Even though we ARE Nikon lovers,we are NOT affiliated with Nikon Corp. in any way.

English German French

Sign up Login
Home Forums Articles Galleries Recent Photos Contest Help Search News Workshops Shop Upgrade Membership Recommended
members
All members Wiki Contests Vouchers Apps Newsletter THE NIKONIAN™ Magazines Podcasts Fundraising

My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220

N80

Rock Hill, US
8764 posts

Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author
N80 Silver Member Charter Member
Mon 12-Apr-04 02:15 PM

I've written a review of the Gitzo G2220. I hope this will help any potential buyers. If you notice any errors or omissions please let me know about them here. If you have questions or if your experience with or opinions of this tripod differ I'd also like to hear about them here. There are illustrations of this tripods features and functions in its manual, do you think I need to include them in this review to help illustrate this unusual tripod?

Introduction

The Gitzo Explorer G2220 is a moderately priced aluminum tripod that will appeal primarily to the photographer interested in field work. It has a number of unique features that make it well suited for this type of work. It has three leg sections that are adjustable via rubber twist locks. The leg angles can be independently and continuously adjusted from zero to ninety degrees and the rapid center column is mounted in a tilting joint that allows for panning and tilting of the complete center column assembly. It comes with a bubble level built into the main casting and has stainless steel spiked feet that can be capped with rubber feet that are included.

Gitzo gives the following specifications for this tripod:

Maximum Height with extended center column: 64 inches
Maximum Height: 50 inches
Minimum Height: 5 inches
Closed Length: 25 inches
Maximum Load Capacity: 13.2 pounds
Weight: 4.96 pounds

For those accustomed to typical tripod construction and configuration, the Gitzo Explorer series (which includes carbon fiber versions with three and four leg sections) will seem a strange beast. The first thing that one will notice is the position of the center column, which is not in the center. It is suspended between two legs by the special center column joint which is affixed to the center of the main casting where a ‘normal’ center column would be mounted. There are two clamp type adjustment knobs attached to the joint unit. One is for column height adjustment and works similar to any other rapid column assembly. The second knob is used to adjust the column pan and tilt position. By loosening this knob the column (and thus the head) can be tilted through an arc of more than 180 degrees from the normal position to a position in which the ball head is facing downward between the legs. In addition, when this knob is loose, the column also pans in a continuous arc around the center axis of the main casting as long as the column is clear of the legs.

To this versatility, add the ability of the legs to be adjusted to any angle from zero to ninety degrees independent of the other legs and you have a truly versatile field tripod with virtually unlimited camera position options. With such unique design and versatility the interested buyer will surely wonder, as I did, how well Gitzo implements all of this. The following is my assessment of just that.

Appearance

I purchased my Explorer from Kirk Enterprises for around $200. The tripod’s upper leg sections, main casting and center column joint are finished in a speckled dark gray enamel while the lower two leg sections and center column are finished in black enamel. The leg height adjustment knobs are black rubber. The leg angle lever locks are thick black plastic as are the center column adjustment knobs. The two tone finish gives this unique tripod a unique appearance that is pleasing, or at least unobjectionable. The gray has a little bit of shine to it but the black is fairly flat.

Feel

The tripod is neither unusually light or heavy, but with a moderate sized ball head attached it develops some heft that would likely become noticeable after a day in the field. The leg height adjustment knobs are thick, wide and comfortable. The twist is firm but with proper feedback and positive locking feel. Once locked there is absolutely no play in the leg sections. The middle leg sections drop down a little when loosened but have to be pulled to extend fully. The bottom sections tend to drop all the way down when loosened. The leg angle lever locks are wide and spoon shaped and are very firm to adjust, possibly too firm, requiring considerable force to unlock them. This may become easier over time and the tension is adjustable with a provided hex head wrench. They lock crisply, and audibly into place. There is zero movement once locked. The spoon shape of the levers allows them to hug down out of the way against the legs when locked but makes them a bit awkward to grip. The center column height adjustment is via a knob that clamps the column in place. It is well implemented allowing fine control over the tension to a degree that the descent of even a heavy outfit can be controlled with the knob. It clamps firmly and positively and there is no play when locked. The tilt adjustment is via a toothed circular clamp. Each side of the clamp has teeth that mesh together when tight rather than simple tension. This allows for extremely secure locking of the center column angle. It does, however, limit the amount of continuous positioning of the angle in that as the clamp is tightened the column will move up or down a tiny amount as the teeth mesh. This does not allow exact positioning for macro work, but that is not the intended purpose of such an adjustment and is a small price to pay for the added stability of the clamp. The same knob that operates the tilt clamp also operates the pan clamp which is a tension type clamp. When loose the column can be panned 360 degrees. Even with the knob all the way loose the rotation is damped and firm as it should be; it does not spin freely which would be a liability.

Field Experience

As expected, I find this tripod to be extraordinarily versatile in the field, particularly for macro work. Despite the specification of 5 inches as the lowest height (which indicates overall tripod height), with the legs spread out fully and the column tilted, the camera can actually be placed on the ground. Given a ledge or uneven ground height, the camera can be positioned below the level of the legs! With the well designed knobs and locks, positioning and operation are quick and easy with the exception of the stiff leg angle lever locks. Despite their stiffness I have not found it necessary to adjust them.

Stability is excellent. With the legs at a standard angle (indicated by marks on the main casting that correspond to a mark on the legs) and the center column all the way down, vibration and stability are all that I would expect with my largest set up with a total weight of over seven pounds. As the column goes up, stability decreases as with any tripod. With the nearly unlimited number of positioning options stability remains excellent but as expected, the farther the center column is extended the less the stability. However with the legs out flat and the center horizontal, stability remains good almost to full center column extension. It is also significant that the load specification goes up from 13.2 (6 kg) to 22 pounds (10 kg) in this position. I tested the tripod by extending all three leg sections with the leg angle set to standard position and the center column tilted to 45 degrees and fully extended with a 7 pound camera set up in addition to a Kirk BH-3 head. There was considerable vibration in this extreme (and nearly useless) position, but as long as the center column was extended out over a leg, the set up was stable. Overall, I’m very impressed with the combination of versatility, stability and function of this moderately priced tripod. For field and macro use it is an excellent tool and I recommend it highly.

Criticism

This tripod has very few flaws. The stiff leg angle lever locks are a minor complaint. I wish the marks on the legs and main casting were more visible and precise for setting the tripod in a standard position. Since there are no detents in the leg mechanism you rely on these marks for standard positioning. This is not a big issue in the field, but I am considering highlighting the marks with red paint. Also, detents for a few typical, fixed angles would be a nice addition. The rubber feet that mount over the stainless steel spikes are very hard to get on and off. A little lubrication would likely solve this minor issue. Finally, when the center column is in a horizontal position, the ballhead is also horizontal which means that to position the camera in a horizontal position requires using the vertical positioning slot with a standard ballhead and using the pan adjustment for up and down movement. This, of course, is a limitation of the standard ballhead and not the Explorer. Gitzo makes an off-center ballhead which improves a little on this limitation. The Novoflex ballhead comes to mind as well. Other than that, I have very few complaints pertaining to design or quality. It would be nice if the unit were lighter but given its aluminum construction, the large main casting and center column joint (and price), I feel the weight is appropriate. If the benefits of carbon fiber are important to you there are two carbon fiber Explorers with the same general design, one with three leg sections like the G2220 and one with four leg sections. These are considerably more expensive, commensurate with their carbon fiber construction. See this link for comparison and specifications:

http://www.bogenimaging.us/product/itemlist.php3?SID&manufid=2§ionid=113

The Competition

There isn’t a great deal of competition for this type of versatile field tripod. The Bogen 3021 Pro features a center column that can be removed and mounted horizontally but it does not tilt and it has three fixed leg angles rather than continuous. It is less expensive. Giotto makes a very similar tripod to the Explorer that does have continuously adjustable leg angles and detents for three fixed positions. It is similarly priced. The venerable Benbo tripods also compete in this market but I know very little about them.

Conclusion

The Gitzo Explorer G2220 tripod has unbeatable versatility, Gitzo quality and excellent stability across a wide range of camera positions. I feel this tripod is nearly ideal for the field photographer, particularly those interested in macro work. It serves equally well in the studio or for general landscape work. Its only real limitation is that of weight and will therefore not appeal to the photographer who needs an ultra-light (and much higher priced) tripod for extensive mobility. I have only a few, very minor complaints, none of which would lead me to any other tripod other than one of the carbon fiber Explorers.

George Barron

My Nikonians Gallery is here:
https://images.nikonians.org/galleries/showgallery.php/cat/500/ppuser/1091

Subject
ID
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
1
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
2
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
3
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
4
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
5
     Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
6
          Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
7
               Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
8
                    Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
9
                    Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
10
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
11
Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
12
     Reply message RE: My Review of the Gitzo Explorer G2220
13

G