The Gitzo Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod is known for a few things: reliability, stability, and price. The build quality, weight, and overall feel of the tripod are excellent. Price is bitten. So, is the price reasonable? Let’s dive in and see.
Tripods come in three main qualities: weight, stability, and price. You can never get all three. If a tripod is stable and light, it will cost a lot. If it’s cheap and light, it won’t be stable. If it were cheap and stable, it wouldn’t be light. Gitzo Stable and moderately light. It is big, though.
I got the tripod between 2 rides. By 11 p.m., I had to prepare for a 6 a.m. flight the next day. Back home in a few hours, I’ve packed, backed up, and pretty much done. However, the package is still there. It awaits, and unlike with some other packages, I am delighted to receive this one. To be fair, one of the first things I do when I open the door. My first impressions were good, to say the least. The head is solid, so are the legs. I took it out and – pause – took the astrophotography. The results were horrible but the process was fun. Scheduled to fly commercials the next day, I’m trying to pack my new toy into a suitcase. I ended up just taking the head. If you want a travel tripod, this might not be your best bet. But if you need a tripod to support heavy lenses, medium format cameras, large format cameras or anything where stability is important, get this and don’t look back.
Crafted from magnesium and carbon fiber, the tripod is solid in build and feel. The level of build quality matters to those who want the best from their tripod. Built for the high-end market, this tripod delivers. For me, carbon fiber doesn’t usually mean too strong, light and possibly fragile. Gitzo is lightweight but has a sturdy heavy-duty construction. Compared to a metal counterpart like the Manfrotto Art-058, Gitzo wins.
Foot-lock mechanism (G-lock ultra) prevents unwanted sliding down.
I can’t really say anything bad about the build quality. It was created over the decades.
The carbon fiber tripod has three sections, allowing the tripod to be extended to about 181 cm in height, so you can shoot at eye level for the most part. The construction can withstand loads of up to 30 kg, but I’ve done the banana tree stunt on it, and it seems to be coping. Of course, the vacuum is fully extended. That said, there’s not much flexibility in the legs even at maximum extension. Of course, if you decide to buy the top-of-the-line 280cm version of this tripod, expect maximum extension in flexibility.
The 10-181cm range is more than enough for many applications. At the lower end you can be sure to get interesting angles for landscape and indoor images, while the higher end works well with portraits and wildlife. There’s a lot of flexibility for shooters who need it. One additional item that I would recommend for added flexibility is the center column. It is useful when you need to fine-tune the height of a photo, which can be useful in architectural or portrait photography.
The ball head mounting plate is removable, making it easy to customize your setup. There is a spirit level on the tripod base that allows you to set the foot level at any height. I find it extremely useful when working without a central column. Normally, I would extend the leg part completely and tweak with the center column. Another feature you find on the base of the tripod is a screw mount. This helps to add lights, screens or any extras to the setup. I will eventually use it to add the iPad to my setup and view the images on it as I never get to see what I take due to the Internet connection. A hook underneath the plate allows you to add weight to the tripod to further improve stability. Though I don’t see it giving way even in the wind.
The ball head itself has three motion control knobs. One of them is a rotary knob, the other controls the movement of the ball’s head, and the third allows you to adjust how smooth the movement is. Imagine having a heavy and fragile camera on a tripod: ignore the mistakes and you’re done. It’s a shame that this happened to me. Fortunately, even if you have the heaviest mount on your tripod, you can still enhance movement and ensure smooth adjustments. To make sure you don’t mistake any knobs, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Once you’ve really gotten the hang of your tripod, you won’t have to search and check if you’re about to undo a suitable tripod. This has helped me personally to be more creative and not have to worry too much about the device.
Another feature found on top of the ball is an extra sanity level, as well as a quick lock mechanism. The quick lock has two stages, which is a nice touch as most people will use this tripod with something heavier than their point-and-shoot. Something heavier than a few dozen kilograms. First, you open the lever halfway, which tells you you’ve unlocked the camera, and you can also fine-tune the position and balance of the entire rig during this stage. Then, to remove the rig, you need to press a button, and then only it is released. Honestly, I like this. It has saved me a few accidents already. This also shows that people investing in such balls are no joke. This is an important device for serious cameras. I wouldn’t have a problem with putting any photographic camera on it, but this is not a favorable condition for video work.
That said, I’ve tried using it for video and it’s been fine for the most part. It rotates and tilts as you would expect a head of this caliber: smooth, quiet and simply beautiful. No vibrations or sudden movements. If you’re looking for a ball head upgrade this will be a solid choice as well.
Finally, an important consideration for many professionals worldwide is brand availability and presence. I have full confidence that Gitzo has global customer support, as well as the ability to provide rentals and stores. If a photographer leaves an accessory at home, they can buy it almost anywhere. That said, they’re not cheap at all.
What I like:
- Build quality and weight
- Ball head movement and features
- Excellent customer support and global brand presence
What could be improved:
- Expensive price tag
- Center column included in the set
- Not compact
As part of a wide range of tripods, this one seems to have a sweet spot between high and steady. Go higher, and you can lose stability, go lower and you are sacrificing range and flexibility. As for the ball head, it copes well with pretty much anything you throw at it. Of course, don’t expect to be able to fine-tune it with the precision of a 3-axis head. However, you can expect to be able to keep the subject in focus even at the longest focal length.
The tripod is totally worth it if you are working with heavy cameras and need stability. Furthermore, the $1,539.99 price tag is justified by the build quality, as you’ll need to work to break Gitzo. It is a buy-to-use product. It’s a lifetime warranty for that reason.