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What tripod
by J. Ramón Palacios
(jrp)

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Do I really need one?
What to look for
» Nikonians choices
Manfrotto
Gitzo
The MAGICA
Accessories
Tripod long lens technique

What are the preferred brand choices of Nikonians?

The French Gitzo and the Italian Manfrotto are the preferred tripod choices of Nikonians. Pros and advanced amateurs tend to be die-hard Gitzo fans while beginners tend to start with a Manfrotto, exactly as I did (eventually). By now we have done our share to further increase the participation of such brands in the community because as many Nikonians we are convinced they are the best and will save Nikonians members pain and money.

Gitzo tripodManfrotto tripod
Gitzo and Manfrotto tripods
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Gitzo
is the professional photographic tripod ‘par excellence’. Founded in 1917 by Arsene Gitzhoven, his company began making tripods in France since the late 40's. Gitzo is renowned for having been the first in the world to offer the high-tech lightweight rigidity of carbon fiber in their range of camera tripods. Gitzo tripods are now produced in their own facilities in Italy.

Manfrotto is another excellent brand of high performance lighting and camera support and other photographic equipment. Founded in Italy in 1970 by Lino Manfrotto, Gruppo Manfrotto set the international standard for good quality professional equipment with a superb value for the money. 

Bogen Photo Corp, started by Lester Bogen in 1959, was the distributor of Manfrotto products in the USA since the early 70's; later also distributing Gitzo products and transformed into Bogen Imaging, with subsidiaries around the world. It has now reverted to be named Manfrotto Distribution, integrating the expanded world-wide distribution with 6 distribution companies placed in Italy, France, Germany, the UK, Japan and the USA.

Gruppo Manfrotto in 1989, Gitzo in 1992 and Bogen in 1993, were acquired by Vitec Group PLC, a group with a long tradition in this industry. Sparked from W. Vinten Ltd, the company founded by William Charles Vinten, dedicated to producing film developing and printing machines, film cameras and camera mounts, from the very start of the cinematographic industry and now world leaders in the design and manufacture of camera supports. Although the group has diversified into related high-tech market segments, it is more than reasonable to expect the continued dedication to photography of the Imaging and Staging division of Vitec Group PLC, headed by Vitec Group Italia S.p.A.*

What are the major material choices? Aluminum or Carbon Fiber. Aluminum will do, but if you are into hiking or trekking, the up to 30% reduced weight that carbon fiber provides without compromising strength and stability is something worthwhile to consider, despite its higher price tag. Other factors are added sturdiness, higher load capacity, easier to deploy and durability.

 

Another advantage of the CF (Carbon Fiber) tripods is that in cold weather your hands will not freeze at the touch, like with a naked aluminum one.

Why you don't mention Mag Fiber and Basalt tripods? Check the load to weight ratios, specifications and prices of both, then compare them to those of aluminum of the same load capacity. You will know why immediately. But we closely follow the evolution of these product lines. The conclusion may change over time.

Why should I try to get the best possible tripod?
A good tripod will outlast you, so - as a lifetime investment it is always best to do it right from the start. Don't rush. I wish I had waited until saving enough to get any of the best of these babies. It would have save me from a long series of disappointments, frustrations and in the end spending by far more energy and money in numerous wobbly designs. I was taught to be the least vindictive possible so I won't mention any of those other brand names. You will also do good to yourself by not falling for an imitation.
You get what you pay for.

Quoting Nikonian BJ Nichols on tripods:
You can have sturdy and reasonably priced.
You can have lightweight and reasonably priced.
But you can't have sturdy, lightweight, and reasonably priced

Costs are reduced at the expense of serious compromises

* The Vitec Group Imaging and Staging Division now encompasses:

Avenger Cine, photo and video stands
Manfrotto Distribution Worldwide distributor of all products in this division
Gitzo Tripods and camera support accessories
Kata Photo, Video and Lighting bags
Litec Staging systems - Aluminum structures
Manfrotto Tripods and camera support accessories
Tomcat Staging, Lighting and Support Systems
  More...»
see also
Tripods, Heads & Camera Support forum