gitzo 1542t review

Gitzo 1542T Tripod Review: Just About the Best Travel Tripod Ever

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A Word About Choosing the RIGHT tripod

There are a number of different tripods on the market, but the undisputed winner in terms of quality and stability is the Gitzo tripods. Now before we review the Gitzo 1542T, there are a few things you should know about tripods first.

Whenever you buy a tripod, there are three things that you need to balance: price, stability, and weight. If you want a tripod with maximum stability, but a cheaper price, you are going to have a heavy weight. If you want a tripod with maximum stability and lighter weight, the price is going to be high. If you are looking for a cheap, stable tripod that’s a bit on the heavier side, then I suggest you look at the Bogen line of tripods. These offer great value and great stability, but they are heavy.

Gitzo, on the other hand, is that tripod brand that gives you the lightest possible weight with the best “features” and maximum stability. However, you are going to pay a premium. If you are not willing to spend at least 500 dollars on a tripod, then it’s best to look elsewhere.

But take it from me, spend the money now for the best tripod you can afford – you won’t ever waste money upgrading to the best – which, if you are a photography fanatic, you will end up doing anyways.

Anyways, let’s get this Gitzo 1542T review on.

Note,  Gitzo the 1542T is a sequel to the older model 1541T.

Now hands down, the Gitzo 1541T is one of the best Gitzo hiking tripods out there and arguably  the best “travel” tripod on the market. I don’t say this lightly, as I’ve used many different tripods in my time as a photographer. I’m a big fan of traveling, so it’s particularly important for me to have a lightweight tripod that CAN be stable with a certain weight.

Recently, Gitzo seems to be updating their technology and SOME of their tripod lines. They’ve redesigned their G-LOCK feature to make it better (smoother, stronger, faster, and with more dust prevention). They’ve also come out with a new Carbon Fiber called Carbon eXact which is basically more stable.

A more modern alternative is the Gitzo Mountaineer GT0542 which is about the same as the 1542T, but features the redesigned Glock Ultra and Carbon eXact. However, the legs do not reverse fold as they do in the 1541T which makes the tripod slightly taller.

Gitzo GT1542T Traveler Specifications

This tripod uses a unique 180 degree fold over mechanism whereby the legs fold backwards over the tripod head, shaving several inches off the height of the tripod, when you have a ballhead on the tripod. The tripod also features advanced 6x Carbon Fiber material, which is more rigid, lighter, and resistant than the regular (12x) carbon fiber.

For stability, the Gitzo 1541T is suitable for pro DLR with up to a 200mm lens, or MiniDV camcorders, or spotting scopes. Using bigger lenses (i.e. 400mm), MAY result in micro vibrations which could lower the maximum quality of the image. Basically, for the average hiker or traveler, the Gitzo 1541T should suffice. If you are a wildlife photographer using pro DLR bodies with huge lenses, then you might want to look at one of the bigger Gitzo series 2 or 3 models. This is a super lightweight tripod.

Key Features

Anti-Rotation Leg (ALR) System: The Anti-Rotation Leg (ALR) system makes it quick and easy to open and close the tripod. Simply turn all of the locking rings at once and the whole leg can be pulled out in seconds.
G-Lock Design: The G-Lock mechanism has been completely redesigned in order to achieve a 20% increase in rigidity, faster operation and stronger, safer locking. G-Lock’s special design also provides a “gravity lock” effect: the higher the load applied vertically to the leg, the stronger the lock.
Ground-Level Set: This feature allows you to remove the center column to save weight and get the camera closer to the ground. The upper disk is removed from the center column and inserted directly into the upper casting using the column hook. No tools required.
1mm Gitzo 6X Carbon Fiber Tube: Gitzo was able to develop a six-crossed multilayer carbon fiber 30% lighter than the previous 1.5mm generation that features the same exceptional performance of stability and vibration absorption and unbeatable quality.
Performance Design: Performance design allows the legs to be set individually at 24°, 55° and 90° to cover every angle you want to shoot.
Hook Redesigned built-in, spring-loaded retractable hook on the bottom of the center column provides a place to hang a stabilizing counterweight such as camera, sand or water bags. It has also been improved with a self locking system that avoids accidental loss.
Removable Leg Tips Removable rubber leg tips are interchangeable with Gitzo universal accessories such as the big foot, long spike, etc. They have also been improved with a self locking system that avoids accidental loss.
Rapid Column: Grooved Rapid center column, with locking collar, for improved stability.

Specifications

General
Load Capacity: 17.6 lbs (8kg)
Maximum Height: 52.8″ (134cm)
Maximum Height w/o Column Extended: 44.5″ (113cm)
Minimum Height: 6.9″ (17.5cm)
Folded Length: 16.1″ (41cm)
Head Attachment Fitting: 1/4″-20 & 3/8″-16 (reversible stud)
Weight: 2.1 lbs (970g)

Legs
Material: 6x  carbon fiber
Leg Stages/Sections: 3/4
Leg Lock Type: Twist
Independent Leg Spread: Yes
Spiked/Retractable Feet: No
Center Brace: No

Center Column
Center Column Type: Rapid (sliding)
Center Column Sections: 1

A Review of the Gitzo 1542T Features

ALR

The ALR (anti Rotation Leg) system is a standard feature on most Carbon Fiber Gitzo  tripods. It’s really a time saver – once you use it, it’s hard to go back to the standard system. It’s a pretty simple system, you just grip the tripod locking rings at the same time and twist. You can then pull out all three tripod legs in one shot without having to untwist each individual legs. This basically means you can extend the legs in a couple seconds.

G-Lock Design

Gitzo’s fancy name for their special tripod joints. I’m not a scientist so I can’t make any technical comments on how effective these really are. But just from my personal use of the tripod, I believe this feature adds more stability to the tripod. Certainly when you push down on the tripod, it’s very stable. The more you push down on the tripod (i.e. the heavier the load), the tighter these locks get. This means your tripod is more stable.

Ground-Level Set

What happens is you can basically remove the center column of the tripod and attach the ballhead directly to the  tripod base. This shaves the weight of the column from the tripod and adds a bit more stability (you lower the stability of the tripod when extending the center column). So if you are serious about getting your tripod setup as LIGHT as possible, then this may be something you might consider doing. Just keep in mind that you will need to bend down to take pictures since you are essentially losing about a foot or so of tripod height. For short guys, this may be acceptable; if you are tall, it’s uncomfortable.

This feature is also useful for macro photographers or landscape photographers who want to get that “lens to the ground” type of shot. With the center column remove, you can “spread the tripod legs” even further apart, getting your camera even lower to the ground than it would go. So all in all, a pretty useful feature to have, even if you won’t use it too often.

Hook

This model features a weight hook. I’m a big fan of tripods with a weight hook as you can easily hang your camera backpack on the hook to add further stability (or just to get the backpack off your back for a bit!). A particularly useful thing to do when it’s windy – a condition that’s common if you hike up mountains.

Removable Leg Tips

You can remove the rubber pads on the bottom of the tripod and replace them with Gitzo’s specialty tripod pads. This can really be useful for hikers – swapping out the rubber pads for say metal spikes can ensure your tripod sticks more firmly in uneven, rocky ground.

What I Like about the 1542T

It’s SHORT when folded

This tripod has a lot going for it. The best feature is by far how SHORT the tripod ends up being when folded up. The tripod, when folded, is roughly 17 inches from foot to head (with a Markins Q3T ballhead on it). This basically means the tripod is just over a foot long when folded. I find this makes carrying the tripod VERY easy. The way I typically carry this tripod is through the tripod loop of a camera backpack.  The tripod itself with a lightweight ballhead such as the Markins Q3T weighs at about 2.1lbs. That’s incredibly light for a tripod, considering the fact that it’s about 134cm tall when the tripod is fully extended.

These days with all the airline policies, you won’t be able to carry the tripod onto the plane (even though it will fit). However, the tripod is so small when folded up, it can fit in any suitcase/backpack – so checking the tripod is not a problem.

This tripod is NOT the tallest tripod, however. If you  are over 6 feet tall, you may be better served looking at another model – not unless you bend down. I would suggest the 1542T which is the newer version of the 1542T. It’s a couple inches taller, but adds on another .3 or so kilogram. Everything else is the same, however.

With something like the Markin’s Q3T tripod ballhead, the tripod comes out to be just about 58 inches or so tall with the center column fully extended. I’m about 5”7 and at maximum height, I don’t have to bend down at all – my 5D Mark 2 camera eye hole. I would say if you are 6 feet and under, the tripod is useable without bending over too much. But for taller people, this tripod may be a bit too short.

It’s Ultra lightweight

The tripod is VERY light. Considering how stable the tripod is (it’s probably the most stable tripod on the market for the weight it can carry). The tripod itself is about 2.1lb – VERY light. This means it’s the perfect travel or hiking tripod. I’ve used this tripod on photo trips to China and South East Asia and have had no complaints in terms of the weight. I particularly like how you get all the fancy gitzo tripod features while still getting super light weight as part of the bargain. With the best lightweight tripod ballhead as part of the bargain, your entire tripod + ballhead setup can be under 2.5lbs and still carry a good amount of weight (17 or so pounds).

I’ve used a couple other lightweight setups  but the Gitzo offers the best in terms of lightweight, height, and stability. The only other similar setup might be the Feisol travel series tripod. However, with the Feisol, I had some series issues with the quality. After a year or so, the tripod pads fell off and the rubber around the tripod locking rings started to slide off the tripod. The Gitzo traveler tripod offers some outstanding features like the ALR, gravity locks, removable center column, weight hook, removable foot pads, etc. Really you can’t get better.

As I stated in the feature section, you can remove the center column itself to shave off a bit of weight. However, I keep the center column on – the weight/stability tradeoff is worth not having to bend down an extra half foot to take pictures. But certainly, if you are pretty short, then you are better off taking the center column off – there would be no tradeoff in that case.

It’s Stable

Tripod stability is one of those topics that quite a few people don’t know about. However, it’s one of the most important factors to image quality. What’s the point of using a tripod over your hands if the image quality is not going to be maximized?

Here’s the breakdown on the importance of tripod stability: the more stable your tripod is, the less micro vibration you get and the sharper your image will be. For shorter lenses (say the 17-40L lens by cannon), micro vibration is not as big of a deal. But if you put on a longer lens (200mm say), then those micro vibrations can noticeably lower the quality of your image.

There are a LOT of carbon fiber tripods on the market, but Gitzo is one of the ONLY companies to publish a stability recommendation.  So you can be sure that if the total weight of your camera + lens is less than the maximum stability recommendation, your images will be crystal sharp. You might find some no-name carbon fiber tripod that offers some of the same weight to height ratios as the gitzo, but I can assure you that the stability won’t be the same!

What I Don’t Like About the Gitzo 1542T

Honestly, there’s not too much to complain about. If there is a perfect travel tripod, the Gitzo 1542T is about as close as you’re going to get. You don’t have to take my word on it – there’s a lot of other photographers out there who will swear by their Gitzos.

The only issue with the tripod is that it’s more expensive than most people are willing to pay (it’s over 500 dollars).  My response to this is that it’s worth paying 500 bucks for the best quality tripod on the market. Why? Because you don’t have to go through the money/time wasting game of continually buying cheap tripods only to be dissatisfied with the results. You’ll only end up losing money because you WILL buy a Gitzo eventually. Why not start with the best right off the bat?

Final Word

I’ve used a number of lightweight tripods over the years, but the Gitzo 1542T is the best tripod out there for hiking or traveling. It’s so darn light, you won’t even notice the weight when you carry it in the field or strapped to a camera backpack. And the ability to fold the tripod up backwards over the ballhead to shave a few more inches in size makes it easy to carry around in any sort of luggage.

Some may balk at the 500 dollar plus price tag you pay for the tripod. But remember the golden rule of all tripods: A tripod is only ever good if you use it! And with the Gitzo 1542T, it’s so light and portable that you WILL carry it with you everywhere.

This is THE tripod I own and use all the time. I’ve had it for over four years now and it’s a stellar tripod — super light and super compact. However, I’m thinking about trading it in for the Mountaineer GT0542, which has almost the same specs (minus the ability for the legs to reverse fold over the center column to shave  off 1 inch of height) but the enhanced newer technology Gitzo has come out like Carbon eXact, GLock Ultra, and a few others.

Some Recommended Tripod Ballheads for the 1542T traveler tripods

Since these tripods have the ability to fold the legs over the ballhead, you have to be pretty choosy on what sort of ballhead you actually buy. A ballhead that’s too “fat” won’t allow you to fold the legs back over.

Markins Q3T

The best lightweight ballhead for the 1542T is the hands down the Markin’s Emil Q3T. This ballhead is actually specifically designed just for the 1542T series. You can fold the legs back over the ballhead and the legs stay flush. The Emile Q3T is also an awesome ballhead as well – I’d say it’s one of the best ballheads in its weight class and it weighs about 400 grams, so it’s lightweight.

Really Right Stuff BH-30

Another quality ballhead by one of the best quality ballhead manufacturers on the market. It’s not specifically designed for the 1542T like the Q3T is. Because of that the 1542T legs won’t close fully when you fold them over – they push out just a bit. It’s not a deal breaker, but for me it’s enough to recommend the Q3T over the BH-30. The Q3T can also carry slightly more weight. However, if you want an “alternative” to the Q3T, then the BH-30 is a good option.

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