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What tripod
by J. Ramón Palacios

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GITZO Tripods

Ah! The French Gitzo, the ultimate tripod, first choice of most leading Nikonian professional photographers and advanced amateurs.

Gitzo 1227 CF tripod

G1227 tripod, the most popular Series 2 carbon fiber tripod in its time, upgraded with the slightly lighter 6X G1257, then the newer 6X GT2530 and currently with the sturdier and most efficient GT2531

In the table below, the most popular current models of Gitzo carbon fiber tripods among Nikonians. Within a series and models group, the characteristics at right are also shown.

Shortest when closed
Tallest when extended*
Most efficient L/W ratio
World Code Load
lb / Kg
lb / Kg
Closed size
in / cm
in / cm
Load to weight Ratio Current price***
Traveler 6X (Foldable Mountaineers with center column)
17.6 / 8 2.2 / 1.00 16.8 / 43 45.8 / 116 8.3 $680
Mountaineer 6X Series 2 (Mountaineers have a removable center column)
26.4 / 12 3.0 / 1.37 25.6 / 65 54.3 / 138 8.8 $700
26.4 / 12 3.0 / 1.38 22.0 / 56 51.2 / 130 8.7 $760
26.4 / 12 3.1 / 1.43 24.0 / 61 59.4 / 151 8.4 $730
Mountaineer 6X Series 3 (Mountaineers have a removable center column)
39.7 / 18 4.7 / 2.12 26.0 / 66 52.4 / 133 8.5 $850
39.7 / 18 4.4 / 1.98 21.7 / 55 52.0 / 132 9.1 $900
39.7 / 18 4.7 / 2.13 23.6 / 60 59.1 / 150 8.5 $940
Systematic 6X Series 3 (Systematics come with a flat top)
39.7 / 18 3.7 / 1.70 24.0 / 61 50.8 / 129 10.6 $780
39.7 / 18 3.8 / 1.72 21.7 / 55 57.5 / 146 10.5 $800
39.7 / 18 4.3 / 1.97 27.6 / 70 78.0 / 198 9.1 $900
Systematic 6X Series 5 (Systematics come with a flat top)
55.1 / 25 5.9 / 2.7 24.8 / 63 52.4 / 133 9.3 $925
55.1 / 25 6.3 / 2.9 23.6 / 60 60.2 / 153 8.8 $1,000
* In the Mountaineers, with center column included. ** Without center column extended.  *** New, as of July 2011 in the USA

It is important to note that Carbon Fiber tripods are not only lighter but also stiffer and better dampen vibration than the best aluminum tripods we have ever used, especially when under the slightest breeze.

 For Backpacking and Trekking, with Light to Medium Loads - Series 2 tripods
 Up to a pro body + 70-200mm f/2.8 or 300mm f/4 (6 lbs / 2.7 kg)

Traveler. A very ingenious design when size (folded) and weight are critical. The newest Markins Q3T ball head was re-designed to perfectly fit within the legs when collapsed should you want to keep the removable center column or not.

For better performance it is always preferable not to fully extend the Travelers in the field. Travelers can only be recommended for light loads. The Series 1 GT1542T is considered good for lenses up to 135mm by the manufacturer.

In the Series 2, the Mountaineer tripods work better for this kind of load and more.

Click for laerger view of the Gitzo Travelller
In the Mountaineer Series 2 group, the GT2531 and GT2541 share the lowest weight in this group. The GT2541 is the shortest when closed down, at the expense of 3 inches in height. The GT2542L is the tallest when extended. Performance is remarkable within its load limits and still light enough for extended trekking.
 For Big Guns - Heavy Loads - Series 3 tripods
A Pro Body and a 200-400mm VR or 500mm f/4 (7 - 8 lbs / 3 to 3.6 Kg)

Heavy loads and/or critical work (birding, macro) require a Series 3 tripod. You do have two choices, a Mountaineer or a Systematic. The Systematic carbon fiber GT3531S is shown at right in the field. Virtually unmovable, rock solid steady with the heaviest loads, with a top flat plate, with the highest load to weight efficiency ratio of the carbon family.


Click for expanded view

The current Systematic Series 3 include the GT3531S (the lightest in this group), the GT3541LS (shortest when closed). Appealing to very tall photographers and ready for very uneven terrain, the GT3541XLS that has also become popular.

The Mountaineer Series 3 GT3531 -shown at right- is best suited for average height photographers, and tested as having even better anti-vibration design that the comparable Systematics, although slightly heavier when with the center column. See detail clicking on the thumbnail at right.

The Mountaineers have been preferred over the Systematics for professional critical work in exteriors. With the center column removed, replaced with a Markins TB-30 anti vibration plate, a Markins M20 ball head, Markins Titanium spikes and Nikonians leg wraps, the GT3531 became a MAGICA 3.3. For more compact packing capability, the MAGICA 3.4 uses the GT3541.

The Markins TB-21 plate fits the new Mountaineer Series 2 GT tripods and the TB-30 fits the new Mountaineer Series 3 GT tripods.

Click for enlargement
Click for larger view
The Gitzo Mountaineer Series 3 includes the GT3531 for average height photographers, the GT3541 which is simultaneously the lightest and the shortest when folded, and the GT32541L, the tallest when extended; very useful under uneven terrain conditions.

The most often found set up combines such tripods with a pro ball head like the Markins M20 and the Wimberley Sidekick for long lenses up to the 200-400mm f/4 and 500mm f/4

 For Bigger Guns - Heavier Loads - Series 5 tripods
 A Pro Body and a 400mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4 with tele-extender (9.7 - 10.7 lbs / 4.4 - 4.9 Kg)

Systematic Series 5. Why a Systematic? Because there is no Mountaineer made in Series 5. The GT5531S is a beefier but even sturdier tripod, the lighter one in the Gitzo series 5 Studex family, mostly seen in the field in conjunction with a full Wimberley or a Jobu Gimbal when birding with a 400mm f/2.8 and tele converter or the 600mm f/4 AF-S.

So we now we have the current GT5531S and the GT5541LS with much improved performance characteristics even if not at a lower price tag on account of the USD devaluation versus the Euro.

3-section or 4-section legs? Previous concerns about the sturdiness of 4-section legged tripods -when compared to the 3-section tripods- have vanished. The improvements introduced with 6X ALR (Anti-Leg Rotation) and G-Lock (Gravity Lock) twist lock system that increases rigidity by 20%, have been field tested and made many embrace the advantages of shorter collapsed sizes or more height for very uneven terrain without compromises.

Anti leg rotation lock
How about spikes? Most Gitzo 6X tripod legs also have a new foot system, featuring rubber feet screw-in tips which can be replaced by other feet alternatives. So now most of the new 6X Gitzo tripods can have OEM stainless steel spikes.

Also, a new series of Markins Titanium spikes with rubber tip for indoors use are now available, a must-have for nature photographers insisting on lifetime durability and ultimate strength.
Markins Tatinium spikes

Can I take my tripod on board as a carry-on in airplanes? Given the tougher security when flying, don't even think about taking a spiked tripod on board an airplane as carry on. Place it inside the luggage, preferably inside a hard suitcase. I saw a tripod curved like an English long bow after airplane traveling inside a simple unpadded tripod bag. If your suitcase is not large enough, the solution is to carry it in a good padded Manfrotto, Gitzo or Nikonians tripod bag, for better protection.

Gitzo steel spikes
see also

Tripods, Heads & Camera Support forum 
Markins products page
MAGICA camera support systems