A Gitzo Traveler Tripod: Is It Worth the Money?

A Gitzo Traveler Tripod: Is It Worth the Money?

I have a large and relatively heavy Gitzo tripod that can carry as much as a small elephant. But I also bought an expensive Gitzo traveler tripod because sometimes I want to travel light. The question is, was it worth the money?

I love using a tripod. It brings a lot of fun and makes photography relaxed and flexible. I can take time to look at the landscape and wait for the right light situation. I can use any shutter time I like, without worrying about camera movement. There are a ton of reasons why a tripod is a good investment. That is why I have a large and relatively heavy Gitzo Systematic Series 3 GT3542LS tripod, fitted with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head. It is a combination that will last a life time.

My work horse: the Gitzo Systematic Series 3 tripod. It is a sturdy tripod, perfect for rough situations. I find it a tripod to rely on. But it is heavy and large, something to take into account when hiking.

Sometimes I like to go out light weight. For that I have a small Fujifilm X100t camera, which I find a wonderful camera. It is very versatile and easy to take with me. I use this small camera also for landscape photography. The build in three stop neutral density filter allows me to take long exposure photos. But I need a tripod for that. Fitting the X100t onto the large Gitzo is possible, but it looks a bit weird. More important, taking that large tripod on a hike is far from traveling light, even with the X100t.

When I like to travel light, I take my Fujifilm X100t camera. The It looks a bit funny when I mount it onto the Gitzo Systematic Series 3. Although I don't have to worry about stability, the Gitzo is really oversized for this small camera. That is why I bought a small travel tripod.

That is the moment I decided to buy a small and cheap traveler tripod. A friend of mine was very positive about 3 Legged Thing, and after looking into it I bought a 3LT aluminum traveler tripod from the PUNKS series, called VYV (I do like the names of the 3LT tripods). It is small and light. It can carry about 12 kilograms of equipment, and it has a lot of features that makes it fun to use. Now I had a perfect combination when traveling light.

My first choice was the 3LT VYV from the PUNK series. An aluminium tripod, small and light weight. Perfect for the Fujifilm X100t. But also my large dslr can be used with this tripod. Perfect, isn't?

The 3LT VYV can carry a large DSLR, even with a 100-400mm lens. I must admit, it is far from ideal, but it is possible. I also started to use the 3LT more often as a second tripod for my astrophotography. At the same time I got more and more irritated by the downsides of this tripod. The nuts and bolts are of a lesser quality, the twist locks have to be tightened very firm to lock the legs, and the overall quality is not what I wanted in a tripod. These are small things that doesn’t make the 3LT a bad one, and you can live with it. Nevertheless it became too annoying. That is when I started to look for an alternative. Since I really like the quality of the Gitzo Systematic Series 3, I decided to invest in an expensive Gitzo GT1555T traveler tripod.

After careful consideration I decided to buy another Gitzo tripod; the GT1555T. It is expensive, but the quality is so much better compared to the 3LT. The question is; is it worth the money. I used it for over a year now, and it is time to make a judgement.

When I say it is expensive, I really mean expensive. It costs more than my large Gitzo, although it comes with a tripod head. But it is also five times as expensive as the 3LT VYV. Comparing these two traveler tripods is not really fair; you cannot expect a € 200 tripod has the same quality as a € 1000 tripod. But the difference is very large and you may wonder if its worth the extra money.

An impression of the Gitzo GT1555T. It is versatile, but not as much as the 3LT. Nevertheless, the build quality is so much better, especially the twist lock mechanism; you only need a twist to lock it, or unlock it.

First of all, it is made from carbon, which has its effect on the prize. The overall quality is almost perfect, and everything works very smooth. It can carry a lot of weight and the stiffness of the carbon makes it possible to use my large dslr with 100-400mm lens with less problems than on the 3LT. But most of all, the twist locks have the quality for which the Gitzo is famous about. A simple twist is enough to lock or unlock the legs. I don't need to use force. It is a world of difference compared to the 3LT.

The real life; hiking and using the Gitzo. On the left: the tripod connected on a D-ring with a carabiner, for easy access. In the middle: the Gitzo attached to my daypack, with the Fujifilm X100t attached to the belt. On the right: setting up the tripod. (pictures by Hetwie - www.hetwie.nl)

These benefits do not completely justify the prize difference, I think. And you don’t get a nice carrying bag with the Gitzo for that prize either, which is a shame if you ask me. I would almost say the Gitzo is not worth the extra money, until you start using it. That is when the real difference becomes clear. It is very lightweight. It is easy to set up. You don’t have to worry about nuts and bolts becoming loose over time. The twist locks only need a twist to lock or unlock the legs, and they can be dismantled very easy for cleaning. It is fun to use with the small Fujifilm X100t, and very useable for a large DSLR with a tele lens. After one year of use, during different photo trips, vacations, and masterclasses, I definitely can say it was one of the best investments I made for a tripod. Next to the large Gitzo of course, which I find unbeatable.

A couple of impressions, most of them from our trip to the Faroe Islands in 2018, and one from the last trip to Germany. The tripod is very versatile because it can be uses for my lightweight camera, and my dslr as well.

Looking back on this story, I think I fell into the tripod trap of buying a cheap tripod, because I thought it was for only a few occasions. I could have saved the money, to invest it directly in a tripod that would fit my needs. I am sure this Gitzo will also last a life time.

Of course there are alternatives available on the market. Other manufactures also have wonderful traveler tripods, like the Manfrotto BeFree GT and the new Peak Design Travel Tripod. Although these are also expensive, they are not as expensive as the Gitzo. But I choose the latter because I have a good experience with it. And I think it was worth the investment. 

What do you think? Do you find the quality of a tripod more important than its prize, or would you have kept the cheaper version and saved the money for other purposes? I love to hear your opinion in the comments below.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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I have tripods from Miller, 3LT and Manfrotto. What I pack depends on multiple factors but weight is always a major one. So carbon used to be the priority for travel but not any more.

My 3 Legged Thing Corey is lighter than most carbon legs of that height and folds up really small. Yes it takes about 10 seconds longer to set up but I can buy a pretty decent lens for the amount I save. Oh and 3LT service is great.

Did you need service for your 3LT. What happened?

I just bought a 3LT Leo Eclipse Pro for a travel tripod. I'll be putting it to the test in a few weeks when I head out west on vacation. $1000 just seems like an awful lot for a travel tripod.

I looking forward to your experience with it. And yes, $1000 is a lot :)

Perhaps that is a good idea. I will look into it

Got the exact same last year and have not regretted the decision one bit.

$1k!!? Wow

It got me scared at first also. :D

Gitzo tripods are expensive but absolutely worth it. I have had a 3 series for 6 years now and it is still the best tripod I have ever owned.

You keep saying "prize" when you mean price.

You are correct. Or perhaps.... ;)

Can you remove the center column for ground-level work? That is essential for me. I can do that with my Gitzo GT0531. And it only weighs 2 lbs including a RRS ball head.

By the way, you keep saying "prize" when you mean price.

Yes, it comes with a piece that let's you use the tripod without the center column. I can never seem to get my head detached from the column so I never end up using it. Just flip the column upside down and you can put your camera in the dirt if needed.

Prize, price... Yes, I noticed. My mistake.
And yes, the centre column can be removed, or placed upside down.

"First of all, it is made from carbon, which has its effect on the prize."

"These benefits do not completely justify the prize difference"

"And you don’t get a nice carrying bag with the Gitzo for that prize"

"Do you find the quality of a tripod more important than its prize"

You cant be serious... Price. Prize and price are two entirely different words for a reason.

You (and others) should be directing your comments at the editors of FStoppers. It's a shame and an embarrassment that the editors don't correct such mistakes. But then they don't seem to catch the grammatical errors of their English speaking writers either. I'd call that either sloppy or lazy. Or maybe their understanding of proper English is is limited as well.

The last time I directed my comments at the "Editor in Chief" of this site, he went on a tirade about how I just dont like him, because I pointed out his incredibly sloppy journalism (see the article about the photographer knocking out the pilot).

He has no professionalism, and I would argue, has likely never had any job in journalism before, but I dont know his qualifications, if he has any.

Yes, yes... I made that mistake. Sorry.

An old saying that I find very salient in my work is.... "A poor man can afford nothing but the best"
I think we all know someone that will buy, buy again and again something just because they are intent on saving money. In the long run they actually spend more, both in terms of time AND money, than if they had just sucked it up and went the the right kit in the first place.
One thing about great gear that does not get mentioned much is just how forgettable it can be. It works, it always works, it works easily and quickly, and it lets you put your attention on crafting the image. Not on fussing around with the kit.
Just for the sake of perspective...
Assuming you use the Gitzo 100 times a year and you keep it for 5 years (I have an old Gitzo tripod that is over 20 years old and still works perfectly!) the "cost" per use is only € 2.
Now what price is your time worth when factoring in all the fiddling, fussing, missed images due to the poor performance of a less than great (insert any bit of kit here) worth?
I am not saying that 3LT makes inferior tripods. Not at all!
What I am saying applies to any tool needed to craft images.
How much are you really "saving"?
It all comes down to.... where do you want to "save" your money. In crafting images or in fiddling with kit.
Long long after you've forgotten about the price, good equipement just keeps on delivering.
Good article Nando.

Thanks, Julian

"In the long run they actually spend more, both in terms of time AND money, than if they had just sucked it up and went the the right kit in the first place."

Tried telling my co worker this when she was trying to buy some video lights. I told her several times not to go cheap on the lights as you will absolutely get what you pay for. She got 2 cow boy studio lights for like $150. We got them in and guess what. they sucked. They really are only useful for tight shots and vlogging. She acted like she had no idea who ordered them. " Who ordered these?" is what she said word for word. I said "ooohhh i dunnoooooo i wonder". buy it right the first time. I learned that the hard way.

I was going to link to an old Cracked article by John Cheese about exactly that subject, but apparently he's been accused of sexual harrasment and all his articles have been pulled from the site. 4 years after he sent a crude text message. Wow.

Buy once, cry once. Quality gear just gets out of your way and lets you shoot.....for years!

Perfectly said!

I’ve got a Slik Pro 724cf with 3LT airhed 360 as my main tripod, the legs are around 7 years old and still going strong. Cost me a fraction of the price of a Gitzo.

For travel I use the Sirui T-2005x which again cost less than 1/5th the price of that Gitzo travel pod, if people want to justify forking out thousands of pounds on overpriced gear with marginal benefits by using stupid phrases that don’t mean anything that’s fine with me.

I’ll stick with the Sirui and Fujifilm 16-55 f2.8 that I bought with the change.

During my masterclass a participant used a Sirui travel tripod. I never seen such a bad one; the legs, the head, the twist locks... and terrible to use. That is why she never wanted to use a tripod. Perhaps it was that particular tripod, and I am glad I hear Sirui has also good ones.

I’ve literally never heard a bad thing said about them, all over Internet forums, YouTube, photography magazines (where one won a group test) so not sure where your comment about ‘I never seen such a bad one’ is fabricated from, sounds like more internet grandstanding to me I’m sorry.

It is from my experience, from my own observations.

But you have to realise why it would be questioned when countless other photographers give favourable reviews of the brand. Also you have to understand why somebody would be suspicious of your opinion coming off the back of a whole article that’s based around justifying your purchase.

My view is, if you had write this article about it, you know in your own mind that Gitzo and RRS are just two more of those vastly overpriced photography products that people buy because surely more money = quality.

Yeah because singling out one race of people for making an educated guess on the reasoning behind creating a ‘click bait’ article on a photography website is a clever thing to do.

How about the people reviewing just saw a good quality piece of kit and decided to review it as such, is that so hard to believe?

I’ll keep using good quality equipment that doesn’t cost the earth, you keep living in your little fantasy that spending a fortune = the best.

I respect your opinion. I gave my opinion, based on my experience with many different brand of tripods.

Clearly you've not had enough experience with Sirui, Nando. I've had Sirui tripods for the past 3 years and my travel version has been with me everywhere from a month in Kyrgyzstan to my recent trip in Nepal to Annapurna Base Camp. I love Sirui tripods and ballheads. LeoFoto make excellent gear too and I've no complaints towards my largest, a Manfrotto.

For me a tripod is a simple thing, do my photos ever show signs of shake ? No. Even my 2-3 minute long exposures. So I don't need a Rolls Royce to drive to the local shop, my Ford will do just fine. I feel people buying Gitzo/RRS are of that ilk, they love and appreciate the quality but it's not a necessity.

So I'll take my Sirui or Manfrotto or Leofoto (all different sizes) over a US$1,000 Gitzo (or RRS) any day .. and put the many dollars I saved towards something that really does make a difference, a nice shiny new lens ;)

Can't comment on the tripods, altough they look and feel quite similar to their Gitzo counterparts. And I also never used their ultralight travel tripods But I my swapped my 400 euro Gitzo ballhead for my Gitzo 3-series for a Sirui K-30x (which is a thrid of the price) The friction control dial on the Gitzo ballhead was a nightmare (almost inevitably moving with the tightening knob), and the panning was way less smooth then the silky movement of the Sirui. The K-40x feels even better but is too big for my tripod and needs. It still amazes me that Gitzo (as a premium brand) hasn't been able to release a decent ballhead that justifies it's price, especially since they teamed up with Manfrotto, which has a great variaty of good heads at affordable prices.

Although the Gitzo ball head is okay, I would never advise a Gitzo ball head. I think there are far better ball heads on the market.
But concerning tripods, I think Gitzo is one of best.

MeFoto forever!

Forever what?

A friend of mine bought a MeFoto, and he is happy about it. I cannot say anything about MeFoto, since I never used one.
Have you ever used other tripods to make a good comparison?

I have 2 Cambo columns, 1 Manfrotto, 1 Gitzo, 1 Alta pro and 1 MeFoto. I love them all, and frankly the biggest difference I find is the price difference.
For me the head is much more important than the tripod itself.
For the last 40 years, I have mainly used Cambo and Gitzo.
I'm not really a fan of comparisons.
Edit: I forgot the Foba tripod, with Sinar head, for my Sinar P2 and P3

I got the exact same tripod. Besides the weight, I love how short and compact it folds in. In general while hiking I find the folded size a bigger issue then a few 100 grams of weight. Ok, it has 5 sections which means a bit more work setting up and the lowest section looks thin as a needle. Yet even when completely folded out ,it remains remarkably strong and stable. About the price, and this question has been raised before; why is a 1000 euro tripod considered ridiculously expensive while a quality prime lens at this price point is a bargain. And I bet many photographers (including me) have at least one or 2 of these lenses that are used less often or being an absolute necessity for certain situations then the tripod.

You have a good point, Jaap. When it comes to lenses, it is of no issue, but if it comes to the thing that will carry that equipment it is too expensive. I read the same things about camera bags.

It’s fairly simple, the craftsmanship and technology that goes into creating a lens is far greater than it is to assemble some carbon tubes and aluminium with some bolts.

Hardly a fair nor realistic comparison. Lenses are made up of glass, bits of aluminum, steel, bolts, glues, cheap to expensive plastics and occasionaly-cornflakes.

If the same attention to craftsmanship and quality materials inherent to the Gitzo Traveler where applied to camera lenses, manufacturing sample variation would be virtually non existent.Then we’d all be complaining about how expensive glass is (kit to quality primes).

Oh, and just in case you where thinking I’m a Gitzo fanboy. I’m not, That expensive Gitzo Safari I purchased in the 90s was a dud and it still irks me.

My main issue is the way a certain type of photographer behaves when it comes to these brands, it’s like a cult where you can only have a full frame camera, trinity of f2.8 lenses, Gitzo, RRS, Lee filters, Billingham bag etc etc and no other brand/equipment can compete when in honesty it’s utter rubbish.

It’s not about being a fanboy it’s about people believing that paying more money = best quality.

I’ve just watched a documentary about the process involved in making a Barbour wax jacket, absolutely outstanding, yet they are still cheaper than most designer jackets. For me the same logic applies with this camera gear, people are paying for names.

Utter rubbish is vast overstatement in my opinion. If you really need these brands, formats etc is a personal choice and so are the prices you're willing to pay. But also consider that because these brands have a solid reputation, if you buy a Gitzo or RSS and it you don't like it, it's way easier to sell off at a good price then cheaper, lesser known brands, which you have to practically give away to get rid of.

There are brands that have existed for decades, and even more. These brands have had a kind of market monopoly for years and so, with the quality of their products helping, they have made a name for themselves among professional photographers, a name certainly deserved, I do not question it.
However, this does not mean that other, more recent brands that have not had time to make themselves known and become famous, are not just as valid, or even better.
More reputable brands often take advantage of their dominant position in the market to propose prices that are often much higher than those of less well-known (and equally valid) brands.
Let's tell us the truth... a tripod is a tripod (a few pieces of metal and rubber assembled), not a nuclear power plant...

I do not agree about a tripod is a tripod. If you think of it this way, you can also say that about a camera or a lens. And I think you will agree, there is a lot of difference between these.

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