When I first saw the Platypod, I honestly thought it was a gimmick. Compared to the lightweight Gitzo travel tripod I’ve loved for years, the Platypod is really just a piece of aluminum with some holes in it. I scoffed at the concept of it for a long time since I had no idea how much it would improve my travel photography.
That said, I had some rewards credit from B&H and kept hearing its praises, so I figured I’d give it a try after watching Scott Kelby use it. One poignant consideration Scott talks about is the transformative power of shooting from a unique perspective, especially from ground level. We spend our entire lives looking at the world from 5-6 feet high, so this tends to be where we place our tripods. You can still get nice images, but they might be missing that wow factor. Think back to some of the great photos you’ve seen, and you’ll appreciate that they were amazing because the image portrayed the world in a way you’d never considered before. That’s tough to do at eye level.
Here’s where the Platypod changes the game. If you’ve ever struggled with inverting your tripod column to get low, you’ll appreciate the Platypod. Rather than fumbling with this and then trying to view your image upside down on the camera screen, you simply screw your ballhead into the Platypod and set it on the ground. It’s that easy. At this point, I set my camera to a two-second timer and the lowest ISO possible while bracketing my images for post-processing later. The one caveat I would say is that having an articulating screen on your camera is essential, because you won’t be able to look through the viewfinder very easily when it's this low.
When purchasing, you have the choice between the Max and Ultra versions. The Max weighs 13 ounces and is about the size of an iPad mini, whereas the Ultra is 3.2 ounces and the size of a smartphone. While the Max is best for large setups, the Ultra is fine for DSLRs with small/medium lenses and speedlights. I got the Max because I generally opt for the biggest of anything, but I’d probably buy the Ultra instead if purchasing it again. That said, you won’t even notice it in your bag because it’s so thin and fits into a laptop sleeve.
The other substantial benefit that cannot be overstated is that this is not a tripod. If you’ve ever been foiled right before taking a great photo because the Tripod Police (aka museum curator, church volunteer, security guard, or even an actual police officer) stopped you in your tracks before you could unfold it, you’ll appreciate this fact. Since it’s not a tripod, you most likely won't be limited by the anti-tripod mafia. In fact, most people have no idea what it is, so they may stare but never actually bother you about it. I shot the famous stairway leading out of the Vatican gift shop and never got a second look from anyone. Although I could’ve done this handheld with a high ISO and low depth of field, can you image shooting three identical bracketed images at IS0 100 and f/16 any other way? In addition to this advantage, you have so many alternatives, like the ability to balance it on ledges, the sides of bridges, church pews, etc. If you want more options, it has leveling screws and holes for straps so you can put it on uneven ground like rocks or attach it around trees or poles without any issues. If you really want, you can even screw it into wood via the various hole configurations.
In summary, I’ve become a Platypod convert. It’s always in my bag and I find myself reaching for it as often as my tripod. If you want to take your photos to the next level, you need the unique perspective of a Platypod.