Friday, June 3, 2011

Gitzo Primer–Understanding the Gitzo System

The theme for my blog here recently has been tripods and it’s no accident that most of the tripods I’ve featured have been Gitzo. The reason for this is simple – Gitzo is one of the most respected and trusted brands by the professional and prosumer photographers I’ve spoken with. B&H also claims they are quite popular sellers as well.

While I’ve reviewed some Gitzo tripods on this blog, the problem with all tripod makers is that they offer a dizzying array of options that make it hard to find information on the exact tripod your friend tells you that you’ve gotta get.

What I will attempt to do in this article is give you a little guidance to help you understand the Gitzo numbering system so you can hopefully have confidence in your own tripod research.

Gitzo Tripods

Gitzo tripods follow the following letter and number pattern GTxx##yy where:

GT – Gitzo Tripod

xx – The size of the legs from 05 to 55 as of the time of this writing. Thom Hogan claims that 25 and up is best for DSLR photographers and that anything less is for light cameras.

## – This is the number of leg sections (i.e 3# is 3 sections, 4# is 4, etc…). For maximum stability, less is more so a 3 section is usually the best choice. However, you can get a combination of a smaller collapsed size and larger maximum height by going with a 4 section tripod so those added benefits make the decision pretty tough.

yy – this is designation that seems to be rather random and sometimes may not be present as is the case with the Mountaineer and several other series. According to Thom Hogan, the common values found here are:

  • EX Explorer – This is the series that features an off-center column that rotates in any angle in a 360 degree radius and special leg locking mechanism that allows for any angle. To see an example, check out the GT2531EX that I’ve reviewed. These are great for macro photographers.
  • LVLLeveling Series
  • SSystematic Series – This series doesn’t have a center column so they offer a rock solid platform great for studio, landscape, long-exposure and video work. I’ve reviewed a GT3530LS that falls into this category.
  • TTraveler Series – These are super lightweight tripods that are great for hiking and travel. Ironically some Travellers such as the GT1541 I reviewed, do not feature the T designation, but fall into this classification.
  • G – Geared – A mechanism for raising and lowering or extending and retracting a column using a geared crank
  • L – Long – You see this designation quite often in the Systematic Series
  • V – Video Bowl – an adapter designed for mounting high-end video cameras

6X – This is Gitzo’s designation for Carbon Fiber tripods, which if you can afford it – get it. They offer great strength at super light weights. Basalt and Aluminum are other options available at much cheaper price, but with reduced load capacities and are typically heavier.

Gitzo Monopods

Gitzo monopods follow the same pattern (where applicable) as tripods but start with the GM designation, and are typically found in 4, 5 and 6 section configurations with the same tradeoff for compact collapsed size and maximum weight support.

Useful Common Accessories

B&H has a wide variety of Gitzo Accessories, but you must be careful to check the Gitzo website to make sure your Gitzo product supports the accessory you are considering for purchase. Some of the most useful accessories I’ve considered are:

However, like all things photography there’s endless ways to spend your money on little gadgets for your Gitzo products.

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