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Interesting Info from Gitzo

Nonprophet

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Nonprophet Basic Member
Mon 23-Jun-08 09:33 PM | edited Mon 23-Jun-08 11:08 PM by Nonprophet

In light of the many threads here contrasting & comparing Gitzo vs Feisol tripods, I thought it would be interesting to go directly to Gitzo and ask them what the differences are between the two company's tripods that could justify the difference in cost. While it's easy to hold a Feisol tripod in one hand and a Gitzo in another and not see a huge difference, often times it's the things we can't see that can make such a big difference in cost and performance.

This is the response (paraphrased) from a Gitzo product manager:

TUBES
"The most important factor is the manufacturing process of the carbon fiber tubes. There are basically two designs for tripod tubes - roll table & pultrusion.

European tubes are made from the pultrusion process, whereas Far East tubes are made from roll table production.

The differences are this:
Pultrusion tubes are cross-layered fibers, which are woven, seamless tubes made from a higher ratio of CF to epoxy resin than roll table - Gitzo tubes are 65% CF and 35% epoxy resin (bonding agent).

Roll table tubes are sheets of carbon fiber which are layered one on top of another with a layer of bonding agent between the sheets - the sheets are rolled, and then seamed.

Just as with a bag, or a shirt, anywhere there is a seam becomes a stress point which conducts shock and weakens tube strength. Additionally, because the sheets are layered upon one another, it takes more glue than pultrusion - Far East tubes are made with at best 50% CF and 50% bonding agent. Also, air pockets are formed between the layers which cause weakness in deflection and damping.

LOCKS
The "G-Lock" system is not a gimmick - it's an engineering marvel that works extremely well for CF material. Gitzo G-Lock incorporates a cone shaped lock ramp which is nearly 5X the size of the previous lock ring that acts like a wedge, which amplifies locking power while reducing the torque necessary to engage the lock. The G-Lock is a simple, yet highly sophisticated design that speaks to the level of R&D at the Gitzo factory. Because the tripods are locking two CF tubes with a polymer ring (or wedge), the tolerances are very strict and the lock ramp needs to be very precise in order to maximize locking power - it is the reason that the Gitzo lock ring has alternating slits cut at precise angles - it makes the locking ramp act like "fingers" and spreads the surface contact area evenly around the full circumference of the tube.

Traditional lock rings like those found in previous versions of Gitzo tripods, (and in most twist lock systems that have followed Gitzo's example) leave the connection between the tubes wanting. In other words, there are micro movements at the tube joints with non G-Lock tubes. These micro movements are amplified by the number of locking sections - thus 3 section tripods are more stable that 4 section tripods. Again, because of the strict tolerances associated with CF, adding or increasing the size of the lock rings, is not enough to improve performance. In fact, some companies have actually weakened their locking power by adding larger rings.

If Gitzo only increased the size of the ring, without forming the wedge and adding the alternating slits to it, it would not have improved performance. The fact is, the G-Lock is by far the most powerful, and easy-to-use twist lock mechanism on the market, requiring only a quarter-turn to lock and unlock the tripod leg sections. By eliminating micro movements between the leg joints, Gitzo has made the choice between 3 and 4 leg sections one of personal preference rather than performance since there is no difference between them in terms of strength or stability.


CASTINGS
All of the Gitzo tripod upper castings are made from gravity fed (or poured) castings, rather than pressure castings. Gravity-fed castings eliminate the possibility of air pockets that can get into castings when material is injected at high pressure. Gravity fed castings are stronger and longer lasting than pressure castings and can withstand a greater amount of torque. The torsional rigidity of the Gitzo upper casting (when combined with G-Lock) make the Gitzo tripod the tripod of choice for long lens shooters."

I then called the Gitzo tech department to get a little bit more info. In a nutshell, the key differences are that the Gitzo CF tubes are manufactured as a one-piece unit using a very sophisticated process as opposed to the Feisol legs that are rolled and then seamed and thus weaker, less stiff, and more prone to separation/failure over the life of the tube. In addition to using more CF in their legs which cost more, so does the one-piece process vs just seaming the tubes like Feisol and other knock-off CF tripod manufacturers.

He then went on at some length about the engineering and research that went in to developing the new Gitzo g-locks. In addition to the description above, the tech I spoke to mentioned that due to patent protections no other tripod company could come close to the strength of the Gitzo g-locks--although they were certainly trying--Gitzo has been vigorously defending their patent!

He also mentioned the longevity and scratch-resistance of the powder-coated Gitzo spider, plates, and center column locks as opposed to lesser-quality (and lower cost) anodized finish of Feisol and others.

He went on to explain that whenever one company looks to making a knock-off copy of another company's successful product they carefully examine the materials and manufacturing process of the successful design and then look to cut corners (and thus cost) wherever possible. While some of the cost savings are due to reduced labor costs, more often than not the lower cost (and thus lower quality) are the result of the use of lower quality materials, engineering, and production processes that are not readily apparent to most consumers. Because many of these cost-savings methods are not noticed by the average consumer, the knock-off products SEEM like a better buy--at least in the short term, without understanding the real differences in quality.

Lastly, I find the comments above about they're being "no difference in strength or stability" between the new Gitzo 6X g-lock 3 section and 4 section legs to be quite amazing!! Now we just need to get Neil to test this!!

Anyway, interesting food for thought and a reminder that things are often more complicated that we think.........


NP




"No photographer is as good as the simplest camera."

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