I like to travel light. I have a mirrorless camera, the Fuji X-T2, and very small prime lenses. My preference is to keep the camera strap around my shoulder and to put an extra lens and some batteries in my purse or fanny-pack as I leave my hotel for a day of sightseeing. When the need arises, depending on what I plan to photograph, I will carry a tripod and possibly a backpack filled with camera gear. When I carry a backpack I think about ways to lessen the load.
On the road
Like many of you, I have read the Platypod Reviews on Photofocus. The idea of having a lightweight platform to support my camera, without the need to carry a cumbersome tripod, was enticing. So, on my recent trip to the U.K. I decided to take along a Platypod Ultra, made for smaller cameras. (The Platypod Max is designed for larger, heavier gear.) My plan was to carry it with me when I preferred leaving the tripod in my hotel room or in the “boot” (trunk) of the car.
My trip to the U.K. was multifaceted, with days spent hiking in the countryside of the Peak District National Park, sightseeing in the big cities of Manchester and Glasgow, and meandering through the streets of small towns. I also joined a photo tour in Scotland. The Playtpod Ultra was put to the test in a variety of circumstances.
The Ultra is designed with a slot on each side. The slots allow it to be easily slipped on to a belt or waistband. Even with the ball head from my Oben travel tripod attached, the Ultra was very lightweight on my waistband, with the added benefit that it didn’t take up space in my small fanny-pack. ( I usually carry a small fanny-pack when I travel because I find it easier to reach my lens and batteries, as well as my iPhone.)
The Ultra comes with long screws which can be attached to the underside, giving extra height to the support, and which can be screwed to different lengths for uneven surfaces. I would recommend not leaving the screws in if you are wearing the Ultra. Although I attached the screws tightly, they did fall off while I was wearing it on my waistband. The screws come in a carrying case which I easily attached to my fanny-back belt with a provided carabiner.
Proving its worth
What I liked most about the Platypod Ultra is that in situations when I normally would be out and about without a tripod, I could have a camera support when I needed one. I could shoot images at ISO 200 and not worry about my shutter speed being too slow. I could bracket shots, for HDR imagery or to blend images together in Photoshop. Food photography, such as documenting my meals, became much easier as well as indoor shots. On the Isle of Skye, I had dinner at a pub that had over 360 bottles of different whiskeys (Scotch, of course). I wanted to take a photograph of all the bottles. It was very dark and so I needed a long exposure if I kept the ISO relatively low. The only way to get the shot was with a Platypod. I placed it with my camera on the bar between two beer tap handles.
I also enjoyed a little “street” photography, including photographing people eating and drinking in bars and restaurants. I look forward to experimenting with street photography during future trips.
At first I was concerned about having to shoot very low to the ground with a Platypod, but once I was out shooting those concerns evaporated. I either managed to find a higher support on which to place the Playpod such as a table, post, or rock, or I became more creative in my composition, finding lower angles to shoot from that I would not have otherwise thought of. I used the Velcro cinch strap that came with the Ultra to “strap it down” as necessary, threading the strap through the slots.
The Platypod was also invaluable on the trail. Previously I relied solely on my hiking stick, which also serves as a monopod. The Platypod was much more stable than my hiking stick, I could take longer exposures, and the ball-head gave me improved freedom in camera movement. It actually performed better than a tripod in extreme winds. I was able to get a photo of an ancient stone circle at sunset, in the Peak District of northern England, only because I had the Platypod. Despite the gale force winds, I placed the Ultra with my camera attached on a rock, held the base firm with my hand, and shot away, using a remote shutter release.
A “chest pod”
The unexpected use of the Ultra was, however, the support it provided for hand-holding my camera as I took photographs. I would place the Ultra, with screws inserted, against my chest, camera and ball head attached with the camera positioned at my eye level. Holding the Ultra in that fashion gave me added stability, allowing me to handhold at slower shutter speeds than I would typically use. If I could not see through the viewfinder due to the angle of the camera, I would just tilt up the LCD screen on the back of my camera, to compose the shot.
And a “keeper”
My overall impression of the Platypod Ultra is that it is a”keeper”, in other words, I will keep it in my photography “toolbox” and take it with me as I pursue my travels. In fact, my traveling companions all plan to buy one after seeing it in use. They agreed that it did the job when a tripod just wouldn’t work or was too cumbersome to carry.