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Gitzo Reporter Basalt Performance Tripod (G1298)

Lightweight yet sturdy, it's a fine traveling companion

 By Joan T. Sherwood200505bc_gitzobasalt

The new Gitzo Basalt-fiber tripods fit right in with the company's thoughtfully designed stock of tripods, monopods and heads. On a recent trip, I tried out the four-section Reporter Basalt Performance Tripod (G1298), with a Gitzo Magnesium Center Ball Head (G1278M) and ran into only one small glitch.

This model weighs in at 3.4 pounds and can hold up to 12.1 pounds of gear. I'm pretty sure I put it to the test when I loaded it with a Nikon D2X camera, mounted with a 7.2-pound 200-400mm Zoom-Nikkor lens.

Set-up is easy with the Anti-Leg-Rotation twist locks (though I'm not sure I get that nomenclature). With minimal practice, you can loosen all four locks with one hand, extend the leg, then secure the sections with just one counterclockwise turn to each lock.

The tripod is 19.3 inches long when closed, and it extends to 47.2 inches, or 58.3 inches with the center column extended. You can switch the removable rubber tips on the legs with spikes, Big Foot accessories, or other options as needed. On this model, the stabilizing hook is built in at the bottom of the center column, with a spring to hold it in the recessed position until needed, which reduces the hazard of unintentional hooking. As always, add stability to the setup by hanging a weighty object (such as your camera bag or a sandbag) on the hook.

This is all great, but why basalt—and what is it, anyway? Basalt is a porous, lightweight volcanic rock. Gitzo’s basalt fiber tubes are tougher than aluminum yet 20 percent lighter, and unlike aluminum, they don't retain heat and cold. (Would your tongue stick to one of these tubes in freezing temperatures? I don't think so, but I’m not going to try it.)

As with other Performance tripods, the legs have sliding stops fitted at the center column mount, which allows you to set each leg at a horizontal angle if you'd like.

I used this tripod in cold, rainy, muddy conditions. It shed the muck and water easily, and appears to have no ill effects from the conditions. That one little problem I mentioned came from the collar lock on the center column. Somehow it got locked so tightly that I couldn’t make it budge, and I had to ask someone with a little more muscle to help me, and even this person had difficulty turning it. In trying to recreate this situation, I have discovered that if you are right-handed, it is indeed easier to tighten the collar lock than to loosen it, and it doesn't take much effort to get it too tight. So with this tripod and others with similar locks, don't go overboard when you tighten the collar. It doesn't take much to lock it securely enough to hold your gear in place.

The Gitzo Reporter Basalt tripod lists for $492, but the street price is closer to $350. Gitzo products are distributed in the U.S. exclusively by Bogen Imaging.