About photography, this much is true: gone are the days of the big, unwieldy, fold-up tripod. Photographers have the market at their fingertips when it comes to camera stabilization – type in “tripod” in Amazon to yield more than 134,000 products from the lightweight to the complex. Among them you will find various members of the GorillaPod family, JOBY’s fun, flexible tripod system for simple cameras and smartphones. I tested the basic Micro Stand and the GorillaPod to see how well they gripped my one-shot and my non-basic Galaxy SIII (as so many, many accessories are built specifically for Apple products these days).
The Micro Stand was somewhat of a disappointment. Granted, it does not masquerade as something it’s not: a small, minimalistic stand with no particularly special capabilities except for its convenient size. This, unfortunately, proves to be a disadvantage when used with any smartphone or camera heavier than 3.5 ounces – in other words, most smartphones and cameras. Unless the stand is angled sharply backward, the weight of the device causes the whole setup to easily topple forward.
However, the Micro’s compact size renders itself triumphant when the stand is folded down to a mere 2.5” x 1”, occupying barely more space than two or three cigarettes. Travel-friendly, indeed.
As for the GorillaPod, it certainly won’t encourage folks to take you seriously if you’re thinking of using this for professional shots. The design is an eyesore – clownish, even – but it does its job, and does it well.
It took a bit of practice, and a basic understanding of physics, to get my devices to sit at the exact angle I wanted, but once I set the flexible arms in place, they were not easily disturbed. Rubber grips on every single ring gave the stand the grasp of a centipede, and the sheer number of them allowed for endless poses and angles. As even the ball directly beneath the clip is flexible, my phone could be angled at more than 90 degrees so that it could essentially take a photo of the GorillaPod to which it was attached. I fiddled with it for a half an hour and was still trying to conjure up more positions. The GorillaPod is a veritable kama sutra of photographic capability: take photo and video from a tree branch, a ceiling light, a table leg, a jungle gym; the possibilities are literally endless. I would imagine it also works to form an outstanding spycam…although I’ll leave those ideas to your imagination.
What I also adored about both of these stands was that neither included a manual…because they didn’t need one. Both pieces of each stand are easily screwed together and that’s the majority of the labor involved, even if the GorillaPod is significantly bulkier than its midget companion. The clip segment of the stands held up to volatility tests as well. My camera rattled slightly, but my phone didn’t budge. Almost any phone should fit like a gem in the customizable clip, but I would stay away from these models if you have a thicker point-and-shoot phone (I have a pre-war model which is about 2” thick, whereas most new models are 1” or slimmer).
Unless you are pressed for space, at $29.95, you might as well leave the Micro Stand at home, especially since the GorillaPod is the exact same price (and comes in some jazzy colors, too). Whether you’re traveling overseas or simply out on the town with friends, a GorillaPod will not only give photos a spunky new dimension, but can also add some peace of mind: have you ever felt that knot in the pit of your stomach when you lean over a cliff or boat to take a picture, terrified that with one wrong move, your precious investment will topple to the depths below? I know I sure have. You can use the GorillaPod to not only take photos from a nearby rock instead, but also to wrap around your arm should the said situation arise. Ah…security.
JOBY may not be a household name, but the company absolutely has a knack for concocting the perfect blend of quality and affordability with a unique, yet functional product that the everyday consumer – and especially the everyday Vagabonder – would find appealing. Phone stands were something I didn’t think I needed until I actually used one (and realized how much time and energy I wasted trying to inanely balance my phone by hand while taking an out-of-focus, wobbly video), and it came in handy that my camera could also quit surfing waves, too. The Micro Stand can be thrown in your camera bag, and the GorillaPod in your backpack, for overall better photography experience and better-quality pictures to share thereafter, thus extending the value of your camera – and your travel experience – itself.