Name: Joby Gorillapod flexible tripod (original)
What it is: This plastic tripod has a clip that screws into a digital camera for easy locking between camera and tripod. But to call this a tripod is almost misleading. It's a kind of plastic "creature" whose legs can wrap around railings, chair backs, table legs — your imagination is the only limit. It's perfect for leveling your camera on uneven surfaces or, as I said, attaching in places where a regular tripod wouldn't have a chance. It looks like a child's toy. Thing is, it's as fun as a child's toy. But keep it away from kids. You'll want it available for years to come.
How it works: The legs are made of a series of ball-and-socket joints that allow for extreme manipulation of the legs. Think pipe cleaners. You will want to play with this, trying to come up with new scenarios in which to position the thing.
The good: The tripod is almost weightless and folds up for easy packing, yet it's made of rugged plastic. The first time you use it, you likely will think it's too weak to support your camera, but it's surprisingly stable. Once you get the hang of using it, you'll wonder why there aren't more versions of this thing for other applications. Well, there are. Gorillamobile works with mobile devices such as iPhone. And Gorillatorch uses the same leggy system for positioning a light beam wherever you want it. And Gorillapod comes in several versions for heavier cameras.
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The bad: Only time will tell how long the plastic ball-and-socket joints will last. I would think it's a weakest-link scenario; if one joint loosens up, function could be impaired. But that's speculation based on what I've seen with plastic once it gets old. Maybe that would take years. Maybe it wouldn't happen at all.
Cost: $21.95, with free shipping in the U.S.
Available from: joby.com