For over ten years now I have been using a Gitzo carbon fibre G1227 Mk 2 tripod along with another Manfrotto 055 carbon fibre tripod as a backup tripod that gets occasional use. The Gitzo has been a joy to use over the years, it has been quick and easy to set up, nice and stable and relatively light. Recently I got the chance to use one of the new Giottos silk Road YTL8213 tripods. This tripod has a much higher maximum height of 163cm without the centre column raised compared to my Gitzo which has a max height of 138.9. The Giottos also has a higher max weight allowance of 10kg compared to 7.98 for the Gitzo. With the central column raised the YTL8213 tripod achieves a whopping height of 194cms. On paper the specs were impressive, but specs are not everything, the real test for me would be what it was like using in the field.
After trying the tripod out on location I was so impressed with the tripod I continued to use it and have been using the Giottos for around ten weeks now so I thought I would share my experiences of using it so far along with a few images taken along the way.
Upon opening the Tripod first thoughts were that I was really impressed with the build quality and sturdy feel. It really has a quality feel and looks extremely well made. The legs were actually much thicker than my Gitzo so I was a little worried it might not be quite so easy to carry in just one hand. I never bother with Tripod bags and never bother strapping my tripod into my Lowerpro backpack; I just find it quicker and easier to hold in the hand, even on longer hikes. I find longer walks it can double up nicely as a bit of a walking stick to help with balance, especially when crossing streams or walking on the muddy salt marshes of the North Norfolk coast which can be a bit like walking on ice at times.
Fortunately after my first outing with the tripod it soon became apparent this was not going to be a problem and I could actually fit just one hand around this tripod comfortably. This is definitely due to the new central column design by Giottos. A standard tripod has a normal barrel central column where as Giottos has a new Y shaped central column. This design supposedly saves 30% of space as the legs squeeze into the Y groves meaning the tripod is much more compact. I had read about this before I received the tripod and my first thoughts were why! It felt like a gimmick that was trying to solve an issue that wasn’t really a problem in the first place, but after using it I actually think it’s a really neat idea. With this model of tripods the legs are very thick, which gives the tripod a real sturdy base to start from. However, without the Y shaped central column the tripod would have been a bit bulky to carry around. Where as with it the tripod feels absolutely fine.
Despite being much larger than the Gitzo I was used to, the Giottos is actually a similar weight. However, at the same time it actually feels sturdier. One thing I would struggle to live without is a hook from the bottom of the central column. I use my tripod a lot on heather moorland which is very spongy and can be a problem as a solid base, but the extra weight of my heavy camera bag suspended from the hook weighs it down enough and gives a nice stable base to work from. With lighter carbon fibre tripods it also gives you confidence to leave your camera set up in windy conditions without having to hold the legs all the time for fear of the whole thing blowing over.
The tripod hook on the Gitzo was nice and large, the one of the Giottos though is tucked away and not so large. This is not a major problem, but it does mean that the large handle / strap on the very top of my Lowepro Trekker bag is too thick to use on the hook so I have to use one of the other straps on bag. It is also tucked away neatly and has to be pulled down from out of the bottom of the central column. Again this is not a major problem, but with winter coming up it will mean removing any gloves to do this and it will probably be a bit more fiddly with freezing cold hands.
The locking leg clamps on the YTL8213 are easy to use and feel strong and secure. They are clamp locks like you find on the Manfrotto tripods. I do like the twist mechanism you find on the Gitzo’s, but they can be a bit of a killer to twist come winter when your hands are freezing and you get the pattern of the twist mechanism engraved in your hand as you try and tighten the thing.
One of the things I do find really useful on the Giottos is the graduated leg markings which mean it’s really quick and easy to set all three legs up to exactly the same height. After using them for a short while I am already thinking to myself how did I ever live without them. It’s one of the small thinks that just make your life a tiny bit easier and quicker when setting the tripod height up.
Foam padding on the legs makes it comfortable to hold the tripod and I am sure come winter it will be much more comfortable to hold on those cold mornings. By now you can probably see a pattern emerging that I hate getting cold hands in the winter.
This tripod has three leg angled positions that allow you to get the tripod into a wide range of leg positions and low heights. In fact you can get as low as 15cm.
I wasn’t expecting to change my Gitzo at all, I was happy and comfortable using it but after my experiences with the Giottos silkroad YTL8213 over the summer has meant this is now my tripod of choice, the Gitzo is the backup tripod and the Manfrotto is about to be listed on Ebay. The tripod really does everything a landscape photographer could want from a tripod, it is very solid, seems well built with great maximum height and low level capabilities. It will also support a maximum weight of 10kg. Having the Y shaped centre column saving space means it is easier to carry in the hand for a tripod with such thick legs. The foam padded legs and leg markings are also a nice touch. I would love a slightly larger hook on the tripod to suspend my camera bag from, but that is the only slight negative thing I could say on this tripod and the important thing for me is at least it does have a decent tripod hook from the centre column.
This tripod has been worked hard in the last ten weeks, often around salt water and has been used in some extremely windy and wet conditions, but the tripod has not let me down and still feels like new. If you are looking for a new tripod and you consider how much tripod you get for your money compared to some of the other manufactures it really is worth considering.