I like to have complete control over the picture making process. For example I am very careful about composition ensuring that everything in the frame makes a positive contribution to the message I am trying to communicate. I take a reductionist approach to composition removing elements until I’ve stripped the image down to its bare essentials. I also enjoy long exposure photography because the world I photograph is never static – clouds change, water moves – it’s constantly changing and I like to capture this energy and dynamism in my photographs. For these reasons I use a tripod for 99% of my work.
I have been a Gitzo tripod user for around 20 years and in my opinion they can’t be beaten for quality. I have a range of Gitzo products including a large & stable Series 3 tripod for landscape photography in the UK, a Series 2 Mountaineer for overseas landscape work, a flexible Explorer for close-up/macro photography and a lightweight Traveller for when I need to keep weight to a minimum. I’ve found the latter tripod to be ideal for holding my Leica M and Olympus OMD systems.
The Traveler tripod is relatively small and light but sturdy enough to take a much heavier body/lens combination than you might think. It also has a great design that enables it to be retracted and folded in such a way that it takes up a much smaller space in your bag compared to traditional models.
Travelling by plane with camera gear and tripod can be hassle. Meeting airline carry on weight and size requirements can be extremely restrictive which is one of the reasons why I have sold my traditional DSLR & switched to mirrorless systems. The resultant reduction in bulk and weight means I can still take a comprehensive system on board without fear of being made to check my bag. And as a result I can also rely on a smaller & lighter tripod (that I normally pack into my suitcase for checking). This is where the Gitzo Traveller comes into its own. It takes up little room in my case and doesn’t consume too much of my allocated weight allowance.
The benefits of reducing size and weight can also be felt when I’m at my destination. My type of photography requires a lot of walking so I (and my back!) appreciate the fact that I can travel light without compromising on either the quality or control over the picture taking process that a good tripod gives me.
So I have to admit to being very excited when I was asked by Gitzo to review a new version of the Traveller tripod. I expected it to be at least as good as my existing model but was interested to see where the improvements had been made.
This first part of my review is very much an initial impressions look at the new tripod – the GT1545T tripod with a GH1382TQD head (sold as a kit GK1545T-82TQD). The tripod comes in 4 models – a series 0 model, two Series 1 models (one with a 5 leg extension and another with a 4 – the GT1545T I tested) and a larger Series 2 model. There are three new centre ball heads available each of a different size. The one supplied to me for testing was the smallest of the three and it comes supplied (as standard) with an additional shorter centre column for low level work and a carrying strap (see image ‘Tripod Strap Short Column 0145’).
As you can see from the comparison pictures the new model is taller than the previous version.
This is good news – I always felt compromised by the maximum height of my current model as there were a number of occasions when it just didn’t extend high enough to meet my needs. The legs are also thicker and as a result the tripod feels incredibly rigid and stable in relation to its overall size and weight. That’s no mean feat on the part of the designers & engineers as the original version was no slouch in the stability department.
The tripod is supplied with rubber feet but there are other options available for the Series 2 version including larger feet and spikes making it ideal for landscape photography on softer ground or sandy beaches.
The leg locks are a new design and are more compact than the previous model whilst at the same time allowing for a longer leg length
In common with all recent Gitzo models they can be loosened and tightened in any order. This doesn’t sound like a big deal perhaps but it does potentially speed up the operation and this can be crucial when working in rapidly changing light.
The GH1382TQD head is of the ball & socket type and is impressively small and compact (in keeping with the tripod itself). Its unique design also ensures that it doesn’t prevent the legs from closing completely when in the folded down mode
This particular head has two controls for the ball movement and for panoramic rotation. The larger head versions have a third friction control.
In initial use the head seems much smoother than my current model – I’m told that this is due to the new tungsten coating.
My preference is normally to use a geared head as I like the precision and control such a head provides. For most of my landscape & travel work ball heads have always felt like a compromise but one I was prepared to make in the interests of travelling light. However I’m told by Gitzo that the new centre ball heads offer a unique level of precision so it’ll be interesting to see how the GH1382TQD head performs in use with a camera & lens mounted on top.
Owning a number of different tripods and head can be a real pain as they all use a variety of mounting plates. I much prefer to keep the plates on each camera as this speeds up the mounting/unmounting process and I’ve pretty much standardised on Arca Swiss plates. The good news is that the GH1382TQD head uses the standard Arca Swiss fitting plates.
The even better news is that the supplied Gitzo plates can be tightened by hand using a small tab underneath the head and with a coin
In comparison the Arca Swiss plates can only be tightened or undone with a supplied allen key – the most secure way of attaching the plate but useless if you misplace or lose the allen key. The Gitzo plate also allows for this method as well.
Were there any negatives? Only a couple of minor niggles really.
Firstly the Arca Swiss made plates I use on my Olympus cameras (the Slide Fix type) didn’t fit the Gitzo head. However the Gitzo plates do fit on an Arca Swiss head so I’d just swap over completely to the Gitzo plates (and no doubt they’ll be cheaper than the Arca Swiss plates as a bonus!).
Secondly the head is fitted with a round bubble level. I find these difficult to use and prefer the two way level on my current GH1780QR head. However this is a compromise I could live with as 1) it keeps the head small and 2) both camera systems I’d use on this head have built in levels anyway making the one on the tripod obsolete in practice.
My initial conclusion is that this tripod and head combination will be fantastic for the users of mirrorless cameras or smaller DSLRs. But as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating so I can’t wait to try them out in the field.
(Here you can find the second part of the article).