Hi all. So I'm on a bit of a buying spree. There are a lot of gaps in my kit. This is probably the biggest one that I never addressed. I know I need a good tripod now. I have been using nothing but my hands or a Bogen Monopod until now...but I'm going to be doing a lot more photography with static subjects and possibly longer exposures and shots with much more precise framing and the like- I need a steady platform. I know Gitzo is the gold standard, so I've given them a long hard look. There are two or three models (1 1300 series 2 1200 series) I'm considering, but cost is an issue for me. The 85mm PC Micro is going to be a huge hit to my budget, and I want a really good head (Markins or RRS), so the cost of a Gitzo is huge to poor me. So I've looked at alternatives. Bogen just doesn't seem good enough- my monopod yes but not for a really good tripod. The one group that stands out is the Giottos lineup. In it there are 6 tripods I would consider, but i'm leaving it to the taller two of each type. The 8170/9170, and the 8180/9180. The 81xx series is Carbon Fiber, the 91xx series is Aluminum, and the ones with the same 2 digit ending have identical specs otherwise. The difference in price is about $100, the difference in weight is a pound or so. I've seen a few good comments on the Giottos tripods. They seem to be tall enough for me without the center column extended according to user info. Plus, the center column is that nifty type that can be used at odd angles, meaning that while I may lose stability, I can have a support for odd angle macros and studio shots- especially since it seems I may be making a foray into product photography. I'd love to get a Gitzo...but I can get the top of the line Giottos CF for under $300, and the top of the line aluminum version is $100 less. So I have two questions: 1) Have you used the Giottos tripods I have mentioned, or the 8160/9160 versions? What is your opinion? 2) Is Carbon Fiber really worth the extra $100+? What do I gain besides some weight shaved off?