Joby Gorillapods – Hit and Miss Camera Support

Accessory Reviews Tripods Uncategorized


There is no arguing that a tripod is the ultimate camera support. But sometimes you may want to carry something lighter, more compact and in some ways more capable than a traditional tripod. In those instances the Joby Gorillapod might fit the bill.
The Gorillapod comes in three models:

  • “Original” – holds up to 9.7 ounces, has quick release
  • “SLR” – holds up to 1.75 pounds, has quick release
  • “SLR-Zoom” – holds up to 6.6 pounds, no quick release

My experience is with the Original and the SLR-Zoom. The SLR version wouldn’t work well with my cameras, so I passed on buying it.


I remember seeing the Gorillapod online when it was first released. I didn’t really think much of it, since it seemed a bit gimmicky. The whole premise behind it was the ability to wrap its legs around something stable to create unique mounting opportunities. I had little faith in its performance, even though I had never had a chance to use it. However, it seemed to really catch on as time went on. Its reviews were favorable and its popularity spawned its two bigger siblings.

Picture of the three Gorillapod models.(Image provided by Joby)

A little over a month ago I was at a local electronics store shopping for a case for my Canon TX1. Right above the cases hung the original Gorillapod and the SLR version of it. Never having the chance to use one, I was curious enough to take a closer look at it. The case is a blister pack, but it’s not sealed, making it very easy to open and examine. What I found was a compact, light set of legs that wrapped around its display “branch” very snugly. On a whim, I decided to give it a try.

Picture of the Gorillapod package.
(Image provided by Joby)

Once I got it home I started putting it through its paces. Right from the start I was impressed by how sturdy the little legs were. With the TX1 mounted on it, a considerable amount of force was needed to get the legs to collapse. The joints held strong enough to make it a viable micro-tripod alternative. But, like any chain, the elements are only as strong as their weakest link. Some of the joints hold much better than others, and I noticed that in some positions the stress of even a moderately heavy camera would collapse the weakest joint on a leg, making the whole thing collapse. It’s not difficult to work around this with different leg positions and bends, but something to be aware of. With most small cameras this won’t be an issue, but it can become a problem with heavier setups.

Picture of the Gorillapod with camera. Picture of the Gorillapod with camera.

Though surprisingly strong, the plastic construction sacrifices a lot of rigidity. With the TX1 I need to use the self-timer to allow enough time for the shaking to subside. Any sort of touch makes the camera tremble, making long-exposure shots difficult without a timer or remote. This can also make precise framing difficult. You just never know if the image is framed the same way after the shaking subsides.


Even with its shortcomings, the Gorillapod impressed me enough to make me curious about the largest of the three versions. About two weeks after getting the original, the SLR-Zoom was at my doorstep.

Though it exhibits less of the shaking that plagues the little version, it still suffers from the weak link syndrome. But I found this more difficult to work around with the SLR-Zoom because of the extra weight it is meant to support. I am unable to use the legs splayed out like a tripod because there are several joints near the mounting plate that are weaker than the rest. This causes the legs to buckle unless they are shaped just right, reducing the unit’s usefulness as a small tripod replacement. The legs still hold tight when twisted around oddly shaped things, but when fully loaded I have a hard time trusting it. Granted, fully loaded to me means having a ballhead on along with my 20D with grip and 70-200 IS. Though I have not weighed it, I’m confident that I’m pushing the bounds of its weight specification. So if you intend to use it with a similar setup I suggest you test it thoroughly to see if it works for you. Once the ballhead is removed and a more reasonable lens is attached (17-40L) the setup becomes much more stable. Even wrapping it around the oddly shaped armrest of an office chair results in a reasonably stable platform.

Bottom Line

What it comes down to is that the Gorillapod, in its many incarnations, achieves some of its goals most of the time, and others in certain specific situations. It is useful as a tripod replacement as long as you stay under its rated weight. It shines when you are able to utilize its unique design to wrap around things or fit into odd spaces. But even then, you have to remember that the legs don’t exert any force on the object they’re grasping, relying instead on friction and gravity. Friction is hard to come by on account of dirt and lack of clamping force, but if you can utilize gravity and use the Gorillapod to act as a hook then it can pull off feats that no other tripod can. The only thing that compares is a magic arm/superclamp setup, but that is a much more costly set of gadgets that limits you to a certain usable thickness of clamping surfaces. Like with everything else, it’s a tradeoff. If you have a stable tripod but want something light and compact to have as an alternative with a light to medium-weight camera setup, then definitely give the Gorillapod a look try. But if you are looking for a steady and reliable camera support for most situations, you might want to stay clear.

Overall I like both the Gorillapod and the SLR-Zoom. In those instances where they are useful I am really glad to have them. These are tools that shine in a narrow realm of uses, for all the good and bad that comes with that distinction. My recommendation is to buy with caution.

Picture of the Gorillapod with camera. Picture of the Gorillapod with camera.

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