Although I travel with a digital camera almost everywhere I go, I almost never traveled with my tripod. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the value of having a tripod in various situations, but the problem is that my tripod (a professional level Bogen-Monfrotto) was always too big to fit in my luggage. I also never check my photo gear for fear of theft/damage. So I would forego the tripod and in many cases miss certain shots that you just can’t get handheld.
Well that all changed over the holidays when I got the Gitzo Traveler 1540T super lightweight and small tripod. Gitzoâ€™s unique patented 180Âº folding mechanism accommodates the head inside the folded tripod legs and makes this the smallest folded tripod for its open size and number of sections. I was amazed at how small and lightweight it was. It weighs just two pounds! (one pound lighter than a MacBook Air) Yet it still accommodates up to 9.9 lbs. I weighed my Nikon D300 with battery grip and L-Bracket and I still had a few pounds to spare. The Gitzo Traveler 1540T doesn’t come with a ballhead and since I’m using the Kirk BH-1 ballhead on my Bogen tripod, I went with the Kirk BH-3 ballhead to go with the with Gitzo. The BH-3 weighs a mere 19 ounces. This combination works perfectly and I now have no problem flying with a tripod. As a matter of fact I gave it its first workout in San Francisco when I shot from Coit Tower during Macworld Expo. I was able to do the long exposures that you can only do with a tripod.
Any professional photographer will tell you that tripods and ballheads are expensive. The rational is "Do you think it’s wise to use a $20 tripod to hold a $1,800 DSLR + the $1,600 piece of glass you have on it?" Using that logic, I have to agree. However, professional tripods are outrageously expensive (IMHO). Carbon fiber lightweight ones are even more expensive. Good ballheads aren’t cheap either. The Gitzo Traveler 1540T goes for $560 at Amazon.com ($559.95 at B&H Photo). The one thing that keeps me from thinking about the price so much is that unlike digital cameras, once you get a good tripod, it will last you for years and years and years without the temptation or need to "upgrade."
If you think $560 is a lot of money for a tripod (and it is!), check out the Gitzo GT90TT 90th Anniversary Limited Edition Titanium Traveler Tripod. They only made 390 of this collectors item, so you might be a little stunned by the price 🙂
If you’re looking for the lightest, smallest professional level tripod, the Gitzo 1540T is the best in its class! I hope to be using this tripod for many years to come.