Gorillapod Focus and Ballhead X Review: Bring Out the Big Guns

by on June 6, 2010

in Reviews

A little while back, I put a Canon 5D Mark II and a 70-200mm lens on a tiny little Gorillapod Magnetic – and it held the combo upside down using only magnets for grip.  That was a little extreme for that little tripod though.

While Joby didn’t necessarily approve of that use (nor when I stuck my camera to a car), they must have felt sorry for me and my 5D Mark II because they sent me a heavy-duty Gorillapod Focus and Ballhead X to play with . . . and abuse a bit.

Unfortunately, I don’t have anything bigger on hand than a 1D Mark IV and a 70-200mm IS lens.  I say it’s unfortunate because that combo is child’s play for the Gorillapod Focus and Ballhead X.

The Focus is super strong and tough as nails.  It’s actually made of aluminum.  One caveat, however, is that it sometimes takes a little elbow grease to get the tripod legs wrapped and contorted just right.  You may have to join a gym to get the full use out of this thing.  However, since you’re carrying around a camera and lens that’s big enough to require a Gorillapod Focus, you’ll probably manage just fine.

The Ballhead X is really smooth – surprisingly so, for something that comes with a tripod that looks like toy.  The Ballhead X is actually quite the professional-caliber ballhead.  You get two tension controllers – one for the ball itself and a second that adjusts tension on the panning action.  So, you can lock your camera in place and simply rotate it on axis by loosening the bottom knob.

The one thing missing on the Ballhead X is a safety release.  Instead of loosening the quick release plate and then pressing a safety release button to slide it out, you simply loosen the tension knob until the plate lifts out.  I prefer a safety release button on a quick release plate like is found on the Vanguard SBH-250 (among others), which just gives you an extra layer of protection when removing your camera from the tripod.  (This, of course, coming from a guy who put his camera on a car with a magnet a couple weeks ago.)

And, if the Gorillpod Magnetic stuck to my car was frowned upon, this may send them over the edge.  (Just a reminder, this is not an approved or recommend use by Joby.)

In case you didn’t catch that last bit, that was a 1D Mark IV and 70-200mm lens mounted on the Gorillpod Focus and Ballhead X and attached to my car.  Just like the Gorillapod Magnetic, the Focus is rock solid.  It’s hard to describe just how strong this thing is, so I strapped it to my car (wrapping the legs around the rear spoiler) to convey just how solid that I feel that the Focus and Ballhead X are.

The other portions of the video show how you can strap the Focus onto just about anything, including tension cables in a parking garage.  Now, the Gorillapod Focus won’t replace your full-size tripod, but it sure would be great to have in a pinch.  If you can mount it onto a solid object, it should be able to handle most of your stabilization needs.  And the Strobist clan can officially turn their speedlights into part-time monkeys with one of these things.

Now, if we could just get some magnetic feet on this guy…

You can find the Gorillapod Focus at places like B&H Photo, Adorama and Amazon for about $100.

The Ballhead X is available from B&H Photo, Adorama and Amazon as well for about $70.

I’ll reiterate one last time that I don’t recommend you attach any Gorillapod to your car.  The above video was made at low speed in a controlled environment.

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{ 3 comments }

1 Ryan June 6, 2010 at 8:07 pm

So basically you say I should take the gorilla pod and mount it on my car to record high speed car videos, got it!

2 Eric Reagan June 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

@Ryan – I’m glad that got through. ;)

3 Poagao June 6, 2010 at 9:54 pm

So…magnets and memory cards…two great tastes that go great together?

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