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Gitzos- Can I really go wrong?

Discussion in 'Tripods, Ball Heads, and Gimbals' started by AFS, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. Ok, after more research and deep thought, I've come to the conclusion that I Might as well plunk down another $50-100 and grab a Gitzo.
    The problem is that I can't really afford any of the great CF ones like the 1325 (want that one eventually) or the 1227/1228 or the 1257/58 replacements that are now out.
    Basically, it comes down to I've got a budget and I have to afford an 85 PC Micro as well. I need a good head (RRS, Kirk, or Markins) on my shoulders so to speak. That is $350 or so out the window, plus plates. But now I need the legs to mount it on.
    So i've got an upper budget limit of around $350-400 for legs. Technically at a stretch I could possibly grab the 1227 (414 at BH photo), but I'd have to go for a lesser ballhead for the moment- probably a Kirk BH-3.

    So I'm basically limited to one or two CF tripods (and they're on the short side of what I want unless I extend myself) and some Gitzo Aluminum ones.
    Can I really go wrong with Gitzo, be it aluminum or CF?

    I'm going to boil it down to my choices, since I really need someone to help me get my thinking in order and give me an outsider's perspective on my options. Pick for me! You get to choose how much Gitzo makes :wink:

    1) Gitzo 1227 CF with Kirk BH-3 or similar ballhead unless I really extend myself. Legs: $414

    2) Gitzo 1345 Inter Pro Studex Mk. 2, has the height I want but Aluminum construction and a bit heavy. High load capacity. Legs $377, so RRS BH-40 or Markins M10L or Kirk BH-1 head if I stretch a bit.

    3) Gitzo 1127 CF Mk2 Mountaineer Sport, not quite the height I want unless center colum is most of the way out, but it is CF. Load capacity is a bit low- I want to play it safe. Legs $365. Head options become an easier pill to swallow.

    4) Gitzo 1320 Studex Mk2 Performance, lots of height but also aluminum and not only is it heavier than the 1345 but it is several inches larger when collapsed. Less words in the name too. Should I just go the extra few bucks? These legs are $342. But I could more easily afford a good ballhead.

    5) Last but FAR from least: Gitzo 1224 Reporter Mk2 Industrial Performance, It's the least expensive so far, Aluminum, but it holds a cool 13 pounds which should be enough for my needs for now, though I don't know if it'll be rigid enough to use with say a 300/2.8...but i'd probably upgrade to a 1300 series CF by then. Height is about where I want it with the column retracted, and extended I'd need a ladder. Not tiny when folded though, and still relatively heavy. But the price tag is great- $278, which means I can afford it just as easily as I would have a Giottos CF series, and which means I can get the RRS BH-40, Markins M10L, or the Kirk BH-1 and the plates I want and still be well within my financial reach.

    Thanks for your input.
  2. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    The answer to your question is "yes". You might indeed go wrong, since Gitzos are not the best tripods in the world. True they are good, but certainly not "best". Is this important to you? Impossible to say, because the answers depends on so many variables. Time and shooting will tell in the end.

    I used Gitzos many, many moons ago and became very frustrated with them.
  3. Own 3 Bogens / manfrotto models 3011, 3221, 055mf3

    none have let me down in years of use:
    3011 about 1989? plain silver
    3221 1996 black.. less visable during weddings
    055mf3 just got it :)  looking to shave off a pound of weight
    and got a kirk-3 bh great product
  4. Here's my take on this.

    You CAN save a little money on the head. I've been using manfrotto heads all along, with the occasional dabble on somebody else's Kirk or Acra-Swiss ballhead; not enough difference to justify the price. On Tuesday I picked up one of the new Manfrotto 468 Hydrostat heads; these lock by vacuum and are absolutely rock solid (according to the box, mine supports 20kg (!)) It also doesn't droop under locking, which is superb.

    As for the legs:

    Bear in mind that the old Gitzo Mountaineers - even the carbon version - you have to undo each leg twist individually. This is a PAIN! For that reason I went for a Manfrotto 444 Carbon One tripod (in addition, the legs are about twice the thickness of the gitzo, and are triangular to prevent rotation).

    However, the new gitzo basalt models look very good indeed - and they're not that expensive, either. And they also let you twist everything at once to unlock - much better than the Mountaineers. (the new 6x carbon ones do it too, but they're 2x the price of the mountaineers.)

    So my choice would be a 12xx-series Gitzo Basalt, with the Manfrotto 468RC0 Hydrostat ball head, and a Manfrotto 454 focusing rail (for use with the 85PC).

  5. In my opinion Gitzos are overpriced and have a reputation that is not really warrented. Normally by people who haven't ever used them.
    Go for a Manfrotto or as you would know it a Bogen. I have used them for more years that you look, (according to your avatar,) as though you have lived. Never let me down once.

    BW. Bob F.
  6. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  7. How about another opinion? I've used Manfrottos, Gitzos, Velbon and Slik. The Gitzo's are way overpriced...good quality...but overpriced.

    Currently I've settled on a Manfrotto and like it. I've had a hefty D2X, 70-200VR along with a compact flash support (portrait-landscape) and a SB800 on it without movement.

    All the observations are valid..they vary all over the place, and should.

    For example I have a Gitzo carbon fiber (or fibre) monopod which is very light. It has twist friction locks which I have come to despise. If you overtighten them you have to struggle and if too loose the camera slowly sinks to the ground.

    I once had to buy a 20 GBP four section SLIK-like mono in London once for emergency purposes on vacation and love it. It has the overcenter levers and it holds anything I put on it.

    Finally I settled on a Manfrotto metal one with overcenter locks and am very happy.

    The bottom line is use your common sense. The extra light ones are meant for people who have good reason to "need" to reduce weight, but the weight saving costs $$. Go over and figure out what your needs, and budget are; not your wants and decide accordingly. Good luck!

  8. SteveK


    Mar 16, 2005
    Harrison, I've owned lots of different tripods. In my use, Gitzo tripods have worked better than any other I've tried. Yes, they do have some problems. If you overtighten one of the twist locks, they can be a bear to open. In severe cold (say below -20F), they have a tendency to slip. Still, for my use, they work well. My wife recently bought a small CF Slik tripod to support her painting pallete, and it appears to be very well made. It certainly was cheaper than a comparable Gitzo. It has the same type of twist locks as Gitzo.

    In your quest for the perfect tripod, keep in mind that you should get one that supports roughly twice as much weight as you intend to place on the tripod. Don't rely on center columns to give you the added height you need. Get a tripod that will allow you to stand up when you are using it; a shorter one will be awkward to use and you'll likely get a sore back if you stoop over when using the tripod. If you buy a quality tripod (and there are many, not just Gitzo) it will last many years; a cheaper one will wear out faster, but may be sufficient for a few years until you can afford something else. Your choice should consider mostly how and where you will be using the tripod, not simply what someone else uses in their own style of photography. What works best for me won't necessarily work best for you or Bjorn, or anyone else. If at all possible, try a few different models before buying any, and figure what works best for your own style of work.
  9. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Harrison :

    Do some thinking about how you want to use the tripod, your height (I'll come back to this), and the eventual weights of lenses and body that you'll use on the tripod.

    Firstly, consider if you're going to be hiking into the backcountry or transporting the tripod with flights. Weight and length will be determining factors for these uses. Trust me on this, if you're on snowshoes ten miles from your car, weight starts to be important (but not necessarily the most important factor). If you're flying and want to get the tripod into carry-on luggage, (folded) length starts to play into your decision making (and weight's important for carry-on and for checked luggage, especially international travel).

    Your height plays into the tripod choice in that using an extension/riser/centre column makes the tripod somewhat less steady at the body/lens end. Shorter tripods mean crouching over the camera and body. It makes sense, subject to weight and length considerations noted above, to get a tripod that suits your height (and since you're a young man, likely still growing, consider adding an inch or two onto that).

    Then, if you're not into birding and long glass, you get to use tripods that handle a bit less weight. OTOH, if you're getting into the 400mm and up range, you'll likely want more robust tripods. Don't forget to include the weight of your gimbel mounts, ball heads, etc., as these can add several (or more) pounds to the weight of the system. There are tripods like the Sachtlers that Bjørn uses that have immense capacity and are rock solid but weigh in more much heavily (and have heavy prices too).

    Of course, money plays a large role in all of this. However, consider that you don't want to sequentially buy your way through several tripods either. If you don't like my words on this, consider Thom Hogan's discussions on the subject (Thom's Take on Tripods).

    Gitzo are good, but pricey. I have a Hakuba that fits my personal needs on weight, folded length (I travel - a lot), weight-bearing capacity, and costs. I pretty much use it with a Wimberley "Big Head Mark I", and big glass. I also truck around a Manfrotto 680B monopod that I use with the Big Head in a lot of odd circumstances (most recently bayou/slough country at the Gulf Coast).

    I hear good things about Feisols on the price to performance curve, but I've not used one myself. eBay abounds with sales of tripods. I purchased my Hakuba there, as a matter of fact. The usual caveat emptor stuff applies to eBay, of course.

    End comment - think a bit longer before your purchase. Maybe make up a matrix of the factors you consider important (something you can gin up in MSExcel, or PM me and I'll send one), apply it to all of the choices available, and then ponder it for a day more. Your tripod is one of the things that make your photography run really well and smoothly, or severely impede your opportunities for good shots. It's worth stepping back and thinking about for a bit of time (took me a couple of weeks, actually, but I'm not the brightest knife in the crayon box).

    John P.
  10. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    There is no such thing as one tripod to suit all needs. Give priority to whatever is most important for this moment in time, purchase accordingly. You will need additional items later. In my case, I have something like 8 or 9 different tripods (plus 1 or 2 monopods), all of which have a designated rõle to play. There are tripods for shooting flowers, to be used under water, spiked tripod for use on ice, small tripods for mountain hikes, heavy duty tripods for long lenses, general-purpose for travelling by air, and so on.

    Don't ever fall into the trap of equalising tripod weight to sturdiness and support capacity. That is plainly wrong. A light-weight tripod with a superior construction can give far better support than any heavy tripod.

    To me, considering which tripod(s) to take along on a trip is just as important as selecting any other photo gear. I try to plan ahead so as to bring with me the minimum I need for those shots I envision. Then, I'm certain I have the tools necessary when the photographic opportunity inevitably occurs.
  11. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  12. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Harrison :

    Following on Paul and Bjørn's comments, I'd add that you might want to consider this to be a core purchase with later tripods as finances allow and your needs evolve.

    Of course, Bjørn is a professional photographer, and his impressive cadre of lenses and tripods has been built up over time, so that he's in a different point in his photographic arc than are you. You need only look at the costs of the Sachtler tripods to see that he's working within a different cost structure than you've outlined. However, his advice is sound and reasoned with respect to your eventually having multiple tripods.

    Bjørn's certainly correct in his advice not to consider that the weight of the tripod is not intrinsically going to confer additional weight-bearing capacity. I'd add that you should consider the basic physics of placing a much larger weight of camera gear above a lower weight of tripod (and Thom Hogan also discusses this at the cited URL earlier in the thread).

    I'd say with the utmost respect to Bjørn that my needs are very different from his. I doubt that he wants to bring the Sachtler and big glass along with him on snowshoes or cross-country skis, where I regularly hit the backcountry well away from my 4WD, also needing to bring survival gear if I do something stupid or hit unforeseen conditions. OTOH, I don't get paying gigs where I drive with a car full of gear like Bjørn (although I could wish I did). Different needs...

    You need to assess where your needs lie on the various areas of interest for your decision.

    And you're not alone in your questions - we've all gone through much the same process of trying to find a reasonable balance in our financial abilities compared with our interests. Keep pondering this and keep asking questions !

    John P.
  13. [advanced apology for hijacking thread]

    I skiied with a fully loaded Dryzone earlier this year; about 14kg, including a tripod (which I never used); interesting change in weight balance, but I'd happily do it again. And even more happily bring along the 500/4 if it fits in :biggrin:

  14. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Ming :

    Not per se a hijack... I'll explain why.

    It's important for Harrison to see that different people who have very different tolerances for carrying gear will point to different tripod choices. You and I will be comfortable with 15 or 20 kg in a backpack, but others will be reticent to carry as much as 10 kg. :cool: 

    That's why several of us counseled Harrison to consider his needs carefully before his purchase. He's new to this (compared with old curmudgeons like me) and hasn't had the opportunity to make these distinctions. :biggrin:

    And you're obviously the guy I should be out with in the backcountry if you don't mind carrying that degree of gear ! :wink:

    John P.
  15. Well, talk about a good thread here! A lot of sage advice.

    I've gone back now and regrouped. I've decided based on your advice to skip a Gitzo for now (when I need something for a 300/2.8 or 200-400 VR, I'll get a 1300 or 1500 series) and re-evaluated my options.
    I'd not really considered the Bogen/Manfrottos- we use a bunch of them at school for video stuff, and their pro grade tripods we use for our Sony PD-150s are truly top notch. But their consumer ones that we use for our VX-1000 and our minicams are not always the best, so to speak...
    I hadn't really looked at their high-end.
    Their 055 series legs though seem to be pretty good- a nice price, which is a good plus, and the height of the best one without center column factored in is at the low-middle range of my desired no column height, but still there. The 055MF3 seems to have a slight edge for me over the MF4, an inch or so of height though it is longer when collapsed.

    However on the advice here I also reexamined the Feisol tripods, which I hadn't looked at in a while.
    I found a very good option- basically ideal.
    As John P. said here, this is going to be a core purchase. I should consider it as such.
    When on the Feisol site, two tripods caught my eye. One was the new no-column version of the CT-3401N, which holds a good amount of weight, and falls in my no-column height area perfectly. The price is fantastic as well.
    But the one that really made an impression is the Feisol CT-3471 4-section Tripod.
    It gets me up to 5 feet/152 cm with no column or head, so that's excellent. It has a load capacity of 12 KG- that's 26.5 pounds for us Americans :smile: and it weighs in at just 2.2kg- under 5 lbs. It folds up to 22"/57cm. The legs are 37mm diameter.
    It has two options besides the regular platform- a center column and a 75mm half ball level base- that probably adds a bit to the height, and I like the level bases that we have at school on our Bogen/Manfrotto pro video tripods/heads.
    If I were to want a column, it would get me up to 2 meters- 6.5 feet.
    They don't have a price listed yet or feature it on their order page- but if it follows their pricing scheme, I should be able to get it for well within my budget- most likely under $300. I've sent an e-mail inquiring about it.
    If the price is good enough, I think this is the one I'll get, and add a good ballhead to it. I don't have to buy the top of the line head just yet- I don't own a 300/2.8 as of today :wink:
    I really just need to worry about my 70-200 as far as heads go.

    Thanks for the advice, comments on my latest bright idea :rolleyes:  are greatly appreciated.
  16. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    You have to build your own experience base, Harrison. Tripods with 4 sections are weaker than those with 3 or 2 sections. But I'll leave the practical side of this to you.

    By the way, those Feisol 'pods have a definite Gitzo "twist" to them. Lots of work to adjust the tripod legs. Not something I would like to do repeatedly day out, day in.
  17. Good point to consider about the leg locks.
    At school our Bogen/manfrottos use two types of flip-lock. The ones on our pro tripods are definitely much better- the others can slip sometimes under heavy loads from my experience- it may just need an adjustment... but you never know :frown:
    The slippy type is the kind on the 055 series...but I know they make good items and it's probably much better on the 055. They sure look nice :smile:
    3 vs. 4 sections is also a good point- generally the heights of the 4 sections are better for me, and I can always leave the smallest one retracted if necessary. But really the only 4 section I'm considering is the Feisol and it does have a pretty nice leg diameter.
    The Manfrotto I like best is a 3 section so no worries there.
  18. Well, just got the email from Feisol- the 3471 is going to be around $320 and be available in around a month.
    It really seems to fit my needs pretty well, but I have to evaluate is it worth another $140 over the CT-3401N or the 055 series Manfrottos.
  19. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Harrison :

    "Sage advice"? Well, I guess the hair at my temples is grey, but I don't have the long grey beard of the sage...

    Think very carefully about the height of the tripod against your height. Leaning over a short (relative to your height) tripod is literally a pain in the back. Inclining your neck a bit is one thing, but a full fledged "bendover" is not a good idea, for the most part.

    I use the centre post on my Hakuba with care, locking it down pretty solidly, which works well. For marginal cases on deep slopes or where I have concerns with gusting wind, I'll use the old trick of tying a rope to the centre post bottom and either weighting it or putting my foot through a loop.

    Using that post allows me to get a comfortable height with the camera body and viewfinder. With all my travel, the ability to fold the Hakuba up was a higher priority than intrinsic height. You might not need the portability that I do, and could get a taller tripod.

    Just another thought...

    John P.

    P.S. Ask around your school or area and see if anybody has the Feisol. The best way to check on the tripod is to actually test it.

  20. Sounds good to me! :biggrin: The first thing I'm going to do when I get home is see if I can shoehorn my freshly-acquired 500/4 inside my Dryzone then book a snow trip!:tongue:

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