I actually just managed to get my hands on a GT 3541LS for $650 on amazon. Seems they were selling them cheaper now when the new GT3542's came out. I have honestly never used such a high tech tripod before, and it's all very confusing. Do I need some sort of special leveling plate in between the ball head and the pod for easy panoramas and macro, or should I just put a Q10 on there and go for it? Also, if I want to put a focusing rail on it for macro, do I put that on the Q10, or how does it work? And yes, I do travel quite a bit so the "4" outweighs the "3" for me.
For macro I plan on being very diverse, shooting anything that I find is interesting, of course including the smaller life forms. Do you think it might be worth to hold on for a while and save up to the 200mm for the range? Also, don't you get a very limited DOF with such a long lens? (I'm secretly also looking at the R1C1 flash system... but until I can justify that I'm going to use my SB-600 as a remote unit).
Good point about the 14-24. It's probably quite a pain to carry around as well. The 28mm sounds great! I looked it up and it seems the f2.8 AI/AI-s is just as good or better (couldn't find a f3.5 online), but only a little more expensive. I might just get that one for a very light setup (a few primes and the pod). Any experience with the 2.8?
Again, thank you for a very informative reply. This community has really helped me clear up some major questions in this sea of choices. I've literally spent 3 days reading through all the forums... hehe.