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Reviews > Cameras > Photography Accessories > Joby Gorilla Pod > Test Report by Pamela Wyant
Joby Gorillapod Camera Tripod
Initial Report - October 17, 2007
Field Report - January 8, 2008
Long Term Report - March 4, 2008
The Joby Gorillapod is a small camera tripod with a very unique feature - each tripod leg consists of 10 small spherical jointed plastic segments. Each joint can be bent independently to allow the leg to configured as desired; anything from a near circle, to an arc shape, to an S-shape, to a straight line. Each joint of the legs has a rubberized ring to help the legs grip the surface it touches. Each leg also has a rubberized cap on the foot for similar gripping power. Joby states the Gorillapod will "firmly secure your compact digital camera to virtually any surface — anywhere and everywhere!" From the way the legs can be configured, this seems like it will be true.
The three legs and a two joint stem that holds the adapter plate base come together in a small plastic center joint. The stem is also flexible and can be bent and rotated. The plastic adapter plate base is affixed to the top joint in a stationary manner. A small circular lever imprinted with the word "JOBY" is pushed to release the adapter plate from the base. Joby lists the adapter as "Universal ¼-in tripod screw". The adapter plate is tiny - about 7/8 in (2.22 cm) long and 3/4 in (1.91 cm) wide, and only 3/16 in (0.48 cm) thick. The whole adapter plate is barely bigger than the screw that holds it to the camera!
In front of the release lever is a 'lock-ring'. This is a small plastic ring with a rubberized cover that can be twisted to lock the adapter plate in place so that pressing the lever does not release it. This appears to be a good safety feature to prevent accidentally releasing the camera when setting up photos. Small graphics showing an open padlock and a latched padlock mark the unlocked and locked positions. The mechanism that makes the ring work is simple - the ring is flattened on the back to allow the lever to be depressed fully when in the unlocked position. Moving it to locked position moves the rounded, rubberized section of the ring behind the lever to keep it from being depressed.
To remove the adapter from the adapter plate, I simply push in on the small lever and slide the adapter plate out of the base at the same time.
The Gorillapod I am testing is primarily black in color, with the rubberized parts being light gray. Other color combinations are available, but I am very happy with the neutral colors of my test unit.
Preliminary use:Naturally the first thing I had to do was play with the Gorillapod to see how it worked. It was a lot of fun twisting the legs into different shapes. Next it was time to figure out how to attach my camera. Once I figured out how to remove the adapter, it was simple to screw it into the base of my camera. I could turn the screw head some with my thumbnail, but found a coin worked better and allowed me to fasten it tightly. I tested a U.S. penny, nickel, dime, and quarter and they all worked to tighten and loosen the screw.
The adapter plate is so tiny that it is barely noticeable on my camera. I can attach it in any direction, even sideways to the camera, and still be able to attach the tripod and focus it in any direction I choose due to the flexible rotating stem. My camera still fits in its small case easily with the adapter attached.
I next proceeded to 'hang' the Gorillapod with camera attached to a variety of items I had close at hand. It easily hung over the top of my flat panel computer monitor, over the side of my laptop bag, off the edge of a file box, on top of the sloped surface of my desktop telephone (with one leg curled over the handset), and even wrapped around a support post of my open book shelf.
Finally, I took the Gorillapod outside and hung it from a tree branch. The legs were easy to bend around the branch, and the flexible stem allowed me to point the camera any direction I chose to take a picture - up, down, or to the side.
I will primarily be testing the Gorillapod with my Nikon Coolpix L4, which weighs 6.1 oz or 173 g with two rechargeable AA NiMH batteries, although I may also use it with my Kodak EasyShare CX7430 which weighs a little more, but is still a compact digital camera.
As a 'gram weenie', I'm also very pleased with the light weight of the tripod. Now I just need to figure out another use or two (ultra lighters try to make everything multi-use), and the weight of the Joby will be fully justified! Already I'm thinking it might be used to hang a rain jacket from the ridge line of my hammock under the tarp on a rainy night, to allow the rain jacket to drip dry and to keep me from having to take a wet jacket inside the hammock.
This concludes my Initial Report.
Field Conditions:In late October and early November I used the Gorillapod on a section hike with a friend on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and North Carolina. Although we had originally planned to stay mainly in shelters or to camp along the trail, we ended up spending 3 nights in hotels and 2 nights on the trail, doing some long day hikes as well as two overnight segments. Over the 6 day period, I hiked a total of 56.1 mi (90 km) at elevations ranging from 2660 to 5220 ft (810 to 1590 m), with a good deal of ups and downs between the two elevation extremes. The trail varied from short sections of semi-smooth dirt to the more common rocky sections, with plenty of roots crossing the trail to throw in a little variety, and a few rock scrambles. Temperatures were in the 40 to 70 F (4 to 21 C) range. The weather was dry for the most part, but there was some fog and condensation some mornings. Since this section had been experiencing drought conditions, my friend and I were both trying to conserve weight on what we were carrying, so we used her camera with the Gorillapod while I carried my cell phone (with built in camera). We used the Gorillapod attached to branches or trunks of small trees, on top of rocks, and even set it up on top of my pack for one shot.
I also used the Gorillapod on the Appalachian Trail again in early December, in the central Virginia section known as the 'Three Ridges'. Elevations ranged from 997 ft to 3970 ft (304 m to 1210 m). The trail was mainly rocky with some smoother sections. Temperatures were in the 40 F (5 C) range. On this trip I was hiking with my oldest daughter and her husband, and I used the Gorillapod on the hood of my Jeep to take a trail head photo of the three of us, on a rock near a shelter for another group shot, and attached to a tree branch for a nice scenic vista shot showing the three of us.
I also used the Gorillapod at home in late December to take a photo of myself for another BackpackGearTest.org review. This time I used it on a fence rail, balancing it by leveraging one leg against the rear of the rail and two on the front of the rail to hold the camera in place.
Field Use:On the Georgia, North Carolina trip, I found the adapter simple to change from my camera to my friend's, requiring only a coin to tighten and loosen the screw. Her camera is a Nikon Cool Pix, but is a slightly different model with a larger zoom, weighing a bit more, and having the screw hole for the adapter on the side instead of centered. I found this made quite a bit of difference in balancing the camera. I needed to be more careful when setting the camera up since more of the weight was balanced to one side and if the Gorillapod wasn't very secure it could tip over. Even attached to branches it took a little more care to make sure the camera was set up to stay level. We took a few pictures of the two of us together, which was nice, but we were pushing sometimes to get in mileage on this trip, and often just snapped shots of each other. Having the adapter on the camera did not affect the balance of the camera when we weren't using the Gorilla Pod, and since it is so small, it did not make it any harder to store in her camera case. When we weren't using the Gorillapod, it rode easily in the hipbelt pocket of my GoLite Quest pack. It fit easily in the pocket and was a breeze to take out and put back in, even with other items like a bandanna and lip balm in the pocket. The only thing I occasionally had trouble with was removing the adapter from the Gorilla Pod. For some reason it often seems stiff to me and I have to work with a bit to get the catch to release so it will slide off.
On the Three Ridges trip the Gorillapod really came into its own. We used it several times to take family pictures of the three of us enjoying a beautiful day hiking together. On this trip I used my Nikon camera, described more fully in my Initial Report section above. On this trip I carried it in a small rear pocket of my Outdoor Products day pack, where it slid easily inside a sleeve intended for use with a portable CD player, along with my camera which I put in a quart size Zip-Lock bag. (Yeah, I've had the pack awhile. I doubt the Gorillapod would fit in an MP3 player pocket given the size difference.) Below is a picture of the three of us using the Gorillapod attached to a tree overlooking one of the superb vistas along the way. Without the Joby to capture all of us in the picture, it would have been just another pretty picture of mountains - now it's a family memento.
Impressions so far:So far I am very impressed with the performance of this little tripod. It's simple and light to carry, and works in a variety of situations where I might have trouble using a normal tripod. The ball joints have operated smoothly each time I've configured them this way and that to conform to a branch or the craggy texture of a rock. The only thing I've had trouble with at this point is that I do sometimes have minor trouble removing the base unit from the camera and adapter for some reason. This is usually remedied by double checking the lock-ring, which sometimes has slid over a bit, or just by jiggling the lever a bit.
The Joby has been very easy to store in a moderate size pack pocket, and due to its size, shape, and texture is easy to pull out without even having to look for it. So far I haven't had any trouble finding a variety of surfaces that can be put to use to allow the Joby to take a great group photo - overhanging branches, a downed log, or a big rock will usually all suffice. If those all fail and I'm pressed to use my pack to elevate the camera, it's easier to level the camera on the bumpy surface of my pack with the Gorillapod than without; and much easier to frame the shot I want with the camera on top of the Gorillapod rather than sitting directly on the pack.
This concludes my Field Report..
Field Conditions and use:I used the Gorillapod on a day hike of about 6.5 mi (10.5 km) in the Kanawha State Forest in central West Virginia on an overcast day, with temperatures in the 25 F (-4 C) range at elevations from around 1000 to 1400 ft (300 to 400 m), in a wooded area with rocky to smooth dirt trails. There was no precipitation on this trip. I used it on an old uprooted tree stump to photograph my daughter and I at the mouth of an old coal mine.
I also used it on a solo day hike was about 6 mi (10 km) in western West Virginia, on old dirt county roads and jeep trails, with temperatures around 40 F (4 C) on a sunny day with no precipitation. I used it on a leaning signpost and on the ground to photograph some gear I have been testing.
I also used it on two shorter day hikes of about 3 mi (5 km) and twice in my yard for additional photos of items I am gear testing. On the hikes, I used tree branches to hold the Gorillapod, and in my yard, I used a fence rail.
All uses during this phase were with my Nikon Coolpix L4.
Findings:The Gorillapod easily adapted to any surface that I wanted to use to position my camera at the height I wanted. The bendable leg joints made it easy to wrap around almost anything, and to position the legs so that they were level even if the surface the tripod was sitting on wasn't. I did find that sometimes I have to be careful in selecting what to attach the Gorillapod to, not because it won't grip, but because I can't see the LCD screen on the rear of the camera to compose my photo properly. I sometimes also have to be slightly careful in depressing the shutter so that the motion doesn't move the camera lens and result in a photo that doesn't catch what I am wanting to photograph. This happens most often when I am using a tree branch or a more uneven surface than if the Gorillapod is more level where more even pressure is applied on all the legs. The leaning, flimsy sign post below was especially challenging in this aspect. The massive tree stump above was sturdy and did not present much problem in keeping the camera steady as I depressed the shutter.
I left the small tripod mount on my camera during this test phase, even when I wasn't using the Gorillapod. It is so small and thin, that I really don't even realize it's on the camera. Until, that is, I need to change the camera batteries. I found with a little maneuvering I could leave the tripod mount in place and still open the battery door, so it really didn't present much of a problem.
I found it easy to pack the Gorillapod along. During this test phase, I used it with a small fanny pack, a mid-size day pack, and in my pants and jacket pockets. It's small enough that it takes up very little room. In my day pack I stored it in a small pocket in the front, along with my camera. In the fanny pack I placed it in the main body, although it could have fit inside a small zippered pocket as well. I also carried it in the pocket of my Montbell U.L. Down Inner Parka where it easily fit horizontally along the bottom of the pocket with enough room to also store the camera and a pair of gloves. I even carried it in the cargo pocket of my REI Sahara pants, along with my camera, although I did find the hook and loop fastener on the pocket made it a little awkward to get the Gorillapod in and out of the pocket.
As I've used the Gorillapod more, I've found it easier to remove the tripod mount from the base plate than I did earlier in the test. I think this is probably more from growing used to the way it removes, but it is possible it also loosened up just a bit. Making sure that the locking ring is centered in the open position helps with this too.
The ball joints have remained properly tensioned during the course of the test. Once I configure them the way I want, they stay securely in place, yet they are still easy to bend the way I want them. If I've bent them in several positions over the course of a hike, I've found it often takes a little patience to smooth the tripod legs straight; the easiest way is just to start at the top of the base and reposition each ball, although I've had some success by simply running my fingers down each leg a couple of times when I'm in more of a hurry.
Summary:I've found the Joby Gorillapod a fun and interesting item to test, and in spite of my 'gram weenie' tendencies I've found it adds enough value to my hiking photography that I plan to take it on most of my future trips.
I really like the way it conforms to any surface to give me a chance to photograph myself and family or friends in front of striking scenery, its light weight, and the fact that it seems to be well constructed and of good quality. I also like the fact that the tripod mount is small and unobtrusive enough that I can leave it on my camera all the time.
The only real negative I've found in using the Gorillapod is that sometimes it is difficult to find a spot to mount the tripod and still be able to see the LCD screen to make sure the photograph remains composed the way I want it.
This concludes this test series.
Thanks to Joby and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Gorillapod.
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