04 May 2010

Gitzo GT1541T tripod and GH1780QR ball head review

Gitzo GT1541T Tripod / Gitzo GH1780QR ball head


The Gitzo GT1541T tripod and the Gitzo GH1780QR ball head are my trusty companions for long exposure, HDR and panorama photography. I chose this combination because it is very light weight, and can be folded into to a very compact package. First I will describe some details of the tripod and the ball head. Then I will tell about my personal experience while using this combination.

Gitzo GT1541T tripod

The Gitzo GT154T tripod is made from carbon fiber. Six layers of carbon are used to form the legs. Carbon gives the best load bearing to (tripod) weight ratio, but is also the most expensive material compared to aluminum or basalt. The tripod weighs 0.97 kg and can support up to 8 kg, so the tripod can support almost eight times its weight. Maximum height is 113 cm, when you extend the center column it is 140 cm.

The legs can be extended in four sections. Gitzo uses a ‘twist-and-lock’ system. This version comes with a new Anti Leg Rotation System. You can loosen all the twist locks at the same time, pull the leg down and tighten the locks individually. The tripod has rubber feet (non-removable).

The tripod is a member of the Gitzo traveler series. This means you can rotate the tripod legs 180 degrees. This is handy when you want to carry the tripod in a bag or suitcase.

Gitzo GT1541T Tripod / Gitzo GH1780QR ball head

The center column can be removed and the ball head can be attached directly on top of the tripod (ground level set). No tools are needed. Alternatively, the column can be easily inverted. This is handy for macro work when you have to get very close to the ground.

Here is a picture out of the manual to give you an idea what this tripod is capable of:

gitzo traveler manual picture


Gitzo GH1780QR ball head

I use the Gitzo tripod in combination with a Gitzo GH1780QR ball head.

Gitzo GT1541T Tripod / Gitzo GH1780QR ball head

The ball head has the following features:

  • double quick release safety system
  • three leveling bubbles
  • separate pan control

The Gitzo quick release system uses a quick release plate which you attach to the bottom of the camera. When you slide the plate into the ball head you hear a click when the plate is locked into the ball head. You then close a lever and tighten a screw to firmly fix the plate.

Releasing the camera is a two part process:

  1. open the release lever so the camera can slide freely on the ball head.
  2. press a button and slide the plate out of the ball head.

The ball head has three leveling bubbles: two in the quick release plate and one in the stem. You use these leveling bubbles to get perfectly leveled images. No more crooked horizons or strange looking buildings!

The ball head can be rotated (panned) independently of the front-back or lateral movement. This enables you to do easier last minute adjustments.

As a picture tells more than a thousand words, here is a picture from the manual to illustrate the features of the ball head:

gitzo ball head manual picture


My experience

Before I bought this tripod I did some research on the Internet. Thom Hogan wrote a nice article on it. He writes about all the mistakes and the extra money he spent in search of the perfect tripod and ball head. Be aware that a good tripod and ball head costs money. Of course you can buy a cheaper tripod and ball head. But then you may have to deal with ball heads which ‘sag’ when you load them, tripods which do not work (still blurry images) or are too heavy so you never take them with you.

The heaviest load I would use is a Canon 50D with 70-200mm zoom lens. Another setup would be a Canon 50D, 17-55mm zoom lens and a Nodal Ninja panorama head. I decided to go for something which I can carry with me on holidays. It should be light and portable. A friend of mine could get the Gitzo stuff at discounted prices for me. So it was easy to decide what to buy.

The traveler version is easy to carry around. To take photos on eye level I have to extend the center column. To make the tripod more rigid you can attach a weight (I use my camera bag) to the hook provided at the end bottom part of the center column. When the center column is extended, it can be very hard to reach the hook of the center column. I use a bungee cord to make it easier. Just loop the bungee cord through the camera bag and connect the hooks of the bungee cord to the hook of the tripod.

TIP: When it is windy, let the camera bag rest on the ground when it is attached to the tripod. When your camera bag is suspended in the air, it might act as a sort of pendulum and will introduce even more vibrations.

I selected a ball head with a quick release system. I used to screw/unscrew my camera to the tripod. But in low light situations or when you are in a hurry it is very easy to make a mistake and not fully tighten the bolt into the camera. It happened to me several times that I discovered the bolt was about to get unscrewed from the camera and that everything would fall on the floor.

I like the two step process of releasing the plate from the ball head. With other systems you only need to press a button to slide out the plate. When your camera is attached at an angle, pressing the button could mean the camera slides out of the ball head by itself and falls on the ground. With the Gitzo system the camera will also start to slide when you open the release lever. But the camera will still be attached to the ball head – it is prevented from sliding out! You can only slide the camera from the ball head when the lever is opened and you press the release button.

Gitzo GT1541T Tripod / Gitzo GH1780QR ball head

Click on the photo above to get into the Flickr page where you can see in more detail where everything is located. The release button can be seen on this photo. Unfortunately the Gitzo quick release plates are not compatible with quick release plates of other brands. You have to buy the expensive Gitzo plates.

Everything considered, I can recommend the tripod and the ball head. The tripod is rigid, there is no play and the finish is solid. The mechanism to adjust the ball head works smooth. The leveling bubbles enable you to level the camera very fast. Gitzo has thought of all kinds of small details. An example: the position lever for the panning motion can be adjusted any way you like. On the photo above you can see it is in the horizontal position when it is tightened. If you want another position (like vertical) just pull the lever, rotate it into the position you want and release it!

The entire combination is light enough to carry around all day. I used the tripod in Dubai, French Polynesia, the Netherlands, The UK and many other places. The only gripe I have is that sometimes the ball head comes loose from the tripod bolt. This especially happens when I forget to use the panning lever on the ball head. I am considering to use Loctite for a more permanent fit, but I am also using the ball head on my Gorillapod. Make sure you use the right version – Loctite 243 – so you can remove the ball head when you want to.

UPDATE Read on this blog post ‘How to Attach your Gitzo ball head to a tripod’ how to firmly attach a ball head to your Gitzo tripod.


Here are some videos which demonstrate the features of the tripod.



  1. Thanks for this useful post, given videos are very helpful to understand the techniques in a better way. thanks

  2. HI,

    I was wondering if you had a closer shot of the connection between the ball and tripod leg? I can't seem to get mine to look like yours.. there is always a metal section still peeking through.