Gitzo Series 1 center column diameter?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by david_r._edan, Apr 1, 2019.

  1. Can't seem to find this in the specs anywhere.

    Anyway, I need to fit a cheap Chinese tripod with a spirit level. I have a Gitzo series 2 tripod which has a spirit level attached to the bottom of the center column. *You can buy those bubble levels on ebay. The diameter of the center column on my Chinese tripod is 22mm. The ring on my Series 2 level is way too big, so, I know I need something smaller. The one for Series 1 would probably fit (possibly, with some modding) but I really do need to know the inner diameter (which would be close to the diameter of the center column).
    Alternatively, I would entertain a different (and better) solution for leveling my new tripod.

  2. Gitzo columns tend to be the same size as the top leg of the tripod. Leg sizes are stepped according to the next smaller size, so if you have a Gitzo #2 tripod, the middle leg section would be size #1. I'm not sure this works across all the sizes, but it seems to fit the Gitzo tripods I have.
  3. That's kinda neat. Never even realized that the center column was the same diameter as one of the leg sections. But now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense for it to be like that.

    Anyway, the middle section on my GT2541 comes out as 24mm. So, I'm pulling the trigger on that spirit level for the Series 1. I know now that It won't be too small for my 22mm center column and I should be able to deal with the amount of play that I'll probably have.

  4. Not sure how that Gitzo level is going to work on another column without adjustment and packing. The level relies on its circular sleeve being a friction fit on the column to keep the bubble normal to the column.

    A cheap bare bubble stuck to the tripod leg section using epoxy putty worked perfectly well for me. That was on a Manfrotto that's original level had cracked and leaked - which seems to be a common issue.
  5. The bottom of the column on my new tripod is very similar in design to what Gitzo is doing with their tripods. It's got a spring-loaded, retractable hook assembly which screws in in an identical fashion. I wouldn't have paid $$ for that fancy piece of plastic if I didn't think it would work for me. Nothing is 100%, of course, especially that it is not going to be a perfect fit. So, I guess, I still have to see about that.
  6. The thing is that the base of the Gitzo level isn't the reference for the bubble. As you can see, it has moulding 'pips' protruding from the interior of the base, which obviously doesn't make a precision mating face. The reference for the level is the interior vertical cylindrical surface, which is meant to exactly sleeve the centre column.
    This was my solution.
    Epoxy putty gives you about 15 minutes to settle the bubble exactly levelled.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  7. Castings typically have a relief angle of about 3 degrees. Gluing a bubble level flat to a surface doesn't mean it is a level surface. The inexpensive plastic levels aren't that accurate either, If you put three of them on a flat surface, you will get three different indications.

    The surface which must beleveled is the flat top of the column, which must be leveled by adjusting the legs. You can check and fine tune the level with a precision level pointed to two legs successively. That way each leg can be acjusted without affecting the others. Only two legs need to be adjusted or tested. Only then would it be appropriate to set a level on the spider and center the bubble before the glue dries.

    A better solution is to install a leveling device between the column and the head (or replace the column with a leveling platform). If you eyeball the tripod to within the range of the leveling head (7-15 degrees, which is actually pretty easy), the head can then be leveled in a few seconds. A level on the legs would not be needed.

    The main reason for leveling the tripod is to assure the axis of rotation for panning is vertical, so the horizon doen't change. The other reason is to assure that the horizon is level for a pan-tilt (e.g., video) head. You still need a level on the camera when using a ball or 3-way head.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  8. I think that a level mounted on the center column would have a smaller margin of error when compared to one mounted on the base. At any rate, I'm not looking for a great degree of precision. It is quite often that I have to setup in a hurry, after racing the sun and/or the weather to a top of a mountain or a steep hill (with a bunch of heavy gear on my back). I have to setup right there and then, on some sort of an incline, boulders, really uneven terrain. I'm dizzy, out of breath, almost blacking out. In that kind of condition I can hardly tell where is up and where is down and when I'm like that I cannot setup my tripod straight "by feel". I really do need a bubble level to get my camera above the center of gravity (or close to it). I've had too many close calls of my camera tumbling down into a ravine (with the tripod), both, because of strong winds and because of the rig being out of balance.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  9. When shooting in wind, spread the legs to the next notch. I've had to do that many times shooting on the lake front in Chicago.
  10. Not always possible because of the terrain, especially on a steep slope. Plus, there are gusts of wind that you can't really predict for. One time I was knocked over by a strong gust that literally came out of nowhere. It was a calm day but I was in a canyon. Anyway, I landed on some sharp rocks and opened up my hand and knee. That was the end of that excursion. Had to receive a Tetanus shot and take antibiotics because of the infection. Luckily I was just checking out that spot and wasn't set-up yet, so, my gear wasn't at risk.
    If there is ANY wind at all, my tripod is secured to my backup, that's what the hook is for. But until I have everything set-up like that, the whole rig can tip over if let go of it. The tripod not being vertical would be a huge factor.
  11. David, take a look at B&H. That site has a plethora of cost effective levels that can be adapted to generic tripods. Some of them are mounted on plates or collars that sit between the the base plate or top of the center column and the tripod head without need for modification. For practical purposes leveling the tripod legs and center column is really only important for stability and that can be done to a large degree by visual inspection. I have a leveling base that goes between the tripod base plate and ball/action head that bypasses the level status of the base plate ( I never use a center column) but I generally only need a leveling base for gross adjustment when I am using an action head in the field where it can be very helpful to assure level panning. For fine adjustments I always use a spirit level on the camera hot shoe, grid lines on the focusing screen and now more frequently the digital level and digital grid lines available on most of the Nikon bodies I own and then make adjustment with my ball head. If I am shooting panoramic images I own a really right stuff panning base with a built in level and a rail that goes between the arca clamp on the ball head and the camera and this allows me to shoot ridiculously long panoramic images. BLUF critical leveling should be at the camera level and not at the level of the legs. Agree with Rodeo and would not spend a lot of money on a level specifically for your tripod legs or center column. Good hunting.
  12. That's why I packed the bubble with epoxy putty, after carefully levelling the tripod legs. The putty allowed me to adjust and check the bubble before the putty set. So in this case the accuracy of the tripod surface and 'cheap' bubble were totally irrelevant.

    Although I wonder if you've actually tested a bunch of 'cheap' bubble levels? All the ones I've handled have been near-perfect and stay centralised throughout a 360 degree rotation on a known level surface.
    No. If you're going to do a levelled pan or stitched panorama, then the leg section needs to be levelled as well as the head. Otherwise the head may (will) tilt as it's rotated.
  13. That's one way, but a leveling device between the column or plate and head is quicker and often more accurate.

    On rough terrain, I use a combination of leg length and angle to keep the tripod centered. Although all of my tripods have a level in the spider, an eyeball approach is sufficient to stay in the leveling head range, which ranges from +/-7 degrees for the Gitzo device, an +/- 15 for a compact Really Right Stuff device beneath the head. The camera needs to be leveled separately, but only from side-to-side if you want the horizon off-center. You can adjust the center in PTGui to prevent excess curvature (and cropping) in the stitched panorama.

    In general, I have three levels on each setup (4 if you count the electronic level in the camera), and none of them agree perfectly. This seems to be errors in the way they're mounted, and deviations due to the mounting devices. Cheap levels you buy in bulk are so insensitive, you could stand them on edge and have them agree ;) I use a Starrett 30' pocket level to check the results. I have a 5' level, but it's too sensitive. Machinist levels are available with 30" sensitivity or better. You can see them change when a truck passes or you step on the sod. You need that kind of accuracy when aligning motors, gearboxes and drives.
  14. That's a huge exaggeration Ed.
    I tested a small cheap circular bubble, and it easily picks up a 1/2 degree tilt. That's with the bubble touching the indicator circle, and is easily visible as off-true. When properly level the bubble sits dead centre of the circle.

    However, I suspect the built-in virtual horizon of many digital cameras isn't particularly accurate or sensitive. One of my Nikon DSLRs doesn't even have a viewfinder frame that corresponds exactly orthogonally with its sensor.
  15. David,

    I never use the tripod bubble level on my legs. Gitzo puts them on the main casting of the systematic pods but when its - 8 degrees out and the wind is blowing as it was 5 weeks ago in North Dakota or I am pushing the legs through 2 feet of snow to hit the ground, all I want is to set up my pod in a sturdy manner and shoot. Cold determines how long you can stay outside. Using a leveling base rather than futzing with out of kilter legs individually , is a lot easier. I use a leveling base primarily with an action/gimbal head but I can mount a ball head on the leveling base as well. Many of the better tripod companies manufacture leveling bases for those of us who choose to use one rather than level the legs. Of course that is the whole point of a leveling base.

    If your shooting panoramic images you still have to level the tripod head, most importantly at the top. I can shoot panoramic images all day long with a panning clamp that is level on top of a ball head with legs that are completely catawampus.

    I have never considered the simple $20 bubble level to be very precise or a worthy replacement for the human eye but hey I carry one around to put on the hot shoe of my camera because it provides additional information at the right location is light and doesn't take up any space.

    Electronic virtual horizons are OK and that's all.

    "E" focusing screens work better but my ancient D2X and aging D3s are the last in the line of Nikon DSLRs that use interchangeable focusing screens.

    I think digital grid lines work pretty well.

    Of course I can always fix it in post and light room does a nice job of determining what is a
    level horizon with a single click.

    Good hunting.
  16. A level is no more accurate than the manner in which it is mounted. Mounts which can be adjusted finely tend to be more accurate and more sensitive, including leveling heads and heads themselves. Leveling a tripod by adjusting leg length is a coarse process. The electronic level in my Sony seems to have 30' sensitivity. However you can set it halfway between boundaries with much greater precision. 30' of an arc off-plumb is easily discernible by eye when referenced to a good horizon (the ocean) or architectural elements.

    Sockets for levels in a Gitzo tripod are bored, not cast. The level is seated nearly flush to minimize the chance of it being damaged or dislodged. When replacing the level, you must be careful to clean the socket of any adhesive or debris, and remove any flashing from the insert.

    It takes exaggeration, at times, to gather attention to the important parts ;)
  17. Speaking of wind, I read somewhere that large format photographers sometimes stand upwind of their camera with a large open umbrella during exposure. Is that a good idea?
  18. Nothing would surprise me of large format photographers. I've seen dogs settle down for a nap in less time than it takes to take a large format shot.

    An umbrella is easy to carry, and perhaps a good way to shield the lens from direct sunlight. It might mitigate a mild breeze, but I've never found wind vibration to be a problem, even when my darkcloth got whipped away across a field. In a stiffer wind, the edges of an umbrella will shed vortices, which are more random and asymmetric than if the wind were to impinge directly on the camera.
  19. A large format camera catches a lot of wind. Wind will catch the easy to move bellows and shake the thing about. And i have had wind topple a Sinar on a heavy (series 5) Gitzo. If caught in the wind (again) with a large camera, i would indeed try to shield the camera using anything at hand (myself first - people make good wind breakers) and make sure to catch the thing if and when a gust of wind is strong enough to blow the thing over.
    Vortices produced by an umbrella edge would not be a first or second worry. I'd worry about the umbrella blown apart first.
    But it all depends on the wind: what are we talking about? A stiff breeze or a full blown gale?

    I second Ed's recommendation: forget about setting the individual legs such that the base is level. Use a leveling device between tripod and head instead.
    It adds to the height and weight. But i find it is much easier than fiddling with the individual legs.
  20. Living in the "Windy City" (named for it's politicians, not Mother Nature), I almost lost a Hasselblad onthe lake front a few years ago. I deal with it by spreading the legs on my tripod.

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