Skip to main content

How to choose a Gitzo tripod


UPDATE 26 Feb, 2012: Gitzo has dramatically updated the Systematic Tripod range, replacing all the models with a new improved body casting, and by adding a safety mechanism to the removeable top-plate. Please see here for details. This article is still relevant but please be aware that model numbers have changed slightly (the last number has changed from '1' to '2').

Gitzo tripods are owned by the same company that owns Manfrotto (formerly Bogen in the USA) and are now no longer made in France but in the Italian Manfrotto factory, just a short trip from Venice. That same company also owns Lastolite, Avenger, OConner, Vinten, Kata and Sachtler, the preeminent tripod of choice for video and movie cameras. But this isn't about the company (a British company as it happens), this feature is all about how to choose from the bewildering array of Gitzo tripods.

These tripods are amongst the best that money can buy* for stills cameras, but like any "tool" you can't really just buy one and expect it to "do everything", just like you can't buy one screwdriver and expect it to fit every screw. Buying your first Gitzo, therefore, is the most difficult decision, as you'll want to get the most use for your hard-earned cash - that's only natural, but you've got to think long-term too.

There are all ready excellent features on the net that explain why you should chose Gitzo over other makes, and I'm not going to reiterate any of that here, there's really nothing more to add. However, I'm going to suggest specific models for certain applications, along with genuine Gitzo accessories and make recommendations for third-party products.

Why am I doing this? Well, I find Gitzo's website a little perplexing and I often refer to it. I know what they're trying to achieve, but they're trying to sell all the models, obviously, and that only adds to the confusion.


Small - Gitzo Series 2 Explorer 4-section GT2541EX 

media_1293020849436.png


Unless you have a specific task outlined, for which you'll need to refer to the rest of the article, your first Gitzo will need, for practicality's sake, to be a good 'all-rounder'. That's to say this tripod will be the most used, for traveling, backpacking and every other time that you're not using one of the other more specialized tripods (listed later) for a specific purpose. This then will be your main tripod. The four-section Explorer GT2541EX costs a little more than the three section (GT2531EX), but it packs down another 10cm (to 54cm) and can easily accommodate a pro-DSLR with a lens up to 200mm (or up to 12kg, say Gitzo but that's not realistic). Read our review of the earlier (essentially the same) model, the Explorer GT2540EX here.

Don't choose the aluminum version, after all what you want here is the smallest and lightest. The Explorer is more versatile than the others in the range thanks to the pivoting central column. This makes it ideal for macro photography as well as landscape, architectural and the rest. The weight for the legs is 1.84kg, we'll talk heads later, pretty light considering the overall flexibility. If you simply must have the lightest, go for one of the Travellers, such as the GT-1542T, but the Explorer still offers more all-round flexibility.

Links

Adorama | B&H Photo | WEX (UK)


Medium - Gitzo Series 3 Systematic 4x section GT3542LS 

media_1293022510514.png

Our next Gitzo on the list is aimed users wanting something with greater load carrying capacity, while maintaining versatility. That means only one range, the Systematics. They all have a removable top-plate for a choice of columns, should you decide you need one. However, unless you intend to use it occasionally in the studio then it's not really needed. Gitzo make both geared and what they call 'rapid' (lockable sliding) columns for the Systematics, but you must buy the right size for your tripod, either series 3, 4 or 5.

Gitzo no longer make the superb (but seriously heavy) Series 5 Systematics in aluminum, unfortunately (get them now before they sell out: G1500 and G1505). They were the staple for studios, but unless you need that in particular, the material to go for is carbon-fibre - it's pricey but light, rigid and pretty durable. As you'll most likely want to use this on location, that means choosing the four-section over the equally impressive (but slightly more stable) three-section version.

Carbon Fibre absorbs vibration pretty well, but some lightweight designs are susceptible to lateral movement and flexing - that doesn't happen with the 5-series though it does with some of the 3-series - particularly the 4-section models which have thin tubing for the last (fourth) section. I've noticed a few professional photographers use the tripods partly extended from the bottom. This is not the way it should be used. To reduce vibration, always extend the legs from the top down (using the fourth, and thinnest stage, as a last resort).

The four section carbon-fibre GT3542LS (above) doesn't come with a column, that's extra, however the platform is used to mount a head directly to it. If you need to level a head, for video capture or panoramas, then the you can replace the platform with either a video bowl adaptor (designed specifically for 75mm or 100mm fluid video-heads, which feature their own built-in leveling bowl) or the leveling base for panoramas.

This is the industry standard** tripod for sports and wildlife photographers using long-lenses up to 500mm, with something like the outstanding Wimberley WH-200 Head - Version II (pictured below). The GT3542LS is the long version (stands 146cm tall at its maximum, packs down to 55cm (nearly the same as the Explorer above) and can carry a load up to 18kg. It weighs just 1.72kg. The GT3542XLS is an alternative if you want a little extra height but there's quite a price premium, and it's susceptible to some flexing at the tallest setting, when it must be used with care. This tripod stands 198cm at its maximum and closes down to 70cm, quite a jump over the LS version (and may cause issues with Airline carry-on restrictions) but still weighs just 1.97kg.


Links

Adorama | B&H Photo | WEX (UK)

Neither model is quite stable enough for the 600mm f/4 lenses though. For that you'll have to read on.

Large - Gitzo Series 5 Systematic 4x section GT5542LS

media_1293030377535.png


The GT5542LS (shown above) is quite a brute with much larger leg-tubes, but it's more than capable of supporting the longest lenses with pro DSLR bodies. Four leg sections make it more compact (60cm) when folded, over the GT5532S three-section version (63cm) and it's reasonably tall at 153cm as opposed to 133cm, which is rather low for most users. As well as sports and wildlife, this tripod is ideal for medium and large format cameras in the studio as well as on location.

Links

Adorama | B&H Photo | WEX (UK)



I'll be looking at different heads next.

media_1293029458869.png

Balancing the Wimberley Head



It goes without saying that your tripod must be leveled before you attempt this and that I would suggest removing the lens when adjusting the height of the head to achieve the correct balance - the slightest adjustment can mean the difference between the correct balance or not.

Contact


For more information on Gitzo tripods, please visit www.gitzo.us

For more information on the Wimberley head, please visit www.tripodhead.com.

Related Posts


Gitzo officially announces new Systematic tripod range

Gitzo softly launches new Systematic tripod range

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hasselblad H4D-60 review

UPDATE 18 May, 2012: Hasseblad is set to reduce the price on the H4D cameras by as much as $11,000 / 6,200 Euros on the H4D-60, bringing the price to 23,900 euros ($30,995 / £21,995). Please see here for more details.

The last couple of decades have been turbulent for medium format camera manufacturers, but now after several well-known names have withdrawn, the market looks healthy. Two new unexpected entrants, Leica and Pentax have added to the dynamic at opposing ends of the pricing scale, forcing the two established system players to compete fiercely in their traditional rarefied role as well as the entry-level.

Partnering with both Leaf and Mamiya, Phase One has developed a trio of entry-level Mamiya DM models starting at under $14k/ £9k while continuing to offer a wide range of Phase One and Leaf backs, up to 80-megapixels. Through various offers and incentives these backs, are most likely to be partnered with the 645DF body but they are in fact compatible with a wide range of …

Fujifilm IS Pro UV-IR DSLR review

Fuji’s IS Pro is the up-date to maker’s earlier S3 UV-IR camera, and like that particular camera, the IS Pro adopts a modified image sensor that’s not shielded from UV or IR light. Consequently, with various filtration methods, the IS Pro is designed for Ultraviolet (UVA), visible and near Infrared photography.

Although there is a healthy demand for DSLRs with IR capability especially, and there are number of independent vendors (mainly in the US, but the UK also) that offer IR dedicated and full-spectrum conversion of current Nikon and Canon bodies, it’s anticipated the IS Pro will appeal largely to the scientific and forensic communities. With the departure of the S3 UV-IR, Fuji’s IS Pro continues to be the only dedicated full-spectrum interchangeable lens based DSLR that has professional-level support from a camera maker. As well as official product support and 12-month warranty, for government agencies and the like, the OEM status of the IS Pro will be particularly reassuring an…

Mitsubishi CP-D70DW dye-sublimation printer review

Roll-fed dye-sublimation transfer printers are often used in photo-kiosks but with their fast operation and touch dry photos, they’re also the printer of choice for event photographers.


Mitsubishi Electric CP-D70DW

Rating 4.5/5 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Price
£1214 (£999 ex VAT) $1,399.95
Contact
Mitsubishi Electric; www.mitsubishielectric.co.uk www.mitsubishi-imaging.com
Needs
Mac OS X 10.5 or Windows XP later
Pros
Print quality, job times, low media costs, durability, build, noise levels
Cons
Noise levels, paper handling niggles, colour profile on request



Buy at Adorama Camera (US) at $1,279.95, plus mail-in rebate available. Buy at Amazon US (sold by Adorama).

Buy the Dual deck CP-D70DW at Adorama now at $1,939.95, plus mail-in rebate (was $2,950).



Introduction


Unlike the process of dithering liquid ink in an inkjet, dye-sublimation printers produce authentic continuous tone images with an analogous look like that of a conventional lab-produced print. They achieve this using thin c…