Carbon fibre tripods - comments please? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hi All,

I'm considering getting either one of the Manfrotto (Bogen) or Gitzo carbon tripods to use with an Ebony 45 S (2.1kg without lens).

I have looked at the archives and while I was initially going for the Manfrotto, I've used the metal versions for years and I'm very happy with them, I noticed a post from Kerry Thalmann in which he states;

" Many people (most who have never used one) dismiss the Gitzos due to the leg lock collars. However, I think this is probably one of their biggest advantages over the competition (in both carbon fiber and metal tripods). Personally, I think it is the "solidness" of these joints, much more so than the materials used, that is the limiting factor in tripod rigidity. . . ."

Kerry, I am one of those "who have never used one" and I've always liked the Manfrotto leg locks, but your comments make sense and I am now seriously considering the Gitzo. Could any users of either or both makes please comment on Kerry's theory?

Are the Gitzo's perhaps better because of the leg lock rigidity and lighter weight than the Manfrottos?

Also would anyone like to comment on what would be a good lightweight head for a CF tripod with the Ebony? I prefer 3-way heads but I'm open to suggestions - anyone have any experience with the magnesium heads?

Price is not a consideration and I'd be using this setup for field work (far from the vehicle) almost 90 per cent of the time.

Thanks for any help.

Kind regards

Peter Brown

-- Peter L Brown (, August 23, 2001


Just another question.

What are the differences between the magnesium centre ball heads and the off-set ball heads?


Peter Brown

-- Peter L Brown (, August 23, 2001.

I have used several Bogen and Gitzo tripods (both standard and carbon fiber). I agree with Kerry's comments. I was happy with my Bogen tripods until I tried Gitzo. I like the leg locks of the Gitzo better. They lock easily and are solid. The Gitzos also give you a better weight to rigidity ratio. The Gitzos hold more weight, while weighing less themselves. My favorite are the carbon fiber Gitzos, but I like their standard models too.

I think the G1325 or G1348 would be a great choice for you Ebony. I use the G1325 for my Wisner 8x10, and it holds it with no problems, but this tripod is only 4 1/2 lbs. I also use a G1570M head. I suggest the G1370M low-profile head for your Ebony,

-- William Marderness (, August 24, 2001.

Try the archives and the static pages.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, August 24, 2001.

Yes, after having tried Gitzo, I don't even consider the Bogens. I don't think they are in the same league.

-- William Marderness (, August 24, 2001.

Heads first: I had the off center ball and sold it. It seems counter

to the laws of physics to use a cantilever arrangement if you don't

have to. More importantly, the center ball can be had with a Arca Swiss type slide-on plate rather than the cavity & plate arrangement. Safer and with some cameras it is easier to achieve front-to-back balance as you extend the bellows. (See the Really Right Stuff site and catolog.) But you might just as soon get a Arca Swiss B1 head anyhow.

Also used to have a Bogan tripod and the leg locks were always giving me grief. Either the bolts would work loose and the legs fail to tighten or I would over tighten the bolts and I couldn't loosen the legs. The Gitzo (which I admit is about one year old now as opposed to the Bogan which about 20 years old when I sold it) is easy to use and I believe as it wears I'll just have to tighten a little more. (Some have warned against over tightening a new Gitzo, by the way.)

You mention price is not important, but you can buy at Robert White and donate your $300-400 savings to the Home for Retired Photographers.

-- John Hennessy (, August 24, 2001.

I have one Gitzo (not carbon fiber) and two Bogens. The Gitzo sits in the closet most of the time. Can't stand the collars, don't think any possible gain in rigidity in high winds due to the collars as opposed to the Bogen clamps is worth the pain in the neck of using the collars, especially when the tripod has to be adjusted after first putting the camera on it. And in winds high enough to bring any possible extra rigidity of the collars into play, the bellows of the camera is likely to be flopping around so much that the tripod doesn't matter anyhow. Just my opinion of course.

-- Brian Ellis (, August 24, 2001.

Brian, the Gitzo collars tend to get stiff and hard to untighten with the time and it is necessary to sometimes undo them, clean the inner parts and put fresh grease on the threads. When well taken care of, they are a charm. I too found that the Gitzo legs absorb vibrations better than Bogen's.

-- Paul Schilliger (, August 24, 2001.

Peter, I took delivery of a Gitzo 1349 and 1370 low profile head (with the 1385 QR plate). This is the MK2 version and from what I gather the problems with stiff leg locks has been sorted. This is a breeze to use. My only regret is that I didn't get one years ago - I cant believe i struggled with the monster that I previously had!! I chose the 1349 because of its centre column allowing more height, but to be honest I use the flat plate that comes with the tripod as the legset is plenty big enough. When fitted with the head and QR it looks as if its going to weigh a ton, but the lack of weight is amazing. The head is the magnesium version. Superbly engineered too, I have always thought manfrotto/bogen to be well put together, but they are rough when compared to the Gitzo. I had a quick look at the manfrotto carbon tripods but they are too flimsy looking, probably work ok but I would be wary about putting ny LF on it (I know a regular contributor to this forum uses one with the Ebony SW, but I'm not that brave). I use an Ebony SW45 and this tripod/head combination is superb! Go for it! (BTW, Robert White offers fantastic deals)

-- paul owen (, August 24, 2001.

Peter, Forgot to mention that in the "instruction sheet" it states that to lock/loosen the collars you only need to use a 1/4 turn. This prevents the collars becoming slopp

-- paul owen (, August 24, 2001.

Maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems to me that the leg locks on Gitzo's CF tripods are superior to the leg locks on their older tripods. Like many others, I've grunted and struggled with the locks on older Gitzos--especially in damp or cold weather--but I've been very pleased with the leg locks on my Gitzo CF tripod.

Just pointing this out so that you don't judge today's Gitzos based on the shortcomings of their tripods 10 or 20 years ago.


-- John (, August 24, 2001.

P.S. I have a Mk. II


-- John (, August 24, 2001.

It's difficult for me to get specific information on them, but it seems to me that most of the carbon tripods weight about 3.5 pounds, without the head, which doesn't seem particularly light to me (the old Tiltall only weighs 4 pounds without the head). Isn't that an awful small weight loss for such a high cost? No flames please.

-- Wilhelm (, August 24, 2001.

Bill, I've been told the weight gain is around 30% for equivalent strength. Not that much of course, but 1 Kg counts at the end of a long hike. What worries me is how the carbon tube would withstand being sometimes mistreated, wedged between rocks for instance. Has someone suffered the loss of a leg that way?

-- Paul Schilliger (, August 24, 2001.


Let me start by saying I agree with everything I wrote. Seriously, I'm not sure how old that quote is, but I still own my two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods (modified 1227 - center column removed, and 1325) and love them both. No piece of equipment is perfect for all users and all uses. We all have our own needs, budgets, etc., but for me personally, I consider the two Gitzos I have perect FOR MY NEEDS. The modified 1227 for backpacking and the 1325 for everything else.

I'm not shy about stating my opinions, both pro and con, on any piece of equipment I've paid for with my hard earned dollars. If I had anything bad to say about the Gitzos, I'd say it. I don't. So, I won't. Both of these tripods have seen heavy field use for over three years and still perform every bit as well as the day I bought them. I do disassemble the legs about once a year to clean out any accumulated crud (sand and salt from salt spray) and apply a thin layer of white moly-based grease to the collar threads. BTW, the disassembly and re-assembly requires no tools, so it can be performed anywhere, anytime you feel it's necessary.

I have compared the Gitzos side-by-side, either in the store or in the field, with the carbon fiber tripods from Velbon, Slik and Bogen/Manfotto. The Gitzo 1227 is taller than the all of these, sturdier, and it's lighter than the Bogen/Manfrottos as well. In fact, for an ultralight tripod for backpacking, the only thing I've found lighter than the 1227 that I would consider using is the new 1127 (and it's really too short for me - so I'll stick with my modified 1227). None of these other manufacturers currently have anything that's even in the same league as, or intended to compete against, the Gitzo 1325.

Other than the Gitzo locking collars, that some people don't like (personal preference - Hint: if you're turning them more than 1/2 turn to loosen/tighten, you're making your life harder than need be), the biggest complaint is the cost. As others have suggested, check the prices at Robert White's web site. You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that you can get the Gitzo carbon fiber tripods from Robert White for LESS than most other brands in the US.

WRT weight. Believe me, for a metal tripod of comparable rigidity, the weight savings is closer to 1/2. In addition to being lighter, the carbon fiber tubing is also more rigid than aluminum. My 1227 replaced my Bogen 3021. It was within 1/2" of the same height, less than 60% of the weight, and MORE rigid. By also using lightweight ballheads, the two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods I now use are less than 1/2 the weight of the metal Bogens I used to carry, and they are taller and more rigid. Carbon fiber tripods may not be for everybody, and others may prefer other brands, but my carbon fiber Gitzos have truly made my life easier, and even though I bought them at US prices (before I learned of Robert White), I consider it money well spent and would not hesitate to buy them all over again (not that I'll have to, I expect they will outlast me).

WRT heads. About a year before I bought my carbon fiber Gitzos, I started using an Arca Swiss B1. After over a decade of using nothing but three axis heads with large format, it did take a while to get used to using a ballhead. I'm pretty comfortable with ballheads now, but to be honest, if I found a three axis head that was just as light, just as stong and just as compact as the B1, I'd probably switch. In terms of ease of use, I think being able to tweak each axis independently is a better match to the working style of large format.

But, for me, weight is always a concern, so for the last four years I've been using ballheads on both of my tripods. The B1 has been on my 1325 since the day I bought it, and it's a very good match for that leg set and easily handles anything I put on top of it. For the 1227 for backpacking, I started with a Linhof Profi II. A decent enough head, but not in the same league as the Arca, and only a few ounces lighter. Until recently, I was using a modified (replaced the stock plastic top platform with a Kirk Arca style QR clamp) Slik Standard Ballhead II. Not even close to the same level of smoothness as the Arca or even the Linhof, but considerably ligher (and an amazing bargain for less than $50 - the Kirk QR clamp actually cost more than the Slik head). On my recent backpacking trips, I've gone about as light as I think I can go with a Velbon PH253MG magnesium ballhead. This one isn't even as smooth or sturdy as the Slik, but at less than 6 oz., it's a real weight saver. Keep in mind, I only use this head with my Toho (2 lb. 12 1/2 oz.) and ultralight lenses (4 - 10 oz. each). This is pushing the hairy limits of "ultralight large format" (my own personal favorite oxymoron) and I would not dream of recommending this head for general purpose LF use.

Ergonomically, I REALLY like the Bogen/Manfotto mini geared head (don't remember the model number). It's an absolute joy to use, but almost a pound heavier, and less rigid than the Arca Swiss B1 (I still may get one for "road kills"). If you really want a three axis head, some of the new magnesium models from Gitzo look interesting (again, check the prices at Robert White).


-- Kerry Thalmann (, August 24, 2001.


Did you mount an Arca plate on the Velbon head, or do you use just the screw lock built in to it? I was impressed by this head in the store as compared to any others in the same class (Kaiser small, Giotto medium, etc...) but I have never seen the Slik you mention.

-- Richard Ross (, August 24, 2001.


I'm just using the stock mounting platform on the Velbon head. I normally prefer an Arca style QR clamp on all my tripods, but in this case, it would increase the weight of the head by over 50%. The Velbon head comes with a captive screw mount that's almost as fast to use as an Arca style QR. It't not quite as secure. but then I never flop my camera on its side for verticals, so it's not really an issue.

I do think it would be fairly easy to replace the stock Velbon mounting platform with a Arca style clamp. but the reason I bought this head was to go as light as possible when backpacking. For that application, I think it makes since to keep the lighter stock platform.

You should be able to find info (specs and picture)and unmodified Slik Standard Ballhead II online. If not at the Slik site, then try the B&H site. In this case, the stock platform is a joke (both to use and in terms of rigidity), so replacing it with a Arca style clamp was a no-brainer. For a picture and weight info on my modified Slik Standard Ballhead II, see:

Again, I do not recommend these ultralight heads (especially the Velbon PH253-MG) for general purpose large format use. But, for backpacking with an ultralight camera (like my Toho), they do the job and save a lot of weight. Not the right tool for every job, but a very good tool for this one specific application.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, August 24, 2001.


I moved from Manfrotto to a Gitzo CF early this year and I couldn't be happier. The Gitzo is definitely more stable than the Manfrotto, though I can't really say whether or not the leg locks have anything to do with it. I went with the 1329, though I don't use the center column (which effectively turns it into a 1325). Even without the center column, I can set the tripod up at a much more comfortable shooting height than I could my Manfrotto 3011 and 3021. I don't like to extend the center column and reduce stability, so I was always slightly hunched over with the Manfrotto. It's not something I even realized until I got the Gitzo.

Mechanically, the Gitzo leg locks have been trouble free, though I still occasionally fumble around with the Gitzo "spinning leg" problem (if one leg lock isn't tightened down well enough, trying to operate the next leg lock results in the section just spinning inside the other). This is operator error of course, and I have no mechanical complaints about the Gitzo locks. I had a number of problems with the Manfrotto lever-style leg locks, so I was never a fan of them. Ultimately, I switched back to the wing-knob style locks which were much more trouble free for me. I'd say the Gitzo leg locks are easier to use than the Manfrotto wing-knobs, but not enough so to make a difference.

As for the mini-geared head that Kerry mentions: The model 410 (or 3275) geared head is every bit the joy to use that Kerry says. The gearing allows for very fine adjustment along each of the 3 axes, but there is also a large spring loaded knob that disengages the gearing to allow large movements quickly and easily. I originally bought one of these for my CF, but the larger mounting plate on the Gitzo caused restricted forward and backward movement (the knobs on the head bump against the edge of the plate). It might not be a problem for you, but it's something to be aware of. If you're using a Gitzo with a center column, you can remove the top plate and mount the head directly to the column (this seemed very sturdy to me, though it's possible that there might be a slight affect on stability). I don't usually use the center column and the restricted movement bugged me enough that I ultimately (reluctantly) went with an Arca B1.

I have no complaints about the B1; it's strong, light, very well designed and works as claimed (though I did have a problem with the pan knob not clamping tightly. I had to disassemble, clean, and adjust it right out of the box. Grease used on the panning mechanism had slopped over onto the clamping surface). Like you, I was used to 3 way heads and wasn't really hot to change. I was pretty unsure of how well a ballhead would work with large format. It definitely took some getting used to, but I'm happy with it now and I'm not sure I'd go back to 3 way in the field (unless I could get the Manfrotto 410 to work better with a columnless Gitzo).

-- Tim Klein (, August 24, 2001.

Just saw the two new carbon fiber Hakuba tripods at my local camera store. They seem to be very well made and offer good value. Has anyone had any experiences with Hakuba's carbon fiber tripod?

-- Gerald (, August 24, 2001.

I'll give a vote for the G1325 and AS B-1. I use this setup for 35mm w/300 2.8 to 4x5 w/ big 90XL. The G1325 was an upgrade from the G1227 legs. I also had the G1377 Mg vertical head but ditched it for the B-1.

-- Ken Cravillion (, August 24, 2001.

Thank you to all who have contributed to my questions. I am overwhelmed with the responses - that's what makes this forum so good.

I'm now convinced to go with the Gitzo and once I have one in my hot little hands and have been able to play with it for a while I'll post my experiences and comments.

Once again thanks everyone for your help.

Kind regards

Peter Brown

-- Peter L Brown (, August 24, 2001.

Kerry-- One last comment--With such a lightview camera that you have, you might try the lightweight 1228 Gitzo tripod and my favorite Gitzo head which is the 1270M-- a low profile 3 way head. If you have any trouble in the wind just hook your camera bag to the center column. Most of the time you'll be delighted with the lightness! David

-- David Goldes (, August 25, 2001.


Thanks for the advice on the 1270M. I've actually been considering this head for a while. At a little over 20oz., it's certainly one of the lightest three axis heads around. Still, it's over 3x the weight of my little Velbon PH-253MG (a hair under 6 oz.). So, I think I'll stick with the lighter Velbon magnesium ballhead for backpacking.

As I mentioned, I use a modified (no center column) 1227 as my tripod for backpacking. According to the Gitzo web site, the 1227 and 1228 have the same weight (1.5kg), but the 1227 is about 2" taller (important to me at 6' 4"). My unmodified 1227 weighed 3 lb. 6 oz. out of the box (a little over 1 oz. above the 1.5kg spec). With the center column removed (which I think improves rigidity, as well as reduces the weight), with the Velbon PH-253MG head, the total weight of tripod and head is 3 lb. 4 3/4oz.

For the REALLY weight consious, my friend Roy Harrington uses a modifed Slik 804 (again, removed center column) with the same Velbon PH-253MG head. His tripod/head has a total weight of 2 lb. 11.5 oz. But, it's about 5" shorter than my modified 1227 (but then, Roy is 6" shorter than me).

BTW, for a REALLY light, but sturdy tripod, I tried combining the bottom leg sections of my 1325 along with the top sections of my 1227 (total of two leg section). In this combination (without the center column), the legs weigh only 2 lb. 5 oz. and are INCREDIBLY rigid (and only three leg collars to fiddle with), but unfortunately also quite short (about 14" shorter than my 1227 with the standard three leg sections, but no center column).

Again we are quite nuts, proudly admit it, know we're pushing the limts, know this won't work for everybody, but works for us, so we're happy. YMMV.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, August 25, 2001.

Hi Peter

I have the Gitzo 1228 with the Mamiya tree axis magnesiun head 590g, its a wonderfull combination for my Horseman 4x5 and Arca F-Line 4x5. Good luck.

-- Armin Seeholzer (, August 26, 2001.

With all the really lightweight carbon fibre tripods coming out isn't there a problem with just plain old 'not enough mass' to hold a 5x7 or larger camera steady in the field or a light breeze?

-- Dan Smith (, August 26, 2001.


It's easy enough to add mass on the spot without having to schlep it all over the backcountry. In fact, the camera itself adds significant mass. The heavier the camera, the more mass it adds, pushing right straight down (good old gravity). The two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods I use are incredibly rigid and capable of supporting much heavier cameras than I'm currently using.

I, generally like to carry ultralight cameras to match my ultralight tripods, (with the exception of a Linhof Technikardan TK45S that I use within a few miles of the parking lot and use with my Gitzo 1325). In that case, I can always add more weight if needed. Either something I was carrying anyway (camera bag, water bottles, etc.) or something found on the spot. Many of these tripods now come with a hook for just such a purpose. And for those that don't, it's easy enough to add one. It's then a simple matter of hanging additional weight from the hook. The little North Face Yavapai daypack I use for carrying my ultralight kit (mostly used for backpacking), has a "hoist strap" on the top, perfect for hanging from the tripod hook (also keeps my gear up off the wet, muddy, or sandy ground. The other option is one of those plastic grocery sacks (would you like paper or plastic?). They weigh almost nothing, are pretty strong, are reusable over and over again, and can hold a surprising amount of rocks. In this case, I can often double, or triple the weight of my ultralight tripod by carrying around a plastic bag that weighs almost nothing and takes up nearly zero space in my camera bag.

Another trick that works well is "grounding" the tripod by looping a length of cord over the tripod hook, pulling it down tight and standing on the end of the cord.

So, I never have to carry more weight than necessary and can easily add weight when needed. Although it's needed much less than you might think. If there is vegetation in the picture, the slightest breeze often makes shooting impossible no matter how sturdy your tripod. The added weight does come in handy when shooting more stable subjects (rocks, roots and mountains). I'd much rather carry an ultralight, but rigid carbon fiber tripod and a plastic grocery bag over miles of trail than go back to being a human pack mule with a heavy wooden or metal tripod. I'm sure others will disagee (and they'll probably be right - based on their needs and working methods). Just sharing what works for me.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, August 26, 2001.


How do you add weight to the G1325 tripod. You describe it as having a hook. Only the ones with center columns have hooks, as far as I know. Did you modify the G1325 by adding a hook? Or are you using it with a center column?

-- William Marderness (, August 27, 2001.

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