Proviso - I'm supported by Joby which you may feel affects my ability to be impartial when reviewing their products. Before I had a relationship with them, I used their Gorillapod SLR extensively.

A common theme when I write gear reviews is how lightweight an item is. This is simply because the lighter the weight of your pack the easier it is for you to move quickly and keep up with the athletes who are modelling for you. 

If there's one piece of camera equipment 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.

What I use a tripod for

  1. Time lapse photography - e.g. to photograph moving clouds
  2. Landscape photography - usually mountain landscapes at dawn or dusk
  3. Long exposures - e.g. in conjunction with a 10 stop ND filter
  4. 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 D700 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.
  • 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

Alternatives

  • Joby Gorillapod SLR - lighter still but not as strong (3kg weight limit as opposed to the Focus' 5kg). 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.