David Noton reviews the Giotto's MTL8360B Carbon Fibre TripodReviewed by - David Noton
Tripods live a hard life. They get banged, dropped and scraped
clambering over rocky headlands, immersed in salt water and shunted by
EasyJet baggage handlers. I get through a tripod every few years and
the loft is full of retired legs. I've been using a Manfrotto 055 MF
with a 410 geared head for yonks now. One leg has gone limp and the
head locks up on me at inopportune moments. Close examination of the
head has revealed a distinct amount of play in one plane; not good. I
think I should consider some alternatives.
So I'm testing a Giotto's MTL8360B in the garden, it's a warm calm afternoon. I'm trying to ascertain what the tripod is capable of in perfect conditions.
The feet are on firm ground, with my Lowepro slung from the hook below the centre column. On the head is my Canon 1Ds MkIII, with the 100-400mm lens set at 400mm. Everything is tight and locked off or up. I'm shooting test exposures of Wendy's potted plants to check crispness at difference exposures. In my experience the most difficult set of circumstances for a tripod to deal with if we ignore the wind factor is a shutter speed of 1/15th sec with a 400mm or longer lens.
Now I have to admit when I first handled the Giotto's tripod I was sceptical; it's so bloody light!
Isn't it a photographer's destiny to lug heavy kit up steep hills? It's not supposed to be easy, or comfortable. Time was I'd routinely yomp over the hills and faraway with both my panoramic and 35mm systems in a gargantuan Lowepro with a big metal lump of a tripod on one shoulder. Well, I have a twisted arm to show for that; nowadays my bag is smaller and lighter, with just the DSLR kit on my back and carbon-fibre legs on my shoulder. But I do feel guilty about this, am I still a proper photographer?
This ultra lightweight Giotto's feels too light to be serious, but I've news for you, it does the job brilliantly.
It is tempting to think that a tripod's own weight is crucial to it's stability, but it's not so. If you sling your bag from the centre column hook there's plenty of weight in the system, and really, the proof is in the pudding. Right across the range of exposures from 1/500th sec to 2 seconds this tripod anchored the 400mm artillery with perfect stability; very impressive. Granted, this was in a controlled environment, with Atlantic gales blowing I'm sure it would be a different story, but show me one tripod that wouldn't struggle in such conditions.
Well, tests are all well and good but no substitute for using the kit in the field. So the Giotto's had passed its first test, but now it had to do the job on a proper trip.
On our last trip to Provence I hedged my bets; both tripods went in. I was also evaluating two heads, a conventional pan & tilt and a ball head. I'd always shied away from ball heads; light, simple and stable but infuriating to use. Time to confront my prejudices, here amongst the lavender fields I would re-appraise. Know what? I was right first time around. Ball heads are the work of the devil. Comes down to personal choice, but just not for me, so the ball was quickly replaced with the Giotto's 3-way head and life became a lot more tranquil once again.
And the tripod itself?
Light, compact, well made. I like the system for positioning the column horizontally for really low work, the click stops for splaying the legs, the hook for the bag and the little pouch of tools that come with it.
Giotto's quick release plates fit snugly on the camera base without ruining the handling, unlike Manfrotto's awkward lumps for the 410 head. And the leg clamps are smooth, firm and adjustable. Hopefully I've endured my last session on a winter evening with cold, bleeding hands from recalcitrant leg clamps.
And today I'm packing my bags for Croatia. Guess which set of legs I'm taking? Braving the tyranny of airport check in with the light compact Giotto's packed will mean one less thing to worry about. And when I'm stood overlooking the Adriatic at dusk, everything, yes everything, will be tight, secure and locked up.
Photography Example (Click to enlarge) >>