How To Use a Gorillapod
The Gorillapod family of flexible tripods are among the most useful and affordable photographic accessories around. These extremely compact tripods are similar in size to an average table-top tripod, yet are infinitely more versatile. Gorillapods have 3 legs made up of flexible joints which make it possible to support themselves on a great variety of objects and surfaces.
Joby has a multiple Gorillapod models according to the maximum weight they support. The entire lineup is described in the next section of this article. While these tripods are easy to twist and bend, supporting a digital camera steadily and aiming it precisely requires good technique and practice. This is the topic covered in the third article section further down.
Just like a standard tripod, a Gorillapod is designed to provide steady camera support. This is most often used to capture images at slow shutter-speeds but can also be used for self-portraits, time-lapse and videos. Even in bright light, slow shutter-speeds are useful to show motion blur and to make moving objects disappear. A Gorillapod provides the support necesary to do this in an extremely compact size.
The Gorillapod Family
There are 4 sizes of Gorillapod flexible tripods. Each supports a different maximum weight.
- Gorillapod, Gorillapod Magnetic and Gorillapod Video all suport up to 325g. All ultra-compacts and most compact digital cameras are lighter than this.
- Gorillapod SLR supports up to 800g. This includes most ultra-zooms and entry-level DSLRs when paired with a sufficiently light lens.
- Gorillapod SLR-Zoom supports up to 3kg, which is enough for all DSLRs with a small to mid-sized lens.
- Gorillapod Focus supports up to 5kg. This is sufficient for DSLRs, Digital Medium-Format and professional video cameras, at least without a really heavy lens.
The original variants essensially use the same flexible legs, except that the Magnetic version has magnetic feet which let it stick to metal surfaces and the Video version includes a pan-head which makes filming video a little easier. The SLR version is simply a heavier version of the original model. All the models mentioned so far have a built-in quick release plate and a joint above the legs to more easily orient the camera.
The SLR-Zoom and Focus are more heavy duty. Neither has a quick-release plate nor joint above the legs, so pointing the camera in a specific direction is not easy without an added ball-head. Joby now sells a ball-head for each of these, both feature a quick-release plate and bubble-level. This was not the case when we acquired the Gorillapod DSLR-Zoom used for the demonstrations below, so a Manfrotto ball-head was used. Today you can either by the Manfrotto 492 ball-head or buy one from Joby. The Ballhead BH1 is intended for the Gorillapod DSLR-Zoom and the Ballhead X is intended for the Gorillapod Focus.
Joby has created a variety of other products using their flexible joints. GorillaTorch are self-supporting lights. A few models exist, including one with red lights to use as an emergency flare. GorillaMobile are iPad and iPhone supports.
Getting started with any Gorillapod is straight forwards. A quick-release can help speed things up but is not essential since Gorillapods are so light. If not using a quick release, starting with the camera mounted on the Gorillapod is probably best. Then, the Gorillapod is placed into position. Possible positions are either balanced or squeezed.
A balanced position occurs when a Gorillapod is setup similarly to a tripod. All three legs are apart and extend in different directions from the camera. The short legs of this support makes this position less balanced than with a standard tripod. A wider stance improves things as it helps keep the camera's center of gravity between the Gorillapod's legs.
For any camera with a significantly protruding lens, it is good if one of the legs extends outwards just below the lens. This makes sure the weight of the lens is met by resistance. While this is a relatively steady position, it is easy to topple over the whole thing from here.
A balanced position can be make much more stable by increasing the contact area below the Gorillapod. This is easy to do thanks to those flexible joints. Note that since each joint has a strong resistance though, it is better push the legs down against the ground than try to bend them flat. Otherwise the leg section often ends up with uneven contact against the ground.
As the Gorillapod is pushed lower and lower to improve stability, it becomes harder to precisely orient the camera on the models which lack a joint above the legs. This is the primary reason to use a ball head between the Gorillapod and the camera.
The flexibility of the Gorillapod means that it can find a steady position on uneven ground and on a variety of obstacles. For a balanced position, all above rules apply, only legs can be bent around objects. As it was previously suggested, it is better to push the leg down onto the obstacle than to try to shape it before hand.
Given the short height of the Gorillapod, it is bound to find its place above ground. Ledges, benches, rocks and other large objects are ideal for using this support in a balanced position. Care must be taken not to pull on the camera strap while in such position. Most digital camera are quite fragile and even a short fall could damage one beyond the point where repairs are cost-effective.
It is important to know that, even with a steady stance, a Gorillapod is even more susceptible to vibrations than a rigid tripod. It is recommended to use a self-timer or remote trigger to take a shot on all tripods. While the 2s timer is sufficient for a reasonably rigid tripod, a Gorillapod in balanced position may require the longer 10s or 12s timer.
A squeeze position is when the Gorillapod legs are tightened around an object to hold the camera against gravity. The joints are exceptionally strong and rubber-coated on the outside which give them a non-slip grip. The non-slip surface is particularly effective at not slipping against other joints. On the right image we see the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom holding a 918g camera with only the pressure of one leg. This makes sense since with all 3 legs, this support is rated to hold 3 kg.
The trick to a powerful one leg squeeze is to let gravity help. Here the camera is pulled downwards by gravity pushing the center of the Gorillapod down against the leg which is wrapped around the pole. Nothing actually prevents the other legs for helping too. We did this for demonstration purposes and did not let go of the camera until it felt certain that the grip will hold.
It would not look so nice in the photo here but using the camera strap and keeping a hold on it can prevent an unfortunate encounter between the camera and a hard surface below it. Just make sure to hold the strap well with just a little loose as to not pull on the camera.
Squeezed positions are very effective and, unlike balanced positions, can hold a camera's center of gravity away from the Gorillapod.
One thing to watch out when trying to wrap a Gorillapod around an object is to make sure the camera will be able to move towards the desired orientation. This is easier to do with the grip away from the object. Giving it a bit of distance lets the ball-head move the camera more freely. Taller ball-heads have an advantage here.
Although not shown here, the Gorillapod can support a camera upside-down. This requires the same carefully technique of wrapping tightly and letting gravity seal the grip. When wrapping around objects, it is convenient to have the legs touch each other. Positions are much more sturdy when more rubber contact is created.
All in all, using a Gorillapod is quite easy. Learning the tips discussed here help set up the camera support faster. Nevertheless, it is always important to take your time and make sure the camera is secure before letting go. If possible, holding the camera strap is an excellent safety net against slippage and accidental knocks by people passing around.
Neocamera Blog is a medium for expressing ideas related to digital cameras and photography. Read about digital cameras in the context of technology, media, art and the world. Latest posts links:
Nikon D5 XQD Review
Nikon flagship professional DSLR with 20 megapixels Full-Frame CMOS sensor. All-new 153-point Phase-Detect AF sensitive to -4 EV. ISO 50 to unprecedented 3,276,800! 12 FPS Drive for 200 JPEGs or 180 RAW. First Nikon DSLR with 4K Ultra HD video.
Olympus Professional Lens Roundup
Roundup of Olympus Professional and Premium lenses: M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F/2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko 12mm F/2, M.Zuiko 60mm F/2.8 Macro.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Review
Olympus second generation base OM-D with an anti-alias-filter-free 16 MP Four-Thirds CMOS sensor mounted on a 5-axis in-body stabilization system. Speedy 8.5 FPS drive, full HD @ 60 FPS and a wealth of features in a compact and lightweight body. Offers a 2.4 MP 0.45" EVF with 0.62X magnification and 100% coverage, plus dual control-dials and a highly customizable interface.
Fuji X-Pro2 Review
Fuji flagship XF-mount mirrorless with 24 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor. 273-Point AF with 169 Phase-Detect points. 8 FPS Drive, 1080p video. Dual control-dials, direct dials and a hybrid viewfinder in a weather-sealed freezeproof body.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 Review
The only premium travel-zoom! 20 megapixels 1" high-speed CMOS sensor paired with a stabilized 25-250mm F/2.8-5.9 optical zoom. 50 FPS Drive, 4K Ultra-HD video, 1/16000-60s Hybrid Shutter, Post-Shot Focus, 4K Live-Cropping, Time-Lapse Video and more. Dual control-dials plus a built-in EVF with Eye-Start sensor.
Canon EOS Rebel T6s Review
Newly designed Rebel with dual control-dials and top status LCD. 24 MP APS-C sensor, Hybrid AF III with 19 all-cross points and on-sensor Phase-Detect AF. 5 FPS Drive and full 1080p HD video capture.
Canon Powershot G3 X Review
Ultra-zoom with a 25X optical zoom lens and large 20 MP 1" CMOS sensor in a weather-sealed body with dual control-dials, a lens ring and efficient controls. Captures full 1080p HD video at 60 FPS with internal or external stereo sound.
Best Digital Cameras of 2015
The best new digital cameras of 2015. Plus, find out which ones of 2014 still lead their category. Compact, Premium Cameras, Ultra-Zooms, Mirrorless and DSLR are all covered.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Review
16 megapixels Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless. 2.4 MP 0.5" EVF with Eye-Start sensor plus dual control-dials. 4K Ultra-HD video, 8 FPS continuous-drive, hybrid shutter with 1/16000-60s shutter-speeds, ISO 100-25600 and Contrast-Detect DFD autofocus system sensitive to -4 EV.
Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm F/5.6E ED VR Review
Nikon constant-aperture super-telephoto zoom with 200-500mm range and the latest Vibration-Reduction effective to 4.5 stops. Built-in super-sonic AF in a sturdy weatherproof body.