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″
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.