Copyright Notice

Information for Photographers

Equipment Reviews
Field How-to
Picturesque Locations

Gitzo G1329 (G1325) Carbon Fiber Tripod

Gitzo G1329

This really should be a review of the G1325, not the G1329, because that's the way I use it. I had originally planned on purchasing the G1325, but then figured that the center column may come in handy some day, mainly for macro work where I don't want to adjust three leg twists just to raise the tripod half an inch. I have owned the G1329 for a few months, and still have yet to use the center column.

Well... even before I planned on getting the G1325 I wanted the G1228. Let me tell you why I chose the G1329... I had first decided on a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod for the obvious reasons: they're lighter, and more rigid. I was originally introduced to carbon fiber materials through my interest in cycling ( my bike is also carbon fiber), and I love how it eliminates vibration in my ride, as well as the rigidity of it, so I figured it'd be a great material for tripods as well. I had planned on getting the G1228 because it was small. I went to Camera World to check it out. The first thing I noticed was how flimsy it seemed when the legs were extended all the way. The smallest leg section is really tiny, and the legs really flexed a lot when I put pressure on them. I asked to see the G1227 (same series as the G1228, but with 3 leg sections instead of 4), but they didn't have it, so it was off to Pro Photo Supply, who did. The G1227 was definitely much better than the G1228, though still not as rigid as I thought it would be. After reading some messages on the web, and conversing with Kerry Thalmann about his G1325, I decided to mail order the G1329 from Camera World without having even seen it in person. I paid $699.

First Impression

Boy, this thing sure looks cool! Aside from the great characteristics of carbon, I really love the look of it. It also has a really nice feel. I was actually surprised by how heavy it felt (my main tripod before this was a Gitzo G01, remember). Once I took the center column off and installed the flat plate it was much more to my liking. One of the first things that struck me was the size of the center boss. It is much more substantial than the ones on the G1228 and G1227. This seems like a much heavier duty tripod.

One surprise was the bubble level on top of one of the legs; I did not know this tripod had that. I set the tripod up, extending the legs all the way. I looked at the bubble and it wasn't anywhere near center. Strange, I always thought the floors in my apartment were perpendicular to the force of gravity. I then shrunk the tripod to its minimum size and looked again. Still way off center. I put the tripod on many places since then that I am pretty sure are flat, and the bubble is never center. So, it appears that the bubble level is not seated in the tripod properly. This is something totally inexcusable on a tripod this expensive. Something so simple and they don't even do it right. Knowing Gitzo's service record, I'm sure they'd fix it, or even give me a new tripod, if I sent it to them explaining this. I haven't done this yet because I can't be without the tripod for the length of time it would take to get it back. Though, even if this level would work I wouldn't use it. Why do I care whether my tripod is level or not? What matters is whether the film plane is level, and this has to do with the ball head's position, not so much the tripod's. So I'm not too upset with this minor problem, though it is ridiculous that it's level is not... level.

Field Use

One thing I was worried about was carrying such a large tripod on hikes (it's 25 inches long when fully compressed, and that's not counting the head). I had originally planned on carrying it on my pack, and I was worried that it would stick up above the top of my pack (as it does) and hit trees and such that I had to crawl under. As it turns out, I almost always just carry the tripod in my hand (unless I'm using an ice axe, in which case I'm doing high elevation stuff and don't have to worry about trees). I wondered if the 6 pounds (tripod + head) would feel heavy, but I hardly remember I'm carrying it, even on 16 mile hikes. Also, carrying it in my hand like this allows me to set it up very quickly. As I'm walking down the trail I can spot something ahead I want to take a photograph of, and while I'm still walking towards it I can start extending the legs. By the time I get to my subject all I have to do is pull my camera out of the bag, and mount it on the head.

Lots of people complain about the hassle of the Gitzo leg locks. They think that flip levers like on the Bogen's are much better. I disagree. For one thing, with flip levers you always have the chance of those getting caught on something. You won't ever have this problem with a Gitzo. Some times the Gitzo locks are a pain to loosen, especially in the cold, but that's normally my own fault. People think you really have to crank these suckers hard in order to hold them down, but you don't! You just have to barely tighten them and they stay locked. This makes assembling and tearing down much easier. Just don't put all your muscle into turning the locks and you shouldn't have to complain.

Me with the tripod One thing I really like about the Inter Pro Studex series Gitzos is that you can set the legs at 24°, 55°, 80° degrees, or as I've found, pretty much any place in between. The resistance on swinging the legs in and out is generally well enough to hold the tripod with a camera on it at any position in between the stops. This may reduce the rigidity of the tripod, but I've still gotten some great pictures using this technique. By the way, of course I wasn't all over the tripod like this picture shows once I actually took the photo.

One thing I never thought about doing until I got into the field is illustrated in the picture to the right. I was having a really difficult time trying to figure out how to take a picture of this calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa), since they all look down. I found this one on a slight hill, and bending the one tripod leg the total opposite direction that it normally goes (to make it parallel with the base plate) was the only way I could capture this picture. You can't do this with the center column attached though, for obvious reasons. Care to see the result of this technique?


Unfortunately I can not give you scientific results as to how much sturdier this carbon fiber tripod is compared to its aluminum counter part. Eventually I may conduct such an experiment, attaching a mirror to the tripod and bouncing a laser off it onto an opposing scale a few hundred feet away to see how it reacts to vibration. Right now though, I'm too lazy to do that. Sorry. I can tell you how it feels, though. It definitely feels much sturdier than the aluminum Gitzo 3 series leg sets. Gitzo says the carbon fiber tripods are "30% lighter than traditional alloy versions." That is, my 3 series carbon fiber tripod is 30% lighter than a 3 series aluminum tripod. I don't think this is a proper comparison though, because the carbon leg set doesn't only reduce weight, but also increases rigidity and stability. Just look at the max load of the G1325 and G1329; they're equal to the max load of a 4 series Gitzo, not a 3 series. So, comparing the carbon fiber tripods to what I think is a more similar alloy model (in terms of stability), the carbon fiber ones are actually more like 50% lighter than their alloy counterparts. I've heard many photographers say that the only way to get something as stable as the G1325/9 is to either get the $900 Gitzo G1548 carbon fiber tripod (duh), or a 12 pound Bogen alloy tripod. Which would you rather carry around on a long hike... a 6 pound setup (with head), or a 14 pound one (monster Bogen + head)?

I'm sure you've heard it before, but you're about to hear it again... it really gets me that people don't see a problem with spending $2,000 on an F5 body, or $8,000 on a 600mm f4 lens, but they bitch when you tell them about a $700 tripod. A tripod is certainly a more important piece of equipment than a camera body (I bought my G1329 long before my F5, and was using it with an N70). What good is an F5 going to do you if all your pictures are blurry due to tripod vibration?

To me, this tripod is definitely worth the extra lettuce. Its combination of stability and light weight are unmatched. I have never for a moment regretted my purchase, or thought "I bet a lesser tripod would do just as good." Besides just holding your camera steadier than almost any tripod on the market, it's also an absolute joy to use. I highly recommend it.

Valid HTML 4.0!
David Paris
Last modified: Fri May 12 14:12:41 PDT 2000