Choosing a tripod for landscape photography can be an extremely frustrating experience, especially when there are so many variables to take into consideration such as budget, durability, design, weight, maximum height, minimum height and overall stability. I will go into more detail about how to chose the right tripod in a future Blog.
This is a review of the Gitzo GT3543XLS systematic tripod. I have owned this tripod for just over 10 months and I have taken it on several adventures overseas as well on local trips. The GT3543XLS is a very sturdy, extra tall tripod. It is somewhat of a specialist tool. It is not an ideal tripod for any ‘fast and light’ hiking photo trips where every gram counts, as this tripod weighs 2290 grams, which is heavier than most travel tripods.
That being said, the extra weight of this tripod really doesn’t bother me considering its size, stability and rigidity. With a minimum height of just 10cm and a maximum height of 202cm (Without a head), this tripod is truly versatile! This ‘Overhead height’ is a great help when shooting on steep slopes and uneven ground, as in these situations, regular height tripods tend to be too low.
Since it has a closed length of 71cm (Without a head), it won’t fit in a carry on when travelling by plane, but it fits perfectly in my checked luggage.
Before going into the specifics of this beast of a tripod, I feel that it is important to explain that Gitzo is a brand name recognized amongst professional photographers for their ultra-high quality tripods, designed for the toughest and most challenging conditions.
Most photographers know that the name Gitzo is synonymous with excellence. Gitzo have been making tripods in various forms for over 75 years. Gitzo’s policy of ‘No Gimmicks and no compromise on quality’ is what has helped them stand out in what is now very saturated industry. Gitzo is a premium brand with a high price tag, but with that comes one of the best support systems on the market.
When I started getting into photography and decided to buy my first tripod, I was shocked to find that some tripod legs cost over a grand! How could I justify spending more money on a tripod than I had on my camera and kit lens? How could I justify spending so much money on a simple device which would just be used to hold my camera?
I quickly learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for, cheap tripods don’t just ruin your photos, but they can ruin your precious equipment too! After having a tripod fail and destroy my camera in Iceland last year, I decided to buy something that would never give me trouble again!
The above specs are pretty impressive, a set of tripod legs which weigh 2290 grams are rated to safely carry a whopping 25kg load! The GT3543XLS has 4 leg sections (3 twist locks per leg) and is made of Gitzo’s Carbon eXact tubing and a cast spider which improves rigidity. As with all of Gitzo’s other Systematic tripods, there is no center column on the GT2543XLS.
What’s in the box?
This tripod came in a sleek black box. The box includes the tripod legs, covered with a thin textile pouch for protection against scratches, the necessary tools to tighten the various Allen bolts, an instruction manual and a warranty card.
Systematic tripods include a neatly machined aluminium disk, this is interchangeable with other systematic accessories and you simply attach a head to the 3/8’’ thread in this disk. This feature makes the systematic series truly modular and customisable.
The tripod comes with Gitzo’s self-levelling ‘Big Foot’ rubber feet, but also with more conventional standard pointed rubber feet.
Gitzo have a range of feet which can be purchased separately, these include short spikes, long spikes and snow / sand shoes. The systematic series also have other extras such as a levelling base, a geared centre column and both 75mm and 100mm half bowls for Video.
From the first time you unlock the G Lock Ultra leg locks, you can feel the craftsmanship and quality of this tripod. The leg locks are large and covered with a pitted rubber skin which is easy to grip, even when it is freezing cold or soaking wet. The G Lock Ultra leg locks have internal O-rings which help reduce unwanted dust, sand and water getting inside the legs.
Gitzo’s Anti Leg Rotation enables you to grab and turn all 3 twist locks on each leg at the same time, helping save precious seconds when setting up in a hurry. Even after months of heavy use in harsh environments, the legs still slide out smoothly.
The centre disk has a neat aluminium hook on the underside and a 3/8’’ thread on the top. Attaching any head to these legs is a simple task and although you can use the hook on the underside to weigh the tripod down, I have never felt the need to use it so far, as the tripod is incredibly stable.
This beautifully crafted carbon and magnesium tripod carries the Gitzo logo, so there is no compromise in build quality and attention to detail. The new Carbon eXact tubing and G Lock Ultra leg locks are the very latest in technology and make the GT3543XLS feel as solid as a rock! I am so impressed with the build quality, that I would consider any Gitzo product as a life-long investment.
This tripod has been well thought out and designed. There is no corner cutting, it is designed and built for exacting professionals who require the highest quality in the products they use. This tripod has done away with all the issues I have had with previous tripods.
I bought the Gitzo GT3543XLS as I was sick and tired of previous tripods causing me to miss a shot, whether its because they took too long to set up or just because they weren’t upto the task of working in the extreme conditions that you get in places like Iceland and the Dolomites. This tripod is a Series 3 tripod although it is rated to carry loads upto 25kg, Gitzo actually has other models, like the Series 4 and 5, which are rated to carry loads of upto 40Kg!
Coupled with a reliable and professional arca swiss style ballhead, the Gitzo GT3543XLS is a joy to use and although it is heavier than my smaller tripods, it’s always my first choice, even when hiking in the Dolomites! Overall, I absolutely love using this tripod, it does everything that I expect it to do and more! The incredible sturdiness is reassuring and makes working in difficult conditions feel more reassuring!