Why I am not a big fan of the Gorillapod

A student, who will be in my next class at the Maine Media Workshops, wrote me with a question about buying a tripod. She had already viewed my podcast on the table-top tripod that I use and she wanted my thoughts on that on that tripod as compared to the Gorillapod. This was not the first time I have been asked this question. For me, a question asked more than once usually merits a blog post and so here is her answer (and today’s blog post.)

My correspondent wrote:

“I have a tripod question. I don’t have one, so need to get it before we meet. I saw your recommendation but was wondering if you were familiar with the Gorillapod by Joby? Do you like that one and if so, I would love to know which size/ball head etc., you like. I will buy one of them but I tend to compare a few before I buy and had read the Gorillapod was a good one. “

The podcast where I show how I effectively use my favorite tripod is at:
http://thewellspoint.com/2010/02/24/using-the-best-tripod-which-is-a-table-top-tripod/ A blog entry on the same topic can also be found at: http://thewellspoint.com/2008/12/08/what-is-the-best-tripod-in-the-world/

Working backwards to answer her questions, the ball head that any photographer buys should be able to solidly support their largest camera/lens combination. For a long time, the biggest camera/lens combo I was using was an Olympus E-3 camera with the Olympus 70-300 mm lens, so I bought the ball head that comfortably held that combination. The same tripod and legs easily held the smaller camera/lens combination that I used, such as the Olympus EVOLT E-510 and the Olympus12-60 mm lens. The combination I use is a Bogen/Manfrotto 484 Mini Ball Head (which has been replaced by Bogen/Manfrotto 494 Mini Ball Head) and the Bogen/Manfrotto 3007 Table-Top Tripod legs. I am not suggesting all photographers buy this combo. All I am saying is that this particular combo solves my set of problems. Doubly so now that I am using the smaller and lighter PEN cameras

The Gorillapod does a great job of wrapping its legs around odd surfaces and a reasonably good job of holding a camera steady for a brief moment. The problem is that when I am photographing, I always press the tripod legs hard against the surface that the tripod is resting on. That downward pressure on the table-top tripod legs insures that the camera is solidly in place for an exposure up to a second (or more.) That same downward pressure, when put on the legs of a Gorillapod, result in the legs simply flexing/splaying outward and the camera slipping uncontrolled towards the surface where the tripod sits. The result is that the camera is NOT locked in place the way that I need it. Thus, for me the Gorillapod is a nice idea that does not do what I need. The image below shows you what I mean about the downward pressure that I put on the legs of the tripod.

I have also been doing a great of video recording lately using the same table-top tripod. That means that I frequently need to lock the camera in place, often in some weird position, for as much as ten seconds (or longer.) The only way that is possible is if I keep a lot of that downward pressure on the tripod legs, pushing them against the surface that the tripod rests upon.

I am well aware that this advice is counter to what most photographers say. A tripod, like any piece of gear, solves a problem. Nothing more. The problem I face is that I need to stabilize my camera, so I use a tripod. I need that tripod with me all the time, so I use a table-top tripod. I need to able to press hard on that same tripod to keep it locked in place, so I cannot use a Gorilla pod.

Sure, a bigger tripod is better, but those are so big (and heavy) that I will not carry one all the time so it does me no good. The image below shows you how the table-top tripod folds up nice and small under my camera so I can keep it with me all the time!

The set up I use solves my particular set of problems. Different photographers face different challenges in all their work, and the better ones find different solutions. When a better solution comes along, I will be the first one to adapt and even advocate for that. Until then…..

4 responses to “Why I am not a big fan of the Gorillapod”

  1. I agree with you completely David, and thanks for introducing me to your tripod tricks some years ago! The Bogen/Manfrotto 3007 is indeed solid and useable for so many things…with some duct tape you can attach it to just about anything quite securely…I taped mine to the lid of a Rubbermaid bin for shooting video in the passenger’s seat, front of a canoe…you can even strap it to the outside of a moving car if you’re willing to gamble a little with your gear;-)

  2. i wonder if your “downward” pressure technique is obviated by my own: use the self-timer function, i.e. i set up the framing, composition, exposure, etc., set the self-timer to 2 sec. delay, and then press the shutter. also, of course, the use of a wireless remote means no need to press down on the camera/tripod. is the pressure necessary because the tripod is setup on something (table?) that itself is not steady?

  3. I’ve used the smaller Joby with success with my point and shoot Canon Elph to photograph. It has worked well wrapped around a pole on the street to capture stills of a glowing marquee or contorted on my table for a CU of a dish. The biggest problem for me has been the plastic too quickly wears to the point where it won’t support the weight of the camera rendering the thing next to useless. I will say Joby sent me a new one to replace the first one this happened to but guess what happened to it. Yep. Same thing.

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