Greetings, you’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast, I’m your host Liam Douglas and this is Episode 288. In today’s episode I want to talk about the next generation in tripod ball heads and that is the PlatyBall. Now, before I get into some details on the PlatyBall, let’s talk about PlatyPod the company first.
The PlatyPod Story
The inspiration behind the original Platypod Pro happened when Larry, the CEO and Inventor, had to make a choice between packing a lens or tripod on a hike through Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. The need for a steady shot forced his hand and he begrudgingly chose the tripod. By the end of the hike the extra weight made him feel like he needed both a chiropractor and a cardiologist. He searched for a light, small and practical mini tripod for shooting in the field but couldn’t find anything able to support a DSLR camera with a heavy lens.
After several jury-rigging attempts at attaching a tripod head to a metal plate with stud adapters, the solution hit him and he began manufacturing a simple, sturdy and flat plate that could support even the heaviest of photo equipment. Thus, at 4 mm thick the world’s most compact mini tripod, was born.
Inspired by the duck-billed platypus, an animal with flat and broad feet, Platypods are designed with an unusual but highly ergonomic and elegant shape, perfectly balanced for DSLRs and lenses.
Now as you already know from previous episodes I own two of the PlatyPod Max tripods and I absolutely LOVE them! I use them all the time as they are so light and durable and allow me to get unique perspectives when shooting my abandoned buildings projects and other types of photography. Recently, the Max was replaced with the newly designed PlatyPod Extreme, which has folding feet that you don’t have to remove and re-attach each time you want to use them and come with a carrying pouch as well. I am most likely going to pick one of the Extreme units up to add to my growing PlatyPod collection.
But now let’s get to today’s topic, the PlatyBall, a new and unique re-design of the ball head. For this new ball head, Platypod wanted to come up with a design that’s more intuitive and easier to use, while giving the photographer more control over their total tripod shooting system. With most ball heads, including my Manfrotto BHQ2’s the ball head’s joint is at the top of the head under the tripod plate with the base having the panning ability. For the Platyball, Platypod reversed things and moved the ball joint to the bottom with the panning mechanism moved to the very top under the camera’s tripod base plate.
What this does is give you much more precise control over your camera movements when you need to pan with your camera and with the controls laid out the way they are you can control the Platyball with one hand and keep the other hand on your camera the entire time. Additionally, with the panning at the top, once you have your Platyball level, you know you will stay level the entire time you are panning. The Platyball allows you to loosen and tighten the panning mechanism with one hand and pan your camera with the other and if you need to lock things back down when the pan completes, you can tighten it back up with that same one hand.
How do you control the swiveling ball joint itself? On most ball heads you have knobs to tighten and loosen the joint, which when loose allows yours camera to move in nearly any direction and even move down into a 90 degree angle next to the ball head on the tripod. But on the Platyball, there are a pair of triggers that lock and loosen the ball joint, which seems a little odd at first, but once you get used to it can be very satisfying. To tighten the ball joint more and more, you just keep squeezing the trigger and as you do, not only does the ball joint get tighter, but the trigger gets harder to squeeze. The same with the loosen trigger, just keep squeezing it until it gets as loose as you need it. This method of locking down the ball joint gives you far more precision than using the knobs on a conventional ball head, additionally, only the really good quality ball heads like the BHQ2 actually tighten down properly. I have tested other ball heads over the years that were well built as far as material quality but the tighten mechanism never actually locked the ball joint down no matter how tight you adjusted them.
Platypod also uses an Arca-swiss style of mounting plate on their ball heads, which is a plate system popular with many photographers. It’s not my favorite as I do not consider it a true “quick” lock and release system in comparison to Manfrotto’s PL200 plate system, which although proprietary, is much faster with a satisfying, “click” sound when the plate locks tightly into the ball head. The Platyball does allow you to loosen and tighten the Arca-swiss mounting system again with one hand, which again makes it easy to use while still maintaining a hand on the actual camera body for peace of mind.
There are two versions of the Platyball, the Ergo and the Elite and there is of course a difference in price and abilities. The Ergo comes in a gun metal gray and does ALL of the same basic functions as the Platyball Elite. Both units are made of high quality aluminum and are very well built and you can feel the build quality when you pick them up. The main difference between the Ergo and the Elite is the Elite is Ferrari red and has a built in electronic leveling module on the back. I opted to buy the more expensive Elite as I have always wanted a great quality ball head with a great leveling system and Platypod is the only company to do it right. On my ball heads, if they have a built in level, the level is hidden once your camera is mounted on the ball head so then the only option is to use a hotshoe bubble level on the top of your camera, but the problem with that is when you have your tripod set to the height you want for the shot you often times cannot see the level on the top of your camera. The LED leveling unit on the back of the Elite model uses an A23 battery to power it, these batteries are readily available on the net, I picked up a 10 pack of spares for $7 so I’ll have plenty for future use.
The LED leveling unit also has the ability to be adjusted as far as the brightness of the readout so it becomes easy to use no matter the ambient amount of light in your shooting environment. The A23 battery is inserted into a slot on the bottom side of the leveling model by unscrewing the cover and placing the battery inside with the negative part going in first and the positive tip going up against the screw in cap. The cap also has a slot in the center of it so you can tighten it with either a slotted screwdriver or a coin, which would be more convenient out in the field.
Some reviewers have complained that the Platyball is expensive, but I disagree when you consider the pricing of comparable ball heads from other high end companies like Gitzo, Benro and Manfrotto. The Platyball Ergo is $299 and the Platyball Elite is $385 on https://www.platypod.com.
I can tell you now I have two of the Manfrotto BHQ2 ball heads and those set me back $179 a piece when I bought them a few years ago. My Manfrotto 322RC2 “Joystick” ball head was $260 when I bought that. The nice thing being that each of these Manfrotto ball heads use the same PL-200 plate. This might not sound bad compared to the Platyball but I have seen plenty of tripod heads from the big three that cost upwards of $600+, so by comparison the Platyball is NOT that expensive. Sure it’s not cheap, but it’s also not cheaply made and remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” If I am mounting thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of my photography or videography gear on a tripod, I want to KNOW that the ball head holding my gear is NOT going to fail. The Platyball, like my Manfrotto heads is also rated to handle 22 pounds of weight without any issues, so you can relax and shoot with confidence knowing that your camera gear is secure on your Platyball.
So, is the Platyball for you? Well, only you can decide that based on your needs and your wallet, but for me, it was a no brainer. Sure I will continue to use my other ball heads and even my pistol grip head, but the Platyball will most likely start seeing more work than the others simply because when I am shooting landscape or for my projects and my shots have to be totally level, the Platyball is what I will be using from now on.
If you are not already, make sure you are Subscribed to my Youtube channel as I will be posting my video unbox and review of the Platyball Elite in the very near future. My recent videos on the Arsenal 2 Smart Camera Assistant have been very popular and I thank all of you for your continued support both here on the podcast and on the Youtube channel as well.
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You can find my work @ https://www.liamphotography.net on and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @liamphotoatl. If you like abandoned buildings and history, you can find my project @ http://www.forgottenpiecesofgeorgia.com. and http://www.forgottenpiecesofpennsylvania.com.
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