The collaboration between Markins and Nikonians has been long and fruitful, providing Nikonians with superior camera support integrated systems, combining specifically designed Markins accessories with Gitzo carbon fiber tripods. Ever since the Markins TB-20, TB-21 and TB-30 plates, such combinations have long been proven to further improve the legendary sturdiness of the Gitzos, rewarding photographers with the remarkable images we can see at the forums and at the galleries. With the more recent TH replacement hubs (TH-200 and TH-300), not only those characteristics have been further improved, weight and top diameter size have been reduced for added comfort while carrying it in the field and for easier pack-ability inside luggage while traveling. Bliss.
THE SERIES SELECTION DILEMA
I have been using a Series 3 MAGICA for several years. To move up from a Series 2 to a Series 3 was an easy choice; it became a need as soon as I went above 200mm focal lengths. But the prospect of acquiring a 500mm f/4 Nikkor lens to seriously incursion into birding has been haunting me for long. In the recent past, the question of whether to stay with a Series 3 or move up to a Series 5 was relatively easy to solve: “If you are seriously serious get a Series 5 and don’t wimp on its weight and bulk.” However, Gitzo now gives us Series 4 models and the dilemma came up: get a Series 4 or a Series 5?
Well, I got a series MAGICA-S 4.4 from the PhotoProShop
The decision was somewhat easier now that the TH-500 replacement hub for Series 5 tripods has been discontinued.
The Series 4 tripod I chose (GT4542LS) is slightly shorter than my MAGICA-M 3.3 when only extending three of its four leg sections. Easily adjustable to the same height, it still allows for further tallness when in uneven terrain. Not as much as another model, but enough for my height (5’7” / 1.7m, before I began to shrink). The top leg section joints are massive and promise even more robustness than older models.
THE TH-300 HUB REPLACEMENT
The side by side comparison of the hubs makes it easy to see how and why the Markins replacement increases the MAGICA pack-ability, while only slightly increasing its original overall height.
THE PLEASANT SURPRISES
Once the hub had been replaced I measured the legs spread. The same as with the original one.
Folded it can fit inside of any of my 32” luggage pieces with ball head mounted.
I weighted the final MAGICA-S 4.4 against my older MAGICA-M 3.3, both with Q20i ball heads, and the total weight difference is of only 14oz / 400g.
The weight difference between an equivalent Series 3 and a Series 5 would have been of at least 2 lb. / 907g so, by choosing a Series 4, I saved 1.2 lb. / 507 g, which may mean a lot in a long hike.
Since I don’t have yet the 500mm f/4, I proceeded to mount on my D700 an 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D AF VR oldie with 1.4X Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DG teleconverter, making it a 112-560mm f/6.3-8 and shot almost wide open at an effective aperture of f/10. Manual mode, manual focusing, VR OFF. Reduced the focal length just a tad, to 550mm, hoping to improve lens sharpness. Increased ISO to 1,250 to allow for 1/100 to 1/125 shutter speeds to maximize the chances to get a bird still for an instant while drinking or taking an afternoon bath in the fountain of my front yard. Distance from camera to subjects: approximately 40 yards / 37 meters, from the inside of our dinning room (through its window glass) to the fountain. I was hoping for at least a yellow breasted bird, but in this desert I usually only get black or grey or dark brown birds.
Except for a slight correction to white balance and resizing for display no other post-processing was applied to the sample images below.
These images are the sharpest I’ve ever made with this lens, let alone with the lens plus teleconverter. Next time I will also try it with the BV-22 module attachment for the Q20i. I am most certain it will be great.
I have to say I am very happy with my MAGICA 4 choice. I thought I should share this wonderful feeling.