Joby's GorillaPod Focus offers a stable and versatile mounting solution for digital cameras.
Tripods are often the most useful tool for those involved in the photo and video scene, but they also have their downfalls in real world situations. These constraints often are a result of height, weight, or space limitations as traditional tripods versatility remains somewhat limited besides a few adjustable factors.
To combat this problem, you can pick up a GorillaPod by Joby, which takes the same concept of a traditional tripod and shrinks it into a smaller, more adaptable form-factor. In today's review, we are going to take an in-depth look at Joby's most expensive and capable offering dubbed the GorillaPod Focus. The standalone GorillaPod Focus legs are sold for around $85, or you can pay $149 for the GorillaPod Focus legs bundled with a Joby Ballhead X.
Our testing sample was purchased at full retail price with no affiliation with Joby in regards to this review. Rest assured, our views and opinions in the following are based solely on our hands-on use with the GorillaPod Focus/Ballhead X combo and no outside influences or bias have had any effect on the outcome of this review.
Design & Build Quality
The GorillaPod Focus is a unique looking product thanks to its highly versatile leg system. In a nutshell, each of the three legs features nine individual ball-joints (resulting in 27 total) total that can be independently adjusted to suit your particular needs. The ball joints themselves are comprised of anodized aluminum thus offering a lightweight yet durable structure.
Since GorillaPods can be used in a variety of different arrangements and settings, Joby coated a ring of rubber around each ball-joint and added rubber feed on the bottom of each leg. These keep the GorillaPod from sliding out of place on a surface or when secured or wrapped around another object.
When fully extended the GorillaPod Focus measures in at 11 inches, and this measurement bumps up to 14.5 inches with the Ballhead X is equipped. The Ballhead X is also made of anodized aluminum and doesn't differ much from a standard photo ball head. There are three knobs that are used to adjust the pan, ballhead pivot, and quick release plate. One noticeable design flaw is the lack of any integrated bubble levels which many like myself have been accustomed to using.
With the GorillaPod's versatility, the number of uses is virtually limitless. Since it has a short maximum height you won't be using the GorillaPod the same way as a traditional tripod, but then again that is precisely why the GorillaPod exists (to do the jobs a tripod can't). This compact size makes it ideal for tabletop use, and the adjustable legs can be easily mounted to other objects like pipes, posts, chairs, or doors.
Since this is the most expensive GorillaPod model, it is also the most capable in regards to the maximum weight it can hold securely. The Focus has an 11lb weight limit that is suitable for carrying lightweight cameras like a GoPro to even the heaviest DSLR and lens combinations.
The Ballhead X utilizes an Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release plate that can be connected and removed from your camera without the need for any additional tools. There is a stainless steel 1/4″ hole in the bottom of the head and it also includes a 3/8″ adapter for compatibility with nearly any professional tripod.
With the Ballhead X, you can achieve a full 360-degree pan and +/- 90-degree tilt suitable for most photography or stationary video situations. There is no “fluid” functionality like you'd find in a professional video tripod head yet this is not marketed as one so I wasn't expecting this type of feature.
I've been using my GorillaPod Focus since mid-December and have put it through the paces in regards to real-world use. I've never had a mounting solution for a camera that was so versatile and adaptable to the environment around it. The small form factor makes it easy for taking on travel as it can easily fit into a carry-on or suitcase, and I recently opted to bring mine to CES instead of a traditional monopod or tripod.
With support up to an 11lb weight limit, I am able to mount my heavy Canon 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens just as easily as my lightweight GoPro Hero 4 Black. Joby's execution of their ball-joint legs is flawless with impressive versatility without sacrificing strength and security.
The joints themselves hold firm, so it takes some extra effort to maneuver their positioning to your liking. This is a positive aspect as it will remain rigid and sturdy once you get it in the position that you'd like. The rubber coating around each joint and the feet work brilliantly as it allows the GorillaPod to hold firm even when on a smooth surface such as a tabletop or desk.
My experience with the Ballhead X has also been excellent thus far although I'm seriously puzzled as to why they wouldn't include a bubble level anywhere on the head. I'm fortunate that all of my cameras (besides the GoPro Hero 4) offer an digital leveling feature so I'm mainly in the clear, but I think this was a poor decision as it wouldn't cost much to have added one especially at this price-point.
I love how the quick release doesn't require a screen driver and the ‘X' design is classy looking and functions well to grip the camera body. So far, I've yet to experience any issues with the head losing its positioning once secured in place, and the tilt/pan capabilities have been more than sufficient for my needs.
My GorillaPod will obviously not replace my traditional tripod, and since it sometimes sits unused, I've found two non-conventional uses for the product.
I have recently ditched my USB microphone and am running my Sennheiser XLR microphone into a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 interface. Since I'm doing most of my voiceovers at my desk, I sought after a tabletop mic stand that was small and adjustable with the GorillaPod Focus filling this need perfectly.
I also found that you could position the GorillaPod focus in a way that makes for a pretty handy shoulder-rig for shooting video with DSLR or mirrorless camera. Sure it won't compete with a real shoulder rig from Zacuto or others, but in a situation where your only other option is handheld, the GorillaPod adjusted into this position can give you a much better result.
Joby's GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X boasts high craftsmanship, a brilliant design and a near flawless execution. While it won't completely replace a tradition tripod by any means, it is an excellent addition to any working photographer or videographer's gear bag as it supports cameras of all sizes and you never know when you'll need to mount your camera in an obscure location. My only complaints have to do with the slightly high price tag (I'd like to see it priced more in the $115-$130 range for the bundle) and the lack of any integrated bubble levels for greater convenience.