Most of the times you get by with the camera on a rock, an improvised support but that always limits your possibilities. I used for a long period of time a Joby GorillaPod but that hardly qualifies as a tripod. It's rather a tripod head replacement as you need to sacrifice all it's height and length just to give the camera enough stability and the right orientation. So that keeps you and the camera stuck to ground level, hard to look down to the valley because of grass and other obstacles, hard to look up to the sky because of limited head space for image reviewing and setting adjustment. I did get a "full feature" tripod that was travel intended, the Giottos MT8350 but with a "full feature" Manfrotto 498RC2 head and the included carrying case it gets to a whopping 2.7 kg (6 lbs). That is way less than a serious studio setup but it's far from my "going light" philosophy which means thinking for minutes before deciding to take it with me on a trip. That doesn't mean that I didn't use it, and that tripod saw from high snowy peaks to deep dark caves, but on each trip I felt it weighting heavy on my back.
Now comes our article's subject, with a black friday 30% off deal that I couldn't refuse. Saw it before in the stores but didn't dare to dream about it, even so it was a deep hole in my pockets but I really think it's worth it. Strangely enough there aren't a lot of places on the net that talk about this wonder so I decided to add my personal take.
Some weight figures:
- legs only: 795 g
- short metal column: 100 g, carbon tube: 95 g, complete column: 195 g
- "light" case: 25 g
- dedicated case (GC1201T): 375 g
Preferred to give numbers like this because there are multiple combinations possible. Wanna go light? With legs, the short metal column and the "light" case you have a 0.92 kg tripod.
If I took the extra step to get the Gitzo legs, didn't feel like paying the price for a Gitzo head as I couldn't see the difference in product value so I choose the way cheaper Manfrotto 494RC2 head. With a light head to match the legs like this, you end up with a 1.24 kg (2.73 lbs ) complete tripod, ready to hold 4 kg (8 lbs ). Switching to the complete tripod with head attached and the dedicated case you get to 1.68 kg (3.7 lbs ), still way better than my old setup at 2.7 kg (6 lbs). One drawback is that when folded, the head doesn't fit perfectly between the legs and one of the legs flexes a little around the head which is not quite ideal.
You can see bellow the short metal column, separate and mounted on the legs. The top black metal "cap" holds a reversible two headed screw with 1/4 and 3/8 thread so it can connect either directly to a camera, or to a tripod head. The sideway allen key screw is used to fix the metal cap on the carbon tube when used in full column assembly. In the bottom part, there's a rubber ring that keeps the legs from scratching against the metal parts. There's also a spring loaded hook that can be used to hang stabilizing weights.
Next is the full column assembly, top and bottom view.
Next lets talk a little about the separate dedicated carrying case for his tripod.
For further Gitzo's carry case compatibility with Traveler series tripods I also recommend a look at http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=538298&page=46.
So what does is all come down to? Well, lots of nice long exposure shots in the field with a small and light package. Of course it won't hold the heaviest equipment in the worst conditions but it doesn't have to, it's enough to fulfill the other 90% of field scenarios. Below as a test of pushing things to the limit I used the tripod fully extended with a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS with 2x extender and a 60D body. I also tried a more robust setup with only 3 sections extended, column retracted but camera on portrait position, again with no problems.
That's about all folks!