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by nonprophet on Sun Jun 22, 2008 10:45 pm
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I've used Gitzo CF tripods for many years and really like them. A good friend who has started to get serious about her photography has been asking me a lot of questions about Gitzo tripods vs their cheaper counterparts made by Feisol in Taiwan. I've told her some of the differences I'm aware of, but seeing as we have a Gitzo rep lurking here, I'd like to put the question directly to him--why spend $600 on a Gitzo when the Feisol equivalent is about $300? What separates the Gitzo from the Feisol in terms of quality, materials, and workmanship?

Thanks!


NP

by Tim Zurowski on Sun Jun 22, 2008 11:05 pm
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I own a Feisol CT-3371. While it is definitely strong enough and sturdy enough to handle a 500 or 600 f/4 lens, I would never ever purchase another Feisol tripod. Mine has failed in so many ways it is unbelievable. I will say that Feisol does stand behind their products and they have sent me replacement parts everytime free of charge. Regardless, this Feisol has just not held up to my needs and I will eventually have to purchase a Gitzo or something better down the road. I would say don't waste the money and just get a Gitzo from the start.
Cheers
Tim Zurowski
www.timzphotography.com

by gitzodave on Mon Jun 23, 2008 12:34 pm
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Hi,

I don't think I would characterize my presence on NSN as "lurking", but I'll respond to the question about Gitzo vs. "Other Guys" regardless. There are three main tripod characteristics which warrant consideration that I'll examine here - Tubes, Locks, and Castings.

TUBES
The most important factor is the manufacturing process of the carbon fiber tubes. There are basically two designs for tripod tubes - roll table & pultrusion.
European tubes are made from the pultrusion process, whereas Far East tubes are made from roll table production. The differences are this:
Pultrusion tubes are cross-layered fibers, which are woven, seamless tubes made from a higher ratio of CF to epoxy resin than roll table - Gitzo tubes are 65% CF and 35% epoxy resin (bonding agent)
Roll table tubes are sheets of carbon fiber which are layered one on top of another with a layer of bonding agent between the sheets - the sheets are rolled, and then seamed.
Just as with a bag, or a shirt, anywhere there is a seam becomes a stress point which conducts shock and weakens tube strength. Additionally, because the sheets are layered upon one another, it takes more glue than pultrusion - it would be just as fair to call Far East CF tubes "Glue tubes" since they are made with 50% CF and 50% bonding agent. Also, air pockets are formed between the layers which cause weakness in deflection and damping.

LOCKS
The "G-Lock" system is not a gimmick - it's an engineering marvel that works extremely well for CF material. Gitzo G-Lock incorporates a cone shaped lock ramp which is nearly 5X the size of the previous lock ring that acts like a wedge, which amplifies locking power while reducing the torque necessary to engage the lock. The G-Lock is a simple, yet highly sophisticated design that speaks to the level of R&D at the Gitzo factory. Because the tripods are locking two CF tubes with a polymer ring (or wedge), the tolerances are very strict and the lock ramp needs to be very precise in order to maximize locking power - it is the reason that the Gitzo lock ring has alternating slits cut at precise angles - it makes the locking ramp act like "fingers" and spreads the surface contact area evenly around the full circumference of the tube.

Traditional lock rings like those found in previous versions of Gitzo tripods, and in most twist lock systems that have followed Gitzo's example, leave the connection between the tubes wanting. In other words, there are micro movements at the tube joints with non G-Lock tubes. These micro movements are amplified by the number of locking sections - thus 3 section tripods are more stable that 4 section tripods. Again, because of the strict tolerances associated with CF, adding or increasing the size of the lock rings, is not enough to improve performance. In fact, some companies have actually weakened there locking power by adding larger rings.

If Gitzo only increased the size of the ring, without forming the wedge and adding the alternating slits to it, it would not have improved performance. The fact is, the G-Lock is by far the most powerful, and easy-to-use twist lock mechanism on the market, requiring only a quarter-turn to lock and unlock the tripod leg sections. By eliminating micro movements between the leg joints, Gitzo has made the choice between 3 and 4 leg sections one of personal preference rather than performance since there is no difference between them in terms of strength or stability.

CASTINGS
All of the Gitzo tripod upper castings are made from gravity fed (or poured) castings, rather than pressure castings. Gravity-fed castings eliminate the possibility of air pockets that can get into castings when material is injected at high pressure. Gravity fed castings are stronger and longer lasting than pressure castings and can withstand a greater amount of torque. The torsion rigidity of the Gitzo upper casting (when combined with G-Lock) make the Gitzo tripod the tripod of choice for long lens shooters.

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, additional factors such as Limited Lifetime Warranty (USA) and spare parts availability are what separate Gitzo from the competition.

While the price may be steep, by taking advantage of NSN offers, and rebates from Bogen Imaging (USA) make Gitzo more affordable. For many, the price of NOT purchasing Gitzo is more expensive.

It may not be your first tripod, but very often it will be your last - or start you on an ownership path of the right "Gitzo" for the right application (my personal favorite customers!).

I hope this answers your question. I would be happy to address any follow up questions my posting may elicit.

Regards,
David Fisher
Product Manager, Gitzo Brand
Bogen Imaging USA

by jeffrey l. armstrong on Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:06 pm
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As the saying goes - you get what you pay for . I believe It holds true for everything we buy , generally . How many times have we all bought something for less thinking it is going to do the job and later buying what we really wanted in the first place , only in the long run spending more and wasting money on the original purchase. Have fun what ever you do. Jeff A.

by Bill Chambers on Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:14 pm
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For many years I stayed away from Gitzo due to the fact I shoot so often in salt water and the previous models had issues with the bushings expanding, locking, etc. To David Fisher's credit, and to bolster his credibility, he even advised me to stay away from Gitzo when I once asked him whether I should change from Bogen aluminum to Gitzo CF some years ago. However, with the advent of the newer models (GT), I made the jump to Gitzo and have been supremely happy since, even though I thought the price rather outrageous. In the end, it boils down to you get what you pay for, and quality costs more. I still shoot often in salt water, mud, muck, sand, etc., seldom give the tripod appropriate maintenance other than to drain the salt water out of the tubes occasionally, and it just keeps on going strong.
When life deals you lemons, make lemonade; when it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Mary's.
Unattributed

Please visit my web site, Enchanted Light Photography.
Bill Chambers
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by nonprophet on Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:45 pm
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Hi David,

Thanks for your reply, and I certainly did not mean any type of insult by my "lurking" remark--I think it's terrific that you participate here in order to provide a great resource on info related to Gitzo and Bogen tripods and accessories.

Thanks for your answer--it was very informative! I was wondering about your thoughts on the powder-coated finish of the Gitzo leg spider, column lock, and other metal parts as opposed to the anodized aluminum finish of Feisol and others. I live and work in a marine environment that's tough on metals! In my experience the powder-coating is virtually indestructible while anodizing scratches easily and looses it's finish over time.

When I was explaining to difference in price to my friend, I stated the differences between Feisol and Gitzo as follows:

Feisol CT-3442 vs. Gitzo GT-2541

Feisol: $309 + $39 for center column=$348
Gitzo GT-2541: $624 (Naturescapes store!) -$40 Gitzo rebate=$584
Total difference in price=$236

So, what makes up the $236 difference?

I would venture a guess that powder-coating the metal parts adds about $50 to the cost. Likewise, I would guess that the ALR legs (a feature I now cannot live without!) adds another $50-75 to the cost. While Feisol tripods come with a bare spider/mounting plate that is easily scratched (and can scratch your tripod head base!) when mounting/unmounting the head, Gitzo provides not only a plastic/rubber surface to protect the plate and tripod head base, but also a safety set screw to prevent movement and reduce vibration. I would guess these "safe-lock" features probably add $15-$25 to the cost. Lastly, as you noted Feisol tripods only come with a 3 year warranty whereas Gitzo comes with a lifetime warranty, I would have to say that's worth an extra $50 or so. So, that puts the difference in cost at roughly $100 or so. Put another way, if Feisol offered a $50 upgrade for powdered finish vs anodized, I'd do it. If Feisol offered a $50 upgrade for the ALR legs, I'd do that in a second! If Feisol offered a $50 upgrade to a lifetime warranty vs a 3 year warranty, again, a no-brainer I'd do it.

BTW, what is Gitzo's policy on warranty repairs? For example, if one of the legs on a Gtizo started to de-laminate, how would Gitzo handle this? Would I have to pay to ship the tripod to Gitzo for evaluation and repair? Ship it where? Where is Gitzo warranty service done? If it was determined that the leg was indeed faulty, would Gitzo pay to ship the repaired tripod back to me and/or reimburse me for shipping it to them? Does the lifetime warranty only apply to the original owner, or does the warranty stay with the tripod if it's re-sold?

Thanks again for your help!


Bret

by gitzodave on Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:59 pm
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Dear Bret,

I do not have enough experience in evaluating anodized vs. powder-coating to give you an authoritative response. However, I do have extensive experience with non-ALR vs. ALR vs. G-Lock. There are multitude of tripods offering non-rotating leg sections, but only Gitzo makes a working G-Lock. As Bill points out in a post above, there is a tremendous leap to G-Lock.

As for the warranty questions, tripods purchased in the U.S.A. must be sent to Bogen Imaging in Ramsey, NJ for evaluation prior to any warranty service at the owner's expense. Warranty repairs are performed in our repair facility in Ramsey, and shipped back at our cost (there is no shipping reimbursement for inbound shipping). The lifetime warranty applies only to the original owner and proof-of-purchase is required for warranty claims.

Regards,
David

by Bart Heirweg on Tue Jun 24, 2008 3:38 am
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I also own a Feisol CT-3371 like Tim and I feel the exact same way. It is definitly not a Gitzo. Mine is only a few months old and they already had to send me replacement parts. The metal which locks the legs in different positions was broken off, so the legs didn't lock anymore. Also the friction knob of my ballhead doens't work like it should and needs to be replaced.
The difference in price needs to be somewhere, so they use cheaper and less durable parts and stuff like that. So that's why you get problems with metal that brakes off, friction knobs, ...

As it was already said. You get what you pay for. My next purchase is a Gitzo with a RRS ballhead.
Portfolio, workshops and phototrips: http://www.bartheirweg.com - Image library: http://library.bartheirweg.com

by nonprophet on Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:50 pm
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Hi David,

I posed this same question to Feisol, their response was somewhat different. They state that their Standard Class Tubes contain 63% CF, and their Tournament Class CF tubes are 65% CF. Do you have any information to the contrary?

Also, they took some issue with the spider/castings comparison as they stated that their spiders/mounts are machined from solid aluminum and not cast at all--indeed this is what their website says as well. So how do the gravity cast Gitzo spiders compare to the machine-milled Feisols?

Has anyone at Gitzo ever performed head-to-head stability tests comparing Gitzp to Feisol, Benro, Induro, etc.?

Thanks again for your help!


Bret

by afe on Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:15 pm
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Without the tech stuff, I'd say go for the Feisol. In a few months you'll discover it's not quite as steady as the good stuff (Gitzo) and you'll end up buying that anyway. Many people (including me) have learned that buying the best tripod first, REALLY pays off ...

/afe
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by nonprophet on Tue Jun 24, 2008 9:27 pm
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afe wrote:
Without the tech stuff, I'd say go for the Feisol. In a few months you'll discover it's not quite as steady as the good stuff (Gitzo) and you'll end up buying that anyway. Many people (including me) have learned that buying the best tripod first, REALLY pays off ...

/afe


Hi AFE,

I agree that that is the prevailing wisdom, and, having a 3541 myself I like to think your statement is true. However, someone who's opinion and methodology I trust quite a bit recently showed me test photos where a Feisol tripod pretty obviously outperformed the Gitzo equivalent in terms of vibration as seen in the test shots which were done in a very controlled manner. So, it does make me wonder if sometimes we don't dismiss the lower cost 'pods under the assumption that more expensive and more well-known must perform better. I think that there's little doubt that a Gitzo will last longer than a Feisol (at least in terms of fit and finish, etc.) but it does beg the question as to which actually performs better, and, perhaps more importantly, why?

Bret

by Tim Zurowski on Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:19 pm
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Bret, the issue with Feisol is not in is sturdiness or the ability to handle a large lens and get excellent results. I do that every day with my CT-3371. The issue is with build quality. If you are prepared to have to send off for repair parts at least once a year, then perhaps it will be fine for you. The amount of breakdowns and problems I have had with my CT-3371 in a two year period, are just not acceptable IMHO. The metal leg locks have broken three times on mine within a two year period. Two of the legs have been stuck shut to a point where I have had to take the whole assembly apart to try to get it working again. Short of sendng it back to Taiwon, these leg issues have not been resolved. I have to leave two of the legs out a bit from being shut, or I cannot get it extended without taking it apart again. The system they have for setting the tension of the leg angles is pathetic. I keep setting mine to the tension I want, and within a few days it is back to flopping all over the place again. I'm sorry, there is really nothing good I can say about the build quality of this tripod, but they are strong and sturdy, if that's all that matters to you. ;)
Cheers
Tim Zurowski
www.timzphotography.com

by Bart Heirweg on Wed Jun 25, 2008 5:09 am
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Tim I totally agree with you, I reconise all the problems you are having. I thought all my problems were solved now with the leg locks, but since you already had to replace it 3 times, I guess I will have the same problems again. The leg tension thing is an issue for me to.
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by Candew on Wed Jun 25, 2008 7:50 am
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My original tripod was a very early Feisol 3401. It has been perfect since the day I got it, with no slippage, steady leg tension and no broken parts. With an Acratech UBH it is my favorite light weight tripod and is on its way to Alaska this week. I got a 3471 to go with the Canon 600mm, primarily because the previous Gitzo series had moisture problems with the twist locks. The 3471 and it has been nothing but trouble. Top casting leg lock notch broke off, requiring me to send a picture to Feisol, who then sent a replacement. Twist locks on the legs would not hold in cold weather at Yellowstone last winter, causing the tripod to slowly sink. Leg tension constantly needs reset.

So, the 3471 was replaced with a Gitzo 3540. So far, it has been perfect. Lighter than the Feisol and a lot faster to set up, which are important qualities to me.

I think Feisol makes a "good" product for the occasional user, but their tripods are not really up to the day-to-day needs of the professional or heavy user. For me, its not really a matter of quality, but dependability. When I am spending the kind of money two weeks at Alaska lodges costs, I don't want to have my equipment fail. That's also why I usually take at least two of most everything. The little Feisol has proven itself over the years, so it goes. The big one doesn't always work, so it is gathering dust.

Liz

by Maxis Gamez on Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:20 pm
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I've used Feisol tripods with the Canon 600mm and 500MM and is ROCK solid. No need to buy a Gitzo IMO.
Maxis Gamez

by john on Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:05 pm
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I have 2 feisols. I agree the base of the 3371 is definetly lacking. I have had to replace it twice now because the leg locks break easily if used in a rough manner. The parts were always replaced free of charge however and came very quickly so from a customer service point of view you couldn't ask for a better company to deal with. Other than that I have had absolutley no problems with legs slipping, falling off, or rotating, or any of the other problems that have been mentioned in the gitzo threads.

I also have the tournament grade tripod and it is sturdy enough for the 500 and 40D and a solid little tripod. The only weakness I see is the short ring that the top leg slides in to. If they had made it 3/4's or 1 inch instead of the 1/2 inch it is I personally would feel a lot better. The milled base is very solid and if they did the same for the 3371 I think it would be a heck of a tripod. I'm not sure why they would choose to go cheap in those two areas of these tripods, but.......

In my opinion the carbon fibre argument is semantics as my tripod stands up as well as my friends gitzo and is every bit as solid.

My opinion.

by PF on Fri Jun 27, 2008 3:51 pm
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I have a Feisol 3371 and never had any problem with it. My biggest lens is a 300 2.8.

by E.J. Peiker on Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:31 pm
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I'm glad Dave already answered this. I just learned about the difference in construction from a Bogen Imaging Webinar this morning that Dave co-hosted. Nice plug for NSN and Greg's Gitzo maintenance article and there were two pictures of me with my Giitzo in water in the material :):):) Bogen will be receiving an invoice for modeling services shortly :D ;)

by john on Fri Jun 27, 2008 10:22 pm
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Tim Zurowski wrote:
Two of the legs have been stuck shut to a point where I have had to take the whole assembly apart to try to get it working again. Short of sendng it back to Taiwon, these leg issues have not been resolved. I have to leave two of the legs out a bit from being shut, or I cannot get it extended without taking it apart again.


Tim....are you sure you put all the little plastic gadgets back in the right way when you put the legs back together? I have cleaned mine twice in the in the couple or so years I've had them and have had the same problem when I put some of the half rings in the wrong place. Worth a look if you are not sure.

by david fletcher on Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:42 am
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afe wrote:
Without the tech stuff, I'd say go for the Feisol. In a few months you'll discover it's not quite as steady as the good stuff (Gitzo) and you'll end up buying that anyway. Many people (including me) have learned that buying the best tripod first, REALLY pays off ...

/afe



I'm inclined to agree 200% here. There is an old story of how to save a $1,000 and that being to buy the best tripod first, rather than starting out with a cheapie, then upgrading to mid range , then looking at the Gitzo/Feisol range etc. However, in practical terms, I guess it will always be done in that manner as at the start of a "photographic" interest, there probably is no way of gauging at that time the level of future commitment or desire. So going back to the original point, having arrived at a "fully committed" point in a photographers life, it would appear not to be a contest, unless of course, one likes to send in tripods for repair, just to keep the workshops busy: :D . Dave
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