New Gear – Gitzo Series 3 Systematic GT3542LS Tripod
This is a little bit of a departure from my other posts and is about gear and not about the photographs I have made, but I encourage you to please read on. Usually, I am one of the first to tell anyone that will listen that gear alone will not make you a good photographer. The creative force behind the lens is what makes the photos, not the gear. Having said that, the right equipment can take your photography to the next level and will increase your enjoyment of the photographic experience. After all, the last thing you want to be doing is fighting your gear when you are out in the field.
This is not meant to be a review of this tripod, but it gave me an excuse to drag out my Speedlites and softboxes which have been gathering dust as of late and to also talk about my views on tripods in general. A great article on the pitfalls of tripod purchases can be found on Thom Hogan’s blog. Thom’s post is definitely worth a read as many photographers, myself included, have fallen into the trap that he describes in his post. Across the web there are also numerous articles and forum posts reviewing the various tripod models and their pros and cons so I encourage you to seek those sources out if you want to learn more about a particular model.
|Maximum Height||57.7” (146.5cm)||45.9” (116.5cm)||55.1” (140.0cm)|
|Maximum Height + column||n/a||58.7” (149.0cm)||68.9” (175.0cm)|
|Minimum Height||3.7” (9.4cm)||8.66” (22.0cm)||4.5” (11.5cm)|
|Folded Length||22.6” (57.5cm)||16.7” (42.5cm)||25.6” (65.0cm)|
|Load Capacity||55 lbs (25kg)||15.4 lb (7kg)||17.6 lbs (8kg)|
|Diameter of Leg Section 1||32.0mm||24.0mm||29.2mm|
|Diameter of Leg Section 2||28.0mm||19.9mm||25.0mm|
|Diameter of Leg Section 3||24.0mm||16.0mm||20.4mm|
|Diameter of Leg Section 4||20.0mm||12.0mm||n/a|
|Weight||4.3 lbs (2.0kg)||2.2 lbs (1kg)||3.6 lbs (1.6kg)|
A few words on the tripod
Now a little bit about the tripod. Until I purchased the GT3542LS, my primary tripod was a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3. The Manfrotto tripod is made of carbon fiber and is very light (3.6 lbs), tall enough for a 6′ person without needing to crouch much when fully extended with the centerpoint down (55.1″), is reasonably priced (~$350) and most important, is stable (it can hold lenses up to a 70-200mm f/2.8 without much problem). So why did I go and get another tripod? Absolute stability. When shooting landscapes, one of the most critical piece of gear in your kit is a tripod. The necessity of a good tripod become critical during long exposures (greater than 1 second) and when conditions are less than ideal (wind). I had heard all sorts of great things about the Gitzo Systematic line of tripods and they are also the choice of professionals around the globe. I had to see for myself what the hype was about and if they were worth the premium over lower cost options.
Again, this is not meant to be product review, but from my non-scientific testing, the Gitzo GT3542LS vastly out performs my old Manfrotto 055CXPRO3. Using the whack test (hitting the tripod at the legs or lens hood to create vibrations) and waiting to see the time it took for the vibrations to settle down, the Manfrotto took over 3 seconds from a hard whack, the Gitzo took under 2 seconds. I did these tests for around an hour, side-by-side, to make sure they were reproducible and accurate since I was looking for any excuse to save myself around $700. I also had a chance to field test my new tripod this weekend (photos will be posted later this week) and I must say, the results from my long exposure (greater than 30 seconds) photos was truly impressive. My photos have always been sharp at 100% pixel view using the Manfrotto, but now I feel that they are at another level and are tack sharp.
A few words on my testing method
So how exactly did I go about testing? Well for the controlled indoor tests, I mounted my Acratech GV2 ball head to each of the tripods on a level floor. I then mounted my biggest lens, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM on my 5D Mark III. I used the lens collar mount to attach the lens to the ballhead then turned OFF Image Stabilization on the lens. Next I set the camera to 10x magnification on Liveview and focused on a distant object. I then whacked either one of the leg sections on each tripod or whacked the lens hood. I counted the time it took from the whack to where the image was stable at 10X Liveview magnification.
I wanted to believe the Manfrotto I had been using for the last couple of years was close enough to the Gitzo where I could simply return the Gitzo and save a lot of money. This, however, did not happen and the Gitzo by far out performs the Manfrotto. So now I have a tripod that is still made of carbon fiber but is slightly heavier (4.3 lbs), tall enough for a 6′ person to use it without crouching at all (57.6″), is much more expensive than my previous tripod ($700), but is also much more stable at the same time. Given my non-scientific testing and field testing of the Gitzo Series 3 Systematic tripod, I am definitely going to keep it and it will be my primary tripod when I am not out on vacation or hiking.
If you are a serious landscape photographer, I highly urge you to get a good quality tripod. This piece of equipment, maybe more than any other, will help you get better images. Of course a good quality tripod is not cheap. There is a saying that you can have any two of three characteristics from a tripod but not all three: 1) Lightweight, 2) Stable and 3) Inexpensive. So I leave you with the old saying; You get what you pay for.