Nathan Griffin Photographs

gitzo explorer g2220 tripod review

Sample Picture taken with the Gitzo Explorer G2220 Tripod

The road to my decision to use the Gitzo Explorer G2220 was a long one. My experiences with tripods thus far led me to realize that I had to get a better legset to improve the quality of some of my images. It is very frustrating to get a roll of long exposure shots back and having to automatically toss half of them because of camera shake.

I knew that I wanted to take the plunge and get a better tripod, but there are many issues with deciding on which one would work best for me. What anyone will realize in picking a tripod is that any tripod is a compromise - none do everything well! You simply have to prioritize what is most important to you and narrow your choices.

It is easy to start out with a wish list for a new tripod that goes something like this:

  • Lightweight
  • High loading capacity
  • Inexpensive
  • Infinitely adjustable legs
  • Ability to set up as tall as you wish
  • Ability to set up very low for macro and perspective shots
  • Folds down compact for easy travel
  • Easy and quick to setup

A great list for sure - unfortunately you can only have a few of these for any tripod you select, so you need to narrow your needs carefully.

I narrowed my criterion down to a select few. I was very interested in the Gitzo Explorer line because of the flexibility of the leg angles. Most other tripods on the market have legs that have "stops" that set the legs at hard angles (30, 45, 60 degrees). The Gitzo Explorer has legs that are able to be set at any angle by opening and closing the three spoon shaped levers. This allows you much flexibility in selecting the height of your tripod as well as helping to set the tripod around obstacles - great for landscape or macro photography.

Gitzo G2220 Explorer Tripod - The leg clamps offer a wide range of adjustments.
gitzo explorer tripod

Another characteristic of the Explorer line is that the center column can be set at angles other than straight up. While not infinitely adjustable (it is "indexed" with small increments being selected between positions) photographers are able to cantilever the camera out horizontal and directly over a subject. This is great for macro. The center column can even be pointed directly down with the camera between the legs. I have done this on a few occasions to take a picture with the camera very low to the ground (with the image captured upside down).

There are three models to the Explorer line: the G2220 (aluminum 3 leg sections), G2227 (carbon fiber 3 leg sections), and the G2228 (carbon fiber 4 leg sections). First of all, lets look at 3 vs. 4 leg sections. The only real advantage to having 4 leg sections is that the tripod will fold up smaller. This would be great if you have to fit the legset in a small bag. The disadvantage is in reduced stability. I can put pressure on the top of my extended tripod and see that the leg joints are responsible for much of the movement in a loaded system. Adding 3 other joints to the mix will only decrease the stability. I believe a bigger disadvantage, however, would be the increased time to set up - one more set of twist locks would be a bit much to handle!

While on the subject of twist locks, they are excellent on Gitzo tripods. I initially wanted leg locks that snapped shut in a quick-release fashion. It turns out that the Gitzo twist locks will not slow you down much. It only takes a partial turn to open and close. When the tripod is closed you can easily open both locks on a leg at once with one hand because they are small. They are generally very solid when assembled and I think they operate just as well if not better than snap locks offered by other manufacturers.

Having decided on the 3 leg section model, I next had to decide on carbon vs. aluminum. This turned out to be an easy one. Cost was a major factor in my setup and I could not justify the added expense. At the time of writing, the aluminum G2220 cost $275 while the carbon G2227 cost $490. The carbon model only drops the weight from 4.9 to 4.1 lbs., a 16% reduction. Considering the overall weight of a tripod / head combination, this reduction was not worth the $200 premium. The other often touted advantage to carbon is that it helps to dissipate vibration. I will agree that in theory, carbon fiber composites do transmit less high frequency vibrations. I have yet to see any hard examples of how this has actually improved any given picture taking situation. For me, going with aluminum put the legset into my budget.

There are a few steps to dealing with the leg angle stops quickly. I first extend the legs to the desired height. Second, I grasp the center column with the whole assembly raised off the ground and use my other hand to adjust the angles of the three legs to about the right angle. I then lower the legs to the ground with my hand still on the lower part of the center column. If the column is not pointed straight up, I can usually shimmy it around and (with the angle locks still loose) the legs will rotate out or in to level the head. A small bubble level is located in the top of the unit - a decent guide to help you level the center column. The bottom line is that with the adjustability comes some needed practice to be able to set up quickly.

Gitzo G2220 Explorer Tripod shown with camera mounted. This model features a center column that can be raised for additional height.
Nikon FE2 on Gitzo Tripod with RRS BH-40

Overall, I am very happy with the operation of my G2220. The tradeoff to the flexibility is a slight increase in the time it takes to set up. I knew this going in and considered it worth the compromise if the legset allowed me to get a higher number of usable macro shots, which I feel it has.

I would highly recommend this legset along with the RRS BH-40 ball head that I use - together, they are the perfect setup for a small system with much versatility for different shooting situations.

UPDATE - It looks like Gitzo has renamed their models. The former G2227 is now called the G2257 and the former G2228 is now called the G2258. Also, a new model with basalt legs is being sold as the G2930EX. The aluminum G2220 remains unchanged.

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