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Gitzo 3 series vs RRS TVC-33
Old 07-17-2017   #1
Robert Lai
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Gitzo 3 series vs RRS TVC-33

Yes, I know there's a thread about Gitzo vs Really Right Stuff (RRS), but it's from 2013:

I'm wondering if anything has changed since then.

I used to have a Gitzo 1325 with Markins Q-20 ballhead. It was very stable, and secure. Also, BIG, BULKY and heavy. But, for 300mm lenses, (or 420 with teleconverter), and a heavy motor driven Nikon F3 with flashes, it held everything well.

For most everyday chores, I use a Gitzo GT1541 with an Arca Swiss Monoball P0. The legs are from 2012, and the P0 I just bought to replace an OK but not great Vanguard ballhead. I'm very happy with this setup, as it's great for my little Leicas (yes Leica cameras can benefit from tripods too), folding medium format rangefinders, etc.

Well, the Big Gitzo was sold during a period of financial duress, but I kept the little travel tripod. The travel tripod is excellent for its size, but it won't keep a heavy camera and 300mm lens stable.

So, now I'm looking at a 3 series Gitzo, or else the RRS TVC-33.
Specifically the Gitzo GT3533LS Systematic Series 3, which at B&H is $115 less expensive than the RRS legs. Looking at the published specs, I would say that they are very similar. The weight limits to me are fantasies, as my old 1325 was rated only for 24 lbs, yet I never felt that it was "weak" in any way.

I should mention that along the way I purchased a used RSS BH-55 ballhead in excellent condition from another RFFer. So, that's the head I want to use on this large tripod.

Also a confession: I found a used Gitzo GT3532 Mountaineer on B&H. It was rated as 9/10 condition. Since the price was significantly less ($780), I ordered it. I was shocked that B&H's usually fastidious packing people sent the tripod (in its box), in an unpadded box. Naturally the tripod was thrown on its head during shipping. It arrived with the column about 2 degrees off vertical due to metal deformation of the spider. Worse, the metal deformity prevented the column from being raised at all. The column was locked in position. I had to return it.

My feeling is that the major weakness of Gitzo is that they use a light Magnesium alloy in their apex, and cast it. Porosity of the casting or hidden stresses can lead to sudden fracture of the head, leading to leg loss. Also, the Mountaineer showed me that these heads have little to no impact resistance. Worse, on the Sytematic tripods, they cut the apex ring. This is the ring that holds the plate for the ballhead or column. This allows you to change heads / reverse column quickly. But, cutting the ring compromises the integrity of this vital component. Gitzo introduces a structural weakness which they then try to compensate for by adding bulky reinforcement to the spider. I felt that my 1325 was already too bulky.

RRS has a solid apex ring, CNC machined out of a solid billet of aluminum. There won't be the structural weakness at this point. The apex / spider is a lot more compact due to this better design.

Also, there are intangibles. RRS is all American, with all US sourced parts. As an American, this is important to me to support whatever industry the USA has left, that hasn't gone overseas yet. Yes, there is a BIG price premium to pay for being "Made in the USA". A minor consolation is that if I order directly from RRS, the prices are the same as B&H. However, RRS ships for free with UPS ground, while B&H will charge shipping fees.

Primarily based on the unhappy experience with the Mountaineer, I'm leaning towards RRS. Gitzo or RRS - they are both ungodly expensive (but then, so is Leica). I want to just buy one and use it the rest of my life. So, I want to be sure that I have the best one for my anticipated use.
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Old 07-17-2017   #2
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I have 4 Gitzo CF tripods. I've owned them for a long time and don't remember the specific models. My smallest one is a 3 section 1 series with a Novaflex super ball. Nice combo for a Rollei or Leica. I've had this one for about 12 years. My next larger is a series 2 with 4 sections and a 3 way Gitzo head. Great for my D800, Veriwide or medium weight camera. A Hasselblad is OK on it but I like to use the 3 series for larger cameras although the 2 series handles it ok. I guess I've owned this 10 years and use it quite a bit. The next and most used is my 3 series. It's my workhorse tripod. I carry it on most commercial jobs and handles my D800 with even a 300mm with ease. It handles a 5x7 camera with a 16" lens just fine. I use a Gitzo 3 way head with the built in Gitzo quick release.

I've carried this thing all over the US and shipped it in baggage with the airlines. I use a heavy fiber motion picture tripod case so no damage from shipping. If you travel like I have the investment in a rigid case is worth the cost. I've had a few accidents with it. Fortunately my camera wasn't in it but it fell off a scaffold while photographing a particle accelerator at one of the national labs. The release lever on the head broke off when it hit the concrete. It fell about ten feet. I had a similar accident and broke the same part. Also over the 17 years ( I think 17) that I've owned it I've replaced the plastic friction bushings in the leg locks and need to replace a couple again. Inserting how much heavy use this tripod has seen it's holding up quite well. Also parts are inexpensive and easy to install at home.

My big tripod is a series 5 with 4 sections. All of my tripods have columns and like the others I have a 3 way Gitzo head. This one is a low profile with a large platform that I mount my 8x10 Deardorff on. It's more than adequate to support a 600mm lens on a heavy camera.

One comment about the metal parts. Consider I use these professionally hand they have seen very heavy use. I had 4 and 5 series aluminum tripods. I was taking my Rational 4 3 way head off the 4 series and dropped it. The metal on the leveling platform fractured rendering the head unusable. This happened on the quick release on my 3 series head where the release lever broke off. This wasn't unexpected because how far it fell.

I live in a place where humidity can get into the 90% area in the summer. My series 3 legs will become sticky sometimes and hard to close when humidity gets high. Usually taking a cloth and wiping the legs down helps but it can be annoying.

Overall I really like the Gitzo equipment. It's held up very well considering the heavy use they've gone through. If buying today I'd buy the same because I've seen nothing that compares.
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Old 07-17-2017   #3
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Originally Posted by Robert Lai View Post
A minor consolation is that if I order directly from RRS, the prices are the same as B&H. However, RRS ships for free with UPS ground, while B&H will charge shipping fees.
Interesting. I never thought to look for RRS at B&H.

I vowed to never buy from RRS after they gave me the runaround on an L-plate once, and then charged me a restocking fee even though the item was out of stock and never shipped. So I did what I should have done at the beginning: I ordered one from Kirk and had it in two days. A moot point in this discussion though, since Kirk doesn't make tripods.
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Old 07-17-2017   #4
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for what it's worth robert, my other passion is bird photography and for that i use a sigma 300-800mm and a canon DSLR. I have been using a gitzo CF tripod to support this for the past 10 years and have had it fall off a 4x4 so many times i've lost count (tripod, not lens). Its also been based about the cargo hold of short haul flights. Out in the field, most nature photographers would trust their $10k setups with a gitzo so i don't think its too prone to failure. I would always go with the gitzo for the customer support. I recently had to change the slip rings on my 1548 (10yr old tripod) and they sent them to me next day delivery.
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Old 07-17-2017   #5
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for a 3 series tripod, i would get the rrs because it's the best quality tripod you can get.

that said, i bought a gitzo. all i need is a 2 series tripod, and i would have gotten the rrs tvc-24l if the spider was the same size as the 3 series, but my tripod heads are 75–77mm at the base (linhof 3d leveling head ii and linhof 77mm leveling pan/tilt head). so i got the gitzo gt2542ls. it handles everything i have, from 35mm to 4x5 (no telephotos over 200mm-e here). no complaints, knock on wood.
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Old 07-17-2017   #6
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I got rid of my big Gitzos when I quit using a view camera. The two I kept and use a lot are both Gitzo Compact Studex tripods. One Camerular, and one Rapid. Don't underestimate the value of mass. I often sandbag the legs or hang a sandbag or my camera bag from the center column. One is semi rebuilt, (new Ctamerular - crank center column) the other is really old and just has a new rapid center column. Both work well. The rapid is usually used with a ball head and the Cramerular has a modified Modern Builders platform head.

These have to be cheap as used gear now? I paid $1200 for the Compact Studex Camerular when it was new years back.

The link is to a standard, the compac has same diameter legs but.. shorter 4 section legs. I had a standard and a really tall gitzo, don't remember the exact model but when fully extended, I needed step ladder to reach the head. The Compacts stood up to lots of air travel and wonkie assistants.

And, I agree with x-ray, if you travel by air, get a hard case. Round fiber cases are inexpensive. I got mine at a Cine supply vendor.
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Old 07-17-2017   #7
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Just a quick question: how tall are you?

If you are over 6 feet, the RRS TVC-33 may be too short for you.
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Old 07-18-2017   #8
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I'm average height - 5' 10".

Well, for better or worse I ordered the Really Right Stuff tripod. I'm soon going to find out if it's better in construction than my Gitzo traveller.
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Old 07-22-2017   #9
Robert Lai
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I received the RRS TVC-33 yesterday. The legs are a work of art - functional sculpture to admire. I also got the large tripod bag, and the QD strap set.

Unlike what had been described on the web, all of my screws were appropriately tight. The legs move in and out with some resistance. My 5 year old Gitzo's legs move in and out with virtually no resistance. I like how it can virtually "sit on the ground" when all the legs are flattened out.

I did compare the finish with the Gitzo, and I can't say that the Gitzo is any less beautifully finished. They are both very pretty as objets d'art.
The TVC-33 rises up to my eye height with the legs alone. With the ballhead on, I may have to reach up to see the viewfinder. However, when you take into account uneven ground that it will be used on, so that not all the legs will be extended, then this is fine. My Gitzo travel tripod is a bit shorter than the RRS, but it's never been a problem for me.

The new QD (quick detatch) tripod strap and fittings are great. The strap is by Magpul, and it is meant for a rifle. While the strap is probably a great length for your FAL or AR-15. it's rather long for a collapsed tripod. I had to shorten all the lengths on the strap to make it a good fit.

Actually, I shortened it too much. I had trouble getting it off my shoulder, and the mounted ballhead punched me in the jaw. I did see stars after that! I've now got it to the point the it's not going to punch me every time I shoulder or remove the tripod from being carried.

The quick detatch system is secure, and does release in less than a second. Just what you'd want in a gun stap. Older RRS tripods without the threading for the QD system can be turned in for a new apex, or there are instructions from RRS on how to drill and tap your own.

The bag is nicely padded, and the exact fit for this tripod with the BH-55 attached.

All in all, I'm satisfied with the purchase. I will have to take it out in the woods to see how this really functions in use.
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