I have been looking for a small portable alternative to carting my tripod around with me for quite some time now. There have been many occasions when I’ve been out photographing and could have used the support that a tripod provides, but could not be bothered to lug my tripod with me. I have tried using a variety of small tabletop tripods. None of them were strong enough to support a DSLR and heavy lens. Beanbags are cumbersome to carry around as well. This past summer I stumbled upon a Kickstarter campaign for Platypod Pro Max, and I was intrigued. Could this possibly be the answer to my search?
So What is a Platypod?
Platypod Pro Max ($99.00 from B&H or Adorama) and its little brother Platypod Pro ($49.95 from B&H and Adorama) are a great way to provide stability to your camera. But most importantly, they are extremely compact and easy to throw in a camera bag. Unlike typical tripods, the Platypods consist of a small metal base that you attach a ball head to, instead of legs. They are made from lightweight aircraft quality aluminum.
So before I go any further, I want to let you know that I purchased both Platypod Pro Max (Max from now on) and Platypod Pro (Pro) with my own money during their Kickstarter campaign. Platypod did not provide me with any kind of compensation for this review. So with my disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Platypod Pro and Max.
The Pro is the smaller model and works well with mirrorless cameras and DSLRs with small to medium sized lenses. It measures 3×5”, is 4mm thick, and weighs just 3 ounces. Platypod Pro can be used with ball heads smaller than 4”. I used a Sirui G-10KX and I could easily access all the knobs on the head. However, if you have a ball head with knobs or screws close to its base, you may find that they interfere with the ¼”-20 bolt near the front of the plate. This bolt can be used to attach speed lights or other accessories to the Pro.
The Pro model can be purchased as a kit, which gives you a few extras. Firstly you get a nylon case. The case is compact and fits the plate by itself. However, with a couple of origami-like moves, it transforms into a box that will hold a small ball head as well. In addition, the kit comes with three screws that have a sharp tip on one end and rubberized feet on the other. They can be threaded into the plate to help stabilize and level it. The kit also comes with a 1/4” to 3/8” female spigot adapter.
Max is the newest model and is substantially larger than the Pro. As such, it is capable of supporting large DSLRs with much heavier lenses. Max measures 5.25×7.75” and is 5mm thick. Weighing in at 13oz, it is substantially heavier than its baby brother, but still easily portable. I have a Sirui K-40X ball head, which is a large ball head, and it felt very balanced on Max.
Max ships with four two-inch long ¼”-20 spikes. Like the Pro’s spikes, these also have a rubber tip at one end and sharp points at the other. The spikes come in a neat little storage box that clips onto the top of the plate. A great feature to help prevent losing them. The spikes work well to ensure that the rig doesn’t slip. The rubber ends won’t mar delicate surfaces, like the hood of your car. Since they are adjustable, they also allow you to level Max on uneven surfaces. Max also has a pair of slots. The slots allow you to strap Max to a vertical pole or post using a belt.
So What Did I Think?
I particularly like how convenient it is to throw a Platypod into my camera bag. They hardly take up any room. When I’m shooting with my Fuji X100T or Nikon D500+kit lens (16-80 f/2.8-4 lens), I have the Pro in my bag. And if I’m using heavier lenses, I throw Max in instead.
The Platypods really shine when you need to shoot longer exposures from a low angle. In places where space is limited and it is hard to splay out the legs of a full sized tripod, the Platypods come to the rescue. With a ball head mounted to either one, it is very easy to adjust the camera angle, as opposed to simply setting your camera on the ground.
At night or for selfies, I can usually find an elevated surface to place my Platypod on. However, Platypods do not have anywhere near the flexibility that a tripod does. I sometimes find it frustrating when the object I want to prop the Platypod on isn’t in the right location. A tripod is easy to move a few feet to the left or right. However, moving a large boulder or mailbox is a little harder!
When you can’t find a horizontal surface to place your Platypod on, it is handy to be able to strap it to a something vertical. However, this can be a bit fiddly to do. It takes a bit of time to get the rig safely attached and adjusted properly. I found it much easier to configure the Pro model vertically than it did to strap Max to a post. With heavy gear, you want to make sure Max is not going to slip. Because I don’t usually wear a belt, I did not find it convenient to set Max vertically. On the other hand, it is easy to keep a handful of lightweight cable ties in my bag. The ties are a great way to attach the Pro model to vertical objects.
Another benefit to using Platypods is that they can be taken to locations where tripods would be difficult to bring, or are not allowed at all. With your camera and ball head attached to a Platypod, it is easy to balance the rig on a railing, aim the camera in any direction and take the shot.
Platypods are lightweight and compact. They are rugged, very well made and will last a lifetime. They fit easily into a camera bag. As a piece of camera gear, they are relatively inexpensive. When was the last time you purchased a piece of kit for under $100?
They will not replace your tripod, but in a pinch, they are a great substitute.
Platypod Pro and Max are the best alternatives I have found to carrying a traditional tripod with me. They have allowed me to get shots that I would not have been able to capture without a tripod. They are an indispensable piece of kit and have earned a permanent home in my camera bag.
Platypod Pro and Max
- Build Quality
- Size and Weight
- Ease of Use
Photography Life Overall Rating