The Problem With Tripods
The tripod is one of the most important items of kit that the landscape photographer can own, its the very foundations of your pictures and a good picture needs good foundations.
Over the past 13 years I've owned many tripods and they have been a constant source of annoyance as I seemed to go through one in a year or two at the best.
Like many of you I started off with Manfrotto tripods which were mid range and even though I spent good money on them and got carbon fibre versions etc they always seemed to suffer with the catches getting brittle and breaking.
Seascape photography was the main culprit, salt water is the arch enemy of the tripod and no matter how often I cleaned mine they always seemed to fail after a year of hard use.
That was until I bit the bullet and invested in a Gitzo tripod around 7 years ago, Now lets be clear these are seriously expensive tripods and I didn't take the decision lightly to buy one at around £600 seven years ago (Gitzo GT3532LS Series 3 6X Systematic Tripod)
This tripod has been absolutely faultless no matter what I threw at it and hasn't needed anything replacing on it for the whole duration of the time I have owned it.
That alone justified the initial heavy price tag on it, after all I would have gone through at least three Manfrotto's during this time which would have cost over £600 easily.
Couple that with the fact that it was simply SO good and I was a Gitzo customer for life.
So why have I decided to buy another one when in truth my original Gitzo is still functioning just fine, well after 7 years it has a few minor issues with it and I do mean minor and I bought an extra long version with three extensions on the legs so its a bit of a beast to have strapped to the rucksack.
Why I Chose the Gitzo GT3543LS ?
I started looking at the Gitzo range again and the direct replacement for the one I had was the Gitzo GT3543XLS which is a whopping £926 RRP but can be found for around £700 if you searched around, This was the logical choice as it was I already had but I looked at the others just in case.
This is when I spied the Gitzo GT3543LS Systematic Series 3 Carbon eXact Long Tripod, which was basically the same thing but not quite as tall and had 4 leg sections instead of the three I was used too, This meant it would be more compact than my existing one but would still extend to the same height, it was also cheaper with an RRP of £823 but could be found on offer at £499, a substantial saving,
I mulled over the decision about which to get, I knew where I stood with the more expensive one but the lure of saving £200 was strong, I'm not made of money and either one was a big purchase.
Not one to rush a decision I sat on it for a while and weighed up the options, then it happened. Wex photo video put an offer on of 20% off selected tripods, and the Gitzo GT3543LS just happened to be one of them, that would bring it down to £399 which I just couldn't ignore and bought it on the spot !
Tripods Are A Long Term Investment
When buying a tripod you have to look at it as a long term investment, sure its a huge outlay at first but if it lasts you a lot of years then it suddenly becomes very viable and cheaper than replacing mid range tripods multiple times, including when they are at full RRP of around £800, I was fully prepared to pay that because I knew it would pay for itself over time but to get it for a steal of £399 was frankly the bargain of the century.
So down to the review, when the Gitzo GT3543LS arrived it was exactly as I had suspected, Gitzo quality through & through.
The carbon fibre was a beautiful deep weave which Gitzo refers to a Carbon eXact 6x carbon on the legs and the crown was made of aluminium which was good to help keep the weight down.
It had been updated in a few ways with new G lock twist locks which reduced the amount of dirt and grit that could get into the tubes and it had a new foot system which pivots to match the terrain and give suitable levelling grip.
Overall impressions were very good, it was basically the same as what I had but with the extra leg sections and a more compact overall size, perfect.
How Stable Is The Gitzo GT3543LS ?
The Gitzo GT3543LS is part of the Systematic range which Gitzo say is their most stable of all their tripods which is exactly what you want.
They do a series 3,4 & 5 and the difference is the size of the tubes and the crown piece each getting bigger as the number does.
Series 3 was plenty big enough for my requirements and I use the Gitzo panning base so it meant I could slot it straight in rather than having to buy a larger collar to fit the series 5 for example.
The chunky legs on the series 5 did look appealing but in truth it would only be for vanity rather than function so the decision to have the more compact series 3 seemed the sensible option, after all I had one anyway and had been super happy with it.
One of the main reasons for wanting to have another Gitzo is because of my love for shooting panoramas and I use the panning base, I wouldn't buy a tripod without one of these being available now days as it had proved valuable so many times so it really suited me and my style of shooting, This is an optional extra for the tripod though and needs to be purchased separately.
The Gitzo GT3543LS comes with two sets of feet, one is on a pivot base with a fairly large footprint which is suitable for mud or sand to stop it from sinking in and the other set is the standard rubber foot that has more of a spike shape but not an actual spike.
The pivot feet were very good and I really liked them but I had to say I was disappointed that the tripod didn't come with the older style feet which were a rubber cap for rocky ground which you could simply pull off to reveal spikes which would sit much better and more stable in softer ground, These in my opinion should come as standard on a top end tripod like this.
You can buy the spike feet separately for around £44 which is a bit excessive when the older models came with them frankly.
The two pairs of feet that come with the tripod were essentially the same use which seems a bit daft, I mean you can use either on pretty much any surface and still have the same result so I couldn't see me ever swapping them over and I didn't want to buy another set of spikes so I simply unscrewed my old ones and used those instead and saved myself £44.
I just wish they had included these as the only set of feet in the first place as its all you need to cover every situation.
Money saving isn't always the right way to go Gitzo, Value for money is.
Gitzo GT3543LS Weight
The overall weight of the Gitzo GT3543LS was 2030 grams which I didn't think was too bad for a carbon fibre tripod although you can get lighter, this was a quality item and exceptions can be made for that.
When fully closed down the Gitzo GT3543LS is 57 cm tall and fully extended it reaches out to 146 cm and with my panning base and geared head you can add another 13cm onto this so it was plenty tall enough for me at 6' 2".
I liked the fact it was more compact than my older model which was 68 cm tall when folded down so it fitted my bag a bit better and took up less space in my boot.
Despite the old one being a three leg section and this being a four leg section it still weighed half a kilo less than my old one and extended to the same height so basically I had exactly what I had been using but in a lighter, more compact form when folding down, winning.
The Gitzo GT3532LS tripod was capable of holding camera kit up to 25 kilos which is vastly more than I will ever use, even with a Pro DSLR and a 400 mm lens for example you are still nowhere near that weight, but it was good to know it could handle that at least.
The stability of this tripod is fantastic, It feels rock solid in high winds and all terrains and doesn't seem to suffer any vibration of movement at all, and that is obviously exactly what you are looking for.
No Centre Column = Better Stability
I love tripods that don't have a centre column, for me this was one of the main reasons to get a Gitzo because it makes it so much more rigid. Centre columns by their single pole design can't be stable when extended and I simply never trusted them, They exaggerate vibration and can really damage shots plus they get in the way I find.
Once you have used a tripod without one you will simply never go back again.
The new G lock Ultra twist clamps were fairly smooth to operate and in truth I couldn't see much difference to the old ones other than a silver collar on them and perhaps a fraction less smooth than the older tripod.
Going from three leg sections to four was no big deal at all, with the twist locks you can grab all three at the same time to undo and extend so its a pretty rapid process and I really prefer these fittings to the cantilever type which seem to break for a past time, These G locks are simply in a different league to those and from a technical and ergonomic point they made a much better choice because they kept out the dirt as the legs retracted and there was no protruding parts to catch on rocks etc.
The Gitzo GT3543LS Tripod has some nice touches on it like a hook under the base so you can hang a ruck sack off it to add extra weight during windy conditions or where even more stability is required and it also has a threaded accessory hole mounted on the head to allow a wide range of accessories to be added such as an LED light which is pretty handy.
A spirit level bubble is mounted into the top case to enable you to get everything set up perfectly level for your shot.
The leg sections operate on a click system with three fixed positions but can be moved through 90 degrees and set in any position but if you want it locked then there's only three positions to work with, Ive never found this has caused me any issue and always use the fixed positions for maximum stability and adjust the leg height to compensate.
The clips have been redesigned over the old version to make them more ergonomic and easier to use, they now have a much larger footprint which makes the easier to open even with gloves on as they have a raised bevel on them to make finger placement far easier.
One other thing that Gitzo recommend is using a specific grease to keep the tripod in optimum working order, on the old tripod you got a tube of this free with it but on the new range it has to be purchased separately and this I find strange when it would cost Gitzo so little to add it and really should be there on a premium product in my opinion, its small things like this that take the shine off it slightly for me.
The Gitzo GT3543LS Tripod comes with a 2 year warranty as standard but this can be extended by another 3 to be a 5 year warranty if you register it Gitzo, Something you should absolutely do, while I have never needed to claim on the warranty its reassuring to know its there.
The Gitzo GT3543LS Tripod is fantastic, I love using it and the quality is superb, it really fills you with confidence.
While I have a couple of small complaints about missing items like grease & spike feet these are very small gripes really. The tripod itself is near enough faultless and you know it's going to last for ages.
The stability cant ever be called into question as these are without doubt the toughest, most stable tripods I have ever used.
The new low price that you can have one for is also a very welcome one and I think it represents excellent value for money and I would have been prepared to pay more frankly.
Gitzo tripods are an investment that is money well spent, it might seem expensive to start with but it still works out cheaper in the long run plus you get a real top quality item so I feel it is very much worth it.
Gitzo have an excellent reputation and are used by many pros who have tried others and found these to be the best and now they are affordable to the hobby photographer too.
Would I recommend then ? 100% yes, I have used them for years and will continue to do so, its simply the best range of tripods you can buy and the GT3543LS doesn't disappoint.
Its Gitzo quality at an affordable price, This should absolutely be your next tripod.
Was there any negatives ?
Only a couple of very minor things really, I don't feel it was as smooth as my other Gitzo and I suspect this is a reflection of the vastly cheaper price but it doesn't detract from the tripod at all.
I would have also liked to see the spiked feet included and grease as per the older models but again its a small complaint and doesn't effect the operation of the tripod, just a value for money thing.
TOTAL 46/50 92%
Tripod was paid for with my own money and I have no affiliation with Gitzo as a company.
This is a completely honest and unbiased review.
Thanks for reading.