Monday, April 2, 2012

Gitzo GT3531S Review


Introduction:
The Gitzo GT3531S is a carbon fiber tripod designed to meet the needs of professional or amateur photographers that need to support hefty loads. The GT3531S offers stability for heavy gear, without having to carry a studio tripod, all while only weighing 1.7KG (3.7lbs). The legs are made of Gitzo's 6X carbon fibre tubes, and can support up to 18 KG (39.6 lbs), enabling the GT3531S to support heavy super telephoto lenses, such as a 500mm F4 from Nikon or Canon.

Features:
The GT3531S is part of Gitzo's Systematic series of tripods, thus it has no centre column (although it can accept an optional centre column available through some retailers or Gitzo's website). Additionally it features a detachable hook on the base of the head support to hold a camera bag, three leg sections, G-Locks with ALR (Anti Leg Rotation) technology allowing for quick deployment (Gitzo claims 15 seconds), legs constructed with Gitzo's patented 6X carbon fiber tubes, a bubble spirit level and swappable rubber feet.


Build Quality, Handling:
Upon handling the Gitzo GT3531S you immediately realize that it is a well engineered piece of equipment. No doubt that the feeling of durability comes from the fact that each one of these tripods is hand made in Italy, from high quality materials. The base for the tripod head, the leg connection joints, and the legs themselves all feel solid in your hand. Due to the use of carbon fiber in the legs construction they are non-conductive, as a result the legs will feel warm to the touch even near freezing temperatures (unlike aluminum tripods which are conductive and will draw warmth from your hands). Upon turning the twist locks (Gitzo calls these "G Locks") on the legs, the sections easily slide in and out. The rubber feet on the base of the three legs twist off and can be replaced with optional metal spikes for better support on soft ground, snow or ice. I recommend checking to making sure the feet are tight before each outing, as there have been reports of them coming loose over time by some users.

Gitzo GT3531S from above
Stability:
The GT3531S offers a great deal of stability in a reasonably light weight package (weighing 1.7 KG or 3.7 lbs). As noted earlier the GT3531S is capable of supporting up to 18 KG, when said weight is centered directly over the tripod base.  I haven't used the tripod with any super telephoto lenses, and the heaviest gear I have used on this tripod is the Nikon AF-S 300mm F2.8G VR II with 1.4x TC on a D700 w/MB-D10. The GT3531S has proven to be extremely stable, with my gear, even when used off centre, and more importantly in windy conditions. Due to the use of carbon fiber in the legs construction, the GT3531S is able to absorb vibration very quickly, in 3-5 seconds (vs 10+ seconds with an aluminum tripod). In practice this means that you don't have to wait as long after moving or adjusting your gear between shots. That may not sound important, but having a tripod that can quickly absorb vibration can make or break a shoot. A good example of where that could come in handy would be for long exposures, especially when shooting in windy conditions.

Gitzo GT3531S Twist or G Locks
Comments and Conclusion:
The Gitzo GT3531S is a tripod that does everything possible to not slow you down when shooting. Thanks to the G-Locks (twist) the legs can be deployed rapidly, which can mean the difference between getting the shot you want or not. Thanks to the carbon fiber construction the legs absorb vibration quickly, don't draw warmth away from your hands when you are holding them, and the total weight of the tripod is less than 2KG.

One area that is often overlooked when buying a tripod is the maximum height (without the centre column raised). On that note, height wise the GT3531S is an ideal for someone who is 5"6'-5"10'. I'm 5"10 and find that the GT3531S is almost too short for me, since I have to bend over a little at times. Generally speaking the height isn't a problem, but there are times when the ground you place the tripod on is lower than you, which is when the height starts to be an issue.

My comment about the height is the only negative thing I have to say about this tripod, which brings me to my conclusion. The Gitzo GT3531S is an excellent tripod, offering stability and speedy operation in addition to being made to last, thanks to the high quality parts used in it's construction.

The GT3531 series of tripods has been discontinued, replaced by GT3532 series.

Pros:
  • Extremely well made, is durable and should survive many years of use
  • Can be deployed extremely fast (less than 20 seconds)
  • Use of carbon fiber tubes for stability and light weight (1.7KG)
  • Absorbs vibration/impacts quickly (3-5 seconds)
  • Extremely stable under load, even when the weight is off centre
  • Can support up to 18KG of gear (super telephoto lenses up to 500mm F4)


Cons:
  • Price: Around $779.99 Cdn dollars new (Although a good tripod is never cheap)