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.