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Tripods review (based on Gitzo G1220 vs. G1227 comparison)

Photography is a very costly hobby and it gets even more expensive if you try to save money by buying cheaper equipment.

I had enough experience to appreciate the above statement and not to start with cheapest tripods and then gradually buy better ones, which seems a common practice among photographers. I knew this would ultimately lead me to the best brand, so I decided that I would buy a Gitzo tripod right from the start.

Choosing a tripod mainly involves balancing the following factors: tripod's maximum load, its weight, number of leg sections and maximum height. Tripod's height should be considered with the centre column down and up (if you choose to have the centre column at all, that is). If compactness matters to you, you should think about tripod's length when closed, too.

Photo equipment purchases are often based on technical specifications considerations. Unfortunately, what we choose on the basis of theoretical consideration is not necessarily the best for our practical purposes as some aspects which matter in real-life applications can not be covered by technical numbers. Most of the time theory gives us a very good approximation; however, it is only practical experience that shows what the best ultimately is.

Theory

Having thoroughly considered different models of Gitzo tripods, I first bought a G1220, which is a classic aluminum tripod. My decision was mainly based upon comparing and analyzing the following set of characteristics:

Tripod

Weight

Max height

Max height with central column down

Max load

Price *

Gitzo G1220 (aluminium)

2.20kg

155cm

120cm

6kg

USD210

Gitzo G1227 (carbon)

1.56kg

161cm

139cm

8kg

USD340

* As of July 2004 and if bought here.

The G1220 is rated to uphold up to 6kg, which is enough for my equipment. No problem here.

As far as the number of leg section goes, even during the short time with tripods in a photo shop I felt that four leg sections were far too much to have to extend all the time. Also, tripods with four leg sections felt less rigid than the ones with three leg sections.

Tripod's length when closed did not seem to matter as I intended to carry it in a separate case anyway. This went together with the consideration in the above paragraph. Consequently, tripods with four leg sections were not even considered.

As to tripod's height, it seemed that its height with centre column down was of no importance as long as I could get my camera's viewfinder to my eyelevel by extending the centre column, so the G1220 passed.

With respect to the weight, 2.2kg seemed quite alright to carry around. Also, the difference in price between aluminum and carbon tripods did not seem to be justified by the difference in their weights.

So, according to the theory, G1220 it was.

Practice

To cut a long story short, I sold my G1220 and bought a G1227. If your shooting style is similar to mine and you do not use lenses longer than 300mm often, I suggest you buy either a G1227 or a G1228 right from the start. Here is why.

A tripod's maximum height with centre column down turns out to matter a lot. With the G1220 I had to almost always extend the centre column. On the one hand, with time I found it a real pain in the neck to fiddle with it all the time. On the other hand, when I extended it so that my camera's viewfinder reached my eyelevel and attached a Nikon F100 with a 80-200 f/2.8 lens (or any similar combo, not to mention heavier ones), the combination did not feel very stable at all. For one thing, I would not walk away from such a setup and feel no worries. Get a tripod that is high enough so that your camera's viewfinder reaches your eyelevel with centre column down. Having said this, though, I still prefer having the centre column as at times it comes in quite handy.

If you hike often and for long hours, a tripod's weight matters more than you probably think. Quite a few times I lugged my G1220 around for about ten hours a day and despite the fact that I am in a relatively good shape I really wished it was lighter. Reducing your tripod's weight from 2.2kg to 1.5kg is a huge deal.

One more important point. Seeing how I found it a pain in the neck to have to always extend the centre column, I now am sure that going for a tripod with three leg sections was right. This is the part where the theory was right. Unless compactness is of a paramount importance to you, get a tripod with three leg sections.If compactness is no. 1 priority for you, get a G1228.

P.S. An interesting observation: why is it that the new LVL generation of tripods was introduced on the basis of the G1227 and G1228 tripods?