Joby Gorillapod Focus: The True Gorilla of Gorillapods
You're probably already familiar with Joby's line of Gorillapod flexible tripods. You may well already own one. But if you shoot with an SLR you owe it to yourself to check out the top of the line Gorillapod Focus. This is the Gorillapod you've dreamed about.
Having been out for at least a couple of years now, the Gorillapod Focus isn't new. But I've had another Gorillapod model for even longer and had never been tempted to upgrade. Nowadays, Joby makes a seemingly endless line of Gorillapod models but the Gorillapod Focus remains the most substantial version. You can consider it the true gorilla of the Gorillapod line. No, it doesn't have magnets in its feet like many of the newer Gorillapod models do. Shooting out in the woods, I don't find too many metal surfaces to stick it to anyway. What the Focus does have is strength. Rather than the all-plastic and rubber construction of other Gorillapods, the Focus features machined aluminum sockets built to take a serious load. My Gorillapod SLR Zoom is rated to support up to 6.6 pounds. The Focus is rated up to 11.1 pounds. The Focus is truly a professional version suited for use with modern SLR cameras and most lenses other than the really big telephoto types.
I use a Gorillapod mainly to facilitate low level shooting — really low level — as close to the ground as possible. I tend to like wide angle shots with an in-your-face foreground and the closer I can get to ground level the better. The Gorillapod SLR Zoom model comes with a simple, permanent 1/4" universal screw to which I fastened an Arca-Swiss compatible clamp. It works well, but can be a bit tipsy in some situations. So I finally decided it was time to investigate its big brother, the Gorillapod Focus.
A Gorillapod, or indeed any small tripod, can't be a substitute for a full-sized tripod. I've heard some people who've tried to use them as such complaining about Gorillapods but I think they miss the whole point of what makes these things special. A Gorillapod is a special purpose tripod — special because of the obvious design characteristic of having flexible legs. You can position a camera attached to a Gorillapod in ways not possible with other supports.
At more than twice the cost of the SLR Zoom, the Focus isn't cheap. List price is $99.95. This is the main reason why it took me so long to consider the upgrade. If I hadn't already had the SLR Zoom I would have gone for the Focus long ago, but was it worth the upgrade? What caught my eye though was the companion Ballhead X. One thing my SLR Zoom setup didn't have was a small ballhead. Yes, the legs are flexible, but once you get it into position it can be difficult to fine tune things. I decided adding a small ballhead was the solution.
The Joby Ballhead X is a great little tripod head. In addition to the standard knob for locking the ball, it features a true panning base with a separate locking knob. Both knobs lock and don't slip with normal use. Atop the ballhead is an Arca-Swiss compatible clamp. The knob for the clamp is recessed somewhat so it won't get in the way as much as do the knobs on some clamps I've used. This ballhead won't hold big lenses, but for the type of gear you are likely to use with a Gorillapod it's nearly ideal. About the only aspect of the Ballhead X I don't care for is the small safety interlock pin they decided to include. To me, these sorts of things are more nuisances than anything else. For big lenses, a safety mechanism can be worth it, but on a small ballhead? Please. Thankfully, removing it is easy. One tap from the top with a hammer and nail set and it pops right out. The head also comes with a generic plate that I have no real use for since I've been a long time user of L-bracket camera plates from Really Right Stuff and Kirk Enterprises. I guess having a spare plate can't hurt.
Discounted, you can get the Gorillapod Focus as a bundle with the Ballhead X for around $100. If you're looking for a Gorillapod and need to support an SLR, the Focus paired with the Ballhead X is an excellent choice. I'm glad I finally upgraded.