It has now been almost 10 years since I purchased my Gitzo Traveler tripod. I have taken it with me all over the world, and it has been my favorite tripod to use for travel photography. I wrote a detailed review of the Gitzo Traveler Series 1 Tripod back in 2012, and I praised it highly for its versatility. Unfortunately, I managed to break one of the legs of this tripod on my last trip, which was very disappointing.
The broken leg was not repairable, because the carbon fiber itself was cracked. Because of this, the white plastic part that holds the leg constantly dislocated, and the leg would come straight out when I would try to extend it. I don’t know how I managed to break it, but I suspect it has to do with me constantly using this tripod as a walking stick while hiking (and yes, it is a great walking stick when I need one!)
I really did not want to replace my Gitzo traveler for a number of reasons. First of all, it was not a cheap tripod to buy (at the time of purchase, carbon fiber tripods were very expensive). Second, it has been long updated by two other tripods, and the latest version has much thicker legs, which take more volume of space when packing the tripod into my suitcase. The legs of my Gitzo GT1542T are thin and somewhat flimsy, but I don’t mind, as those thin legs are easier to bury into sand or snow for added stability. And lastly, I have gotten so used to this tripod for my travels, that there is sentimental value attached to this little beauty. Long story short, parting with my broken Gitzo would have been tough!
After doing a little bit of research, I found an online store called GitzoSpares.com that sells all kinds of parts for Gitzo tripods. The store is located in the UK, so I knew that it would take a while for the replacement leg to arrive, plus, I had to pay for international shipping. I put the model number of my tripod, found the right part number for one of the broken legs, then before I placed the “Order” button, looked up the same part number at other US stores that sell Gitzo parts, including B&H Photo Video.
Most of them were either more expensive, or the parts had to be special-ordered, which would have taken a while. Without much thought, I ordered the $71 part from GitzoSpares.com, and agreed to pay around $9 for international shipping with tracking (through Royal Mail and USPS).
I received the leg in about a week. The packaging was excellent (a thick carton tube), and the tripod leg was brand new inside.
My Gitzo Traveler Lives Again
After opening up the package, I quickly swapped out the broken leg for the new one (which took me less than a minute), and my tripod was back to life!
Not bad for a quick $80 repair bill, which I was able to perform myself. That’s one great thing about high-end tripods – you can easily disassemble and reassemble them without having to send anything to a service center.
As we always recommend to our readers, and as I have pointed out in my article on how to choose a tripod, a good tripod is a life-long investment. A crappy tripod would have never lasted 10 years. And the day it broke (which it surely would), I would have to think about replacing it with another one, which would have surely been over $80 for anything reasonable. Plus, that’s such a waste of plastic, metal and my hard-earned money!
This little Gitzo traveler paid for itself many years ago, and I expect it to last for many more years to come.
Do you have a good tripod story to share? How many tripods have you gone through before you settled on your current one? Please share in the comments section below!
Great article on quality equipment. Pro and serious amateur photographers pay for equipment on the front end or the back end. ;-)
What Gitzo model is pictured to the left of the traveler model?
My guess: a Systematic Series 4, maybe GT433LS?
Probably the tripod I use the most is the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2 section. I wouldn’t recommend it with a long lens but it is nice for hiking and gneral use.
Tripods are a necessary evil if you’re even only part serious about your photography. Without one, you’re going to regret it, when you look back at your older photographs and realise you could have done a long exposure or panoramic etc instead of just the hand-held effort you came back with. I’ve wasted time and some money on choices, probably had four proper tripods before coming to my perfect (for me) combination. I’ve settled on the Vanguard Abeo Plus 323AT which is a heavy, aluminium full height and versatile model. I decided to cut down the center column for low level shooting, as the supplied short column was not as robust as I would have liked. I later got in touch with Vanguard here in the UK and they supplied a new center column for just £10. When I got my new macro lens I found I needed the versatility of the 18” column height for height adjustment, rather than attenuating the leg heights. Very happy with it, but a bit heavy for long walks etc. Solved this by getting a Velbon Ultra Trek travel model, which is almost full height, and very stable for the weight. Both are fitted with Velbon QR ballheads which take the same quick release plate, so I can interchange between the two tripods without swapping the underplate on my camera (and telephoto zoom). Took me six years and two velbon and Giottos tripods before, none of which quite worked as smoothly or quickly as this pair. For me, it’s quite a problem as we are living in a rural or provincial area, with no access to any real photography specialist stores, so purchase largely depend on reviews and comments from people such as contributions here on Photography Life, for which I am eternally grateful.
In one way well made and reliable tripods does make us a better photographer. Just imagine Ansel Adam’s photographs done handheld.. on the other hand, he might have taken a totally different route in his creative expression.. Once we’re shooting commercially, our gear needs to be more reliable and easy to be maintained when something goes wrong, especially when working in remote locations..
Thanks for the story, I’m always keen to hear how people repair stuff and give it a second or third life and beyond. I’m currently re-vamping my first ever tripod, a Manfrotto 055C which I’ve had since 1995. Will use it for certain projects, looking for a carbon fibre for air travel now. What makes photographers choose either Gitzo or RRS? The RRS seems to be more robust and stable, or am I wrong?
In my experience, RRS was more robust in design. I won’t say one or the other was more stable, as I was buying big tripods to handle big lenses. In my use I found them equally stable. The issue I had was that when you pay high bucks, as long as not abused, it should work reliable – in warm or cold, day or night, shine or rain. RRS did, Gitzo, for me, did not. I had issues with the joints in Gitzo that I have never had with RRS and I have used the RRS in far tougher conditions, Alaska to Africa, hot humid rain forests, dry desert hot, and well below freezing early mornings and daytimes in snow. For me, when Gitzo failed, I chose RRS. Two other big selling points for me, for RRS – the leveling option AND a simple system for clamps and plates, so that heads are easily interchangeable – which is very convenient for me, since sometimes it’s preferable to use a big ballhead and other times a smaller one, or a larger gimbal. That means one tripod with lots of flexibility in the field.
I too had the Gitzo carbon travel tripod. I too had the same breakage as you did but I had it twice. First time I contacted Gitzo since it was “guaranteed for life” and they said you broke it so I paid them $75 for the part, fixed it again and the same thing happened to another leg. I know I did not damage it. The concept that it happened twice and they would not honor a warranty turned me off. I purchased a Sirui carbon tripod to replace the inferior Gitzo and for the last six years never had an issue. Bottom line is there was a problem with the design of the Gitzo and they would not stand behind their product.
I love my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod, it was expensive to purchase even second hand, but every time I loosen the legs and stick them in the; dirt, ice, water, sand, mud or snow it is the one piece of gear I never think twice about. Are my pictures better because of it? I would agree not from a compositional basis but who knows where that little extra smidgen of tack sharpness came from that you always assume was from your favourite lens.
I have restored my Gitzo tripod using parts purchased from that site. It is a reason to go with a Gitzo no doubt.
I have invested in nearly 20 tripods over the years. Early on I invested in Gitzo CF tripods, but didn’t find they held up – and I take care of my gear, but I use it in a wide variety of conditions. RRS tripods have been what worked for me. I still own some Gitzo, but RRS are my workhorses – love their heads, too. That said, Induro makes decent stuff and at the cheap end Neweer can be solid, too. The key thing is to know what you are asking of the tripod. I use everything from consumer cameras, a bridge camera to Z7 and D5 and from 11mm to 600mm in FF lenses. And using ballheads and gimbals, and some lighter ballheads that are needed when weight is an issue. If you are wise about how you intend to use the gear, then a $100 tripod can last a lifetime. People get in trouble when they use something in a way it was not designed to be used – less tripod than you should have for your skill and the gear you want to use on it. The cheap stuff is pretty good these days and is great. Just discovered Innorel ballheads on Amazon and got the N36 for my light tripod – HUGE improvement in capability compared to the stock ballhead (basically junk), yet works great for my bridge camera and easily fits in a carryon bag, while my main tripods barely fit in checked luggage. Summary – RRS tripods and heads are the workhorses for me, but there are great options in less expensive brands. The brand of tripod you have isn’t going to make your pictures any better, but choosing a tripod that really won’t meet your needs can compromise the quality of your shot, so save up, if you need to.
One note – if you are like me and switch heads depending on your needs – I tend to go back and forth between the RRS BH-55, BH-40, and a gimbal. It is very convenient to have an Arca Swiss clamp at the top of your tripod and a Arca Swiss plate on the bottoms of your ballheads and gimbals. Then it’s easy to use which ever one you want. A 600mm lens is a pain to use on a ballhead, but shooting the 70-200mm on a gimbal is a pain. Sometimes I have two tripods readily available, but it’s easier to just quickly swap the heads. Also, for people using bigger lenses, one of the features available in RRS tripods is a leveling head, similar to what video tripods have. If I’m on a hill, it’s really convenient to be able to level the base of the gimbal, or BH-55 with a larger lens on it.
Last note, if you are needing a decent ballhead for not a lot of $$ to start with, I’d highly recommend checking out the Innorel N52, on Amazon. I wished I knew about them sooner. Very well made and can’t be beat for the $89 price tag. You usually have to spend many hundreds to get this quality. I have no affiliation with the company, just like to point to a good product I myself have used.
I do not know how many tripods and monopods I had but this is what I do own today:
* Gitzo GT-5541LS for my birding (bought the counter plate for additional safety specifically or this model)
* Gitzo GT-3543LS for landscape and travel
* Gitzo GM-4552L for wildlife and travel
* Sirui N-3204 X for general use
* Manfrotto 055 for, well, not sure actually. Guess if I want to travel light with just my Z7 with an f/4 lens
Some previous models were debatable to say the least on their stability and such. So, for all serious work is that Gitzo all the way.