Best Travel Tripod 2011: What to get for Europe Part 2

Ok, so we left off with me explaining the various models I have been looking at in the hopes of finding the best travel tripod I could find. There were several great models to choose from and one that kept standing out in my mind as the better investment. "I picked the Gitzo GT1531...but there is a catch"

I choose the Gitzo GT1531

So on a Saturday afternoon I headed down to Samy's Camera to make my final choice.  I looked at a few of the models again and after a lot of back and forth I decided I would purchase the Gitzo GT1531 Tripod. It is most expensive of the models I was looking at but when you factor in that 90% of my photography these days is being done on a tripod and the time spent with cheaper gear that has fallen apart, I decided the Gitzo was the best investment. This tripod would last the longest and be the most comfortable to walk around with.

So after a quick transaction and a good hand shake I headed home in nervous excitement to start this new journey with a brand new tripod......well so I thought.

After arriving home I said hi to my wife, gave her a quick kiss, and headed to the living room to explore this new equipment. I had decided not to purchase a gitzo ball head since I already had one from my old tripod (Manfrotto 488RC2) that I was comfortable with and decided it should be fine for now. I was already looking at maybe investing in a Really Right Stuff ball head since I have seen/heard several recommendation from around the web that they are by far the best. Using my old ball head would give me a little bit more time to think through maybe going with them.

With tools in hand, I got to work removing my old ball head. It took a few minutes unscrewing the old set screws that permanently attached the ball head to the old tripod but with a little care, and my tongue sticking out, I managed to get it off. I then examined the instructions from Gitzo on how to attach a ball head to their tripods and much to my surprise there really wasn't much information except for a few pictures of a hand twisting a plastic plate to the top of the main shaft, which was already there. After scratching my head a little, I kept thinking that there most be a more secure way to attaching the ball head then just screwing it on by hand? I jumped on my computer and did some searches and nothing? So I decided to just try it. I twisted my Manfrotto ball head onto the top of the gitzo. Twisted hard and that was it.  Hmmmm, I guess that was easy.

Now that the ball head was on the tripod I tried to loosen the main lever that controls the ball and quickly the ball head loosened from the tripod. Hmmm that doesn't seem right I thought. So I tightened it back on and tried again and sure enough after several attempts the Ball head kept coming loose from the tripod. Big problem here guys. If I can't lock the ball head to the tripod there is a chance that my camera may fall off while walking around. NO BUENO!!! not to mention the frustration of having to always worry about it coming loose.

So I called Samy's Camera back to ask them if there was any way I could secure the ball head more permanently.  My old $80 tripod legs had set screws why doesn't the $600 one have them? Seems to not make a lot of sense does it? Samy's didn't seem to know either but suggested I bring it back to the store and we could look at it.  Frustrated I hung up and decided to go back tomorrow and get it checked out.

The next day I stopped by Samy's after church and we looked at my tripod. The verdict, after asking several people, is that Gitzo only uses friction on this level of tripod to secure their ball heads. The sales person quickly suggested I return it I guess understanding that there was no way I could walk around Europe with a ball head that might come off and within fifteen minutes I was out of there with a return receipt.

So NO tripod and totally disappointed!

TOTALLY Back to square one folks!

Ugh. So more research and more blogging to follow as I try and figure this out before we leave for Europe.  Stay tuned!