Well, I made it almost an entire decade with the same trusty tripod. My MeFoto never failed me and was put through some of the roughest conditions. The tripod gets my stamp of approval and I’d easily feel comfortable recommending it to anyone looking for a “do it all” type tripod. Really, if you were on a budget and wanted a tripod that could last you your entire photography career I would happily put my stamp of approval on the MeFoto tripod.
So, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just buy the newer version, right? Well, I was close. I’ve been passively searching for a new tripod for the past year but I just couldn’t pull the trigger because my MeFoto refuses to die. The worst thing I could say about the MeFoto is that one of the knobs has started to slip (when you tighten it, the rubber grip sometimes turns without actually turning the knob) but that is few and far between and it’s around ten years old.
Full disclosure… About a year ago I almost wrote an article talking about how stupid it was to spend more than a few hundred dollars on a tripod. This is ironic because the Gitzo I got ended up being north of a thousand dollars. What changed? And is a camera tripod ever worth north of one thousand dollars?
Gitzo, cover your ears… Expensive tripods are almost never worth it, if you’re a resourceful type of person you could get away with a rock, bag of sand, or lump of dirt for a steady place to lay your camera for many of the photographs you want to take. For the rest of us, a few hundred dollars gets you a pretty freaking luxiorious tripod made out of the best material short of whatever metal they made the ring out of from Lord of the Rings (carbon fiber?).
But, here I am, sporting the Gitzo Lightweight Series 1 Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod with Center Ball Head that cost me an arm and a leg. By the way, Gitzo, your site is a hot mess. I did more research trying to figure out what the freaking differences were between each tripod than I actually did investigating tripods. Clean that up please.
Why Gitzo? Honestly, I think their marketing is spot on. I don’t need a Gitzo tripod but here we are… I’ve got one. So, the short answer is simply no, you don’t need a thousand dollar tripod unless you’re doing something super special where you need to support crazy heavy camera gear or some other specialized thing I haven’t thought of.
Is the Gitzo better than my last tripod? Meh. It seems better built in most areas and certainly opens more quickly with a half twist of the twisty things that you twist to open and close twisty lock tripods. But the Gitzo has one glaring fault that is just ridiculous. You have to make sure you tighten the feet on your tripod each and every time you open and close your tripod because they spin in the same direction as the leg locks and can easily fall off. I’ve never expierenced anytyhing like this. I had to invest in extra feet (they aren’t cheap) in the off chance that one of mine gets lost in action. Think of socks in the dryer… It’s only a matter of time before you lose one.
With all that being said, I do have some really nice things to say about the Traveler Series 1. It’s super light and super small. It fits in my carry on with tons of room to spare and I hardly even notice it when I throw it on my camera backpack. The build quality, except the foot situation, is exceptional. I can’t say enough about the ease of use, simply half twisting the locks allows me to lower or raise the legs faster than I’ve ever experienced. Other than that, the tripod works as advertised. I was able to shoot in Death Valley with crazy wind and my D850 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 didn’t budge.
Spending a thousand or more dollars on a tripod is rarely worth it, the quality is better but only slightly so. I’d say the size and weight savings are worth it if you travel a lot like I do but I could and did get away with a $300 tripod for the last 10 years (basically the entire time I was building my photography business). Truthfully, the Gitzo, or any super expensive tripod, is a luxury. Is it a necessity? Nope. Is it nice? Yep. Is it light years ahead of the cheaper competition? Not really.
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