A Photographer's Three-Legged Friend
Gitzo's Mountaineer Tripod

One of first terrible truths photographers learn when they try to get better results is that tripods are mandatory. Without a tripod, good depth of field (keeping everything in focus) is impossible except in the brightest light, and lightweight tripods don't dampen shutter and mirror-slap vibrations well.

For most pros, this means resorting to a heavy tripod and sturdy tripod head. The head alone can tip the scales at over three pounds and burly tripods can add another six to 10. Add that to a backpack full of camping gear and cameras and you have a recipe for misery.

I've spent years trying to find a good compromise. With Gitzo's new carbon fiber Mountaineer tripod (model 1228), my prayers have been answered. The Mountaineer weighs only three pounds, yet it can handle my longest lenses (350mm). With its three sections and center post extended, I have to stretch my six foot frame on tiptoes to look through the viewfinder. It collapses down to a tidy 19 inches.

As an added bonus, carbon fiber doesn't conduct cold like aluminum. Heretofore, I've wrapped my tripod legs in bicycle handlebar tape to insulate my hands, but now I can dispense with that extra bulk and weight.

Because I usually shoot with a leaf shutter camera (the Mamiya 7 6x7cm), I can get away with a tiny ballhead. I opted for the Kaiser 6017 modified with an Arca-style quick release by Kirk Enterprises. At just three-quarters of a pound, it gives me a tripod/ballhead system under four pounds, one-third the weight I used to haul. The results are impeccable.

This high-tech solution comes at a price. The Mountaineer runs over $500 by mail order and the Kirk-modified Kaiser adds another $115. If you spend a lot of time in the field with your gear, the investment pays for itself in enjoyment. Plus, you'll never be tempted to leave it behind and thus miss that once in a lifetime shot.

You can contact Bogen at 201-818-9500 for more information about the Gitzo Mountaineer and Kirk at 800-626-5074 for the Kaiser quick release ballhead.

James Martin, Mountain Photographer

[Gear Reviews Home][Photography Home] [Marketplace]