Gitzo GT2541 Explorer Carbon Fibre Tripod
Thailand, my adopted home, is a great vacation destination for many activities, particularly photography. It's easy to get around and hotels are cheap. Using Agoda to book a hotel on-line will give you a great selection of hotels and the best deals. I always use Agoda to book my own hotels.
Choosing A Tripod
The very good article written by Thom Hogan about tripods and ball heads is basically about trying to make false economies. All of us are probably guilty of this at some time or another; and I am definitely no exception.
We try to save money initially, only to find that in the long run we actually end up paying more. It applies especially to tripods and ball heads. I think the reason is because good quality equipment is expensive and what it does appears to be relatively easy.
I hadn't quite gone down the route that Thom describes, but my first two or three tripods were the cheap plastic types that you think will be adequate for the job. The trouble is they're not.
Porsche used to run adverts in the States declaring, 'There is no substitute'. I've been fortunate to own a couple of entry-level Porsches, and I've also driven other manufacturers efforts at making Porsche-type sports cars.
What they normally do is take a standard family saloon, stuff in a big engine and a few go-fast bits and pieces, and then try to take on the original. However, in most cases it just doesn't work.
With tripods and ball heads there are a lot of cheap copies available these days where mainly Asian companies have tried to copy Gitzo. The only way they can beat Gitzo at their own game is by selling their products cheaper.
Unfortunately, their cost-cutting normally impacts the quality. Although the copies may seem very similar at first, they probably won't survive quite the same way in the field as the originals.
Even after all my experience of making false economies, I was still set to buy a replica tripod that looked great and appeared to have all the functionality I wanted.
Right at the last moment, I went to a dealer in Singapore that had a good selection of tripods. The very helpful (and very honest) salesman told me they had stopped stocking that brand because of quality problems. I also read another report on the same brand where a leg had fallen off.
I have to admit that the extra cost of the Gitzo was painful, but the pain doesn't last very long. As soon as I started using the GT2541EX in the field, I knew I had made the right decision.
I regard it as being a tripod for life, and therefore it should work out cheaper in the long run.
Gitzo GT2541EX CF6X Explorer Tripod
My requirement was for a fairly light tripod that could comfortably handle my biggest lens, a Canon 300mm f/4.0L IS. I have no plans to get any bigger lenses. If you are using (or plan to use) 500mm and 600mm f/4.0, or big f/2.8 lenses, you probably need something a bit larger and sturdier.
I wanted something that was suitable for general purpose photography; something that could be used as a conventional tripod, but something that could also lend itself to macro use.
The Gitzo GT2541EX is perfect.
With most tripods, the legs open out to a fixed position, or some models have steps to allow maybe three fixed positions. Not the Gitzo.
Each leg has a separate lever which locks its position. The legs are therefore infinitely variable, with no fixed positions. This is one of the features that makes this particular tripod quite unique.
The other great feature involves the design of the centre column. Some tripods don't even have centre columns; but I was after flexibility, not ultimate stability.
Most tripods do have centre columns, but the column just goes up and down. Some have an option to put the column into a horizontal position, and a few have centre columns that can be adjusted to any position.
The Gitzo GT2541EX centre column can be put into any position. The only other models I have seen with this features are Asian products, which might work perfectly well, but on the other hand might not. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.
This combination of features on the GT2541EX makes it an incredibly versatile tripod for field work. It can be set up almost anywhere to point your lens just where you want. These features are especially useful for field macro work.
For low work I haven't done this, but I try to spread the legs as wide as possible keeping the camera inside the ends of the legs. Keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible is advisable.
I wouldn't recommend leaving your biggest lens unattended on the tripod in Florida during hurricane season, but I've already experienced some fairly strong winds next to a reservoir with my heaviest set-up and there wasn't a problem.
Again, I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving my equipment unattended like this for very long, but if you turn your back for a few seconds and there is a gust of wind it is unlikely that the tripod will topple.
With the centre column raised, there is a degree of flexing if you apply pressure. This can be improved by lowering the column as low as possible, and by the use of a remote switch.
Construction and Maintenance
Time will tell. However, I have an engineering background and this product oozes with quality (as does the Markins Q3 ball head I'm using it with).
There's a web page somewhere where someone has taken apart a Benro ball head in order to assess the engineering that went into it. I don't feel the need to do this with my tripod or ball head.
As far as maintenance is concerned, I'm not anticipating doing much because none of my equipment gets treated very harshly. The legs are quite easy to take apart, therefore if any muck gets inside interfering with the sliding action it should be easy to fix.
I was shown how to do this by the salesman. He also suggested using a little Loctite on the feet to prevent loss if they come loose.
Number Of Leg Sections
The three-leg section version is a bit more stable. The four-leg section version is shorter when collapsed and sits lower at its shortest height.
It depends on your own personal preference.
Maximum Height: 164.0cm / 64.6in
Maximum Height (with center column down): 135.0cm / 53.1in
Folded Length: 54cm / 21.3in
Leg Sections: 4
Weight: 1.8kg / 4.1lbs
Load Capacity: 12.0kg / 26.5lbs
Material: 6 layer carbon fiber
Leg Lock: Twist
Date Purchased: April 2010
Supplier: T K Foto Technic Pte Ltd, Singapore
Price: 840.00 Singapore dollars