Sunday, 4 July 2010

Giottos Carbon Fibre Tripod Review

For a few weeks I have been using a Giottos MTL 8350B carbon fibre tripod and MH 1301-652 ball head with quick release plate and must say that I am impressed. This is a superb lightweight combination suitable for a wide variety of photography assignments. The MTL 8350B is compact enough to carry on my Lowepro Pro Runner 300 AW without any instability, yet rigid enough to support up to a 5kg load - in my case a Canon 5D Mkii and 100 - 400 mm L Series zoom. Not bad for a combined weight a shade over 2 kg!

The clamps in the leg sections are firm and easy to release and secure and the carbon fibre sections have little or no flex.

The centre column on this model can be removed and inverted for low level shooting, or tilted for overhead shots or copying documents. The legs have mechanism that allows them to spread for increased stability when working close to the ground. At the base of the centre column is a hook that allows you to attach a cord loop which you can use to pull down on the centre column to increase stability in adverse conditions, such as strong side wind, which no matter how good the tripod, strong wind will cause your tripod, whatever make to vibrate!


At the top of the tripod there is a small bubble level, which in my opinion is unnecessary, as you should be levelling the camera which is attached to the ball head which moves independently of the tripod.


MTL8350B Specifications
Material Carbon Fibre
Folded Height 52cm
Min Height 22cm
Max Height without centre column 132cm
Max height with centre column 162cm
Weight 1.6kg
Weight Capacity 5kg
Leg Sections 4

The MH 1301-652 ball head is a joy to use. It is light in weight and can be adjusted precisely with the aid of a variable drag/friction control. Your camera is attached via the MH 642 quick release plate. This also has the advantage if you use multiple cameras, or have lenses with tripod collars, you can attach a QR plate to each item for ease of use. I have QR plates on each camera body and lens with a tripod collar. This also has means that you are not unscrewing an refastening screw threads which can easily be damaged. A QR plate may cost you a few quid or bucks, but in the long term it will save you having a stripped thread which will be very costly to replace - on my old Canon 1Ds I was quoted GBP150!

There is a 3 way bubble level on the ball head which should be used when levelling your camera.

Both myself and participants at my macro photography workshop yesterday used the Giottos MTL 8350B carbon fibre tripod and MH 1301-652 ball head and it provided a stable platform that could accurately positioned without any drift.

MH1301-652 Specifications
Height 10.5cm
Weight 0.5kg
Max weight capacity 10kg
Bubble level yes
Quick release plate MH642

Watch this space for an entry of how to get the best from your tripod in the near future, including the cord loop trick!

For many years I've been a dedicated user of other tripod brands and was an early adopter of both carbon fibre tripods and monopods when they were first introduced into the market. I can honestly say that the Giotto's range of tripods represent excellent value for money and will make an excellent long term investment. When I lead landscape and macro photography workshops I am regularly asked which is the best brand of tripod to buy - I don't make a recommendation, but let people use my various tripods and decide for themselves. In terms of cost vs. quality, Giotto's are fast becoming popular the choice.

In my experience it is best to buy the best you can afford early in your photography career. Buy cheap and you end up having to replace the item too quickly and the money is wasted. There's no point in spending money twice!


And finally, unlike some other major brands, Giotto's tripods are supplied with an accessory pouch containing a spanner and allen keys, so when fittings do work loose, you don't have to go rooting around in your tool box for the right tools.

Giottos are part of the Canadian Daymen Marketing company, the same people who supply Lowepro bags.

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