Gear Review: Jobu Lightweight Mk III

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“What the heck is that?” were the first words that popped out of my mouth on the day I first laid eyes on the Jobu Lightweight Mk III gimbal.

I was deep in the Great Bear Rainforest, on Day 1 of my 2011 Spirit Bear Photography Tour, and one of my clients, Garry, had set up beside me on the creek as we waited for the first white bear to arrive on the scene. I don’t usually pay that much attention to what other photographers are using in terms of gear, but I couldn’t help but notice that Garry’s gimbal head (tripod head) was about half the size of mine, yet still seemed to be working in the exact same way as my bulky and heavy Wimberley head.

Before I knew it, the next words out of my mouth were, “Do you mind if I try it?”  And just like that, being a man who values weight as much as anything on my trips and travels around the country photographing wild beasts, I was sold.

So before I go any further, some full disclosure: I’m sponsored by Jobu.  I am supposed to love their products, and I do.  After seeing Garry using his Lightweight III on the spirit bear trip, I knew I had to get my hands on it and I contacted the company directly.  One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I was being sent a full suite of their tripod heads and accessories to try out and test.

Goodbye Wimberley, hello Jobu!

It’s now been almost a full year since I first received my Jobu Pro 2 Gimbal, my Lightweight III, my Jr 3, and my Wide Angle Adapter, and I have been extremely impressed with everything I’ve seen from this Canadian company.

But in particular, I’ve been impressed with my Lightweight III.  In short, it’s been a godsend in terms of saving me space and weight on my trips and tours where flying weight is an issue.  And just as importantly, the wide angle (WA) adapter has allowed me to leave behind the extra ballhead for scenics and do it all on my trips with just an LW3 and a WA adapter, saving me almost 3 lbs (1+ kg) and a pile of packing space from the Wimberley head and Acratek ballhead that I used to have to cart around to Churchill and Nunavut and Newfoundland.

The Jobu Lightweight Mk III is a side-mounting gimbal designed to fit medium to large wildlife lenses and to provide a full range of motion in a fluid manner, allowing easier wildlife photography than a regular ballhead allows

I have used the Lightweight III in place of a larger Gimbal now on a number of my trips, including my Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Photography Tour in May of this year, and it handled the rigours of boat and land photography with my 500mm lens extremely well.  It provides an excellent amount of friction, yet allows fluid movement through a full range of motion.  If you’ve never tried a gimbal head before, then I can’t stress enough how much easier it makes taking pictures with a big lens versus using a regular ballhead like an Arca-Swiss or a Really Right Stuff head.

My 500mm lens side mounted and balanced perfectly on the Lightweight III in the Khutzeymateen

My friend Garry using his 500mm lens on his Lightweight III in the Khutzeymateen

While Jobu’s Pro2 and Jr3 mount big lenses from above, the Lightweight III is a side-mount, which is part of the weight-saving measure. I wondered if this would be an issue with me, as I’m notorious for not mounting my lenses properly and having them come crashing to the ground.  However, I found almost immediately that this becomes second nature quickly and is not an issue.

I also found that the Lightweight III is far easier to hike around with over your shoulder than the heavier Gimbals are and that those two pounds make a huge difference in your comfort level while moving around on land.

Wild coastal wolf shot with my 500mm and 5D III on the Lightweight III from the boat deck, 1/320th f4 ISO 8000

A mating pair of grizzlies shot with my 500mm and 5D III with the Jobu Lightweight III from land, 1/1000th f8 ISO 800

The Jobu Lightweight Mk III is available via direct order from the Jobu Design website for $449. However, I’m thrilled to announce that any of my clients, friends, and followers can get 15% off of any Jobu product simply by ordering using the discount code CANWILD.

I would highly recommend the Lightweight III to anyone that travels with their larger lenses, or to anyone that simply wants a lighter alternative to their current setup. I would also highly recommend the Wide Angle Adapter as an invaluable addition to the LW3, allowing you to seamlessly shoot landscapes or anything requiring you to mount the camera body, with a wide angle lens on it, to the tripod head.

The Jobu Wide Angle Adapter allows you to quickly and easily take landscape photos using your Lightweight III and saves you from having to bring along an entirely different ballhead and switching to it whenever you want to do scenics

Happy shooting everyone!

John