Tripod Comparison

I have been shooting for the past 2 weeks with a Feisol CT-3372 carbon fiber tripod. This is one of their Large tripods with the largest leg diameter that they make. This is not my first carbon fiber tripod, as I have 3 Gitzo carbon fiber tripods and a Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripod. I can remember when the carbon fiber tripods came out and there were initially problems with the glue that bonded the legs to the base and I was actually a witness to several of these early editions falling apart in the field. The advantage of the carbon fiber tripod is that it is much lighter than its aluminum counterpart. The old saying about Gitzo is that the name came from the tripod, it “gets so” heavy in the field..

So, current day tripods. Lighter, sturdy, seems to be less prone to vibration than the aluminum tripods. EXPENSIVE. The biggest drawback is the expense. And this is the reason I wanted to try out the Feisol. Their cost is much more reasonable compared to Really Right Stuff and Gitzo. So I will compare the Feisol CT-3372 to the Gitzo GT3541XLS and the RRS TVC 33. I have not compared the RRS TVC 34L because I don’t have one. Joe came out with the 34L after I got my 33. It is taller, but still not enough in my book..

Gitzo is the tallest, Feisol and RRS fit underneath

Why do you want a taller tripod? Take a look at what happens when you shoot up in the field.

Ouch. Doesn't take long like this before your back starts hurting

Feisol CT 3372
3 section legs
Closed- 25.98 inches
Max Height – 59 inches
Weight- 3.79 lbs
Cost $548 (includes a very nice tripod bag)

Really Right Stuff TVC33
3 section legs
Closed- 26 inches
Max Height- 58 inches
Weight- 4.25 lbs
Cost $925 (tripod bag $85 extra)

(Putting in RRS TVC 34 for spec comparison)
RRS TVC 34L
Closed- 24.5 inches
Max Height- 70 inches
Weight – 4.7 lbs
4 section legs
Cost $1045 ( tripod bag $85 extra)

Gitzo GT3541XLS
4 section legs
Closed- 27.5 inches
Max Height- 77.95
Weight – 4.34 lbs
Cost $751 (tripod bag extra)

Now for the report on each (minus the RRS TVC 34L)

Feisol

I really liked the Feisol from the box.. Especially for the price. If I didn’t have the other 2 tripods to compare too, I wouldn’t have known any difference. After using and taking it part (field stripping the legs), these are my comments. Fit and finish- there are some edges that are sharper than I would have liked on the base. The legs are harder to extend and push closed than the other 2 tripods. The bottom of the legs has a rubber covering that seals the leg (I always went out and bought crutch tips and put them on my tripod leg bottoms in the past). The bottoms will accept a screw in spike. The legs make a whooshing sound as you open and close them as the air entry is up at the top. I assume that will help keep water out of the legs if extended into water. I LOVE the top hinge mechanism. You use your thumb to actuate, not 2 fingers like on the Gitzo or RRS. But you do have to keep your thumb on the mechanism to keep it from stopping. The legs also extend past the horizontal mark, which could be helpful in a narrow space or canyon. There is padding on all three legs on the top section. Great idea as most of us put padding on after we buy the tripod. My question is what happens if the padding gets damaged? And is it closed cell enough not to absorb any water? When I took apart the legs, it was more difficult to get them back together because of the more flimsy plastic that is part of the anti rotation device and also the space between one carbon fiber leg and the other.  Height is definitely not tall enough for most guys. On level ground, shooting level, you are fine. In the field, on uneven ground and possibly shooting upward, your back is going to feel it. Overall a very nice tripod, and when you consider the price, a definite consideration to support your equipment. It also came with its own tripod bag.. Sweet.

Really Right Stuff

The finish on the edges and the metal is more refined. The legs are easy to pull out and push closed. Could be taller (even the TVC34L is only 70 inches tall). Same comments on height as the Feisol. Not tall enough for a field tripod for those of use over 5′ 4″ ( and the closer to 6 foot, the worse it is!). The antirotation plastic pieces are heavier and seem to slide better. There is also an indexing arrow to show you where the ridge for the antirotation is when reassembling the leg.  A little heavier than the Feisol (but not appreciable when holding). Biggest drawback- price. If you are in the camp that thinks the engineering and finish of a Mercedes Benz is worth it, you will think the same about the Really Right Stuff tripod. I don’t know about service on the tripods, but I can tell you that the service I have gotten on other RRS pieces of equipment have been phenomenal.

Gitzo

Biggest plus is the heighth. It goes up to 6’6″.. That goes a long way in keeping your camera at eye level in the field. Legs move smoothly and are a little smaller in diameter than the Feisol or the RRS. I hate the hinge mechanism at the top of the leg. I think this is the biggest drawback of the tripod. The metal finish doesn’t seem to be quite as good as the other two tripods. When I looked for the XLS on line, the only one I could find has a rapid column, which most of us that shoot nature usually ignore, because it won’t go down to ground level without contortions. My friend John Shaw also used to say that a center post makes a tripod and monopod with 3 legs.

If we just went on cost per pound:

RRS- $217/lb
Gitzo – $173/lb
Feisol – $145/lb

But I don’t pick my steaks based on price per pound, so I’m not recommending you pick your tripod that way.

If you can afford it, the Really Right Stuff is top of the line. If you are over 5’4″, then get the TVC34L.

If are one of the 99% in this country, then the Feisol might be the choice for you. If you are over 5’4″, then write them and tell them to add one more section to the CT-3372 to make it a true field tripod and you will buy it.

I will report on the leveling bases in a separate blog..

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