Gitzo GT3541LS Carbon Fibre Systematic Tripod

Mini-Review

I’ve owned this tripod since the beginning of 2009 and I have to say it’s probably been one of the best purchases I’ve made. I’ve experimented with several other, less expensive, less sturdy, tripods before finally splashing out on a Gitzo, but if I’d know then what I know now, I’d have saved up and just gone for a quality tripod. I can’t stress how important it is to have a really good steady tripod, but I know for many, the thought of spending upwards of £500 on a good set of legs may seem like madness. Honestly though, it actually makes perfect sense. Gitzo are seen the Rolls Royce of tripods and have held that mantle for many years without serious competition. Now companies like ReallyRight Stuff and Feisol make excellent tripods too, and there’s an ever increasing choice from the East. However, Gitzo are still the preferred choice of many, and with good reason.

Get a Sturdy Tripod

If you are a landscape or nature photographer then my advice will always to buy the sturdiest tripod you can carry. Don’t be swayed by a flimsy travel tripod. I chose the 3-series for sturdiness, which has a maximum leg diameters of 32mm, and can easily cope with a full frame DSLR and a long zoom. The consensus at the time was to avoid a centre column for extra stability, hence I chose the Systematic over the Mountaineer or Explorer models, which if necessary, would provide the option to add one later.  I chose the 6x carbon fibre model for lightness. This has 6 layers of carbon fibre and a wall thickness of only 1.3mm, and yet is 30% lighter than the previous 1.5mm incarnations, but provides similar strength and vibration absorption. Carbon fibre doesn’t get too cold to touch in winter unlike aluminium models. Aluminium also possesses an inherent springy-ness, so if  knocked it wobbles (vibrates) for several seconds afterwards; this may make the difference in capturing a sharp image. This micro-wobbling may not be easily noticeable, but can be easily tested in Live-View mode.  Zoom into something small in the frame, tap the lens or tripod and watch the movements on the LCD screen. Make a note of the dampening time too. If you have a centre column you’ll notice this micro-wobbling is particularly pronounced when the centre column is extended.

Tripod Legs

The GT3541 has 4-section anti-rotational legs, so is slightly shorter (55cm) when collapsed and a much easier length for fitting inside a travel bag than the 3-section version. I’m 6ft 2in tall, so chose the LS model for my height; if you’re taller still then you may need to the XLS model. My first tripods possessed clamp leg-locks, which initially I preferred as they were quick and easy to use. However, the G-lock rubber twist-logs on the Gitzo work just as well and take up less space. The G stands for gravity, meaning that the heavier the load the tighter they grip. Pretty soon you’ll learn to undo all 3 leg locks on each leg with one hand movement and so set up the tripod with speed.

I’ve had odd issues with the twist-locks, but only in particularly cold or damp conditions, where occasionally the one of  rubber grips would rotate freely without turning the twist-lock underneath. The solution is just to grip the rubber very tightly and turn. My thanks to Lee Frost for this remedy. If you carry your tripod attached to your backpack then you need to make extra sure you tighten all the twist-locks. I didn’t one time to great cost, loosing one of the legs. You can read my post of that unfortunate episode here.

Centre Column or Not?

The lack of a centre column makes sense if you have full-frame body and heavy lenses, however if you need to adjust for height quickly then it may pose a problem. The only time this has been an issue is when trying to clip the sun behind an object to get a star-burst or shadow, especially close to sunrise and sunset when the sun appears to move quite quickly. This occurred when trying the get the sun to clip the inside the upper part of Mesa Arch, which required some quick leg adjustments and a little foreword anticipation, whilst my fellow photographers with centre columns achieved this with comparative ease. Something to consider.

The lack of a centre column allows you to get the tripod very low, which is great for macro and extreme foreground shots. The GT3541LS excels in this and yet is still very sturdy.

Verdict

The Gitzo GT3541LS has now been replaced by the Gitzo GT3542 LS, but the changes are mostly cosmetic and it’s the same size, has the same G-locks, and carbon fibre legs. The top plate now has a triangular design rather than circular and the metal top of the legs have received a similar make over. Personally I prefer the look of the old GT3541LS, but the modern, sleek look may appeal to some. The only improvements seems to be a a fixed knob to undo the top plate (rather than using an allen key), and removable rubber topped spiked feet. However the GT3542LS has come with a hefty price hike and will currently cost you around £675 … ouch. That’s £200 more than I paid for my GT3541LS. If you’re lucky you may be able to still find some old stock GT3541LS with some retailers and eBay is always worth try.

There’s no doubt Gitzo make excellent tripods, but you do have to pay a considerable sum for that excellence. However a tripod of this quality should last for a decade or longer and withstand the vigour of field use. You get a 7 year warranty from Gitzo in the EC, 6 years in the USA. However, make sure you try before you. You wouldn’t want to buy the wrong model at this price. Despite the price Gitzo will still be the choice of many.

John R. Birch (01.07.2013)

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The Gitzo GT3541LS Systematic 6X Carbon Fibre Tripod uses advanced “Carbon 6X” carbon fibre material for its leg construction. This improved tubing is stronger, lighter and as resistant as its 12 layer predecessor. Carbon “6X” is manufactured using a complex, 3-D process weaving 6 layers of carbon fibre into smooth, solid constructed tubes.

The GT3541LS is a longer, eye-level tripod that is part of the Systematic Series 3 range. It is ideal for use with professional equipment, medium format cameras, and SLRs with an up to 500mm maximum lens attached. It offers an excellent load capacity rating of 39.6 lbs (18kg) and good torsional rigidity.

Systematic tripods offer a unique ultra-wide top platform that guarantees an incredibly stable base for any professional high performance equipment. This platform can be removed and replaced with other accessories, making this a fully customizable system.

Versatility
Systematic tripods are supplied with a flat top plate. The optional support attachments can be fitted by simply unlocking the bolt in the top casting, lifting out the flat plate and fastening in the alternative adapter or column.

Safe Lock Disc
The Safe Lock Disc top plate, composed of a techno-polymer compound, makes it possible to control the locking torque without prematurely stopping camera rotation and ensuring that users’ equipment is safely and effectively locked in place.

Anti-Rotation Leg (ALR) System
The Anti-Rotation Leg (ALR) system makes it quick and easy to open and close the tripod. Simply turn all of the locking rings at once and the whole leg can be pulled out in seconds.

G-Lock Design
The G-Lock mechanism has been completely redesigned in order to achieve a 20% increase in rigidity, faster operation and stronger, safer locking. G-Lock’s special design also provides a “gravity lock” effect: the higher the load applied vertically to the leg, the stronger the lock.

1mm Gitzo 6X Carbon Fiber Tube
Gitzo was able to develop a six-crossed multilayer carbon fiber 30% lighter than the previous 1.5mm generation that features the same exceptional performance of stability and vibration absorption and unbeatable quality.

Performance Design
Performance design allows the legs to be set individually at 24°, 55° and 90° to cover every angle you want to shoot.

Removable Leg Tips
Removable self-locking rubber leg tips are interchangeable with Gitzo universal accessories such as the big foot, long spike, etc.

General
Load Capacity 39.6 lbs (18kg)
Maximum Height 57.5″ (146cm)
Maximum Height w/o Column Extended N/A
Minimum Height 3.9″ (10cm)
Folded Length 21.7″ (55cm)
Head Attachment Fitting 3/8″
Weight 3.8 lbs (1.7kg)
Legs
Material 6 layer carbon fibre
Leg Stages/Sections
Leg Lock Type Twist
Independent Leg Spread Yes
Spiked/Retractable Feet No (optional)
Centre Brace No
Centre Column
Centre Column Type N/A
Centre Column Sections N/A

 

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