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Monday, May 1, 2006

Gadget Bag: Sharpness Is Easy

Tripods are indispensable, and new, exotic materials and construction make them better, lighter and stronger than ever

Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
Gitzo (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500
Manfrotto (Bogen Imaging)
(201) 818-9500
SLIK (THK Photo Products)
(800) 421-1141

The Gitzo G1197 is part of the new basalt lineup of tripods. If you ever took an earth science class, you may recollect that basalt is a type of volcanic rock. Using this age-old material in a new way makes the legs extremely lightweight, quick-dampening and resistant to heat and humidity changes. If you've ever struggled with the legs of an aluminum tripod in the heat of summer, you'll immediately understand the benefits
of basalt. While stronger than aluminum, the legs are 20 percent lighter.

To manufacture the G1197, Gitzo melts pulverized basalt in a furnace with temperatures over 2,700 degrees F. The legs are extruded, combined with other materials and formed into nonrotating tubes. The new Anti-Leg-Rotation system makes the legs fast to extend and collapse while locking securely at the prescribed length. The G1197 is ideally suited to a light D-SLR. If you have a heavier model or you routinely use big lenses, there are other basalt models that will accommodate you. The G1197 weighs 2.8 pounds, extends to 46.5 inches and has a load capacity of 8.8 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $334.

If you've never heard of magfiber, you're not alone; until Manfrotto introduced its new line of tripods, we hadn't either. The term refers to the use of carbon fiber in the legs, and magnesium and resin in the lever-locking mechanisms. The Manfrotto 055MF3 supports up to 15 pounds, extends up to 5.5 feet and has a minimum usable height of 4.3 inches. Using the system designed and patented for the 3021PRO series, the 055MF3 has four leg-angle settings, and the center column converts to a lateral arm for specialized shooting situations. The leg sections feature nonrotating, three-faced tubes. Leg angles are adjusted via a pushbutton system. Estimated Street Price: $299.

Also a member of the carbon-fiber club, the Slik PRO 613 CF is a good choice for a D-SLR setup. The tripod weighs a mere 1.5 pounds (without a head) and folds down to 16.3 inches. If you're apt to leave your tripod in the truck because it's just too heavy and bulky, this model puts an end to that excuse. Twist-lock legs keep them positioned properly, and an overall capacity of 6.6 pounds gives you freedom to mount your camera and a fairly heavy lens without sacrificing stability. Like all carbon-fiber models, the PRO 613 CF is rigid and dampens vibration in an instant. If you're apt to shoot low to the ground, the tripod can go as low as four inches, and the multiangle leg-lock system allows you to easily position the legs independently. Estimated Street Price: $265.



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