Friday, October 8, 2010

Joby SLR Zoom Tripod Review

    Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to use a tripod, but didn't want to lug around your big aluminum or carbon fiber ones? The Joby SLR Zoom might be a solution for that, at least in some situations. Joby makes several different models of these flexible tripods, for everything from super compacts to ones designed to hold pro DSLRs with pro zoom lenses. I'm reviewing the Joby SLR Zoom, which falls in between the more basic models and the pro model.

    I purchased this tripod before I went on my vacation last month, thinking that it would be great to have for when I didn't want to carry my Manfrotto 055XPROB. My guess turn out to be correct, there were many times where using a normal tripod was impossible or impractical at best. The Joby SLR Zoom easily held my D300 with battery grip and the Tokina 12-24mm F4 Pro DX lens. I wouldn't trust this tripod when using my D300+grip with my 300mm F4 AF-S, but with all of my other lenses it would be fine.

    One of the neat things about the Joby tripods is the ability to wrap them around things. While traveling I wanted to shoot some video with my camcorder, and so I attached it to my Joby and then attached the Joby to the passenger seat headrest. This worked extremely well and I got some half decent footage, at least for personal memory sake. I wouldn't want to try that with my D300 attached, but it was okay with the camcorder. During travel the Joby held on no problem at all, it never loosened or shifted thanks to the rubbery grips on the leg pieces.

    As for the tripod itself, it feels very well made, even though it is mostly plastic on the outside. As noted before the rubbery grips on the legs make it possible for the tripod to hold onto objects. I was able to attach it to a wooden fence for example. The legs are stiff, which seems annoying at first, but once you attach the tripod to something like a fence with your heavy equipment attached you're glad it is so stiff! Each one of the small leg pieces can move, allowing you to raise and lower the tripod very easily to the desired height. The tripod comes with an adapter allowing you to attach standard tripod heads, or if you remove that you can directly attach your camera. When I attached my ballhead it made the tripod seem a little top heavy with the D300, so I didn't use a head very often.

    As for stability of the tripod, unless you have a stable footing for the tripod, make sure you use a cable or wireless shutter release, mirror lockup or the self timer on your camera otherwise you wont get rid of camera shake. With smaller DSLRs or premium compact cameras/superzoom cameras stability of the tripod becomes less of an issue. I also tested my D40x and P7000 and had no troubles at all. I think using a camera like the D300+grip with a standard F2.8 zoom or wide angel F4 zoom is pushing the limits of what the Joby SLR Zoom was designed for. If you want to hold up some serious gear with a Joby Tripod, then the Pro DSLR model is likely a better choice.

What I like about the Joby SLR Zoom: Flexibility, you can attach it to just about anything for stability. Size, although this model isn't overly small, it isn't big either and you can easily attach it to any camera bag with a tripod attachment, or shove it into a large inner jacket pocket. The legs are stiff and hold your camera to different objects without slipping thanks to the rubbery grips on the legs. I recommend a tripod like the Joby SLR Zoom to anyone who wants to travel light, but still have a tripod that can support their DSLR with some decent zoom lenses. The Joby SLR Zoom is around $70-80 Cdn, so the price isn't overly high either.

What I don't like: The tripod is a little top heavy with a standard ballhead plus semi-pro DSLR with a grip and an F4 zoom mounted. As mentioned though, Joby has a better tripod for people with heavy gear, so that isn't a huge negative. Of course, the Pro model is around $150 Cdn, so you want to be sure it is something you want before  you buy it. Seriously, that is the only thing I don't like about the Joby SLR Zoom, so I think it it is a good product overall.