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Gitzo Traveler and a Markins Q3T

For a long time, I fought the need to get a tripod. Actually, I fought the need to carry a tripod. I got myself a tripod early on. One of those relatively inexpensive, heavy (> 10lbs), and hard to operate tripods. A feature set that will surely endear it to you. Well, I finally listened to the age old adage…”What good is a tripod if you don’t have it with you?”. After months of research and some soul searching, I came to the conclusion I need a super light, compact, and easy to operate support system. I considered straddling the fence and getting a tripod that was small enough to travel with yet big enough for long primes. After much research I decided such a tripod didn’t exist (and I didn’t have any $3000 prime lenses). I needed to commit to a support system that I was going to look forward to carrying and would compliment my travel/urban kit. Knowing this, I set out to find a support system that would meet the following requirements.

I purchased mine here: Gitzo Traveler

  • Fits into modest carry on luggage. (Yeah, I make images in airports so it goes on the plane with me.)
  • If at all possible, I would like it to fit in to my Camelback so I can take it mountain biking.
  • Under a couple of lbs.
  • Ground set capability (means it can get really close to the ground for making images of flowers and interesting foreground elements).
  • Rotating leg locks (I have had way too many painful pinches from latching leg locks).
  • Rated for a 200mm lens so I could possibly push it to 300mm on occasion.
  • I wanted to compose images both in portrait and landscape orientation.

This is what I settled on:

  • Tripod: Gitzo Traveler
  • Bracket: Really Right Stuff L Bracket
  • Ballhead: and Markins Q3T

For images made with the system, click here.

The Really Right Stuff ‘L’ bracket allows me to quickly switch from portrait to landscape orientation. The Markins Q3T ballhead has some really nice features. The panning break is great for controlling the amount of torque required to pivot the head on its base. The control knob is smooth and easy to control which allows you to make very minor adjustments to your composition. Lastly, the head is strong. It seems like it could support quite a bit of glass.

Ground Set (removing the center column) can be accomplished in the field without tools. It is very easy to do and only takes a minute or so. This feature is great of making images of wild flowers or putting an interesting foreground element into the frame. I don’t think I would ever buy a tripod without this capability. It is very useful!

The Gitzo Traveler is unique in its design because it allows its legs to fold 180 degrees backwards over itself. Doing this subtracts the height of the ballhead from the overall height. The Markins Q3T ballhead is specially designed to be used with the Traveler. Its base is narrow enough to allow two of the legs to completely collapse against it. The other leg comes close, but is obstructed a bit by the knobs. It isn’t that big of deal, but worth noting.

Friends.

At 16.5″ish with ballhead (below I have completey collapsed the ballhead clamp), the Gitzo Traveler w/ Markins Q3T fits inside my Camelback. I can pretty much take this thing anywhere. Whether I am hiking, biking, or going to the grocery store, I have a support system with me and the images I bring home are sharp!

Conclusions

  • It is a question only you can answer, for me, I have found I am far more likely to carry this than a larger tripod. Not only is it light and compact, I can operate the legs and clamp with one hand while the other hand safely holds my camera strap and tripod neck.
  • Ground set is useful for more than just macro work. It really offers a completely new perspective to your shooting. Because it is easy to convert to ground set mode, you will use it more ofter than you think.
  • Gitzo only rates it to 200mm lenses, but I have successfully shot my 70-300 (non vr) lenses on it. I wouldn’t classify myself as a pixel peeper. If you are, your results may differ. Either way, it is has a steadier hand than I do.
  • L Brackets are awesome! Being able to quickly change the layout of your composition is a beautiful thing. The Really Right Stuff L bracket is nothing short of a finely tuned instrument. It is light, sturdy, and precision engineered. Because of it, my camera and tripod are one!
  • The one thing that is worth noting is the fact that it has a fairly low operating height. Although my doctor claims I am 5’8.5″ I pride myself on being 5’9″, and I have to bend over a bit if the center column isn’t raised. If you are taller than me, you might have to hunch over a bit.
  • This is more of a side note, but tripod bags are worthless. If you are going to carry a tripod, make sure you can access it quickly. I am just as likely to take a tripod out of a bag as I am to use the 5 lenses I carry around with me. I use gaffers tape to fasten some plastic d-rings to the legs, then I just clip and old camera strap to them. That way I can just swing it over my shoulder. Works great!
  • I have had a lot of success with this support system. It is the perfect team member of my “wide angle to moderate telephoto on the go” kit. Here is a list of lenses that I have had good results with: Nikkor 70-300 ED AF, Nikkor 85mm 1.8 D, Nikkor 17-35 2.8 AFS, Nikkor 16-85 VR II, Nikkor 70-300 VR, Nikkor 35mm 1.8 Asf DX, Nikkor 105mm 2.5 Micro AFS. (Hopefully no one over at Nikon gets angry for botching the accuracy of their model names).
  • It’s true. The sharpest lens you will ever buy is a tripod.
  • For the last year, this system has accompanied me on backpack trips, evening photo-walks, errands, and international travel. It has performed flawlessly in the face of daunting mosquito attacks, thunderstorms, and life changing sunsets.
  • I haven’t attempted any super long exposures yet. The longest I have shot is 8 sec or so. I should go out and try an exposure in the neighborhood of a couple of minutes. When I do, I will update this page with my findings.

If you are interested in one, I purchased mine here: Gitzo Traveler

What good is a review without some action shots? Here we are in the wild!

Group photo.

Here are some images I have made using this support system.







Comments

  1. Nice review. I’ve just ordered gt1550t and q3t
    Looking forward to playing with the set up when they arrive

  2. Very nice review. You make a great case for this tripod. I am looking for something sturdy that I’m going to want to use a lot. Thanks.

  3. Your review has me leaning towards this entire set-up…thanks for posting it.

    I do have a few questions:

    1. Where did you get the Markins ball head from?
    2. Why did you choose the knob release over the lever release on the included quick shoe?
    3. Has the quick shoe ever come loose on you with the Markins?
    4. Did the RRS L-Bracket fit the Markins quick shoe well or do you think a RRS quick shoes will be needed? I’ve read that the dovetail shape and tolerances may not match exactly.
    5. Do you ever extent the center post on Gitzo all the way up? If so…any stability problems?

    Thanks again!

    • Howdy Ryan,

      Hope this helps…

      1. Where did you get the Markins ball head from?

      I ordered it directly from their site.

      2. Why did you choose the knob release over the lever release on the included quick shoe?

      At the time, the markins came stock with the knob release and a lever release wasn’t an option. It isn’t that hard to operate and works pretty slick.

      Also note that when I bought the Markins, RRS hadn’t released the BH30. If I were to do it over again, I might take a look at the BH30 instead of the Markins.

      3. Has the quick shoe ever come loose on you with the Markins?

      Never, and I have shot with it for almost 2 years.

      4. Did the RRS L-Bracket fit the Markins quick shoe well or do you think a RRS quick shoes will be needed? I’ve read that the dovetail shape and tolerances may not match exactly.

      No tolerance issues that I have found. Fits like a glove.

      5. Do you ever extent the center post on Gitzo all the way up? If so…any stability problems?

      I do quite a bit. I have shot a 70-300 with it fully extended and the pictures are sharp most of the time. With wider angle lenses it’s never really a problem.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Have a good one!

  4. I use the GT1541T/Q3T for backpacking, excepted that I opted for a RRS lever release clamp (vs. the stock Markins ballhead clamp) because it was a no-adjustment-required match to my RRS camera and lens plates. This combination is small enough to be packed in with my wilderness gear, which is something I couldn’t say about larger/bulkier tripods like my old carbon fiber 190cxpro4.

    BTW, the spacing between the knobs on the Markins Q3T “Traveler” ballhead was modified a while back to make the GT1541T tripod legs fold up more compactly. That one leg is no longer slightly obstructed by one of the knobs. A nice touch to know the manufacturer listens to his customers. :-)

    One other thing, the Markins ballheads have a tension adjustment that will hold the camera/lens in place without droop, while still allowing you to make minor adjustments to the camera position (somewhat like you could with a gimbal mount). Much better than ballheads that have to be unlocked to move, then re-locked!

  5. Michael Unglesbee says:

    I just picked up the Gitzo 1541T – I see you are using it to shoot HDR images. Have you had any issues with vibration when shooting multiple exposures, slow shutter speeds, and then tone mapping? This is something I want to try, so just want to make sure that this compact travel tripod is up to the task! I only shoot wide angle lens – up to 35mm.

    • Howdy Michael! I haven’t had a problem using it with multiple exposures with my wider glass at all. When I was shooting the Boston sky line across the Charles river, with a 70-300mm lens on a DX sensor (450mm) all the way extended, I did have some issues. Other than that, 90% of the time with wider glass, it is never a problem.

  6. Hi
    I was wondering how did you fix the ballhead to the Gitzo 1541T? Did you use glue or just force to tighten it up? I have an Arca Swiss head that comes loose no matter how strong I tighten it up, and I don’t want to use glue on my 1541T (had a problem once in Singapore when an airport cop decided that my tripod+head were too long for the cabin, so I had to remove the ballhead).

    Cheers

    • Hmm, my Markins just screws on the the Gitzo. Does that make sense?

      • The problem is that the ballhead unscrews far too easy no matter how strong you tighten it up on the Gitzo (and with a panoramic head mounted on my Arca Swiss plus 5dMK2 and an L lens it does it every time). The obvious solution is to use some kind of superglue on the tripod threads before you screw the ballhead on, but that could create other problems when an overzelous airport cop decides that your tripod and ballhead could be considered a potential weapon and demands that you remove the head or put it in checked bags.

        How is the Markins pan base lock, I heard it’s too weak and that that’s the weakest point of this ballhead?

        • Gottcha. I wouldn’t glue it on because then you couldn’t take it off for ground set. The Markins pan base has an adjustment to tighten it up. I have noticed that mine, after 2 years of use it starting to loosen up. Its about time I tighten it to see if that helps.

  7. Laurie Thomson says:

    Hi, just invested in the gt1542t – decided that I was going to buy once. Now I am looking at the bullhead – would you recommend the markins Q3t or the BH30 – it’s a bit difficult to talk with local camera stores as they want you to buy their product and I prefer to ask real photographers in the field – I have moved up to a 5DMKII…also want to get the L bracket from RRS…your recommendations would be appreciated. If you have an affiliate link, I would be willing to use that…thanks in advance…

    • Howdy Laurie! I have never used the BH30. However, that being said, it wasn’t available when I purchased it. I actually just realized I lost my Gitzo. I traced my steps back to where I actually left it on the side of a mountain (long story), but now I need to replace it since there is no way for me to recover it. I’m considering the BH30 because you can get it with the quick release. A buddy of mine has that setup and loves it. If you wait a couple of months I can give you my opinion on it, but for now, that is the best I can do. As for affiliate links, I don’t have any for either RRS or Markins. If you are buying from them, and you are comfortable, please let them know where you found out about them. I am a B&H affiliate so feel free to use any B&H links on the site. That is really nice of you to offer. Feel free to ask me any other questions you have.

      Take care!

      Justin

  8. I have Markins Q3 with RRS LRII clamp on a Traveler and love it. Please suggest blue loctite to secure the clamp onto the ball head. Keeping the ball head tight on the tripod can be accomplished with the disc below the ball head. It’s tricky when removing and reinstalling the center column to get everything solid. Doing it a few times helps get the hang of it.

  9. Hi Justin,

    Nice review. You’re doing a great job of making me want to part with some cash!

    I’ve spent the last 6 years riding around the world on a motorcycle. 2.5yrs ago I changed bikes and opted for a much lighter, more off-road oriented set-up. One of the things that had to go during that process was my tripod. It was a fairy cheap, light(ish) compact Velbon that did a reasonable job.
    Whilst I can’t go as far as saying I regret the decision, it is the one thing I discarded that I miss.

    Your set-up has got me interested. However, in order to carry it securely and yet keep it easily accessible I would need to carry it in a 4″ diameter aluminium (I’m English!) tube.
    I see in your photos that the legs don’t fold fully home with the head in place. Would you mind measuring around the fattest part of the set-up so I can work out whether it will fit in a 4″ tube?
    I need to be sure I can carry it before shelling out SOOOOO much money!

    Thanks

    Adam

    • Adam, I checked out your adventure…that is amazing. I will make note of it in my Friday post as well as my newsletter.

      Sorry to say, I have lost my Gitzo traveler and left it on the side of a mountain. I wish I could measure it myself, but I do have a friend that has one he can measure. Also, they no-long make that model anymore, and I have heard that the new one doesn’t collapse as nicely. I have never seen one myself.

      I know Really Right Stuff started making a traveler series tripod that is supposed to be pretty cool. Give them a ring, they might will have the specs you need.

      http://reallyrightstuff.com/ProductDesc.aspx?code=TQC-14&type=4&eq=&desc=TQC-14-Quick-Column-Series-1-Tripod&key=it

      I will be following your journey.

      Good luck and safe travels!

      Justin

      • Hi Justin,

        Thanks for your swift reply…much appreciated.

        I looked at the RRS tripod. Looks nice but U$850!!! Who are they kidding!?

        That sucks about your tripod. I once trekked 2hrs back to a pass in the Pyrenees to pick up my pocket camera that I’d left there after snapping sunset. When I returned to my buddy he was waiting for me in his sleeping bag. We finally tiptoed into the mountain lodge at 2330 proper knackered!

        1541T superseded by 1542T. I think it packs a little longer which shouldn’t affect me. Its the diameter that’s important.

        Thanks

        Adam

  10. Hi Justin – I just ordered the gt1542t and am researching ball heads which brought me to your website. Did you ever replace your tripod and ball head and if so, which ball head did you choose? BTW – Your photos are beautiful!

    • Thanks Diane! Sorry for the delay, I was off the grid for a bit. I did replace my rig. I ended up with a Really Right Stuff Versa 24 coupled with a Really Right Stuff BH40 ball head. My friend uses his traveler with the BH30 from Really Right Stuff.

      I hope that helps!

      Justin

  11. I am considering the BH40 – how do you like it?
    Diane

    • I like it. I actually like it better than the Markins. It is a very nice product, plus it offers you room from growth.

    • Love it! It is really smooth and stable!

      • Dave Kroondyk says:

        Hey Jason,
        It must be weird to get comments on comments from a blogpost years ago. But I’m currently deciding between the BH-40 and Q3T and was curious if part of the reason you like the BH-40 better is because you got the lever clamp instead of using the screw clamp on the Q3T? Or are there more reasons the BH-40 is nicer than the Q3T?

        Thanks!
        Dave

  12. I’m torn between the Gitzo GT1542T and the Really Right Stuff TVC-24. I stumbled on your blog when researching both. Since you are in the rare position of having used both – do you recommend one over the other?

    • Howdy Jason!

      I haven’t actually have never used the 1542 (the review if the for the 1541). I heard there are subtle differences, but I’m not totally sure what they are, so take this with a grain of salt.

      The Gitzo is the ultimate traveler/GoLite companion. Since I have lost it on the side of a mountain, I really miss it. It can get smaller than the RRS, is a touch lighter, is a bit less bulky, and (if you extend the center column) taller. That being said, I really like my RRS. The tubes are beefier and seems super stable in very windy environments.

      My ultimate setup would be a GT1541 (which they nolonger make) and a RRS Versa 24 (long).

      When I was faced with replacing my tripod, since they no-longer make the GT1541, I was looking at the RRS traveler series but it wasn’t out yet but I couldn’t wait. So, I ended up getting the RRS 24. I’m pretty darn happy with it. I don’t mind carrying the extra bulk around. It is a very well made tripod.

  13. Hi Justin, great review. I own the GT 1541 and love it but I am now in the market for a new ballhead setup. Why the BH40 over the Q3 and why the RRS L bracket over the Markins L bracket? I just got the Canon 5D Mark III and had a ballhead problem with an old Manfrotto I had on the 1541 so it’s time for an upgrade. I’ve never used an L bracket and thought that its time that I give that a try. Also, lever vs screw to clamp down, any thoughts? I was leaning towards the screw to tighten. Thanks for taking the time for your review. Very helpful.

    • Howdy!

      The Markins was great on the GItzo, but I opted for the BH40 when I lost my Traveler and moved to the Really Right Stuff tripod. You might look at the RRS BH30. I believe they started making a head for the traveler. Clamps are way better than screws….I used to think it wasn’t a big deal, but now that I have a clamp I probably won’t be going back anytime soon. L-brackets are key! Being able to compose in landscape/portrait is awesome! Plus the L protects the side of your camera.

      Hope that helps! Have a great day…

      Justin

  14. justin ames says:

    That markins is a piece of garbage. I bought one, and have struggled with its many issues in the field too long. Frankly, pay the extra dough and get an arca or really right stuff. I know this sounds like a fan-boy rant, but it’s just straight from the hip. The markins simply will not hold its orientation under a 70-200 load, and struggles equally with my 14-24.

    justin

    • Thanks for the comment. It is always good to hear from other folks. I have since moved to RRS for my heads, at the time they didn’t make a very good head for compact tripods…now they make a great one!

  15. Hi Justin nice site and photos. I’m having a problem deciding between the Gitzo 1542t and the RRS TQC-14 can you push me in one direction with your experience. I do like to mountain bike and would like to take the tripod with me.

    Thanks. Johnny

    • Tough call! If I were to get a new travel tripod right now, I’d probably go with the RRS. At the time of this review, they didn’t have the BH-30 (or is it the BH-25) out…now that they do, that might be the way I’d go. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter, it has some course discounts in it.

      Have a great one!

      Justin

Trackbacks

  1. […] as climbing to heaven….many miles long and several thousand feet of elevation gain. The ground set capabilities of the Gitzo traveler were ideal for achieving the perspectives I wanted here, my legs weren’t as […]

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