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Gitzo GT3541XLS – No Compromise

Update 3/2014:

During mid-2013  after much research I decided to purchase a Really Right Stuff (RRS) TVL-34L Series 3 Tripod. I have found this tripod to be superior to the Gitzo. The Gitzo is still a good piece of gear and still gets a lot of use. However, the RRS is sturdier and less susceptible to vibration and wind. If you don’t mind carring around a little extra weight and have the extra money you’ll want the RRS. The RRS also collapses down a few inches lower, which makes it easier to fit into the kineses tripod bag.

I was fortunate to recently assist one of my fellow Moose Alumni in his search for a tripod upgrade from his current Manfrotto190xPROB.

The problem for anyone selecting their ‘last tripod’ is a journey thru the mired of internet information on tripod configurations and the fervor of discussions, opinions, misinformation and advertisements….research can take a long time…why..because we are looking at a major investment….and if you let compromise and 2nd guessing creep into your final decision and you’ll blow the correct choice.

The facts:

  1. Height 5’11 = 71″
  2. Eye level = 66′
  3. Lens = prime & mid-telephotos,80-400
  4. DLSR D700
  5. BallHead = RRS BH55

Field Work

  1. No major backpacking hike Ins
  2. Ability to travel w/pod occasionally by plane
  3. Landscape from desert to freezing cold
  4. Stability & Flexibility to Growth

Recommendations Needed:

  1. What Gitzo model ?
  2. What Gitzo size ?
  3. Where to purchase ?

Short answer: Gitzo: GT3541XLS

  1. The only tripod you should be considering (or I would recommend) is the Gitzo model know as Systematic, material choice should be Carbon fiber 6X. Why ?, it does not have center column, (which creates wobble), has capacity to grow with your photo equipment future (i.e. bigger glass, or DLSR, wimberly head, etc),
  2. It is a super match for your ball head the BH-55, (and I’m sure your have a RRS quick release clamp B2 AS II or similar)
  3. It also collapses down well to take on a plane, (but in tripod bag- more on the later)……
  4. Now we have to consider height and # of leg sections, I’ve had three sections before and read all the stuff about how that’s better than four, Since I have the GT3541XLS, with four sections, I can say the four provides more stability. Why? The majority of the time you are only using three , this allows you to extend the fourth section about three inches out to keep muck and dirt from getting into the tripod telescoping system. The extra unused section actually stabilize better than 3 section ‘ pods because there is a section within the leg tube giving it better support.
  5. Camera tripod shake, minimum to non existing, Moose advocates keeping everything loose to keep noise from traveling, loose = dampens noise. I’ve tried (i.e. keep Ball head loose, or not torque down legs, and I’ve never seen an Image difference, so my theory is dampen the lens with your hand on top of the lens for long glass, that seems to help…..
  6. Finally, height of gitzo, the GT3541XLS is 78″ high with all four sections extended. The next model down;The Gt3541LS is 57″ with all four sections out…So with the GT3541 XLS with just three sections open, you can now extend an two three inches on the fourth leg (if your in the bad stuff) and you’re ready to go…you may read that this model is for tall photogs, I’m 6’4″ and I rarely fully extend the four leg unless I really want a at eye level shot, or am on really bad terrain. It is very comforting to have the extra length especially in landscape photo work on hillside or in ponds, oceans, etc… another nicety, that no one mentions, is that you can splay the back two legs out, using the second tang on the pod base, and you can squat real nicely under the tripod and get the legs set up just perfect without to much adjustment of the second legs so you can comfortably work with camera at eye level, as you wait for the action to come to you.

Alternatives/Compromise

  1. I’m not 6’4″ : You think that the XLS is only for tall photographer ? You’re still a tall guy at ~6″ with eye level = 65″. Ballhead+DLSR+MaxHeight = 66″: The GT3541XLS is still your choice
  2. I air travel a lot: The GT3541LS is a possible choice (the significance of a 4 section ‘pod is it will collapse to a smaller length (55′) than a three section(67′))
  3. I trek in and do a lot of backpacking: The GT3541LS is a possible choice (the significance of a 4 leg ‘pod is it will collapse to a smaller length (55′) than a three section (67′))
  4. I don’t want to pay for extra length capacity:  The GT3541LS and GT3531LS  will extends to 57.5″ & 59″ respectfully. Add 8.5″ so you at eye level if your 6′.
    • Math: Hight 6′ = 71″ minus 5″ (to eyes)= 66″
    • Max tripod height 57.5″ + Ballhead 3.5″ + DLSR 5″ = 65″

Compromise Analysis

Based on #4 above, This means you have a very good shot at looking into the viewfinder with all four or three sections extended, bullhead on, camera on, and you always have capability to go lower….but you will not have much to work with if you hit a landscape angle The XLS is 58″ with just three sections extended, this gives you 2′-3″ to stick into the muck,or sand with the forth section, , or when you need extra length for side of hills you’ll have it. Don’t let the advertising throw you, that the XLS is for tall guys, it allows you more height range, more stability, with three legs at 58″, than the non XLS with all 4 legs extended to 35″. I also remember shooting start trails in Sierra, one night I put the extra length to use, fully extended, so with camera on a mean 30 angle up to the starts, I could have room to look at almost eye level in the view finder…..I almost never use the full ’78, like I said, it super supports the third section inner tube, lets you stick a bit into the muck, it is there when you need it, and you’ll need it when ever you’re on an hill or downward elevation…I also went back and forth on this one, most everyone tries to steer you into the Gt3541LS or the GT3531LS…….(if you need to choose between those two, then theGT3531LS would come out on top, unless a lot of travel/trekking is a concern ref #2&3 above)

Where to buy For some reason most people head to B&H and Adorama, but there are a lot of retailers who sell the tripods. Gitzo always seem to have some type of rebate programs going on….. and with a NAPP membership you should be able to get at least free shipping. Everybody sells Gitzo, I have got my best deals on them from Conoga Camera….remember to goggle;  Gitzo rebates 2010. This one may have expired but I’d check into it anyway, and make sure you mention it to the retail about the rebate, if they are not authorize gitzo dealers you are out of luck. Also, you rarely see the word rebate on B&H site, so it’s best to call and ask them if a rebate is available.  If you do buy at Conoga, also order a HAMA spirt level, they rule …

Secret Sauce

Next get a tripod bag, for non air travel…for car storage and mini shlepping of ‘pod….only one recommendation ( and I have four other bags in deep storage that did not work) and it works perfectly with the Gitzo/Bh-55 combo……the T620 from Kinesis

Summary

There is a lot of talk and standard advertisement out there, and you really have to dig for actual field comments, Moose did a great video on this Gitzo model. In any event you s/b good to go but this advice is gonna cost you…this tripod ain’t cheap….but it has taken any climate, ocean and any other element of nature or field situation that you can throw at it…. it is bulletproof, it is stable and won’t let you down and will become a standard piece of your Image taking gear…..

Feedback (from a gentleman and a scholar)

Well I read your emails five times! All the reviews online……..studied all the specs and user reviews and guess what? I ended up purchasing the GR3541XLS with a Kinesis bag!!! All of your points made perfect sense and I heard them echoed over and over again in the user reviews. It took four hours, but it would have taken me four weeks if it had not been for your expert guidance. If I had done it myself…..I might have compromised for something less that what I need to move forward. Canoga had the best price ($780) which was about $100 less than the others. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new equipment!

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