Gear review by Jason DiMichele
When outdoor photographers think of camera supports, they will most likely think of tripods, monopods, car window mounts or beanbags. A lot of photographers prefer not to carry around a tripod or monopod due to the bulk, weight or setup time. What if a camera support existed that was extremely portable, seriously sturdy, could handle a lot of weight for its size and was very flexible in use? I’ll let you in on a little secret: such a camera support exists, and it’s called the Platypod!
The Platypod is available in two versions, the Pro ($49.95 US) and the Max ($99 US). Inspired by the duck-billed platypus, the Platypod is a low-profile plate that’s levelled with spiked feet screws, accepts a ballhead or other photographic accessories and has various holes and slits (depending on model) for various purposes. Built from black anodized aircraft-grade aluminum, it’s very rigid and stable. Some of you might be wondering how useful a plate camera support is for outdoor photography, but the Platypod has some seriously useful benefits!
The Platypod requires very little space in your bag, with the Pro being 7.62 cm x 12.7 cm and 4 mm thick (about the size of a smartphone), and the Max 13.34 cm x 19.69 cm and 5 mm thick (about the size of a mini tablet). Both are easy to store in various pockets and compartments. The Platypod is also very light (Pro, 85 g and Max, 369 g) and will barely be noticed carrying it amongst the rest of your gear. For its relatively compact size, it can handle tremendous weight loads, easily as much as your ballhead can. The Pro can support 41 kg and the Max a massive 136 kg!
Although essentially the same product, there are a couple of additional differences other than weight and size. Since the Pro is so small, it comes in a durable, soft case that can be expanded into box-form to hold an appropriately sized ballhead. The Max comes in a felt pouch to protect it from dings and scratches. The Pro has three five-centimetre spike screws and the Max has four, providing more positioning opportunities. The Max also has slits that allow you to put a strap through to attach it to various objects, and a detachable storage box for the spike screws. The Pro is geared towards small to medium-sized cameras (up to prosumer cropped sensor) and the Max for large cameras (full frame) to full-sized video cameras.
Chances are the ballhead you’re using on the Platypod will most likely be the same one from your tripod. If you have your tripod with you, one very handy feature of the Max is the threaded tripod hole. This allows you to fasten the Platypod with attached ballhead to the tripod. I found this technique provided for a very efficient method of switching between ground-level and eye-level shooting.
Using the Platypod in standard spots that a tripod might be setup is straightforward. The process of setting it up is just screwing on the ballhead and adjusting the spike screws. To capture some truly unique shots, set it up in those tight or angled spots that would be difficult or impossible to get a tripod setup. As a photographer who loves shooting macro, I found the Platypod to be a very useful tool for macro shots. The ability to rearrange my macro compositions quickly and easily was very exciting!
I didn’t find any issues with the Platypod. It’s a simple tool with a clever design and concept. It’s beautifully machined and finished, and all holes and connectors are in logical positions. All components are high quality, and even the packaging looks good.
I was intrigued when I found out about the Platypod. It’s always welcome when a company introduces an innovative photographic product. It’s a tool that inspires compositional exploration that may not be possible with conventional tripods. Even if you aren’t using a large camera, consider the Max if you think you can benefit from the extra features as it won’t add too much more weight, or take up a lot more space in your bag. As one of the latest additions to my camera kit, I always carry my Platypod whenever I’m out shooting.