Joby Gorillapods are a weird animal. They’re short, ungainly, weird looking and often impractical. At the same time, they’re expertly designed for those specialized, rare instances when a regular tripod won’t do. For the last three years or so, I’ve struggled to figure out what one might be. After spending a week with this one, I know what it is: macro photography.
Having just spent some time with a normal tripod, trying to get good angles, I learned that hovering over a black widow spider in the middle of the night is hard enough without having to worry about tripod legs and balance. The Gorillapod Focus really proved itself in this situation. Its legs are short, but tall enough to get my camera above the arachnid. They’re flexible enough to let me get the camera as close to the ground as I want, but stiff enough to eliminate camera shake. With an overall height of 11.4 inches, it’s not going to work for everything, but for this, it’s a champ.
The Ballhead X feels like a precision crafted piece of equipment. The movements are smooth and everything seems expertly machined. The quick-release design leaves something to be desired, as it uses the Arca Swiss design and relies on a thumbscrew to lock the plate down. It’s cumbersome and intentional, much like the Gorillapod itself. Otherwise, it’s a great ballhead though, and an especially great value for the money. It will work on any tripod with a standard 3/8-inch stud, adding 360º of pan and 90º of tilt. For macro work, this came in handy, as I’m sure it would in a situation where you need to tie a camera to a lamp post and still keep things level.
Both the Gorillapod Focus and the Ballhead X are rated to hold up to 5kg (11 pounds), or more than twice the weight of a Canon EOS 5D with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached. Not too shabby for something that only weighs about 1.6 pounds.
I also discovered this tripod setup is ideal as a safe parking spot for a camera. Positioned at a low level, the thing is impossible to tip over. Tied to something handy on location, it keeps the camera out of the dirt when it’s not in the photographer’s hands.
It almost challenges a person to figure out new uses for it.
The pair come together as a kit or can be purchased separately.
Ballhead X: $69.95
Gorillapod Focus: $99.95