Reviews

Gitzo GT1541T 6x Carbon Fiber Tripod Review

by Kari Post | February 21, 2011

Gitzo GT1541T reviewI love the wilderness. There is nothing quite like the feeling of venturing into the untamed back country and finding yourself in a remote area, seldom touched by man. It is here where the beauty and complete awesomeness of the natural world overwhelms me and fills me with inspiration. Surrounded by nature, away from the chaos of ordinary life, I have the chance to see beautiful sights and interesting creatures many others will never get to experience.

As a nature photographer, I’ll admit to shooting the popular landscape icons and easily accessible roadside attractions, but it is the undiscovered and little known places far from civilization that I am most drawn to. These places, I feel, are the most exciting to share, and allow the most opportunity for creative and unique images. They are also where I often feel the most inspired, due in part to their remoteness, and the ability to experience them without a dozen other tourists and photographers getting in the way.

When I first started hiking with my photo gear, I carried my big carbon fiber Gitzo 1345 tripod with me. I only had the one tripod at the time, which I used for bird and wildlife photography as well. While it was not ideal, I could manage fine with it for photography specific day hikes, but realized it was impractical for backpacking and overkill for recreational hikes where I wanted to have photo gear with me “just in case.” As I got more and more into backpacking and adventuring, I realized I needed to get a landscape specific travel tripod.

I did a good bit of research before finally setting on the Gitzo GT1541T. Its four section carbon fiber construction and self-enclosed folding design make it one the most compact and lightweight tripods in Gitzo’s lineup and ideal for my needs. I’ve now owned this tripod for more than a year, and feel qualified to write a complete and thorough review on it.

Specifications

  • Maximum Height: 44.5″ (55.12″ with center column extended)
  • Minimum Height: 6.9″
  • Closed Length: 16.1″
  • Number of Leg Segments: 4
  • Max Load Capacity: 17.6 lbs
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs

Design Features

6x Carbon Fiber Construction

Gitzo carbon fiber tripods are lightweight and durable. Carbon fiber is probably the most popular material used in tripod construction because it is stronger and lighter in weight than aluminum or basalt, and does not conduct heat or cold to the same extent as the other materials do. These factors are particularly important for a travel and backpacking tripod that needs to be carried for long distances over rough terrain and will be subjected to extremes of temperature. I’ve found all three Gitzo carbon fiber tripods that I have owned to be exceptionally durable and reliable.

Anti Leg Rotation System with G-Lock

A standard on the 6x carbon fiber models, the ALR design and G-Lock leg locking system make for one easy to use tripod. Since the legs of this tripod are rather small, when collapsed I can unlock all of the legs with one quick twist of my hand, pull on the bottom segment to extend all of the sections, and run my hand up the legs, tightening each lock quickly. The whole process takes maybe 15 seconds. To collapse, I simply do the opposite.

My first Gitzo tripod was an older model G1325, which was developed prior to the ALR and G-Lock systems. It wasn’t until I got my more current 6x carbon fiber models that I realized what I was missing before ALR and G-Lock. These systems not only make setup and break down faster than before, but locking a leg in place is much easier, as I simply have to turn the joint until it stops, without cranking down on it, and I know it is locked and won’t slip at all.

The legs can be locked in one of two positions, either splayed out quite far to enable you to get as low as 6.9 inches from the ground, or upright. The leg joints that marry the legs themselves to the base of the tripod are different from those on my current 3 series tripod, as they operate by being flipped sideways with a flick of your thumb, allowing the center column to be inverted. I actually prefer this design to Gitzo’s standard three setting joints, which need to be pulled out with your fingers or pushed out from behind, as I find them easier to operate with gloves on or when my hands are half numb. I’ve also never had the problem of getting pinched with these thumb flip joints the way I have with the three setting joints.

Self Concealing Design and Feature Packed Center Column

The reversible grooved non-rotating rapid center column is easy to adjust and locks in place securely. One feature of the GT1541T that makes it unique is the fact that the legs can rotate 180 degrees completely around the center column, effectively inverting the center column so that it nestles compactly between the tripod legs. This saves about 3.5 inches of length of the collapsed design. The center column also has a hook that hides away nicely inside the base, out of the way when not in use. This allows you to hang weight from the base of the tripod to provide extra stability in windy environments.

Four Leg Sections

The four leg sections of the GT1541T allow it to fold up into a pretty small package, relative to other tripods capable of supporting the same load. The fourth leg section may look a bit spindly, but I have yet to see any weakness in it, even when forcing it through mud and branches. One of the most stressful situations to put a tripod under is setting the tripod down on snow and applying weight downward, as the feet of the tripod usually break through the crust at points wider than where the legs eventually settle, and this puts a lot of outward pressure on already cold and stiff legs. I’ve heard of more photographers snapping legs doing exactly this than any other way, but even after months of straight sub-freezing temperatures and multiple snowshoe treks and photo trips, I have yet to see the legs on my GT1541T submit to stress in any way.

Ground Level Set and Safe Lock Disk

Provided on top of the center column is a Safe Lock disk that is designed to cut vibrations and improve the grip between the tripod and head. In pairing the tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head, I’ve actually found that the head grips the disk so much that it unscrews the disk from the tripod itself, so I’ll admit I’m not entirely sold on it (more about this later). What the disk does allow you to do is easily remove the center column, in order to cut weight or get closer to the ground. To do this, unscrew the disk from the top of the column and the hook from the bottom of the column to slide the column out from the base. Then reattach the disk and hook to one another through the base using the included reversible bolt. No tools or other hardware is required for this adjustment, and it’s easy enough to do on the fly or in the field. The center column itself only weights a measly 0.2 lbs, so you don’t save a whole lot of weight by doing this, but on extended trips, every bit counts, and with the center column in place, it’s impossible to get the tripod much lower than 14 inches or so.

Gitzo GT1541T

Practicality and Real World Use

This is my go to tripod for landscapes, adventure trips, and even day hikes with friends. I strap it onto my pack whenever I venture into the field for work or class, even if the chances of using it will be slim, because at just over two pounds, I feel its worth carrying. Because of its smooth lines and small footprint, it can be attached to my pack in a variety of ways, from sideways across the bottom via sleeping pad loops, to vertically on the side or back of my pack in either the water bottle holder or outside gear pocket. This allows me a lot of versatility in the way I pack my bag and carry my other gear. The GT1541T’s compact design makes it small enough to fit into a carry on for airline travel, and it can easily be strapped to the rack on my bicycle for rides.

I pair this tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 LR ball head. The RRS BH-40’s bulk makes it impossible to reverse and collapse the legs of the tripod into a neat package, so I usually remove the ball head when not in use. This is no fault of the tripod’s, simply a consideration for prospective users, and serious back country shooters may find the BH-40 to be too heavy anyway. There are a handful smaller tripod heads that pair nicely with the GT1541T and can be left on even when reversed, and one, the Markins Q3T, was designed specifically for the GT1541T.

One problem I have noticed with this particular tripod and head combination is that the Safe Lock disk on the tripod tends to unscrew from the tripod itself when I have the tripod head locked down. Any minor bump to the ball head will cause the Safe Lock disk to loosen, and the only way to prevent this is to keep the panning base of the ball head unlocked, so that the ball head rotates instead of the disk. I dislike this for a variety of reasons, primarily that I am unable to securely lock my camera in place. However, I’d rather have a camera secured to a stable tripod that spins, than have my ball head and camera disconnect from my tripod altogether and fall to the ground. This seems to be connectivity problem between the Safe Lock disk and the tripod itself, and I believe this would be an issue with most other tripod heads as well.

I’ve used a variety of lens and camera setups on this tripod, but most often pair it with my Canon 5D Mark II and either a 17-40mm f/4 or 70-200mm f/4 IS lens, sometimes with extension tubes and teleconverters. This doesn’t come close to the 17.6 lb weight limit of the tripod, but I like that I can add flash or other accessories without exceeding its carrying capacity. The GT1541T has proved to be stable under this load and easy to adjust for a steady platform on uneven ground. I’ve never used the center column hook, partially because I’ve rarely had the need for it and partially because I worry a little about pushing the tripod’s weight limits with the few easily to hang but fairly heavy items I usually have with me in the field.

At five foot five, I rarely find the maximum height of 55 inches plus the additional three or so inches of my ball head to be limiting, and I often don’t bother to extend the center column more than a few inches, if at all. However, I imagine that taller photographers might find the tripod a little short for their liking. A taller tripod would of course be bigger and heavier than this one, and I feel the GT1541T is an excellent compromise of usability and packability.

Because of its compact weight saving design, the GT1541T does not have an integrated bubble level, which can make shooting panoramas a bit trickier. This can easily be mitigated by a hot shoe or tripod head mounted bubble level, but I do find this is one of the only things I miss from my bigger model.

Durability

I’ve put this tripod through its paces. It’s been with me backpacking in West Virginia, bike riding in upstate New York, and mountain climbing throughout the northeast. I’ve used it on hot and humid summer days in New Jersey and in sub-zero temperatures in New Hampshire. It’s been bushwhacked through trees, submerged in streams, dropped off of rocks, and used as a walking stick. I’ve used it on ice, rock, snow, soil, and sand and attached it to hiking backpacks, photo backpacks, and bike racks.

Aside from a few very small cosmetic scratches to the carbon fiber finish (all of them from having a frying pan lashed on top of it during a week long backpacking trip), the tripod is in fantastic shape. I’ve never had a problem with it locking up or getting sticky, and the leg locks are easy to secure so I have not had a problem with it slipping either. I’m very pleased with how well this tripod looks and performs after a year of constant use.

Summary

I believe the Gitzo GT1541T is the best tripod on the market for serious photographer-adventurers and confidently recommend it to anyone looking for a compact, lightweight tripod capable of handling serious gear in challenging conditions. For hiking and backpacking, this tripod can’t be beat, and it’s suitable for cyclists, paddlers, and other adventurers as well. Less outdoorsy folks can still appreciate its space saving design and ease of use, and travelers of all types will find this tripod easy to bring with them wherever they go.

Editor’s Note: The Gitzo GT1541T has been discontinued and replaced by the Gitzo GT1542T since this article was first published.

About the Author

Kari is a self-described adventurer, photographer, outdoor enthusiast, conservationist, and nature lover. She loves being outside in nature, exploring the world around her, and doing just about anything that keeps her on the move. Kari picked up photography as a young girl and developed a serious passion for the still picture in high school. In college, she combined her photography hobby and love of nature and began photographing wildlife and outdoor subjects, which now make up the bulk of her work. Kari views photography as a way to share the beauty she sees in the natural world with others. She hopes her images can be used help educate and inspire others to appreciate, preserve, and protect wild places and creatures, and aspires to one day work as a photojournalist for National Geographic documenting conservation issues. Visit Kari's website at: www.karipost.com and her blog at: www.karipost.com/blog.

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