Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: Long-term testing may revise those numbers.
The Long Version: I'm one of those "magical purchase" people – I have this idea that bridging the distance between me and perfection is just a matter of finally finding the right thing to buy. For many people this causes a proliferation of unused home exercise equipment, for me it results in an aberrantly high number of tripods.
But the real insidious nature of this thinking isn't that it never works: it's that it sometimes does.
The Joby Gorillapod Micro 800 is one of those vexing exceptions. It's a tiny tripod that can stay attached to a small camera without making it unwieldily. Although I've only owned mine for a little while, it has let me take better photos more easily, and I haven't had to sacrifice anything in exchange for having it with me.
The branding decision that resulted in the "Gorillapod Micro" name is unfortunate, since it bears absolutely no resemblance to Joby's famous (and often badly copied) line of flexible Gorillapods. It really should be called the "Joby Micropod" and promoted more prominently on their website; I went looking for it after seeing one that someone else owned, and it was remarkably hard to find. I didn't know its full name at that point, and for some reason it doesn't rate a front-page photo.
Joby does redeem themselves somewhat by encoding the weight capacity into the full name, though: the JGP Micro 800 holds 0.8kg – 800 grams, 1.75 pounds – and is intended for Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Format ('MILF') cameras. There's also the Micro 250 – 0.25kg – that's more size-appropriate for point-and-shoot models, but I'm happy to have the bigger one.
When on a mirrorless format camera, such as my Panasonic GH1, the Micro 800 just blends in with the bottom of the machine. There's simply no need to ever take it off. I can even leave it attached to either of my little compact cameras when I tuck them in a pocket, although the folded legs do extend beyond their bodies. I don't mind this – it works as a more effective hand grip – but the smaller, lighter, and weaker Micro 250 is a good option if that's likely to be an objection.
There are a few functional compromises in exchange for the low profile of the simple and sleek Micros. One is that its 'positioning ball' has only a limited range of movement – if this was a big tripod it would be called a levelling base. So forget about astrophotography or portrait orientation, but very few people actually use little cameras for either of those tasks.
The other thing that it can't do is lock itself in place: there's no adjustment to the tension of the positioning ball or legs. In practice this isn't much of a limitation, but it may mean that cameras with off-centre tripod mounts, or long lenses, won't play well with the Micro even if their weight isn't completely out of bounds. Conversely, I can rest my three-pound Hasselblad on the Micro 800 quite comfortably, although I wouldn't use it for long exposures. So holding power is quite good, although the idea of twisting the camera against the full tension of the Micropod does take a few days to feel natural.
But the lack of tension adjustability is a faint little concern in the back of my mind. My Micro is still fairly new, but I'll either update this review or write a follow-up with the results of longer-term use, probably in six months or so.
The design of the Micro 800 is quite satisfying. It weighs enough to feel solid and strong, but not so much as to be objectionable. The rubber feet are grippy enough for good traction without snagging on fabric if it's being carried in a pocket or bag. And the design of the pivot, as well as interlocking flanges and grooves on the legs, should let it withstand quite a bit of wear and tear in daily use.
There is one choice to make when using the Micro: how tightly it should be attached to the camera. There's a coin-activated screw slot on the bottom, and when it's used to attach the Micro to the camera then it won't unscrew during regular use. The other option is to just use the legs of the Micro to twist itself into place, but then it can unscrew depending on how the legs and camera are turned. I usually don't use a coin to tighten the tripod screw, but if I was only using the Micro on one camera, I might make that occasional extra effort.
I own a little beanbag, a Manfrotto "pocket tripod", three small tabletop tripods, and two gorillapods. I use none of them on a regular basis, and despite developing a certain affection for long exposure photographs with my little Canon S100, could never bring myself to carry any of those bigger devices with me when I was just taking advantage of impromptu opportunities. Now that has completely changed. The Micro 800 is easy enough to use, and useful enough to have, that I will switch it to whatever little camera I happen to be using that day. The result is that some of my photos have become much better – almost like magic.
Added: I've now had a chance to play with a Joby Micro 250, and it's pretty awesome, too. Plenty of strength for a point-and-shoot camera, merges perfectly with the base of my Canon S100, and even had an attachment that would let it hold my phone in its case. One – or two – of them have been added to my 'must buy' list.
Added Again: Proving that I'm more prescient than I think I am, I have indeed bought two of the Joby Micro 250. The first was with the Griptight phone mount, which I've reviewed, and the second time was just the 250 tripod when I lost the first one. My Micro 800 is still going strong and is now used with my Nikon V1 system.
last updated 17 nov 2013