A tripod is an essential accessory for anyone who cares about their photography. It's the only thing that can totally eliminate camera shake, even on very long exposures, and as I've noted before the action of setting up a camera and tripod has the effect of forcing you to think about your shot more, which usually results in better pictures. Unfortunately good quality tripods also tend to be heavy, and even expensive lightweight carbon fibre tripods are somewhat unwieldy to carry about, especially if you're travelling light.
One excellent alternative to a full-size tripod is the ingenious Joby Gorillapod, a strange-looking but amazingly effective flexible tripod which can support your camera in virtually any position by clinging to available objects such as furniture, tree branches, car wing mirrors and so on. It can also stand on its own legs like a conventional tripod.
Gorillapods are available in four sizes. The smallest is the pocket-sized Original (the smaller one shown above) which is designed to support compact cameras up to a weight of 325g, is available in a wide range of colours and costs £19.95. Slightly larger is the Gorillapod SLR, which costs around £39.95. As the name suggests it is designed to support a DSLR weighing up to 800g, which includes all current APS or Four Thirds cameras with a normal-sized zoom lens. For heavier cameras there is the Gorillapod SLR-ZOOM, which can support up to 3kg and costs £49.95, while for full-frame professional DLSRs and pro video cameras there is the Gorillapod Focus, also shown here, which can support up to 5kg and costs £119.95.
Although it looks very similar and works in exactly the same way, the Gorillapod Focus is somewhat different from the smaller models. It is far more robustly made, and the sockets of its leg joints are made from machined aluminium rather than plastic. It is also considerably heavier, weighing approximately 320g. Used as a stand-alone tripod it is exceptionally rigid and stable, far more so than one might expect from the look of the thing, while wrapping its legs around a convenient piece of scaffolding tube provides a secure platform for even the largest still camera. Consider that a Canon EOS 1Ds Mk3 with a 100-400mm lens weighs about 2.6kg, which is well within the Focus's weight limit.