Joby Gorillapod Focus and Ballhead X eyes-on
- Very sturdy
- Handles huge DSLRs
- Very flexible
The Focus and Ballhead X are pretty simple devices at heart; they're meant to give DSLR owners the ability to set up a remote or timed shot just about anywhere, and the latter in particular is Joby's first real foray into what some would consider the "professional" camera accessory market. The Gorillapod Focus is truly beastly; it's mammoth in most every respect (11, but otherwise it wouldn't be suited to handle up to 11.1 (yeah, we looked it up) pounds of pure, photographic bliss. We tested the Focus ($99 MSRP) out with a D90 (1.37 pounds sans lens) and a D3S (2.73 pounds sans lens), and regardless of the position we placed it in, the tripod held rock steady. Leaning to one side, hanging upside down, you name it -- we even put a shoulder into the camera while mounted in an attempt to knock it over, and it managed to withstand minor bumps with ease. Granted, if the right wind gust hits this when planted in a precarious spot, we wouldn't count on any tripod to prevent a disaster. The good news is that the long legs wrap easily around pipes and tree limbs, making it easy to setup shots where no solid ground is available. Bending the legs takes a good deal of force, but that's intentional; you don't want gravity unwrapping your work while that $8,000 DSLR dangles hopelessly from a palm tree, now do you?
Overall, we had no real niggles with the Gorillapod Focus in terms of functionality, but the size and weight makes it impossible to lug around on leisurely strolls. There's simply no way you're hauling something this big and bulky around at Disney World, despite the fact that it could net you some seriously awesome shots within. In fact, we wouldn't recommend toting this without a backpack (or an assistant), but it's a great add to any pro photog's arsenal. So, as for the Ballhead X? Well, it does exactly what it says it will. It latches onto the bottom of your camera, and it provides near-instant pitch and yaw abilities. The only knock is that there's no quick release feature - you're stuck turning two screws each time you need to reposition the camera, and when you're shooting for speed, that's a real killer. Granted, the $69.95 price tag on this is far, far less than some of the high-end units from Manfrotto and company, so we guess we can't harp on that point too loudly. The thing's built like a tank, though, and we can't envision using it enough to ever truly wear it down.
It's safe to say that both of these products will perform well under pressure, but it's on you to decide if spending $150 on the pair (there's a discounted bundle available from Joby) is the best use of funds (though the free shipping this week direct from the company is nice). As cute as it is, the Focus still has limited utility when compared to a "real" tripod, and unless you find yourself shooting remote shots from awkward angles, you may struggle to put this to use as much as you'd like. The Ballhead X walks a similar path -- if you're a pro in need of a new tripod head, you're probably better served by one with a grip handle and a quick release mechanism. If you aren't cool with plunking that much cash down, though, this little guy will certainly do the trick (albeit with more twisting and tinkering).