Like many other photographers I am sure, I have owned several tripods throughout my career, all with their limitations. A couple of years back I decided to bite the bullet and buy a “tripod for life”!
At least I hope my Gitzo GT2542L will prove to be, because I still can’t get over spending nearly £900 on just a tripod and head! To date, I have had no regrets. The combination is sufficiently sturdy to take my pro bodies fitted with a 70-200 or (marginally) a 300mm lens. Despite this, its carbon fibre construction makes it much lighter than many on the market. The superb service provided by the Gitzo team more than reflects the premium price.
This was a big factor in my decision to stick with Gitzo for monopods. I have used for a couple of years a Gitzo GM2540 carbon fibre monopod and have always been pleased with it – light, strong and easy to open and close. For sports shooting, two monopods can be useful so I recently added a GM5561T and I have to say that I like this model even more. It is much thicker than the GM2540 and thus presumably sturdier but because it has six sections it is shorter – 41 cm compared with 53 cm – so much easier to transport around.
Many sports shooters do not trouble to use a head on their monopod but I always do, otherwise I find I have to keep swaying my body back and forth to track the action. Since Gitzo does not offer anything suitable I have always used the Manfrotto (same Goup, different factory) 234RC head and noted that one or two other Wimbledon shooters were also using one. However, it can be a bit fiddly and I have never felt confident of its security when walking around with the camera on my shoulder – it seems impossible to keep the head screwed tightly to the lens and I nearly had a major disaster when it did actually become unscrewed – thankfully I was also holding the camera strap!
I moaned about this to the very helpful and knowledgeable Manfrotto/Gitzo guys at a show and they passed on the useful tip to use the head in conjunction with their 200USS Universal Anti Twist Plate. Although designed for spotting scopes, it is very effective in preventing larger lenses twisting off the monopod head. If you use this sort of set-up, I really do recommend that you get one of these. It sorts the problem.
Gitzo products are not the cheapest and on occasions I have questioned whether I should invest – a mini is far cheaper than a Rolls Royce and will still get me from A to B. However, Gitzo have several times “helped me out of a hole” and such levels of service are all part of the package. When I look at the back of my cupboard at all the “retired” tripods and monopods I have, I reflect that I probably spent more on these in total than I have invested in Gitzo. Their products are hi-tech and constantly evolving but they do not date in the same way that, for instance, camera bodies do so I feel comfortable considering them to be a long-term investment.
I shall probably be proven wrong next year with the introduction of the Gitzo XXX1000 that fits in your pocket, supports a 400mm lens and has lots of LEDs! Until that time, I am happy with my decision. I am extraordinarily demanding as a customer and expect the very best level of service from every organisation with whom I deal. In my experience, Gitzo/Manfrotto provides us photographers with support over and above just a piece of kit to hold our cameras steady. Whenever I have needed them, they have been there supporting me in emergencies over and above the course of duty. I still resent having spent so much money on a product that does not feature even one LED let alone an LCD screen (!) and to boot a product that is a pain to have to carry around. The sad fact is though that many of my images simply could not have been captured without their products and these represent the best of what is on the market today. I know that they will continue to be reliable and essential parts of my armoury for many years to come, which is more than I can say about my transient, top-of-the range camera bodies, much as I love them today!