The Skinny on the Lightweight Gitzo GT1542T 4-Section Traveler Tripod

snow-geese-in-fiery-sunrise-_mg_0195-bosque-del-apache-nwr-san-antonio-nm

Snow Geese and pre-dawn sunrise colors: 6:41 am on 11/29/2011, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM. This image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Autofocus Lens (see the $170 Instant Rebate on this lens in Item 2 below) and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera. ISO 400. Center-weighted Average metering -1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/4 in Av Mode.

The camera body was mounted on the Giottos MH 1302-655 (Tiny) BallHead via a Wimberley P-5 camera body plate. The ballhead sat atop the lightweight tripod that I have been looking for all of my life: the Gitzo GT1542T. A Double Bubble Level in the hot shoe ensured that the camera was square to the world. Rear Focus AI Servo AF release and recompose. (Rear focus is great for birdscapes and for landscapes.) Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. For a greater appreciation of the image, click on the photo. Then click on the enlarged version to close it.

The Skinny on the Lightweight GITZO GT1542T 4-Section Traveler Tripod

For years folks who will never own a big lens have been begging for a stable lightweight tripod that will support their intermediate telephoto lenses and short zooms. Many simply opt to go with the 4.06 pound GT3530LS Tripod that I use every day with both my 800 and my 70-200 (or with one of the similar alternatives). For years I searched and searched without success for a lightweight tripod. I have just finished field testing the four section, 2.2 pound Gitzo GT 1542T Traveler tripod. The first time I set it up I was astounded at how stable it was (primarily due to the stiffness of the legs).

At present we have three in stock. They sell for $679.99, the MSRP, the manufacturer’s minimum suggested retail price. (We are not permitted to price them any lower at risk of losing our Gitzo dealership.) Shipping on phone orders is $15 by UPS Ground (signature required). The shipping rate on orders through the BAA On-Line Store varies depending on your choice of shipping method. Note: there is a $40 rebate in the form of a prepaid VISA card until Jan. 15, 2012 – U.S. only. Fill out the form that we include with each order, fill it out and mail it to Gitzo. You will receive your pre-paid VISA card in the mail.

$80 Instant Rebate

This just in!: there is an $80 instant rebate good only from now through 12/25/2011.

Two Uses for the GT1542T

I see two uses for the GT1542T:

One: For folks with intermediate telephoto lenses or those photographers who love macro and or scenic photography I see this lightweight gem as their everyday tripod (but only if they need the very light weight and pretty much only if they are sure they will never go to a big lens like one of the 400 f/2.8s or one of the 500 or 600mm f/4 lenses). For those folks I recommend the 3530 LS or one of the alternative models suggested here. Before purchasing a GT 1542T for any of the purposes mentioned above please read the important information below.

Two: For serious photographers who already own a 4 pound plus Gitzo tripod for their super-telephoto lenses the 1542 makes sense as a great second tripod for landscapes and macro and a great travel tripod. I first used mine on the 2011 Bosque IPT as a second tripod with the Giottos MH 1302-655 (“Tiny”) BallHead for landscapes with either the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L IS II wide angle zoom lens or the circle/fisheye lens, the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Fisheye Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens. I will be taking the tripod and the tiny ball head along on my two upcoming Southern Ocean trips: Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. My plan is to carry the rig in (it is that small) or attached to my vest to use for landscape and circle images made at slow shutter speeds. I am gonna get back to the top of Salisbury Plains! BTW, I use a Wimberley P-5 camera body plate to mount the camera body (with a short lens attached) to the tiny ball head. It will also make a great macro trip as it goes so low. BTW, the 1542 is so stable that I could envision using it–with the Mongoose M3.6 on top–for a super-telephoto lens like the Canon 800mm or any of the 400 f/2.8s or one of the 500 or 600mm f/4 lenses in an emergency situation should a tripod disaster strike while you are traveling….

More about the GT1542T Tripod

As noted above, this 4-section tripod weighs only 2.2 pounds. Folded with the legs reversed the closed length of the 1542 is a bit less than 16 3/4 inches. This is amazing by any standard. The tripod comes with a center post. With the tripod legs spread normally and the center post fully extended the height is 58 1/2 inches. With the center post gone–see more on this great feature below–and the legs spread normally the height is 45 11/16th inches. With the center post gone and the legs spread to the low level setting the height of the tripod is 8 5/8ths inches. As you can see, the 1542 is quite versatile. The maximum rated load is 17.6 pounds so as I suggested above even a pro body and a super-telephoto lens will not get you over the max (that only in a pinch of course….)

The 1542 features G-locks. G-Lock is the new Gitzo leg locking system. The locking mechanism was 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. The Anti-Leg Rotation system allows the tripod to be opened in less than 15 seconds; simply loosen all of the twist locks at the same time and then pull the leg down and tighten the locks individually.

The rapid center column (centerpost) incorporates several great features. The locking collar makes it easy to adjust the column quickly and the post features an anti-rotation groove for improved stability. And the center column can easily be inverted for an alternative shooting angle or for low level macro work. (I’ve got to figure that one out….) There is a hook on the bottom of the centerpost; this built-in accessory allows you to hang a stabilizing weight (e.g. a full camera bag or a sandbag) from the bottom of the center column. This is great for stabilizing longer, heavier lenses or doing the same on uneven ground or in windy conditions.

Here is the deal with the eliminating the centerpost: a new feature allows you to remove the center column either to save weight or to get the camera closer to the ground. You use only the existing components; the upper disc with reversible 1/4′ – 3/8′ bolt and the column hook assembly. Remove the center post and fix the disk directly to the upper casting using the column hook. No tools are needed. I figured out how to do it without instructions in about 30 seconds….

There are two click-stop settings that you access via the leg lock tabs. There are stops for normal operation and for ground level work. Here’s a tip; it you try to pull out the leg tab and are unable too simple pull the leg in a fraction to release the tension on the stop.

Gitzo 6X is the most advanced carbon fiber tube in the market and guarantees structural strength, flexion rigidity and great vibration absorption properties. Despite the claims of other manufacturers, the performance of this multilayer design is unique and inimitable thanks to the advanced aerospace production technology and the exclusive inner structure. It is the highest density tube made of 100% top quality ultra thin (7μm) carbon fibers (a 28mm tube contains 1,500,000 carbon fibers).

Important Information

By now many of you have a question: Why buy a 3530 LS (or one of the similar alternatives) if the lightweight 1542 can support an 800mm lens with a Mark ? Easy answer. Though the 1542 is great for intermediate telephoto lenses (and workable with big glass in an absolute emergency) the smaller lighter GT 1542T simply does not offer the strength and rigidity that is needed for every day super-telephoto photography. In addition and most importantly there are tripod height issues in spite of the accurately stated “with the tripod legs spread normally and the center post fully extended the height is 58 1/2 inches.” As you might have already figured out it is the “and the center post fully extended” that is the catch, the tradeoff for those almost 2 full missing pounds. Let’s take a look at some images of the tripod and you will quickly get the picture.

gt-1542-t-tall-w-o-center-post-45-11-16th-inches-_w3c0945-indian-lake-estates-fl

Above is the 1542 with the centerpost eliminated. The distance from the ground to the top of the tripod’s support platform is 45 11/16th inches. That is about 3 feet, 8 5/8ths inches. In other words, not very tall. If I ever needed to put a big lens on the 1542 I would never extend the centerpost a single inch, in fact, I would almost always work with the tripod lowered considerably.

For folks who purchase the 1542 as their workaday tripod for intermediate telephoto lenses, I would recommend that they do not extend the centerpost as a matter of course and that they lower the tripod for greater stability whenever possibly. Now here is some great news; for folks with “only” intermediate telephoto lenses for bird and wildlife photography getting as low as possible is a huge plus as it reduces the angle of declination to the subject (see in ABPII). This will yield more intimate images that feature more pleasing backgrounds (because the background is effectively moved farther from the subject by getting lower). All good.

gt-1542t-at-grond-level-8-5-8-inches-_w3c0948-indian-lake-estates-fl

Above is the tripod set up for ground level work. As shown the distance from the ground to the top of the tripod’s support platform is 8 5/8ths inches. By releasing two of the three legs tabs it is possible to get several inches lower than that. I wish that they had added a third leg lock that would allow you to position the legs in the nearly-flat position. Remember that your tripod head will–depending on your choice–add considerably to the height of the tripod (however you have it set up).

gt-1542t-at-full-height-58-1-2-inches-_w3c0960-indian-lake-estates-fl

Above is the GT 1542T with the legs extended and locked in the normal position, the centerpost fully extended, and a Mongoose M3.6 atop it. Jim Litzenberg, my trusty right-hand man, is behind the tripod. My 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens with the EOS 1D Mark IV is mounted via the Wimberley P-20 plate. Jim is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall. As you can see, the tripod as set up is a bit too tall for Jim. I am 5 feet, 11 inches tall (used to be six feet even…) and the 1542 as shown above is a bit too tall for me also.

Now here’s the rub and you’d best read this carefully: with the centerpost fully extended stability is greatly reduced; you have turned a tripod into a top-heavy monopod. There will be hell to pay in a breeze and as implied above, I would almost never work with the centerpost extended when using lenses of three or more pounds. Furthermore and most importantly, the huge drawback of all lightweight tripods is–as mentioned above–that in many situations they will be terribly top heavy. Before I continue let’s examine some basic tripod information: if you leave your tripod unattended with a rig mounted on it it will topple over at some point. It is never a matter of if but of when…. Even if you leave your rig for just a few seconds there is a good chance that a moderate breeze might knock it over. And if someone in the vicinity just brushes against it it will hit the ground. Unless you are working on soft ground or are extremely lucky your camera or lens or both will be damaged. On several occasions I have seen both a lens and a camera body totaled as a result of a single mishap.

The rig as seen in the image immediately above is hugely top heavy. And even with lighter gear mounted it will always be top heavy. Especially so with the centerpost extended. It will be plenty top-heavy even with the centerpost lowered or eliminated. This information goes for everyone in all situations whether they are using the 1542 as their main tripod for an intermediate telephoto lens or as a second, macro, or scenic tripod. The only exceptions would be when the tripod is set up for low level or for ground level operation. When standing or kneeling always remember to spread the legs of the tripod until you hit the stops; this provides maximum stability.

If you purchase this tripod for any purpose never leave it unattended. If you must walk away it is best to have a friend keep a hand on it or to simply squeeze the legs together and place the tripod carefully on the ground. It cannot fall from there. Here is what I tell IPT folks: if you leave your tripod unattended and someone knocks it over it is 100% your fault. Period. Now and forever.

Don’t get me wrong, the GITZO GT1542T 4-Section Traveler Tripod is a fabulous piece of gear. It weighs almost two pounds less than the 3530 LS that I use every day. And whether or not your shoulders feel like mine do right now–I swam too, too much and too often in my new pool, two pounds is a ton. If after reading the important material above you would like to purchase one we would be more than glad to take your order and get it to you quickly.

Remember

The BAA On-Line Store sells only items that I use and those that I have field tested. We do sell a few items that have been used and recommended by friends (like the Gitzo GT3541 XLS tripod for super-tall folks like Todd Gustafson). And we do–by popular demand –carry a very few items that I do not use or recommend (but those are always of the highest quality). We will not sell you junk and as above, we will honestly and accurately evaluate every product and we will teach you how best to use it. Do let me know if you find the information above at any other on-line store…..

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5 comments to The Skinny on the Lightweight Gitzo GT1542T 4-Section Traveler Tripod

  • On a side note, the pool is looking good! :)

    Yes. I have a 38 image blog post coming soon that you will surely enjoy! artie

  • avatar Eric Thomson

    I carried this exact combo to the Galapagos in October. It performed perfectly with my 1DMk3 and EF100-400 zoom mounted on a Wimberley lens plate. It was very steady even in a strong breeze. I am a touch over 6′ and it extends to a comfortable height. When I first looked at how tiny it was I didn’t believe it could be anything like as rigid as it turned out to be. I still love my 3530LS with the Arca Z1 ballhead but I wouldn’t dream of trying to pack it for travel. Maybe one day when I spring for big glass I’ll have to :)
    The little Giotto head fits just right between the feet when the ‘pod is folded too.

  • Artie,

    You mentioned a trip to Antarctica. When are you going and on what ship?

    Warmest,

    Steve Leimberg

  • avatar Gloria

    That is a really spectacular shot. I read only some of your post. I still cannot, and never will, be able to operate a gitzo tripod :)

  • avatar Bill Griswold

    I have this tripod and the Giottos “tiny” head, and love them both! This review accurately reflects my experience with them.

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