In a League of Its Own: We Review the Gitzo Systematic Kit Series 5

Gitzo Systematic carbon fiber tripods are known for several things: reliability, stability and price. The build quality, weight capacity and overall feel of the tripod are excellent. The price bites. So, is the price justified? Let’s dive in and see.

Tripods have three main qualities: weight, stability and price. You can never get all three. If a tripod is stable and light, it will be expensive. If it’s cheap and light, it won’t be stable. If it’s cheap and stable, it won’t be light. The Gitzo is stable and moderately light. It’s big, though.

Introduction

I received the tripod between 2 trips. Arrived at 11pm, I had to get ready for a 6am flight the next day. Back home for a few hours, I had packing, backups, and a lot of catching up to do. Yet the package was there. It was waiting, and unlike other packages, I was super excited to get this one. Just to say, one of the first things I did when I opened the door. My first impressions were good, to say the least. The head was solid, the legs too. I took it out and did – a break – some astrophotography. The results were horrible, but the process was fun. Scheduled to fly on a commercial the next day, I tried to pack my new toy into the suitcase. I ended up taking only the head. If you want a travel tripod, this might not be your best bet. But if you need a tripod to support heavy lenses, medium format cameras, large format cameras, or anything else where stability is essential, get it and don’t look back.

Manufacturing quality

Constructed from magnesium and carbon fiber, the tripod is solid in build and feel. The level of build quality is important for people who want the ultimate in their tripod. Designed for the high-end market, this tripod delivers. For me, carbon fiber generally meant not so strong, light and probably flimsy. The Gitzo is lightweight but has a sturdy and sturdy construction. Compared to a metal counterpart such as a Manfrotto Art-058, the Gitzo wins.

Leg locking mechanism (G-lock ultra) prevents unwanted downward slippage.

I can’t say anything bad about the build quality. It is made to last for decades.

Features

Tripod base

The carbon fiber legs are split into three sections, allowing the tripod to extend to approximately 181cm in height, so you can shoot at eye level for the most part. The construction can support up to 30 kg of mass, but I did a handstand on it, and it seemed to cope. Of course, the legs weren’t fully extended. That said, there wasn’t much flexion in the legs, even at maximum extension. Of course, if you decide to buy the flagship 280cm version of this tripod, expect maximum extension flex.

The 10-181cm range is more than enough for many applications. At the lower end, you can be sure to get interesting angles for landscape and indoor images, while the higher end will work just as well for portraits and wildlife images. There is plenty of flexibility for shooters who need it. An additional element that I would recommend for more flexibility is the center column. It comes in handy when you need to adjust the height of your shot, which can be useful in architectural or portrait photography.

ball head

The ball head mounting plate is removable, making it easy to customize your setup. There is a bubble level on the base of the tripod that allows you to adjust the level of the legs at any height. I found it extremely useful when working without a center column. Usually I would fully extend a leg section and adjust with the center column. Another feature you will find on the base of the tripod is a screw mount. This allows lights, monitors or extras to be added to the setup. I would eventually use it to add an iPad to my setup and view footage on it as I never see what I’m filming due to tethering. A hook under the plate allows you to add weight to the tripod to further improve stability. Although I didn’t see it give way even in the wind.

The ball head itself has three buttons that control movement. One of them is a pan button, the other controls the movement of the ball joint, and the third allows you to adjust the smoothness of the movement. Imagine having a heavy, flimsy camera on the tripod: let go of the bad knowledge and you’re done. It’s embarrassing how many times this has happened to me. Luckily, even if you have the heaviest rigs on the tripod, you can just beef up the movement and ensure you have a smooth fit. To make sure you don’t confuse any of the buttons, they come in different shapes and sizes. Once you really know your tripod, there’s no more searching and checking to see if you’re close to undoing the right one. It has personally helped me to be more creative and not worry too much about gear.

Another feature of the ball head is an additional spirit level, as well as a quick-lock mechanism. The quick lock has two stages which is a good idea considering most people will be using this tripod with something heavier than their point and shoot. Something a few tens of kilograms heavier. First you open the lever halfway which kind of lets you know you’ve unlocked the camera, you can also fine tune the position and balance of the whole rig to this stage. Then, to remove the rig, you need to press a button, and only then it will be released. Frankly, I love it. It has already saved me a few accidents. It also shows that people who invest in such ball joints mean business. This is serious gear for serious cameras. I’d have no problem putting a frame grabber on it, but hey, it’s not a head for video work.

That said, I tried using it for video, and it was mostly ok. It pivots and tilts like you’d expect a head of this caliber: smooth, quiet, and just plain nice. There is no jitter or jerkiness. If you’re looking for a ball joint upgrade, this would also be a solid choice on its own.

Finally, an important consideration for many professionals around the world is availability and brand presence. I have full confidence that Gitzo has global customer support, as well as rental and store availability. If a photographer leaves a prop at home, they can probably buy it at most places. That said, they are not cheap at all.

Summary

What I liked :

  • Build quality and weight
  • Movement and characteristics of the patella
  • Excellent customer support and global brand presence

What could be improved:

  • Expensive price tag
  • Central column included in the kit
  • Not compact

Final Thoughts

Part of a range of tripods, this one seems to strike a happy medium between being tall and stable. Go higher and you risk losing stability, go lower and you sacrifice reach and flexibility. As for the ball head, it adapts to just about anything you throw at it. Of course, don’t expect to be able to adjust it with the same precision as a 3-axis head. Still, you can expect to be able to pin down a subject even at the longest focal lengths.

The tripod is definitely worth it if you work with heavy cameras and need stability. Plus, the $1,539.99 price tag is justified by the build quality, as it would take work to crack the Gitzo. It is a product to buy for life. There is a lifetime warranty on it for this reason.

Leave a Comment