the level. Two crosshairs react as you attempt to level the ball head. It’s surprisingly easy to do this one-handed. As a benefit, panning the camera will still stay level due to the inverted design.
Attach the phone
To hold my iPhone I used the Square Jellyfish tripod mount. This is a metal version of their spring tripod mount. It is effective at holding the iPhone and can expand to hold a variety of sizes. It mounts to the Platyball with a universal screw mount.
Shooting time-lapse is a big drain on your phone’s battery. While shooting the screen stays on, plus you’re accessing the hard drive in an almost continuous state. It’s a good idea to charge up ahead of time or plug your phone into a power pack while capturing.
Your phone can also be subject to extra heat. So if you are capturing on a hot day in direct sunlight, the phone could overheat. It’s rare, but I have seen it happen.
To get a great time-lapse shot, here are a few simple pointers:
- Find a stable platform: In this case I set the Platypod on the back of my truck bed. But any surface that’s vibration free should work.
- Use a wider angle: Set the camera to use your phones wider angle lens. It will capture more of the scene and handle the scene well.
- Time of day: The just before sunrise or sunset makes some great times when the light is really changing. If it’s the middle of the day, then look for cloud cover or the shot gets pretty boring.
- Tap to focus: Be sure to actually set a focus point. Better yet you can even press and hold the screen until you see an AE/AF Lock alert showing that Auto Exposure and Autofocus are set.
Once the shot is done, there’s a lot you can do right on the phone. Your iPhone can edit video just like it can photos to improve the image.
In this case, a waving flag at the edge of the frame was a bit distracting.
Using the Crop tool I could remove the flag. I was sure to keep the 16:9 aspect ratio of the original shape. Because the video is 4K, I can easily crop and still export a 1080p HD video.
I also used the editing tools to quickly adjust the color and tone of the clip. These controls are quite effective and preview in real-time as you make adjustments.
The end result is pretty amazing. What used to take a lot of effort to shoot develop and assemble is ready for sharing in seconds. The iPhone has become quite capable of making time-lapse shots. It’s easy to use and fun to create.
The use of the Platyball and Platypod Ultra also give me a rock-solid platform that I can simply slip into my pocket. The two items together are less than half a pound and make for a highly portable and easy to configure shooting platform.