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04-29-2009, 06:02 PM   #1
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What's the big deal with Gitzo tripods?

While at the nature photography workshop and being out and about in the Smokies this week, I noticed that a lot of people were using Gitzo tripods. I know that they're rather expensive, so I have to ask--why would anybody want to spend so much money on a tripod when there are less expensive (i.e. Bogen Manfrotto), but decent alternatives available?

Thanks!
Heather

04-29-2009, 06:40 PM   #2
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People tend to gravitate toward the most - or least - expensive items.
04-29-2009, 07:33 PM   #3
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I can think of why someone would prefer a Gitzo type of leg lock over the Manfrotto - they don't like the leg lock clips (I don't like them for 2 different reasons). I can also think of several other reasons why some Gitzo models might attract hikers/landscape people over some of the much cheaper, heavier alternatives.

But there's probably lots of people who choose Gitzo just because it's a Gitzo and supposed to be the best.
04-29-2009, 07:37 PM   #4
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Hi Heather

Re your question:

QuoteQuote:
I have to ask--why would anybody want to spend so much money on a tripod when there are less expensive (i.e. Bogen Manfrotto), but decent alternatives available?
In my experience, Gitzo products are always beautifully engineered, constructed like a proverbial brick outhouse and finished in durable grey hammerite, but as a result tend to weigh quite a lot. This may well be fine in a studio environment, but possibly a slightly less desirable characteristic should you find yourself lugging one around in the field for extended periods.

Best regards
Richard

04-29-2009, 07:48 PM   #5
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Gitzo and Bogen WERE both owned by Manfrotto. Not sure of all the relationships since Bogen shifted to marketing under the Manfrotto name a couple years ago. Gitzo was always considered to be the professional upchoice and Bogen/Manfrotto the consumer level product. Having owned both, the Gitzo is way more stable, way less twist under off-center pressures, way stronger platform to leg joints, way more durable (when tumbling down a tundra and rock hillside--long story). Other than Bogen's leg locks working with submersion better than Gitzo there really isn't any comparison. I let my teenager use the Bogen 3221(which is a fine tripod) while I use the Gitzo 300 series--usually the 340 with no center post and yes in heavy ol' aluminum.

You'll see a disproportional number of "in-the-know" photogs, especially in the landscape and critter arenas, using Gitzo tripods, usually carbon fiber models. As you noticed in your workshop...all the other brands are simply playing for second place. This can't just be from better marketing. In fact, I'd bet anything that Slik spends more marketing dollars than Gitzo. Over the decades, Gitzo has "earned" its way in as a very reliable and strong tripod choice for serious amateurs and professional photographers. Gitzo is priced accordingly.

This doesn't rule out other brands being good or even great products. It's just that the other brands have not earned Gitzo's acceptance level at the present time. Essentially, when I set out to drop a few hundred dollars on a set of legs, I trust my money will be well spent with Gitzo. With other brands, I'd have to do a bit of research, get a chance for hands-on, and talk to professional-level users before I could trust to try them. Yet out in the field, the photographers I bump into tend to also carry Gitzo so I have a hard time learning about the other options...
04-29-2009, 09:46 PM   #6
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I gotta' agree with Ron. It seems counter-intuitive, but quality gear can cost less (both in dollars and stress levels) over the long term when it comes to nature photography.

Considering that often a nature photographer has to travel somewhere (plane tix, hotels, food, vehicle), we want a piece of gear to be reliable. A $20 tripod is not as reliable as a $500 tripod and quite frankly is not that much relative to the cost of the entire trip. The last thing you want is to travel to the Patagonias, get up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a sunrise reflected off a mountain lake, and then find out that your cheap tripod broke once you get to your location. So did you really save money buying the cheap tripod?

The thing to remember is that when weather conditions are stable and mild, then cheap gear will be fine. When environmental conditions become more extreme your cheap stuff will fail. Well stocked camera stores aren't always readily available so reliability is paramount.

Having said the above, I admit my most used tripod is a Feisol #3401 4-section carbon fiber tripod (I own Gitzo & Manfrotto stuff as well). I've used the Feisol in environments ranging from sub-freezing to desert-like summer. It is an excellent and reliable set of legs that costs a fraction of the price of a Gitzo. This is a hobby for me so I do understand the need to get the best value, so check out the Feisol line if you want good quality at a reasonable price.
04-30-2009, 01:53 AM   #7
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My 2 cents as a Gitzo CF owner...

Gitzo and Manfrotto are owned by the same holding company but are targeted at different target markets. Gitzo may be French but their gear are almost entirely made in Italy, just like Manfrotto. The Gitzo products of the past weren't significantly different to equivalent Manfrotto models in terms of durability and performance. However one can't say the same for the present range of Gitzo 6X CF models which are demonstrably superior to anything else on the market.

How are the current Gitzos different?
First off not all CF tripods are made equally. Practically all CF tripods are made the same way fishing rods and golf shafts are made... by rolling carbon fiber weave and epoxy resin to bond, a quick and cheap way of manufacture but not as strong as there is a seam along the longtitudinal length of the CF tube. The degree of epoxy resin used contributes a lot to the weight of the CF tubes, which is why some CF tripods weigh almost as much as aluminium tripods. Pick up a Gitzo and you're looking at around a 1/3 weight saving compared to an ordinary tripod.

Gitzo CF tubes are made NOT made by rolling but by cross weaving, which mean thinner but much lighter and stronger tubes with a higher percentage of CF content and which is supposed to dampen vibrations better.

The G-Lock locking mechanism is actually stronger when more load is applied. This means that the max load the tripod can carry is significantly increased compared to Gitzo's older twist leg locks, almost double for comparative Gitzo models without G-Locks. Also the new leg locks require a smaller turn angle, allowing significantly quicker opening and closing in mere seconds.

The lighter weight and stronger load capacity plus outstanding build quality means that Gitzo tripods rarely fail, though I have seen a cracked final section of a G1541 Traveller series first hand. That kind of robustness doesn't come cheap but it is peace of mind to know that the tripod will work dependably for a very long time.

Last edited by creampuff; 04-30-2009 at 02:10 AM. Reason: typo
04-30-2009, 09:37 AM   #8
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They's good. If I were the kind of person who spent some money on hiking or camping things, it wouldn't bother me (in principle, anyway,) to spend twice as much on a tripod: half to be a tripod, and half as part of what I have to be in the outdoors with.

My solution to saving money on tripods is to go with a bit of extra size. Sheer mass, and simplicity. If you compare the cost of something purpose-made and of really suitable grade, compare it to, say, a decent pair of boots, add that to a cheapie, it might well be worth it. I've not broken any kind of serious-ish tripod yet, mind you, (and I'm no real nature photographer, either) but I do know that when camera support *feels* good, and keeps feeling good, everything just goes smoother. This can help your photography, in those ways the intangibles add up.

Fewer distractions, at least. Which isn't to say you *need* the most awesome tripod out there, or that it's the biggest priority, but they're seen to be worth the money, in general, for a reason.

I've always found Bogen products to be perfectly adequate, myself.

04-30-2009, 05:43 PM   #9
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Right now, I have a set of Bogen Manfrotto 190XPROB legs combined with the BM 486RC2 head. Just today, I went hiking for about 6 miles roundtrip in rather rough terrain and that combination got awfully heavy--in addition to a fairly heavy backpack, the tripod/head added an extra 5 pounds. After today's experience, I've got the tripod legs on my list for eventual replacement for some lighter weight ones--right now, the Feisol and the Benro Travel Angel carbon fiber tripods are looking pretty good. If I could extend my budget, I might consider Gitzo.

Thanks for all the good comments.
Heather
04-30-2009, 06:45 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
People tend to gravitate toward the most - or least - expensive items.
My heuristic is "buy the second cheapest."
05-01-2009, 09:55 AM   #11
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Ratmagiclady hits this one on the head--if it feels good use it!

Note that until the fairly recent intro of carbon fiber, lighter was not considered better for tripods. The modern presumption is that carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum and also perhaps better at vibration transfer. Don't make the mistake of presuming lighter is better and, in fact, not all carbon fiber is better at vibration transfer. The weave--biaxial, triaxial, mat etc; the grade of carbon fiber--IM6, IM7 etc, the type of resin used to coat the fiber etc. all make a huge difference in how carbon fiber responds--that's why not all carbon fiber fishing rods or golf clubs are created (or priced) equal. Even when comparing two carbon fiber sets of legs, the heavier Gitzo carbon tripod will generally be the better support system vs the lighter Gitzo carbon fiber set of legs. Even if both use the same carbon fiber weave and resin type. I hate to bring it up (well, not really) but the difference in humidity or temperature on the day the item was made also creates differences. I presume that Gitzo varies the catalyst in the resin based on temp and humidity as suggested by most of the resin manufacturers. Carbon fiber is not all created equal and Gitzo has been one of the leaders in the carbon fiber tripod world since carbon fiber became an option.

My point is simply that lighter isn't automatically better. Lighter is easier to use and carry and thus we all choose tripods based on usability more so than on rigidity. Otherwise we'd all be using massive super rigid 50 pound tripods. That's totally unrealistic and we all must compromise for convenience.

Things to watch out for with tripods--less leg sections equals more stability and less weight. Adding extra sections--4 section legs--helps the pod collapse to a smaller travel size, but adds weight along with added pieces to create loose spots which can and will impact rigidity. Extendable center columns are overrated. When you extend the center column you are now using a monopod with a tripod base. Ideally, you'll never raise the center column or better yet have a tripod without a center column at all. If you hike in the bush, you'll likely appreciate leg locks that don't grab and catch shrubbery as you are walking. Many types of "lever locks" are real brush grabbers...Padded legs add weight to a tripod, but if you like to carry the pod over your shoulder--especially if it's over the shoulder with camera and lens mounted--you'll probably be willing to accept a few extra ounces for the comfort.

Back to Ratmagiclady's comment...no matter what you choose for a tripod, choose based on "feel" because if it feels good you'll use it!
05-01-2009, 11:51 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by asdf Quote
My heuristic is "buy the second cheapest."
Mine is "90% of the bang for 60% of the buck".

Steve

(I guess that is why I have a Giottos rather than a Gitzo!)
05-02-2009, 01:00 AM   #13
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Worth it

I have been using a Gitzo G2330 tripod now for a year. Yes, more expensive than others, but I have never had a drooping head, a wobbly support or anything. Rock solid and easy to use. The G-lock allows you to open all locks in one go and then fasten them individually. Since then I acquired a second Gitzo (A G2220 Explorer) as well as a Monopod. I also used to own a Manfrotto monopod and its flip locks simply drove me nuts.

Since then I have converted completely and now own a GH2750QR off-centre ball head, ditching my Manfrotto heads. Never looked back.

Yes Gitzo is dearer, but if you want sturdiness and ease of use and above all 24/7 reliability, then go for a Gitzo...it's truly one the few situations where skimping on $$$ will cost you more in the end...90% of the time you'll get away with and then , when it matters, you don't.. you do the maths...
05-02-2009, 04:04 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Mine is "90% of the bang for 60% of the buck".

Steve

(I guess that is why I have a Giottos rather than a Gitzo!)
Or, in other words, the point of diminishing returns.
05-02-2009, 04:35 AM   #15
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"Ideally, you'll never raise the center column or better yet have a tripod without a center column at all."

And like all ideals tends to run into problems when applied to real world practical use.

I use a Manfrotto 028 tripod with a gimbal fork mount with heavy 500-1000mm glass. I routinely use magnifications out to 30x (1000mm).

The 028 tripod is rated at 26 pounds with a robust smooth crank operated center column. I use this setup for bird photography.

Birds don't sit and pose for you at one given line of sight. Sometimes the same bird is high up in a tree and then down on the ground or at mid level at a feeder. My range of extension on the column is typically from zero out to about 8 inchs and even at 30x I don't notice any appreciable vibration.

True setting up and lugging around all that gear is a pain in the a** but without the ability to raise and lower all that gear smoothly, precisely and relatively quickly to maintain a usable line of sight my kind of photography would not even be possible.
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