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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm talking about good tripods of course, not low-end plastic tripods.
A $1,000 tripod is not five times better than a $200 tripod. The price difference is absolutely not justified, unless you are rich enough to be able to throw money out the window.
It is not normal that we should have to pay so much for such a simple (poor) technology. $1,000 for assembled tubes, even the best tubes and the best assembly.... What is it, gold? It's a joke! A $1,000 camera requires more expensive technology, more expensive materials and much more know-how than a $1,000 tripod.
The cost difference may be justified for you but you can't make that determination for others.
Poor technology, a joke, absolutely not justified?
It sounds to me you never had the experience to have these next to one another. And yes, I find it five times better, perhaps even more. You just have to take my word for it.
All the years I've had my Gitzo traveler it's never let me down, it does everything that's expected of a professional small footprint tripod really well-time after time, day in day out (wash repeat rinse).
From being stuffed in pack boxes on rough riding pack horses in difficult access wilderness areas to nice international hotels from Europe to Hawaii the tiny Gitzo Traveler does it all.
If for some reason I lost it-i would replace it in a heart beat.
If I would lost it, I would ask the insurance to replace it ;)
I can't criticize the price at all, I spend plenty on things that others might not agree with. But, looking at the specs I'm not sure what warrants such a significant difference in price from some comparable quality tripods. I've been using a Feisol CT-3441S as my compact tripod since 2009 and I find it handles compact tripod tasks exceptionally well. I get it, to each their own... but does a $1k tripod offer a significant quality or performance advantage over a $400 tripod? That's a huge spread in price and I am not sure what the difference is. I usually subscribe to the "buy quality, buy once" adage, but I am not sure if there is another $600 in quality to be squeezed out of a tripod. I cannot factor in brand recognition or brand names, I don't know the difference between the Gitzo and Feisol companies.
I am sure the name Gitzo will have a significant role in the price.
I’ve had a 3 legged thing Brian for the last 5 years, and more recently a Winston and I have to say, I absolutely love my Brian - but Winston is a step up in every way. I’ve used Gitzo 2345L tripods for work and you can tell that 3LT have stepped up their game a lot in their most recent tripods, and while they aren’t quite matching Gitzo, they’re 95% of the way there and I’ve never once wished for a Gitzo when using Winston, price aside - and 3LT customer service is hands down the best of any company I’ve ever dealt with.
They don't have a small travel model, but I love my ProMediaGear 344L tripod with Acratech GP ballhead.
Never heard about ProMediaGear, but I do know Acratech. Must be a terrific ball head.
Not cheap either. Way too much for just a ballhead ;-)
after buying a cheap tripod the first time around, then replacing with Benro a few months later, and finally learning from those gradually more expensive lessons, i spent this year buying the last tripods i plan to buy for the next 10 years.
i splashed out for the same tripods you listed: Gitzo GT3543LS Systematic and GT1555T Traveler. i also bought the GT1542 Mountaineer for midweight, midrange service and as a secondary tripod when i want to shoot 2 bodies simultaneously.
the GT1555T, while a little wobblier than it's GT1545T sister, it an excellent tripod that far surpasses the Benro, MeFoto and Manfrotto tripods i had before it. it's upsides far outweigh the few downsides and it's the tripod i tend to grab most whenever i head out.
yeah, they're expensive, but they overcome the niggles i had with other brands and they'll pay for themselves if they last me 8-10 years each, which is 1-3 years beyond their warranties.
I bought this exact tripod a few years ago, thinking exactly the same: it's so light that I can go everywhere with it, and it's Gitzo, so it'll be robust and last me a lifetime. With this in mind, I spent the (if my memory serves me well) more than 800 euros to get it. What an utter disappointment! This is one of the worse piece of shit of equipment that I have ever bought, and so expensive that it's hard to swallow.
Within days of using it, one of the rubber feet went loose and got lost. Mind that these rubber feet are, according to Gitzo, "not replaceable". Why do they make them with screws is then beyond me. I tried to get a replacement through Gitzo, their local distributor here in the Netherlands, to no avail.
Within weeks of using it (and I'm not talking extensively, just a trip here and there where I'd use the tripod to set a timelapse from a hotel room, not a heavy hike under the rain and in the sea splash), the rubber rings from the knobs all went loose and fell off. Wow, seriously Gitzo?
So it's been lying there in my closet for the past 2 years because I don't have the intellectual dishonesty to sell it 2nd hand in such a state. 800 euros down the toilet.
A few months ago, I tried buying a 4-series Gitzo tripod to use with my heavy 600mm setup. The tripod was almost dripping of oil when I took it out of the box. I sent it back right away and will never consider this brand again.
In that case I wouldn't consider choosing Gitzo either. Fortunately my experiences are very positive
Just watch the rubber feet, they're very loose ;) Unless they changed the design since I bought mine.
Yes they are indeed.
Go for quality when you can afford it. Nothing worse than using a tripod and still getting blurries and camera sag
I just bought a 3LT "Punks Travis" and it is the most money I've spent on a tripod to this point (approx. $300 CDN, with duties) and I'm loving it so far. I don't foresee me ever spending $1000 on a tripod.
My "Travis" is only 3.6 lbs and is rated to hold 40 lbs, its half the size of the tripod it's replacing, and wayyy lighter, it can get tiny and fits in luggage fantastically. Yes, I will agree it takes a bit longer for me to set it up, but that is also because I just switched from clips to twist locks and I'm still getting used to the knobs and locks.
I love Peak Design products but the price point of their unit was what made me finally commit to the 3LT (after shopping for months).
Would I love a Gitzo...sure...would I spend the money on one, probably not. Glad you like your Gitzo! :)
Congrats on your Travis. After you get used to twist locks, you'll never want anything else :)
btw - can you dismantle the twist lock for cleaning?
Yes you can, also has a removable center column, and you can convert one leg into a monopod as well.
Transforming it into a monopod was also possible with VYV, but I could not dismantle the twist locks on that one. Fortunately that has changed
The ability to clean the legs/locks was one of the things I looked for when researching as my old one could not.
if money is no object gitzo is the way to go. I've used some of their full sized tripods and they are tanks. I imagine the travel version is as good.
This is my long term review of my tripod:
I have gitzo traveler 5 sections legs (GT-1550T) paired with matching markins ballhead. Best purchase ever. I bought it a dacade ago. It was very expensive, but it never let me down till now. It just work!
I also bought additional tripod for my projects need. The sirui 1404 and 2404. At the time I bought gitzo, the sirui brand is not exist yet. I bought sirui it at photo expo on my city. I tested it on location and I was surprised with the quality. It is very good for the price. Today, the sirui still working just fine..
Compared to the Gitzo, the quality is not the same. Gitzo made with higher quality material. Better quality carbon and overall beter fit and finish.
I never tighten any bolts on the gitzo since I bought it. It always stay on the sweet spot, not too tight not too loose. Sirui, I need to recheck and adjust bolt tightness before doing any important project. Rubber feet start to tear and the rubber for tightening the legs and centre column also start to swell. Gitzo, still like new.
So yeah, for gitzo you got what you pay. It was expensive, but it last a long time.
Last year, I bought GT-2542 for replacing my worn out sirui. The new gitzo have more bell and whistle than my old gitzo. The quality also seems better than my old gitzo, but Let time judge for its quality.
Interesting to read your experience with the Sirui. Thanks for sharing.
Enjoy your new Gitzo.
I also bought a Gitzo Traveller tripod recently, and I have found out that it actually makes me take better pictures! Why? Because I like it so much that I will carry it on trips where I would have left other tripods at home! Once set up, you cannot see the difference between a Gitzo and other quality tripods. However, the Gitzo I bring on trips is a lot better than the Manfrotto I leave at home! Maybe me fascination for the Gitzo will fade over time, but until now I'm extremely happy with it!
I own the Vyv 3LT tripod and while the legs are a bit tedious, it folds up beautifully small so it will fit inside my camera bag, which doesn’t look like a camera bag. This means I can carry a full frame landscape kit in a discreet way and reasonable distances, important in areas where people would seek to deprive me of my hard earned gadgets!
That was exactly my idea also. Now I do this with the Gitzo...
Greetings, Nando... thanks for the article. I am very interested in the 1555 or 2545 kit. I've been split for about a month, can't get my hands on one without purchasing online. My main sticking point is around one issue. I own an older BeeFree travel tripod. According to the website the very bottom leg is 11.2mm, which I think is the same for the 1555. When I fully extend the legs on the BeeFree, you can push down on the top of the tripod (lightly) and literally see the legs bow inward. I was wondering if you noticed this at all with the 1555 or similar weakness with that very tiny bottom leg?
Thanks again for the review.
Nice article, Nando. I had a Manfrotto 190Xpro 4 section aluminium as my first tripod. Fabulous set of legs, solid as a rock, but weighed a tonne. Was good to learn with however. I hauled that thing around a family holiday for 7 days everywhere I went and got some great shots. It was hell. Broke my back. On the last day I promised to get the best tripod I could afford. Since I didn’t shoot with heavier lenses than 700g on my D5300/D750 (now D780) I decided upon a travel style tripod. I did a lot of research and settled upon a GT1555T with the bundled ball head. At the time it felt like a huge purchase (tripod cost more than my camera at the time)! I’m glad I made the purchase. 5 years on its like new. It’s rock solid, even with my 135mm f2 on max live view zoom. Only on incredibly windy days up a mountain on one occasion did I have a tiny amount of shake in the max live view zoom. I have a hook on mine so weighing it with a bag removed the shake. It’s a pleasure to use. So fast to set up. It never gets in my way. And only 1.3kg. Also I regularly take it apart clean it up and put it back together and it’s like new. After beach, river, muddy shoots for example. I don’t think I’ll ever need another tripod unless I get heavier lenses or a star tracker and even then it’ll probably be fine. I often test other tripods when I see them, like Sirui, MeFoto, Vanguard. I think Vanguard is the best I tried in terms of stability to weight ratio. But still doesn’t feel as well engineered as the Gitzo. With the Gitzo, you just don’t worry about anything, and that’s priceless. It’s true that you don’t need to spend tonnes to come home with great photos. But, using the Gitzo is a pure pleasure and it will last a lifetime and more, and for that reason, if you can afford it, it’s worth every damn penny.