The DigiPlate arrives as a “kit of parts” vaguely reminiscent of a kid’s Meccano Erector set. Unfortunately, the kit we ordered from B&H was defective: we got no DigiClamps, and two DigiBases instead. So we got the RMA and, with the Jewish holidays approaching and B&H showing no other stock available, we reordered directly from Inovativ instead, shipping it to our US package drop. Thankfully the second kit showed up complete (as well as giving us an opportunity to order and try out the DigiHanger for extra cable support; B&H didn’t stock this either). You get a box with a lot of parts bags (which include various hex screws, thumbscrews, hex keys, washers, stick-on rubber shims, etc) and a few little sheets of documentation to get you on your way. The documentation for individual parts is just barely adequate, and a bit of extra guidance—possibly on video—would be really useful for getting everything put together quickly and giving you an idea for what you can customize. If you’re mechanically inclined, a lot of things are fairly obvious despite minimal documentation and assembly is a fun challenge, but if you’re the sort of person who has trouble assembling Ikea furniture, you’re going to want to give yourself some time to build everything. It took us an hour to get everything all set initially, with a few little tweaks after our first test run on location.
The plate itself is designed to easily handle 13” and 15” laptops, and the clamps include a set of shims to deal with thicker laptops, and a set of rubber pads to hold everything in place. Inovativ intends for you to either keep the shims stacked up under a longer thumbscrew (which we’d do if we were teching and didn’t know what laptop would live on the stand at any given time), or use the smaller supplied thumbscrew and leave the extra shims in your gear crib (which is what we do). For a MacBook Pro 13”, the clamps are actually slightly too large to begin with, so we installed all the rubber pads, which locked the laptop down nicely. You have to install the supplied rubber padding on both the inside side, outside, and inside (two pieces go on the inside top, because the MacBook Pro 13” is thin). With all this installed, we’re pretty confident walking around holding the DigiPlate and knowing that the laptop is unlikely to slide out of its mount (and if it does, it won’t slide far anyway). One little quibble: that the clamps stick up a little high, so if something forcibly closed the laptop (or it dropped) and landed on the pads, we’d be very worried about a bent/broken screen. Inovativ stocks a set of ‘MacBook Air’ clamps, which with a shim or two would possibly be a better option for the new MacBook Pro’s. There’s no documentation on Inovativ’s site in this regard, so we don’t know for sure. (We’d be happy to test them if Inovativ shipped us a set, of course).
With a 13” laptop, the ‘ears’ of the DigiPlate actually stand proud by a few cm’s on either side, which gives the impression that the plate is oversized for the job, which it is—making it more likely to bang the corner of the plate into something on location accidentally. Everything is very solidly built from hard-anodized aluminum (in fact, it’s a little heavier than we’d have expected it to be) and inspires confidence that it’s going to survive many, many years of getting banged around, dropped, and otherwise will survive the abuse that we routinely dish out to grip equipment on location…and probably look fairly new when it’s finished.
In an ideal world, Inovativ would supply a set of ears just for 12”/13” laptops that are a bit more…form-fitting. However, the extra space gives you a good place to hang a DigiHanger, an accessory we’re glad we got. Since all of our tethering cables have Velcro straps, we’ve taken to hanging the Velcro straps off the DigiHanger, providing some strain relief, a very neat install, and drastically reduced likelihood of ripping a cable apart if something bad happens. (Inovativ shows a carabiner hanging off the DigiHanger, which we’d recommend if you aren’t already using Velcro ties on your cables). Sometimes we’ve just pushed the end of a USB tethering cable through (it fits, just), connected to a USB-A/USB-C dongle—which means that if the cable rips out, the dongle should take the force leaving the MacBook Pro’s USB-C port intact.
Underneath it all is the DigiBase, a solid block of aluminum with a twist-preventing stud. This gives you a very deep baby-pin mount as well as 5/16 and 1/4x20 screw holes. It’s intended to be installed atop a light stand. There’s a major annoyance: the security screw seems to be placed too low for this to work well. On most of our stands (even the ones with built-in 1/4x20 screw tops), and on the Magic Arm, you have to lift the whole assembly up in order for the security screw to lock onto the thinner body of a baby pin spigot, which means it’s less secure and very prone to working itself loose. We’re constantly checking and retightening this screw as things move around on location. If we were using the plate atop a lightstand that doesn’t move much, this wouldn’t bother us nearly as much, but we’d very strongly recommend installing a spacer of some sort (a round rubber adhesive ‘foot’ or two carefully inserted into the bottom of the baby pin receiver would probably do it) if you run into this problem. We’d probably install one ourselves if we planned to keep using the DigiBase, but more on that later.
With everything assembled, did it work as planned? In a word: absolutely! Our current tripod is an older Manfrotto 055XPROB, which will happily hold a Cambo Wide RS (or DS) atop an Arca-Swiss C1 Cube. We’ve equipped it with a Matin Tripod Butler, which we’ve found is a near-perfect (and foldable and almost weightless) tray for holding things like LCC plates, filters, and flash triggers. That lives on the tripod at almost all times. Adding a Mafer Clamp to that whole rig is a bit Macgyver-ish, but it gets the job done…especially since we already had a Mafer Clamp and a 10” Magic Arm hanging around. Here’s what it looks like in use: