Gitzo Owners - is this part 100% necessary for Systematic to work? (see photos)

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by photic, Aug 8, 2018.

  1. Hi everyone, I'm looking at buying a used Gitzo locally but it doesn't come with the centre plate (see photos below). This is a Gitzo Systematic 3542LS which seems like a great model and the used price is a good deal. I'm hoping to replace my much more entry level Manfrotto with it, to get better stability and easier setup/takedown. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with the top mounting plate piece that a new one sells with. If it doesn't affect use I'd like to buy it, but not if it's crucial. So maybe a Gitzo owner can chime in if they know?? (cross posting this from Rangefinderforums in hopes of getting an answer before it's gone)

    Do I need this piece to attach a tripod head to or no? If I don't have it, what will I miss out on that I might not be aware of? I'm worried there's something I'm not thinking of besides the bag hook, or that it totally won't work without this plate. Basically, if I buy this would I then have to replace that missing piece ($100 or so) or can I do fine without it?

    Here's the image of the tripod legs I'm considering, without the piece:


    And here are a couple of shots of the "normal" look when the piece is in place:


    Finally here's a picture of the replacement piece (I think that's it anyway) from B&H Photo:

  2. Yes, that missing piece is essential if you want to mount a conventional tripod head (with a 1/4" or 3/8" mounting hole) on top of those legs. Video tripod heads often have a half-ball that may fit directly into that opening (using a video bowl adapter). Gitzo also makes some specific ballheads that fit directly into that opening: Gitzo Series 5 Systematic Ball Head GH5381SQD B&H Photo Video as well as leveling bases Gitzo Leveling Base | B&H Photo Video or rapid or geared center columns Gitzo columns | B&H Photo Video.
    Ed_Ingold likes this.
  3. Gitzo SYSTEMATIC Series 2/3/4 Flat Top Plate GS3321SP B&H Photo

    The GT3542LS is a very tall tripod, 79" fully extended. I use one for video, to reach over the heads of people who walk in front. The plate is more expensive than I remembered, but a leveling head or column would be more useful. They replace the plate completely.
  4. Photic, I like to be able to go low for flowers and macro so the top plate you showed is my choice. All three of my systematic pods have top plates with safety plates underneath that I bought from so that I can carry a long lens without fear of the plate, head and lens assembly popping off when I carry the heavy set up on my shoulder. I prefer a leveling head that sits on top rather than penetrating through the ring but that is a personal choice compatible with the safety plate. The Gitzo you are looking at is the last tripod you may ever need to buy. Good hunting.
  5. The reason that no centre-plate is supplied is in the name 'systematic'.

    The hole in the legs can take a flat plate as described above, or a cranked or plain centre-column.

    For low-to-the ground or extra high work, my choice would be a reversible centre-column. Useful for careful vertical positioning too, since you only have one height adjustment to make, and not 3.

    I thoroughly agree that a Gitzo tripod is probably the only one you'll ever need. Provided you don't mind the weight and bulk.... and the cost of accessories.
  6. The leg angle spreads to nearly flat on the ground, limited by any extension under the top plate - handle of a leveling platform, column or hook. The hook shown on the plate is easily removable. I prefer the ring-mounted leveling platform, because it is as low as possible. A leveling device between the platform/column and head adds about 1-1/2" to the stack height, with some loss of stability. The long handle (3" to 6", depending on the model), gives you leverage and control when leveling - one hand on the camera, the other on the handle.

    A column is useful for fine height adjustments, e.g., portraits and closeups. I don't miss it for landscapes, group shots, or anything else. Aluminum columns from older, #3 tripods fit the GT3542LS, and cost much less than the CF version.

    Opening the two lower sections brings the platform to my eye level. All three extensions, and I need a ladder. I made a small pencil mark on the legs to quickly set the height so that the viewfinder is nose level.
  7. Ed, I understand your point about the ring mounted leveling platform. I only use a bogen leveling head/platform that has a height of 2 inches if I am shooting with an action/gimbal head otherwise I just use a ball head straight on the top plate so I can lay the head of the pod directly on the ground. I have a rapid column for a series 3 that has been sitting in a box never used for a long time. Traditionally I have been discouraged from using a column but my photography is almost entirely nature, however there are times when I would like to have a Gitzo giant with a column and use a ladder for landscapes or have a deck to shoot from on top of my truck. I was visiting Harvard just before sunrise many years ago and there was a pro using a view camera on a Gitzo giant with a ladder to photograph a new athletic building. The morning light was beautiful and I was intrigued by what he was doing. I am not sure how a ladder would fit in at a national wild life refuge or national park. I would probably get barked but it might be fun to try and gain a different perspective.
  8. Hi everyone, thanks for all the useful advice!

    So the consensus is I can use the tripod without this plate, but I'd need to get something else to sit in its place: a centre column or a head that fits in the hole?

    So far I was just thinking of getting the simplest Arca Swiss Z1 or the Acratech Ultimate to add with this (which I believe require the missing plate), so those options don't look too great.

    With that in mind, I'm leaning towards getting a used 3541LS instead that's for sale locally - it comes with the plate and a Z1 head already included. Just seems like it might be less hassle and a smarter move overall ...
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  9. I like to shoot stitched panoramas, and a leveling head makes setup very easy (the turning axis must be vertical). That said, I seldom actually print the results. 8x24" and 12x36" frames are readily available, but the wife won't let me hang them up at home. I discipline myself to shoot well-composed singles at the same time. They're easier to print (no roll feed on a Canon Pixma Pro-10) for a portfolio, or display on a computer or iPad.

    More recently, I bought an Really Right Stuff #2 tripod, which has a miniature Systematic-type spider. The RRS leveling head clamps directly into that ring, and has nothing underneath to limit how low you can go. It's also available with a flat, threaded base for other tripods or on top of a column. I have a video tripod with the Manfrotto leveling platform. It works okay, but I'm always searching for the operating lever in the dark. The RRS has a range of +/- 15 degrees, compared to +/- 7 degrees for the Gitzo or Manfrotto leveling heads.

    I have a B1 head, which is very similar to the Z1. It got sticky after 10 years or so, but loosens up if you whack it lightly with the palm of your hand before mounting the camera. The one-knob control is as good as it gets. I'd ditch the fiddly Arca clamp for one made by RRS, preferably the lever style.
  10. Edward, My Bogen leveling base is OK and that is all it is. Really Right Stuff products seem to stand out and I have been looking at their leveling bases for a few years now and should just pull the trigger. I have their 360 degree pano clamp with an AS plate on the bottom. You can now buy the knock off on ebay for $3.99. My AS B1 head is sticky with light equipment but fortunately has never locked up. With a big lens, that I generally use a Wimberly head with, the B1 has remained smooth. You have reminded me to send it in to Precision Camera Works. My other head is a Kirk BH1 that has stayed smooth for 16 years. Most of my AS stuff comes from Kirk. I like the simplicity of both the BH1 and the B1 but I have not made the switch to lever clamps. I converted my Kirk BH1 and I believe RRS has screw knobs as well that require less turning than the original AS screw clamps and I am happy that way. I worry that the lever will get caught on a tree limb and open up. Stay frosty.
  11. I'm using a RRS BH-55 ball head. There's nothing to jam, since it's essentially a split ring clamp. In terms of capacity, I could do with a BH-40, which is half the weight and an inch shorter. The downside is tension control is fussy, not intuitive like the Arca. The RRS TA-3 will fit both a Gitzo and RRS #3 tripod like the GT354x. The panning clamp is an unnecessary expense, unless you are making VR interiors, or don't use a leveling platform.

    Lever clamps are not secure if the plate is undersized. You won't know until you try it, so it's best to use all one brand of plate throughout. A lever is foolproof because you can't lock the clamp if the plate is only half-way in. It's also faster and doesn't interfere with bulky lenses. That said, a knob clamp is compatible with most plates, and is self-adjusting.

    It would be next to impossible to snag the lever on a branch. The lock-down is tight and there's very little protruding. Furthermore, the lever is covered by the lens if you put it in front (recommended).
  12. [QUOTE="I have a B1 head, which is very similar to the Z1. It got sticky after 10 years or so, but loosens up if you whack it lightly with the palm of your hand before mounting the camera. The one-knob control is as good as it gets. I'd ditch the fiddly Arca clamp for one made by RRS, preferably the lever style.[/QUOTE]

    Old topic/zombie thread.

    I bought a series 2, CF Gitzo with a B1 head for a bargain price. (Boy was that a top heavy rig, but for $300......?.) The head was a bit sticky. (This is what solved my problem;)

    I put a couple drops of Hopps "or another brand gun cleaner" on the ball. I spun it in all directions for a long time & worked the tension knob. Then for even a longer time, i used a soft cloth to wipe the spinning ball. (Yes, I put more than an hour into the thing.)

    My rag collected a lot of aluminum oxide. I dry raged it several times, since. A year or so later, my B1 is still working like it should.

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