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Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom

Of all the accessories available for cameras, the tripod is arguably the most useful. It provides a stable base for a variety of situations, from long or multiple exposures to a simple self-timer, while also allowing you to take a more considered approach to composition. Unfortunately decent models also tend to be relatively big and heavy, preventing most of us from carrying them around on holidays or for day-to-day photography.

Small and light ‘travel’ tripods offer some relief, but often compromise on stability or height, making them unsuitable for serious work. But before you give up on the idea of a tripod which combines portability with genuine effectiveness, consider Joby’s Gorillapod range which takes a unique approach to the problem. The Gorillapod may not replace a traditional tripod, but could still end up becoming one of the most useful accessories you own – in this review we’ll take a look at the latest and strongest Gorillapod SLR Zoom model, designed to accommodate some pretty serious photographic kit.


Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom

 






























Joby was launched in 2006 with a single product, the original Gorillapod. Rather than having extendable legs like a traditional tripod, the Gorillapod features flexible legs with multiple rubberised joints which can be bent around objects to provide a secure grip – like a three-fingered hand.

 
 
 
 

This allows you to attach the Gorillapod to almost any natural or man-made object from bars and poles to rocks and tree branches. Rubberised feet also allow you to stand the Gorillapod like a conventional tripod, and while it may not offer anywhere near the height of even a small tripod, it can still be effectively used on tables or any other surface.

The ability to grip almost any object or surface gives the Gorillapod enormous flexibility, and unless you find yourself in a barren landscape, there’s almost always something you can attach it to. Measuring just 15x3x3cm and weighing 45g, you can also easily carry it around in a bag, or even a pocket. It’s a handy accessory, but its maximum weight load of 275g makes it unsuitable for anything other than compact digital cameras.

Recognising demand for heavier cameras, Joby later introduced the Gorillapod SLR, a larger version measuring 25x5x5cm, weighing 165g, and handling a load up to 800g – making it suitable for most budget DSLRs with their kit lenses. The Gorillapod SLR’s longer legs also allow it to better wrap-around larger objects, while its quick-release bracket can be attached to your camera’s tripod thread, ready to be slotted into the main leg section as required.

The latest model in the line-up is the Gorillapod SLR Zoom (pictured on this page with an optional tripod head), which as its name suggests, accommodates even greater loads. It’s the same 25cm length as the SLR model, but chunkier joints allow it to handle camera and lens combinations weighing up to 3kg. This means you could confidently mount a semi-pro DSLR with a decent lens, while the 241g weight means it remains much lighter than any travel tripod.

We’ve been using the Gorillapod SLR Zoom for over four months now and found it to be an invaluable accessory. Like earlier Gorillapods though, it can take new owners a short while to stop treating it like a normal tripod. Sure you can bend the legs out and stand it on the floor, but with a working height of just 20cm or so, you’ll be shooting pets-eye views unless there’s a ledge or table nearby.

Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom - railings
 

But the first time you wrap the legs around a pole and realise the Gorillapod isn’t going to fall, your approach to photography changes. You end up examining your surroundings for things you could attach the Gorillapod to, and in almost every situation, there’s a nearby tree, fence, railing, rock, or even the back of a chair which could become a willing accomplice. It’s particularly gratifying to grip onto curved surfaces or poles from which a balanced camera would simply slide off – great for spontaneous night skyline photography.

During our time with the Gorillapod SLR Zoom, we used it with a number of hefty DSLRs including the Canon EOS 40D, EOS 5D and Nikon D300, all equipped with fairly heavy lenses, and in each case the Gorillapod SLR Zoom securely supported them. Unlike the smaller SLR model, there’s no quick-release plate, but with the legs folded in, it’s quick and easy to screw the Gorillapod into your camera body. In its favour though, the SLR Zoom model includes a 3/8 inch adapter which alternatively allows you to mount an optional tripod head for greater flexibility - you can see examples of this in the photos here. The joints also feel very well built and maintained their stiffness and reliability throughout our testing period.

 
 
 
 
 

Like earlier Gorillapods though, it’s best considered as a complement to a traditional tripod rather than a replacement. If you find yourself in a situation without anything to attach it to, or balance it on, then you’ll be working very close to the ground. Beyond the low angle, this could be inconvenient or impractical if there’s high grass, snowfall or running water.

And while its grip is sufficiently sturdy for general-purpose long exposures we wouldn’t recommend it for serious astro-photography. Fans of multiple exposures or HDR work will also want to use the Gorillapod with a cable release as even pressing the shutter release button gently can slightly move your camera’s position.

 
 

Like all equipment though, anything that’s too big or heavy just won’t be used and that’s where the Gorillapod really scores over a traditional tripod. Even the biggest SLR Zoom version is sufficiently small and light to slip into most bags unnoticed. Indeed unlike any tripod to date, the Gorillapod SLR Zoom has become a permanent accessory in our camera bags, and proven invaluable for spontaneous night shots, blurring of waterfalls and rivers, multiple exposures for HDR work, and of course self-timed photos.

If you’re the kind of person who’s forever looking for somewhere to balance your camera for these kind of shots, you’ll love the Gorillapod. It may not replace a proper tripod for times when you need the height and ultimate stability, but its sheer portability and flexibility means it could end up being used much more often. It's ideal for taking away on trips.

As for models, we'd go for the SLR Zoom version as it's only slightly bigger and more expensive than the standard SLR model, but offers much greater flexibility in terms of load – as such the Gorillapod SLR Zoom comes Highly Recommended.



All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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