Tuesday, August 7, 2007


There are many fine sets of legs in France. Whether they were developed in France, or simply put on display in France.

Unfortunately our friend Audrey here has only two legs, which while great as a photography subject is not optimal as a photography platform. French company Gitzo (Le choix des professionels!) decided to fix that problem.

The ultimate goal of a tripod is to hold a camera still. While at first glance that is an easy task, the reality of photography is that you can have shutters open so long that even the vibration of the mechanism inside the camera is enough to blur the image. In fact, the moon moves so fast that if you are not careful with your settings you will actually end up with a motion trail in your image!

If you have a tripod designed for use in one place (like a studio) then you can get one as heavy as your floor would support since you only need to get it in place once. Most people want a tripod that can be moved around though. So now you have competing goals: a heavy tripod will resist movement, but a light tripod is easier to carry.

I decided that I wanted a tripod that could bring my camera to my eye level (as opposed to only crouching or a tall full height one). I would compromise some convenience for stability, by getting legs that had 3 sections instead of 4 (so the collapsed length is longer than if I got a 4 part one, but the 4th section is usually really thin and therefore wobbly). As I mentioned in my previous blog I wanted to buy my own head, instead of getting a lower end tripod where the head and legs are permanently connected (like my old Velbon). It needed to be light, but not to light (as mentioned previously, you don't want to be top heavy!). And most importantly, I didn't want to pussyfoot around, so I needed to buy something nice that I wasn't going to quickly outgrow.

So, welcoming modern technology with open arms, I found a versatile 3-section, my-eye-height, right-weight tripod made out of carbon fiber. Follow this link on carbon fiber tripods, and you can also see some of the other materials that Gitzo uses (in addition to the ones they list, some old school photographers swear by wood, which does have amazing vibration dampening properties, but is also pretty darn impractical).

The 2530Ex is a Series 2 'reporter' which means the outer/top leg section is 28mm with a maximum height of around eye level (series 2 have eye level and 'standard' which is a little bit shorter versions). The 3 indicates the legs have 3 sections, while a 2540 would have been the 4 section version. The 'ex' at the end standard for 'explorer'. While 'reporter' is the series name that indicates height / weight / load capacity, the 'explorer' designation means instead of having a standard up/down neck piece / center column, it is actually connected off center via a hinge. This allows the neck to be positioned any angle relative to the ground. The picture shows the neck a bit better than I described. The usefulness of this is making adjustments that you just can't make by moving the legs around (either because it is a pain to keep moving and re-leveling the tripod, or because the ground literally doesn't allow for repositioning them) Also you can see in the picture that there is nothing connecting the 3 legs below the main hinges, so the legs can be spread so far that they are basically flat against the ground, for extremely low angle shots. (and getting down and dirty with the flowers)

Going for carbon fiber adds a lot to the bottom line (compared to something like alumimum) but the weight savings should be nice as I try to carry it around - and I saved $15 shipping with my NAPP membership, so, that, like, makes it okay, or something...

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