Jul 23rd

2012

Gitzo Systematic Tripod (GT3542LS)

Emily, my Gitzo Systematic Tripod, and Me. 2012. Photo: Al Smith

I’ve written before about tripods and my growing insistence on using them for my own work. Here’s a look at the one I favour these days, with a few specs and mostly wild opinions that stem from personal use. Disclaimer: I love this tripod. I had one I thought I loved, but then I used this one and decided that, well, the heart wants what the heart wants. :-) This is the fourth post I’ve done about travel tripods. If you want more, check out The Thing About Travel Tripods, and The Best Travel Tripod and The Best Travel Tripod, Part Two.

Official Product Name: GT3542LS
Long Name: The Gitzo Series 3 6X Systematic 4-Section Tripod (Long)

Maximum Height, w/out center column: 4.8′
Minimum Height, w/out ball head: 3.7″
Folded: 1.9′
Load Capacity: 55lbs
Leg Sections: 4
Leg Locks: Twist, Gravity Lock
Independent Leg Spread
Weight: 4.3 lbs w/out center column or ball head.

Price at B&H Photo: $874.95, without ball head or center column.

 

4-section legs, none of them flimsy. With a ball-head, this allows my camera to come to eye level most of the time. I’ll add my center column for a little extra height or adjustability.

The center plate, unlike older models of the Systematic, removes without an easily-lost hex-key. An integrated locking handle is twisted a few times, the plate is disengaged and pulled out, allowing the center column to be placed inside. Simple. Fast. No more bitching about lost or forgotten wrenches. I love this new feature. If you look closely, you’ll notice there’s a bubble level at the top of one of the legs. Combined with the level on the ball-head I have, there’s no excuse for wonky horizons. Except the one I always use, which is, “I wasn’t paying attention to the bubbles!” I never learn.

The center plate removed.

This tripod goes REALLY low (assuming you’ve not put the center column in), and all legs move independently, allowing you to get into some really precarious positions that other tripods might not allow.

I see a lot of photographers lose the screw-off feet. No more! These legs end in a metal spike, covered in a tight rubber foot. Pull the foot off, and the metal spike’s exposed, allowing you a firm purchase on rock, or fine mahogany flooring. :-) And you can add plastic snow/sand feet which I love but are not pictured here because I forgot them at home. I was traveling to sand dunes in the Gobi desert and I left them at home. Sheesh. It’s a good thing I’m pretty. :-) They went in the bag as soon as I got home, because in sand – especially loose or wet sand, they make all the difference. Or, ahem, they would have…

I love this tripod. No, it’s not small. But that’s rather the point. The folks at Gitzo have been listening to their photographers and finding some great solutions for simple complaints. This one fits into all my usual duffels and suitcases easily. It’s easy to field-clean, though hasn’t yet needed it. It goes quite tall, lays as close to the ground as I can imagine getting, and allows me to place, or remove, my center column easily. It’s not huge, nor unreasonably massive, and it’s really sturdy.  It’s no budget tripod and it’s not ultra-light, but then what’s the point of a tripod that won’t do the very things you need one to do in these situations? If you want lightweight, you sacrifice stability, and stability – for most of us – is why we use a tripod at all. This tripod gives me the stability you need and want from a tripod in rough conditions (wind, rain, less-than-ideal placement) and with longer lenses. It’s built tough, like all Gitzos.

What do I wish this tripod came with? A small neoprene leg wrap that also holds the wrench needed for tightening the legs. I also wish it were easier to use Gitzo’s excellent ball-heads with Arca Swiss plates. The head on this tripod has a RRS plate on it. It wasn’t easy to put on. Holes had to be drilled. But Gitzo’s doing some great stuff these days and most importantly, they’re listening, so perhaps we’ll see Gitzo Arca-Swiss plates in the near future. A man can dream, right? Kudos to Gitzo for this new Systematic. If you’re looking for a new tripod, give this one a look. I keep the older model in my Jeep, the newer one for travel, and you can have either of them when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands. :-)

Disclaimer #2. I am sponsored by Gitzo. But my deal with them is that I’m only good to them if they let me tell the truth. I chose my sponsors because I use, and love, their gear. In return they give me the latest stuff to play with and I tell my readers when I find something I love. I love this tripod. And I love Gitzo. They’re good people making great gear, and they love the photography community. As with any review by anyone, it’s probably best that you get the gear in your hands. Play with it. Stick a camera and lens on it. If it feels right, go for it.

Comments (10)
  1. July 23, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I have the same but the XLS version and I seriously love it too (don’t tell my wife…). I went for the larger version as my old Manfrotto was a similar height as the LS and I couldn’t get it quite where I wanted it height wise in some Scottish mountains. But it is quite big!

    But it’s a seriously solid and actually enjoyable bit of kit, contorts from really low to above head height on all types of surface.

    I’ve got the RRS BH55 head which I love as much as the pod, the L-plate and head are a serious revelation after my old Manfrotto.

    Costs a lot but using a tripod is now a joy not a chore so I’m happy :)

  2. July 23, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Hola David,

    I just got the big brother of this tripod today, the GT3542XLS, I did not have time to play with it yet, I hope to get some free time to try it this weekend.

    For the moment it feels big, but right. I wanted the extra extension just in case, I mean, I do a lot of landscape photography, so, if there is a some hole, river, etc… I still want to use my tripod, the extra high in each leg can come handy. But anyway, it come with the extra snow foot, and what it looks like some spares (I have to check if in the Gitzo webpage there is some extra maintenance manual.

    Yes, I also miss some neopreno covers for one of the legs, and I still need to use a lot to get the right impression of it. But for the moment I’m happy…

    I’m using an Arca-Swiss head (the Z1… ) so no problem with the incompatible arca swiss plates…

    Regards, and enjoy your tripod.

    David

  3. July 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Me ‘n Gitzo will never be together simply because of…twist closures (you thought I was going to say price, c’mon admit it). I like a lever-lock on my head, and levers on the legs. Yeah, they’re a little rich for my blood too.

  4. July 24, 2012 at 2:00 am

    [...] on http://www.pixelatedimage.com Sharen mit:TwitterFacebookTumblrPinterestEmailMoreLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  5. Jeff Kennedy

    July 24, 2012 at 9:11 am

    This is slightly off-topic, but given that Emily is so prominenty displayed in the opening shot, it seemed appropriate. I think you should arrange to have Emily meet Otto (I’m sure it would be love at first sight): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18910560

  6. David

    July 24, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Jeff – That’s bloody fantastic! Thanks for sharing. I think Otto and Jessie, my Defender would prefer each other’s company. Emily’s just a young thing. :-) Seems sad that the car got more of the story than his wife…

  7. July 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Hey David,

    Emily needs a bath before meeting anyone!

  8. David

    July 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    She’s all clean and shiny now, just chomping at the bit for her next adventure. On August 4th weekend we do the Whipsaw Trail in B.C., rated the 6th best trails in North America. Then in September we head north together to the Arctic. She’ll need a bath after that too. Otto can come along if he likes…

  9. Barbara Jebenstreit

    July 26, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for the terrific posts on tripods – how to choose them and how different kinds compare.

    May I be so bold to ask very nicely for a follow up post? I think a post on *how* to use tripods would be really worthwhile.

    Maybe it is just me, but when I take out my tripod, I am full of questions: Do I leave the camera on it when I carry it around or not? Do I pull out the smaller segments out first or the later? Is there maybe a smarter way to adjust the three legs than check and adjust, check and adjust, check and adjust or is that simply a thing that will get easier with time? When is a moment to use the tripod – and when not?

    Those are questions that I am struggling with or have been struggling with in the past. Certainly to me and I suspect to a lot of other inexperienced photographers as well a short post on “Use of tripods 101″ would be very helpful.

  10. July 29, 2012 at 3:02 am

    After much research, I actually purchased this exact tripod a few weeks ago as a long overdue upgrade to my old tripod, along with a RRS BH45 ballhead and l-plate, and could not be happier. It feels so solid and stable, and yet is so quick and easy to put up and down. I am looking forward to having many adventures with it, and thoroughly enjoy using it.