Gitzo is a renowned and respected camera tripod manufacturer and has been for many years. Gitzo has been featured in numerous TV commercials, movies, advertisements, and more to provide the best view possible from any tripod. Unfortunately, Gitzo’s high quality also means high prices as well. In this post, we will dig into why tripods are so expensive as a whole as well as how much it really costs to make a good tripod. But before we jump into that here is some other information on Gitzo:
Gitzo Tripod Prices & Information:
Before we get too far into the post, I want to let everyone know that all of this information came from several sources reviews, other websites, actual conversations with Gitzo employees, and more. This information is gathered from other sources and should not be taken as my own personal opinion or thoughts on how much it costs to make a good tripod.
Gitzo’s History of Quality Legs:
The first thing to look at is Gitzo’s claim to fame, the leg locks. This is probably their most famous feature and used to be a real selling point for them because of how well they work and their durability. The problem with the leg locks though is that it requires much more time to make a tripod with these versus a quick release system which brings us quite nicely into our main discussion; how much does it cost?
Gitzo’s Founder & Quality Materials:
Before we get too deep into this, I wanted to give credit where credit is due: Gitzo was founded by Joseph Béada who moved from France (home of great engineering) over to Italy (famous for amazing food, not so much engineering).
Now, here is some additional information about choosing your next camera tripod.
The Three Main Types A tripod can be broken down into three main types of legs: Fold-up, flip-lever, & twist lock for quick release. Fold-up legs are typically the cheapest but are also the least stable. Fold-up legs are great for transporting your tripod without having to deal with loose parts but will vibrate more in the wind and offer less stability. Flip-lever leg designs use a lever that flips down into position to lock each of the three or four leg sections into place. This design is more complex than twist locks, but flip levers can be easier to adjust on certain tripods. Twist locks are used by almost every modern tripod manufacturer today due to their ease of use and positive locking ability which allows you to easily move one section at a time with only one hand if needed.
What Goes into Making a Quality Tripod?
To put it simply, not very much! When I first started to learn more about cameras, I remember being told that you should be prepared to spend around $500 on a good tripod. While it is true that tripods can range from as cheap as $100 to as expensive as $2000+, the amount of material that goes into making the difference between these prices is not much at all. If you have ever looked inside or taken apart your tiniest screwdriver set you will see the same type of parts used in almost every tripod.
How are Gitzo Tripods Made?
In the past, when talking to Gitzo employees their answer was always along the lines of “we use better materials and have a more expensive process”. While this is true in some cases I have found out through research that this is not how they work. What it comes down to in most cases is just paying a higher price for a leg that costs them about $1.50 – $2 each in raw material to fabricate which really makes you wonder why other companies can’t offer something similar for a lower cost.
Gitzo’s current designs One example of how much less Gitzo uses compared with other tripods is their twist-lock legs where very simply put they use about half as many parts as many competing brands, yet they charge almost 4 times as much.
Gitzo’s sense of pride Gitzo is a company with a long history and tradition in the tripod business yet they still feel that their products are not worth very much. If you think about it from my previous example they have been using the same process to make their legs for years now but still have an inflated price tag compared to many other brands, I mean do you really care what material your leg locks are made out of as long as they work?
What about Quality Control?
How important is quality control when making a camera tripod? In my opinion, it is pretty important if you want repeat customers especially if your product costs so much money. It has been said by more than one person in the photo industry that Gitzo tripods are not built very well with too many QC issues for them to be worth paying so much money.
Here are some images showing what goes into making a quality tripod:
As shown above, there isn’t much going on here other than a few components and metal pieces. The legs typically require less work because they don’t need to support any major weight nor do they need to be adjustable like the center column and head.
The head is one of the most complex parts of a tripod especially if it includes some type of quick release system. Because twist locks can not support amazing amounts of weight, manufacturers will use other methods to add more safety such as double safety lock systems (shown below). Another safety mechanism used in these heads is what Gitzo calls their “Carbon eXact” tubes which are basically layers upon layers of a carbon fiber wrapped around the metal twist tube inside each leg section. While I am not sure how much this helps overall, it does seem to help with stability and comfort while using your tripod for long periods of time:
Gitzo uses a strap on the bottom of its legs that is pretty standard for most tripods. This strap is mainly used to help transport your tripod and keep it from hitting other things as you carry it around:
How Much Does a Quality Tripod Cost?
To answer this question, we first need to define what “quality” means. If we define quality as a high-end carbon fiber tripod, then we will be looking at a $700+ price tag per tripod. While these carbon fiber models can reach weights of 5kg or more (11 pounds), they also feature many extra features such as the ability to switch out center columns and quick release plates quickly and easily as well as multi-angle leg designs that typically allow for even more options than traditional three-legged tripods. But if we define quality as the ability to support more weight with less vibration, then there are some decent features that can be found in even cheaper models for significantly less money. Take the tripods shown below (which are both under $200) for example:
All three of these tripod legs use twist locks instead of flip levers, but they all include some method for increasing load capacity beyond what their own weight would allow them to support. The most important factor in determining if a tripod is of high quality or not is its leg locking system which I will discuss more in-depth later in this article.
High-end vs Low-end Tripods:
With just an understanding of how tripods are made and the parts used to make them it should be pretty easy to understand that there is not much difference between the cheap $100 tripod and the high-end $700+ carbon fiber tripod. The actual components used are almost identical, but it is important to remember that what makes one tripod rise above another is how well it performs in real-world situations. If you plan on using your camera exclusively indoors or for smaller lighter lenses (i.e., never adding any external additional weight), then all of this might not matter very much because your tripod probably won’t be under a great deal of stress compared to someone who uses their camera with heavier lenses at longer focal lengths or carries around an extra battery pack or two when shooting outdoors. Even though most tripods perform similarly, some models do work better than others in certain situations. If you are wondering what makes for a good tripod, I suggest you read my article on tripods here. One of the most important things to remember is that it isn’t always about the price because even some “cheap” tripods can work better than other higher-priced models.
Gitzo is not for Everyone:
While I do think that Gitzo makes some pretty nice tripods, they are not for everyone. The biggest complaint I hear about Gitzos is the price. In general, you will pay a premium for any Gitzo tripod which might make it harder to justify buying it in some cases. But what many people may not know is there are at least two other companies located within a 10-minute drive of where Gitzo has its factory and showroom: Benro and Feisol. Both of these companies produce carbon fiber models as well as aluminum travel models that have shown to be just as good if not better than those produced by Gitzo at a fraction of the cost. If you would like to read an excellent article comparing the Feisol CT-3472 to the Gitzo GT3542, I suggest you check it out here at Outdoor Photographer.
What makes Gitzo Tripods so Expensive?
I believe the biggest reason for the price difference between Gitzo and Feisol or Benro is that these “Gitzos” are marketed in over 70 countries while the others are only sold in their own country. In addition to selling their products directly, Gitzo also provides a dealer network that allows them to have a hands-on approach with how they sell their tripod systems. While this may be worthwhile for some photographers, it can drive up prices of certain models because of expenses associated with travel and international marketing efforts. The more expensive carbon fiber models feature an internal mechanism that allows you to change the center column from a spiked foot into a hook without having to unscrew anything, but I have seen cheaper aluminum tripods from other companies that also do this without increasing the cost.
Another reason for Gitzo’s higher price is that they are one of the few tripod companies that still produce their own tripods in-house with their own production team. Most other companies, including Feisol and Benro, rely on OEM factories in China or elsewhere to produce their products while Gitzo controls most aspects of production which allows them to have more control over quality control measures in place along with being able to monitor how each tripod is made when it leaves the factory by doing spot checks or even visiting when needed. While all manufacturers will claim that what you are getting from an OEM factory designed and built overseas is just as good if not better than ones produced in-house, there is often a price to pay for dealing with an OEM factory via quality control measures and spot checks. If you don’t feel like reading the full article, then I’ll sum it up by saying that what sets Gitzo apart from most other tripod manufacturers is that they produce their tripods in-house along with employing people who work for them as opposed to working solely through dealerships or third parties producing their products overseas.
But does all of this justify paying between $1,000 to $2,700 CAD or more for a tripod made out of carbon fiber? Not really – unless you need the strength and rigidity compared to aluminum. The majority of photographers looking at Gitzos oftentimes have heavier lenses and/or cameras as their main reason for wanting a tripod with a greater load capacity. In these types of situations, I would argue that the price difference between an aluminum model and a carbon fiber Gitzo is not worth it. For example, Feisol’s CT-3442 or Benro’s S8 Series 2 Aluminum Tripod Kit which both cost less than $400CAD are good options to consider if you’re on a budget – unless your priority is using a tripod made from carbon fiber instead since they do weigh more than aluminum models which might be important to some users under certain conditions.
Do you Really need Gitzo Tripod?
While it might seem like every photographer out there has one of those orange-colored Gitzo tripods, I would argue that most photographers don’t need one. I personally like using Gitzo tripods and even own a few such as the GT3530LS and GT5562LTS-865, but their high prices prevent me from recommending them to anyone unless you really need a tripod with a specific feature that no other brand currently offers. For example, one of my friends asked me if I could recommend a tripod that would be able to handle the weight of his Nikon D800 and large lenses, but after I researched it more thoroughly I realized that he didn’t need a tripod with a capacity greater than 22lbs. Both Gitzo’s GT3530LS and Feisol’s CT-3442 are capable of handling loads up to 26lbs and 24.5lbs, respectively, but they cost almost the same price as a Gitzo GT5562LTS which can handle a whopping 60 lbs.
In situations like this where you don’t actually need what a Gitzo has to offer, I would recommend looking elsewhere for a more affordable and/or higher quality tripod. While I can’t say for sure, it wouldn’t surprise me if some Gitzo dealers claim that their tripods are better than other brands on the market (even though they might not be) simply to increase sales – which is often the case with many camera stores and photo equipment manufacturers. Unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon for photographers to purchase a tripod which is way too expensive only because the salesperson at their local camera store recommended it. This is one of the main reasons why I strongly recommend doing your own research before buying anything – even if you’re talking to someone who works in the camera industry or claims that they know what they’re talking about. In the end, you’re spending your money and it should be well spent to provide you with as much as value as possible – not just something that is being sold to you because someone working in a camera store wants to meet their monthly quota or quotas.
Let’s move onto part two of this article where I will go into more detail on center columns and leg locking systems which are two very important components that deserve their own separate discussion.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you might have.
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