Proviso - I’ve been supported by Joby in the past which you may feel affects my ability to be impartial when discussing their products. Before I had a relationship with them, I used their Gorillapod SLR extensively.
A common theme when I share thoughts on the gear I use is how lightweight an item is. Simply because the lighter the weight of my pack the easier it is for me to move quickly and keep up with the athletes I’m photographing. If there’s one piece of camera equipment however I usually don’t want to be lightweight, it’s a tripod.
With tripods, you get what you pay for and if you don’t go for one of the professional models and shell out some serious cash you run the risk of your images not being tack-sharp. Professional tripods and ball-heads however, even if the tripod is made of carbon fibre, are bulky and heavy and will slow you down. They are best suited for jobs when you hike in e.g. at dawn to a location and stay there until dusk, or when you’re shooting dedicated landscape shots.
So what do I take on occasions where a great landscape opportunity may arise, e.g. on a multi-day trekking shoot in the French or Swiss Alps, but it’s not the sole purpose of the shoot?
The Joby Focus tripod is a small, strong but lightweight tripod that is multi-functional and ideal for occasions where you may need a tripod but you’re not 100% sure. I find it to be an ideal trade-off between carrying my main tripod and nothing at all when I’m looking to travel light for the following;
Time lapse photography - e.g. to photograph moving clouds
Landscape photography - usually mountain landscapes at dawn or dusk
Long exposures - e.g. in conjunction with a 10-stop ND filter
Flash photography - a tripod can double as a light stand
What I like about the Joby Focus tripod
It’s strong - it will easily hold the weight of a Nikon D4S and a 70-200mm f2.8 lens
It’s multi-functional - the adjustable legs let you wrap it securely around a number of objects in the outdoors, e.g. a tree branch, rock, fence post, etc. Plus it doubles up for use as a light stand and it can also provide you with extra reach if you have to hold a flash. I can also use it as a shoulder mount when shooting video.
It’s easy to carry - it’s held perfectly by the tension straps on the base of a Lowepro Photosport 200 AW backpack
What I’d change
I’m always wary of losing the tripod plate if the tightening screw comes loose. There’s a touch of magnetism on it but not enough to stop it falling off. Perhaps they could introduce a safety leash.
Sometimes I wish it was a little taller, perhaps twice the size - this would help when using it as a light stand but obviously it would make it heavier and more bulky to carry
Joby Gorillapod SLR - lighter still but not as strong (3kg weight limit as opposed to 5kg for the Focus). Ideal for consumer gear or as a light stand.
Camera bean bag - not as functional but serves as a relatively stable base for landscape shots
The world around you - The lightest option of all. Use whatever is around you to stabilise the camera, e.g. rucksack. stones, etc.