Just monkeying around

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The Gorillapod

Described as being “made up of 30 or more fully articulating ball-and-socket joints” that can be bent and twisted into any shape, surely an aberration in terms of camera accessories, I was introduced to the Gorillapod a few days ago.
Admittedly it wasn’t the first time I’d seen one, having spotted this bizarre device on display in my local camera shop, but its appearance alone had been sufficient to discourage me from investigating further.

However, I was able to inspect it more closely when my friend produced one with a flourish and, with some palpitations of the heart, I was able to give it a trial run in a real-time situation by using it to attach my camera (very precariously, or so it seemed) to the railing of a bridge over a river, enabling me to take a longish exposure of the flowing water in rather fading light.
Encouraged by visions of the camera plunging straight downwards I made sure that the strap was firmly looped around my neck. But my fears were groundless, the Gorillapod holding the camera firmly in place for a number of shots.

So impressed was I by this brief demonstration of its capabilities that I decided then and there that I’d simply have to treat myself to this new toy.

And here we are.

Its made by Joby and comes in three sizes:

The Gorillapod Original, intended for most compact point & shoots

The Gorillapod SLR, claimed to be “designed for lightweight SLR cameras and video cameras”

The Gorillapod SLR-Zoom, which they claim will support “professional tripod heads and SLR cameras with zoom lenses”

I bought the SLR version (i.e., the middle one) from Jessops, which they’re knocking out at £39.99 (the small one being £19.99, the largest being £54.99) and of course, once in my grubby little mitt I couldn’t wait to play with it.
Well, as the local Jessops happens to be in the same town as (and within a few hundred yards of, in fact) my favourite drinking establishment, wherein lurks another photo-addicted mate, it was no real surprise where I’d end up.

Brandishing the new toy elicited a number of almost exclusively uncomplimentary remarks from mystified onlookers, all reacting to its appearance. Words such as “odd”, “weird”, “alien” were bandied about, and I’m sure there was an “obscene” slipped in there somewhere as well. If reactions could be summed up in a single phrase it’d be something along the lines of “What the hell’s that?”

Nevertheless, perseverance is all and, disregarding the deeply suspicious looks of the establishment’s clientele, we give the little beastie (there’s definitely an organic, if somewhat alien, feel to it) a try-out. With my mate’s point & shoot. Works a treat. Attaching it to all sorts of things mate was enabled to take fascinating pics of the ceiling and suchlike at all sorts of weird angles.
Seems the rubberised bits encirling the balls that comprise the “legs” provide quite significant grip once the thing’s settled into a position.

However, plonking my Canon dSLR with the long lens on it caused it to struggle a bit at any angle other than the camera being positioned immediately above the splayed legs in a conventional tripod-like position. (There’s a pic on his Flickr photostream of our experiment!)

Days pass… I’m stuck indoors recovering from a bout of something ‘orrible (a cold I think, but that doesn’t really sound dramatic enough) and decide to use the opportunity to give my new gadget a more thorough workout.

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The test camera was the Samsung GX10, and on the whole the ‘pod performed reasonably satisfactorily, holding the camera quite stable (my test rig was a chairback) providing the angle wasn’t too extreme.

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However, I found there was a distinct droop at any attempt of a sort of “sideways” fixing. Not to put too fine a point on it, the ‘pod simply wouldn’t hold the camera level when attached at right-angle to an upright support (as above pic).

In fairness the Samsung is a bit on the heavy side for a sort of “one-step-above” entry level dSLR. Here are some comparison weights (bodies only)…

Samsung GX10: 710g
Sigma SD14: 700g
Canon EOS 30D: 700g
Nikon D80: 585g
Sony Alpha 100: 545g
Olympus E-510: 380g

…and my own Canon EOS 400D comes in at 514g

Whilst its claimed that the ‘pod will support up to 800g I probably would have done better going for the larger size, but it was a trade-off with factors such as the price and the size/weight of the ‘pod itself coming into play… oh, and the fact that the local Jessops didn’t have the largest one in stock and I wanted one now!

This reservation aside, I’m well satisfied with it. Its lightweight. It folds (collapses? squashes? bends?) down to a manageable size (doesn’t quite fit in any of my coat pockets comfortably but as I usually carry a daysack with me anyway that’s not really an issue) and is therefore easily portable, and it saves all the hassles of carrying a “proper” tripod all the time. In a word, its convenient.

(Nevertheless I have to observe that even with a lightweight entry-level dSLR, once a halfway-decent lens is attached Joby’s recommended applications may be somewhat problematic. I also wonder just how long the tautness of the ball-and-socket joints will remain “as new” when subject to constant usage. And a further concern is how long the rubberised parts will last before beginning to perish or lose their grip.)

Its also got a couple of nifty little features…

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The quick-release head, released by pressing a button at the rear of the shoe. Word of advice though… be sure to carry a coin with you to really tighten the screw when fixing to the base of the camera. Seems a 1p or 20p piece works best!

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And the joint just below the head incorporates a locking feature as a safeguard in case you accidentally depress the quick-release button when camera’s attached.

On the whole I anticipate it proving to be quite a useful bit of kit. All that’s needed now is for someone to come up with an umbrella attachment so it can be worn on the head with brolly attached, to provide cover when doing rainy weather pics!

(The session was also an opportunity to give my super-duper Slik tripod its first “proper” use. What a joy!)

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
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5 Responses to Just monkeying around

  1. forkboy1965 says:

    Great minds must think alike. I have seen this at my local camera shop and have often considered its purchase. Now that I’ve read your review of the mid-level version I’m not so certain any longer.

    My Canon 40D weighs in at 740gm by itself. Add my typically-used lens (the Canon 17-85mm USM IS) at another 475gm and one can only imagine the rather floppy nature that would become the mid-level unit. Of course, perhaps the more heavy duty version would be sufficient, but I still have difficulty imagining that it could hold up the camera and lens in any satisfactory manner other than upright.

    Out of curiousity though….once the camera is attached and the non-Ti Gorillapod ‘set’ into position, does the camera bounce due to flex/spring in the Gorillapod? If so, what are you doing to mitigate this issue when you press the shutter release?

  2. fotdmike says:

    No bounce at all as far as I could determine though whenever I use a tripod (and this’ll apply even to the Slik) I always use the self-timer function so any residual movement/vibration will hopefully have stabilised when the shutter actually opens. This won’t of course minimise any vibration caused by the shutter mechanism itself, but providing you’re using the right sized ‘pod (i.e., one that’ll actually support the camera/lens at whatever angle) I can’t imagine it’d be a problem… the whole assembly appears to be quite “stiff”. And of course the rubber around the “balls” helps to decouple the ‘pod from whatever its attached to as well thus presumably negating micro-vibrations from the environment.
    Providing the ‘pod can actually take the weight of the camera it appears to be very stable in fact, though if you’re using it at any sort of weird angle you need first to sort of let it “settle down” after having attached it.

    However, I think you’re right to have reservations. Although the largest of the three sizes is claimed to be able to take up to 3Kg, my own impression (based on the session above) is that Joby tend to err on the optimistic side.
    If you’re seriously thinking of getting one I’d strongly recommend you give it a good try-out in the shop first… with the heaviest gear you’re likely to use it with.

  3. forkboy1965 says:

    Thanks for the advice. But I’ll tell you….every time I see it I can’t help but think it looks like some sort of sex aid.

    And the name Gorillapod doesn’t help!

  4. fotdmike says:

    Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Think that’s how the word “obscene” managed to surface when fotddarren and I were playing with it in the pub.
    Didn’t help of course that I was manipulating it into all sorts of suggestive shapes!
    😉

  5. Pingback: Tripod troubles « Adventures of an Idiot - occasional ramblings of a photography freak

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