Need a compact, solid, durable, and portable tripod to take with you into the field? Perhaps to keep the camera in place as you direct an environmental portrait or as you take a self timed shot of you and your family or friends? Perhaps you want to keep the camera steady for a two or three second exposure as you capture a beautiful waterfall or tropical sunset in all its glory or fireworks as they explode at dusk? Or maybe you just want to set up the camera in a remote location with a radio-controlled trigger to capture action from a distance?
Regardless of the type of photography you focus on a tripod is an important camera accessory if you are looking to get serious about the art.
Want a utility tripod that can satisfy all of these needs while at the same time is light and easily transportable? Then you should consider the Joby GorillaPod Focus with a Ballhead X.
The Joby GorillaPod Focus has been on the market for several years and in that time has become very popular with photography enthusiasts for good reason. Its’ versatility, portability and distinctiveness mean that many GorillaPods have found their way into camera bags.
Measuring no more than 15 inches tall the Joby GorillaPod is not a tabletop tripod in the traditional sense of the term. The Joby GorillaPod is unique because each of its three aluminum legs is made up of small articulated segments with rubber grips that can actually be bent around objects to hold onto them. The fit of each segment into the next is so tight that it takes some considerable effort to move, bend or shape the tripod legs to solidly and securely grip which is by design to ensure a tight grip onto whatever you attempt to secure the tripod.
With its unique legs the need for a travelling tripod that extends to four, five or six feet goes away, you can simply take the Joby GorillaPod Focus with you and attach it to any suitable permanent fixture; a tree limb, light stand, fence post, anything that creates an anchoring point. Once the GorillaPod is attached and the camera is stabilized you can proceed as you would with a normal tripod with all the benefits it provides.
While the marketing material on the internet suggests the Joby Gorillapod Focus and Ballhead X is strong enough to support upto 11lbs in weight, i.e. a professional DSLR with a 70-200mm lens, I found that was not really the case.
I tested it with a Canon 7d, attached battery pack and a 70-200mm lens. The tripod started to sag under that weight when set up as a traditional tripod on the ground unless the legs were closely spread under the camera. When the legs were wrapped around something the configuration was quite solid as long as the camera’s weight was directly down on the head. If not I found the head would sometimes sag and move despite trying to lock the head in place.
Therefore it was unrealistic to expect it to support that equipment in anything other than the most basic of setups i.e. a landscape shot with the tripod set up on the ground. As hard as I tried, I could not set up and stabilize a portrait orientation with that lens on the front.
With smaller lenses on the front it was much more secure. The 24-105mm was snug as was my short fixed focal length lenses (50mm) or wide-angle lenses.
One of the best facets of the tripod and head package is the Ballhead X head. It’s perfectly suited for travel; compact but solid the Ballhead X tripod head is a wonderful addition. The movement is silky smooth but very secure under most conditions. The Ballhead X has the ability to pan 360 degrees and can also provide the opportunity for 90 degree tilting to facilitate portrait shots.
Additionally the head is arca-swiss compatible and has a quick release plate that firmly attaches to the base of the camera or lens ring.
While the Joby Gorillapod is a useful, easily portable tabletop tripod with a unique position in the market in that it can attach to anything and be mostly stable anyone that buys this needs to be aware of certain constraints.
If the surface that you are trying to attach the Gorillapod to is shiny with little of its own texture (a metal pole for example), the Gorillapod can, and will, move or shift. The legs are sufficiently tight that the camera will not fall but if the surface is smooth it is difficult to ensure the camera is truly stable.
Furthermore, imperative to making this work is a basic understanding of weight distribution and levers. Make sure you set the tripod up in the most effective and stable manner and practice attaching it to various things before you attach the camera and lens to the Ballhead X. That way you will ensure that any sagging or creep movement is minimized.
I use the Joby Gorillapod and Ball X for remote shooting. When I’m shooting soccer I use the tripod with a camera and wide-angle lens and remote trigger attached. With the tripod legs fully spread out the camera sits just six inches off the ground, perfect for low angle shooting from behind a soccer goal to capture goal-mouth action shots.
As a utility tripod I think the Joby Gorillapod makes a positive addition to any camera bag as long as it used with realistic expectations. With consumer level DSLR’s and shorter, lighter lenses I think the Gorillapod Focus is perfect to take on vacation to remote locations where portability is paramount.
The Focus is the largest of the Joby GorillaPod range and is expected to be used with Pro level DSLR’s and quality lenses, however I would suggest that if you have any DSLR and any kit lens you should go for the Focus purely on the premise that its construction is the most heavy-duty and that should inspire the greatest sense of confidence in the equipment.
Overall the Joby GorillaPod Focus would make be a welcome addition to a camera bag because of its versatility and portability. It makes travelling with a tripod much more feasible and provides many of the advantages of a tripod in a compact and unique configuration. Be realistic in your expectations and you'll be perfectly satisfied with it!