Jump to content


Photo

Carbon Fiber Tripods

  • Please log in to reply
37 replies to this topic

#1 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 15 June 2009 - 03:04 PM

I have a Half Hitch Mark III and a Berlebach UNI 14 on order for my SV90 and AT111. The Uni 14 weighs about 17 lbs and I'm considering a carbon fiber tripod for my Grab and Go set up.

I have read great reports here on CN regarding the Gitzo 5530, however very expensive; the Gitzo GT3530LS has a load capacity listed as 39lbs and seem to be more available on the used market. Anyone using this model for similar telescopes as mine?

Another option I was looking at was the Benro C457 M8 which is load rated similar to the Gitzo 5530 or the Benro C357 which is load rated similar to the Gitzo 3530 and both somewhat lower priced than the comparable Gitzo's. Anyone using ethier of these two tripods and can give their impressions?

Ron

#2 CESDewar

CESDewar

    GorillAstronomer

  • *****
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 16 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Blue Ridge, GA, USA

Posted 15 June 2009 - 08:36 PM

When I put in the order for a Gitzo-5531 tripod, I almost immediately started to suffer from "buyer's remorse" - was it really going to be worth the price?

When it arrived, the answer was quick and obvious: yes. In fact this is one of the best purchases I ever made. The tripod is incredibly light and yet far sturdier than my other tripods. I use it with a Teegul/Lapides mount and it works great not only with my TMB92/105-650, but also with the much heavier Celestron C-8 and Np-127 (topping out at around 20lbs). I think you will find the HH on a Gitzo tripod to be the foundation for a wonderful Grab&Go setup. I can't speak for the Benro tripod as I've never seen one. I was previously using a Bogen 3068 tripod (45lbs capacity) and this is far lighter and a lot more stable.

#3 Moggi1964

Moggi1964

    Vendor - Astro Laugh

  • *****
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 3636
  • Joined: 07 Nov 2005
  • Loc: Madison. NJ. USA

Posted 15 June 2009 - 08:45 PM

I PERSONALLY have the Feisol CT3442 and, though this wouldn't be suitable for the load you suggest, I can say the Feisol quality is excellent.

If they do make one in the load range you need I would certainly consider them.

CF tripods are a godsend for portability.

#4 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 16 June 2009 - 08:02 AM

Thanks for the responses guys.

I have read a lot of complementary reports on the Benro CF tripods; some reports even favor them over the Gitzo. After more research I came across some warnings in birding forums on these; there was also a lot of bashing of Chinese ripoffs in general.

Morris, I have read great things about the Feisol; however I think the biggest load capacity they make is about 26lbs.

CESD, your experience with the Gitzo 5531 certainly makes me feel that it would be a wise investment! The reports on the Gitzo Series 5 have all been great here on CN. I guess I will keep an eye out for a used 5530 or save for the 5531.

Thanks again.

Ron

#5 GaryML

GaryML

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 348
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2009
  • Loc: San Diego, California

Posted 16 June 2009 - 09:52 AM

One other factor to consider: I have a Gitzo tripod for photo use and a part was lost from the tripod on a trip (the end cap to the center post with the spring-loaded hook to hold a counter-weight). I went to the Gitzo Web site and found a complete schematic and parts list for the tripod (which is a discontinued model). I then called Bogen USA (distributor for Manfrotto which owns Gitzo) and ordered the part. The clerk told me it was backordered from the factory in Italy but would arrive in about 12 weeks. Sure enough, 12 weeks later Big Brown drives up with the part.

This was just a minor part for the tripod, but it was nice to be able to find the parts information and order the part with no hassle with a phone call to someone in the U.S. who speaks English. Can you get repair parts for a Chinese knock-off tripod? Possibly, but I wouldn't count on it. So while a Gitzo costs a lot more than a Feisol or similar copy, you do get some value for the extra money, including parts and service that is probably unavailable with other brands. I resisted spending the money for a Gitzo for years, but when I finally bit the bullet and bought one I was not disappointed. Great quality of construction and a company that stands behind their products.

#6 highwood

highwood

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 84
  • Joined: 29 Mar 2007

Posted 16 June 2009 - 02:16 PM

What CESD said.

Jim

#7 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 16 June 2009 - 11:48 PM

One other factor to consider: I have a Gitzo tripod for photo use and a part was lost from the tripod on a trip (the end cap to the center post with the spring-loaded hook to hold a counter-weight). I went to the Gitzo Web site and found a complete schematic and parts list for the tripod (which is a discontinued model). I then called Bogen USA (distributor for Manfrotto which owns Gitzo) and ordered the part. The clerk told me it was backordered from the factory in Italy but would arrive in about 12 weeks. Sure enough, 12 weeks later Big Brown drives up with the part.

This was just a minor part for the tripod, but it was nice to be able to find the parts information and order the part with no hassle with a phone call to someone in the U.S. who speaks English. Can you get repair parts for a Chinese knock-off tripod? Possibly, but I wouldn't count on it. So while a Gitzo costs a lot more than a Feisol or similar copy, you do get some value for the extra money, including parts and service that is probably unavailable with other brands. I resisted spending the money for a Gitzo for years, but when I finally bit the bullet and bought one I was not disappointed. Great quality of construction and a company that stands behind their products.


Great point! I have visited the Gitzo website and viewed the schematic. I have read on photo forums that some Benro users stated they were very happy with Benro customer service; but having a USA distributor available would make the process much easier.

Ron

#8 Mike Sandy

Mike Sandy

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1122
  • Joined: 29 Aug 2003
  • Loc: SF Bay Area, CA

Posted 17 June 2009 - 12:12 AM

Another vote for the Gitzo 5531S. I have my HHII mounted on it and I couldn't be happier! I had an AP wooden tripod when I first received the Half Hitch, and it was crazy stable - but mounting that 5 pound mount on that large/heavy tripod was just out of character for the mount. The Gitzo is a perfect match for the HHIII IMHO - stable and light (just like the Half Hitch). Getting the lighter tripod freed the larger wooden tripod up for a nice GEM.......there is a balance in the universe :roflmao:

#9 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 17 June 2009 - 10:35 AM

Another vote for the Gitzo 5531S. I have my HHII mounted on it and I couldn't be happier! I had an AP wooden tripod when I first received the Half Hitch, and it was crazy stable - but mounting that 5 pound mount on that large/heavy tripod was just out of character for the mount. The Gitzo is a perfect match for the HHIII IMHO - stable and light (just like the Half Hitch). Getting the lighter tripod freed the larger wooden tripod up for a nice GEM.......there is a balance in the universe :roflmao:


Interesting! Now you guys have me thinking that I should hold off on the heavy (18 lb.) Berlebach UNI 14 and go with the Gitzo 5531. My orginal thinking was get the Berlebach while using a Oberwerk tripod as a grab and go until I could swing the Gitzo or find a used one.

Mike, what scopes do you use on the Gitzo? CESD seemed very content using the Gitzo with his NP 127. With your report of going with the Gitzo over AP wood tripod it really has me thinking. :shrug:

How stable is the Gitzo when using for high power planetary viewing; vibration and settling times? I would love the Gitzo for the grab and go for the reasons you stated; but thought the Berlebach would be used for the few nights of clear steady skies and trips to a good dark sky site.

I'm really entering the analysis paralysis stage.

Thanks.

Ron

#10 highwood

highwood

    Explorer 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 84
  • Joined: 29 Mar 2007

Posted 17 June 2009 - 11:00 AM

Ron:

FWIW, I use my Gitzo to mount an AP Traveler (circa 9 lbs) on a Lapides Teegul. This combination works fine for hight power, low vibration, quick damping, and because the tripod's light as a feather and folds into a tiny package, it's perfect for sticking in a suitcase when I'm traveling by air. E.g. I've been to Australia twice with this outfit. I also own a TEC 140 (circa 19 lbs), which I use with a GEM on the AP wooden tripod. The latter is of course a lot heavier than the Gitzo but is a lot more stable: the thing just inspires confidence. I'm not sure I'd trust the Gitzo for the TEC, despite the 55 lb. capacity, though I admit I haven't tried it.

Jim

#11 Paul G

Paul G

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 5127
  • Joined: 08 May 2003
  • Loc: Freedonia

Posted 17 June 2009 - 09:35 PM

I use a 3 series Gitzo with my Stowaways, 5 series with the Traveler (it's too much for the 3) and the 130 with an alt-az mount. When I use a GEM with the 4 and 5" scopes I much prefer the AP wood tripod because it's more stable than the 5 Gitzo with that much weight on it.

#12 CESDewar

CESDewar

    GorillAstronomer

  • *****
  • Posts: 2087
  • Joined: 16 Jan 2005
  • Loc: Blue Ridge, GA, USA

Posted 17 June 2009 - 09:54 PM

CESD seemed very content using the Gitzo with his NP 127.


I should add that I view from the bottom of a valley - in an area where there is no wind - I don't even recall an evening of viewing in the past couple of years where there was any measurable wind of any kind. I suspect that with any wind (even just small amount) this combination would quickly become less appealing. But with vibration pads and no wind - settling time was 2s with this combination (after a sharp rap to the tripod leg) which I feel is well within in the acceptable range.

#13 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 17 June 2009 - 10:55 PM

I use a 3 series Gitzo with my Stowaways, 5 series with the Traveler (it's too much for the 3) and the 130 with an alt-az mount. When I use a GEM with the 4 and 5" scopes I much prefer the AP wood tripod because it's more stable than the 5 Gitzo with that much weight on it.


Great info, exactly what I was looking for! I was pretty much convinced that I really needed to go the series 5; but I was trying to look at all options, including the Chinese knock offs.

Jim and CESD:
Thanks for sharing your experiences with your scopes on the Gitzo. I feel like the analysis paralysis symptoms are disappering somewhat! :bow:

I now know at some point I will get the Gitzo Series 5. I also now realize that I have always been commited to getting the Berlebach; I can use the UNI 14 with my LX90 which the spreader on the tripod drives me crazy; along with super stable use for the refractors.

Now I guess the only question is which should I get first. :question:

Ron

#14 Mike Sandy

Mike Sandy

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1122
  • Joined: 29 Aug 2003
  • Loc: SF Bay Area, CA

Posted 18 June 2009 - 12:19 AM

[quote
Mike, what scopes do you use on the Gitzo? CESD seemed very content using the Gitzo with his NP 127. With your report of going with the Gitzo over AP wood tripod it really has me thinking. :shrug:

How stable is the Gitzo when using for high power planetary viewing; vibration and settling times? I would love the Gitzo for the grab and go for the reasons you stated; but thought the Berlebach would be used for the few nights of clear steady skies and trips to a good dark sky site.

I'm really entering the analysis paralysis stage.

Thanks.

Ron [/quote]

I use the Gitzo-HH combination with a TV102 and a Pentax 75. I have had no problem pushing the power to the limit with these two scopes. While the AP had essentially no damping time, the Gitzo damps out so quickly that I'd be hard pressed to give a duration.....a second maybe. I don't think I'd want to go much more than a TV127 - but I really don't have any direct experience to back that up.

The thing for me was lugging out this heavy tripod to mount up a nice light weight mount like the HH. Made me think of towing a camp trailer behind a Ferrari - while you might be able to do it, why would you ever want to? :foreheadslap:

#15 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 18 June 2009 - 07:38 PM

I use the Gitzo-HH combination with a TV102 and a Pentax 75. I have had no problem pushing the power to the limit with these two scopes. While the AP had essentially no damping time, the Gitzo damps out so quickly that I'd be hard pressed to give a duration.....a second maybe. I don't think I'd want to go much more than a TV127 - but I really don't have any direct experience to back that up.

The thing for me was lugging out this heavy tripod to mount up a nice light weight mount like the HH. Made me think of towing a camp trailer behind a Ferrari - while you might be able to do it, why would you ever want to? :foreheadslap:

Thanks for your impressions Mike, especially with the 102. With the positive reports on the excellent damping times with the Gitzo I think I have been swayed to try the Gitzo and see how it does with the AT111 and hold off on the Berlebach.

I like the Ferrari comparison; I am really looking forward to using a quality light weight Grab and Go system; especially with the SV90! :yay:

Thanks again to everyone for all the great responses!

Ron

#16 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 19 June 2009 - 09:52 AM

Before I pull the trigger on the Gitzo I decided to compare the Benro to Gitzo one last time and call out for anyone using either of the newer C-457M8 or C-357M8 Benro models; since Morris was impressed with the excellent quality of the Feisol CT 3442.

The Gitzo GT 5531S: at B&H $849.95 with $40 mail in rebate, 55 lb capacity, 5.9 lbs., 6 layer carbon fiber. Optional equipment: big foot or long spike feet $?, leg coat protectors $42.99, padded tripod bag $129.99.

The Benro C-457M8: featuring updated OIHM-8X Carbon Fiber Technology with magnesiam components, B&H not in stock; but I called and they would be able to price within a week, selling on ebay for around $508. Capacity 55 lbs., 5.5 lbs., with included closed foam padded legs, rubber and stainless spiked feet and includes a tripod bag. The Benro has a reversable center column.

So....anyone using Benro? :confused:

Ron

#17 Scott99

Scott99

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2923
  • Joined: 10 May 2007
  • Loc: New England

Posted 19 June 2009 - 12:14 PM

One other thing to consider is the Berlebach's tray, it's awesome, I don't think it's possible to get a tray on the Gitzo. I have a Berlebach, I think I'd like it better for everything but air travel. It is definitely big & heavy for schlepping around on a trip through airports, Gitzo would be ideal for that.

Re: the knock-off of the Gitzo - one thing I'd consider is the factory in China is dumping a lot more *BLEEP* into the rivers & air than the one in Japan "you get what you pay for"

#18 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 20 June 2009 - 09:21 AM

Thanks Scott,
Other issues to factor in the equation, political, social and environmental issues. :bawling:

No reports on Benro users. Hmmm....at least Benro has proven they can mount a small Chinese man on their tripods.

http://forums.dprevi...essage=18248812

Ron

#19 Paul G

Paul G

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 5127
  • Joined: 08 May 2003
  • Loc: Freedonia

Posted 20 June 2009 - 09:22 AM

FWIW, Gitzo is made in Italy at the Manfrotto plant:

http://tinyurl.com/lreeug

#20 GaryML

GaryML

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 348
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2009
  • Loc: San Diego, California

Posted 20 June 2009 - 10:46 AM

FWIW, Gitzo is made in Italy at the Manfrotto plant:


As for political, social and environmental consequences of a purchase, that question is almost impossible to answer these days. Most companies have both good and bad impacts and weighing which is better is almost impossible.

Gitzo used to be made in France, but when Manfrotto bought the company production was moved to Italy. Most Manfrotto products are made in Italy, but I believe that a few of the low end items are made in China. I'm pretty sure Benro, Induro and Feitsol are made in China. Berlebach tripods are made in Germany. I've seen some wood tripods made in U.S.A., but I haven't seen any lighter aluminum or CF ones made here. There are some good made-in-U.S.A. options for both camera mounts (e.g. Kirk, Really Right Stuff) and telescope mounts (e.g. Losmandy (with HEAVY tripods), Discmounts, Universal Astronomics). Is something made in Japan or Germany better than something made in China, from a political perspective. :shrug:

Just the question of environmental impact in manufacturing and disposal is hard to answer. I don't have a clear answer; my guess is that wood uses the least amount of resources in manufacturing and it is biodegradable and perhaps recyclable upon disposal. But it may involve cutting old growth hardware forests to get good wood. Aluminum uses huge amounts of energy in its manufacture, but it can be manufactured from recycled materials and then recycled upon disposal. Who knows about CF? :question:

#21 Scott99

Scott99

    Mercury-Atlas

  • *****
  • Posts: 2923
  • Joined: 10 May 2007
  • Loc: New England

Posted 20 June 2009 - 12:08 PM

FWIW, Gitzo is made in Italy at the Manfrotto plant:

http://tinyurl.com/lreeug


OK, thanks, why did I think Japan? I guess Gitzo sounds Japanese.

For me the EU is the gold standard when I'm purchasing something. If it's made within the EU I feel like the workers and environment are being treated right. Usually the quality is much better too and the price only a little higher, as it is in this case.

Also went through this recently with Lowa hiking boots, all the company's boots are made within the EU, highly recommended.

#22 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 21 June 2009 - 04:40 PM

Gitzo used to be made in France, but when Manfrotto bought the company production was moved to Italy. Most Manfrotto products are made in Italy, but I believe that a few of the low end items are made in China. I'm pretty sure Benro, Induro and Feitsol are made in China.



Gitzo lists production moving from France to Italy; 2001-2003 with the move completed in 2005.

An interesting urban legend was going around, denied by Gitzo Product Manager David Fisher, that sometime around the beginning of the decade Gitzo was looking to outsource it's legs to China. Gitzo sought out Yilee Precision for a deal. Gitzo taught them everything, practically giving them the factory blueprints. Yilee then set up a dummy corporation called Benro. Gitzo started noticing exact copies of their gear with the Benro label and pulled out.

Benro history shows the company was founded in 1996 in cooperation with a Japanese enterprise. In 2002, Benro developed their own product line. In 2005, Benro planned and built a much larger factory.

:question: Interesting time line for conspiracy theory buffs.

With the absolute silence regarding the call out for Benro users on CN, I reserched more photography forums. Worldwide photo users universally agree on the quality and outstanding value for the money of the newer Benro CF tripods.

I am intrigued with the Benro CF at the price point; users report 95% of Gitzo's quality and stability at about 60% of the Gitzo cost. Although somewhat skeptical of comparisons to the Gitzo I am almost convinced they are a good buy.

The line from the movie Dirty Harry keeps popping into my head. "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya punk?" :tonofbricks:

Since I am looking at the purchase to be a lifelong investment, unless the B&H price comes in considerably lower than the ebay price, I am still leaning toward the Gitzo.

Ron

#23 GaryML

GaryML

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 348
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2009
  • Loc: San Diego, California

Posted 21 June 2009 - 07:51 PM

I am intrigued with the Benro CF at the price point; users report 95% of Gitzo's quality and stability at about 60% of the Gitzo cost. Although somewhat skeptical of comparisons to the Gitzo I am almost convinced they are a good buy.

The line from the movie Dirty Harry keeps popping into my head. "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya punk?"


I think you have described the situation perfectly.

At the consumer level, we are offered cheap Chinese goods at attractive prices. You get all of the check-list features for a super-low price. But this cheap stuff is more likely to break and more likely to to be unrepairable due to the lack of parts or due to the fact that a new replacement is cheaper than the repair.

I'm guilty of this behavoir like everyone else. For example, I decided to buy a cheap Celestron CG5-ASGT mount rather than a more expensive one made in the U.S. or Japan. I couldn't resist the ultra-low price for a full-featured goto GEM. After three weeks the goto stopped working properly and now I have no mount to use as I wait 6 weeks for Celestron to repair it. I guess I deserve it for having made a bad choice. I knew that this was not the reliable, high quality choice but I took the gamble. Now I'm suffering for it.

So from now on, I avoid the cheap knock-offs and get the quality products, even if it means spending more, and even if it means deferring the purchase until I can afford the more expensive option. Sometimes there are no other options and you're stuck with only cheap junk or a fantastically expensive option to choose from. But if there is a choice, I'm going with the quality option.

#24 Ron B

Ron B

    Vostok 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 115
  • Joined: 21 May 2008
  • Loc: Florida

Posted 23 June 2009 - 11:07 PM

So from now on, I avoid the cheap knock-offs and get the quality products, even if it means spending more, and even if it means deferring the purchase until I can afford the more expensive option. Sometimes there are no other options and you're stuck with only cheap junk or a fantastically expensive option to choose from. But if there is a choice, I'm going with the quality option.


I hear you Gary, but I am finding it difficult to move on the Gitzo; the Benro may be a Chinese knock-off but all the users have given the new Benro's excellent reports on its quality.

I followed-up with B&H today; no price on the Benro C-457M8 and seems like no intention to stock. They referred me to Mamiya? Spoke with someone there and they did not know if that model was available for US distribution. I do not feel comfortable buying overseas on ebay, dealing with import fees and the possiblility of dealing with potential problems without a US distributer.

B&H did have the Benro C-358M8 model with a 40 lb. capacity for $387.50 shipped. Not sure how it would it would handle the AT111 but I am thinking it would serve as a nice grab and go for the SV90. Anyone feel free to tell me I'm wrong! At that price I could almost get the Berlebach and the Benro for the price of the Gitzo.

Still waivering :gve:

I more than welcome any other thoughts on this! Gitzo users I guess this is a plea to push me over the edge.

Ron

#25 GaryML

GaryML

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 348
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2009
  • Loc: San Diego, California

Posted 24 June 2009 - 09:55 AM

I hear you Gary, but I am finding it difficult to move on the Gitzo; the Benro may be a Chinese knock-off but all the users have given the new Benro's excellent reports on its quality.

I followed-up with B&H today; no price on the Benro C-457M8 and seems like no intention to stock. They referred me to Mamiya? Spoke with someone there and they did not know if that model was available for US distribution. I do not feel comfortable buying overseas on ebay, dealing with import fees and the possiblility of dealing with potential problems without a US distributer.

B&H did have the Benro C-358M8 model with a 40 lb. capacity for $387.50 shipped. Not sure how it would it would handle the AT111 but I am thinking it would serve as a nice grab and go for the SV90. Anyone feel free to tell me I'm wrong! At that price I could almost get the Berlebach and the Benro for the price of the Gitzo.

Still waivering :gve:

I more than welcome any other thoughts on this! Gitzo users I guess this is a plea to push me over the edge.


Well, you've already read my comments so I won't repeat them. From what I've read on dpreview and other photography forums, many people seem to buy direct from the Far East on the Benro. You get tremendous value, but the fit and finish falls short and spare parts are going to be nearly impossible to get.

Gitzo *is* super-expensive. What I do is to look at Manfrotto or similar 2nd tier products if I can't afford Gitzo. Not quite as nice as Gitzo, but still better better than the cheapo knock-offs. That's what I bought recently for a tripod for my big binoculars and I'm very happy with my Manfrotto 028B tripod and 501HDV head. I don't think Manfrotto makes a CF tripod big enough for you, but a heavy duty aluminum one may be a good compromise. And there is certainly nothing wrong at all with Berlebach. The only drawback is that wood will be bulkier and heavier for the same strength (but with better damping).

In any event, be sure you have the right product for your needs so you only have to buy once. Too many times I bought the cheaper product thinking that it was good enough, and ended up having to sell it at a loss and then buy what I really needed.

EDIT: I may be confusing the Benro with the Feisol as the tripod that people buy directly from the Far East manufacturer. It's been a while since I read about it.






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics