Gitzo ™
A Vitec Group brand

Norbert Wu

Norbert Wu

An independent photographer and filmmaker, Norbert Wu has photographed from the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropics. His work has appeared in thousands of books, television productions, and magazines. He holds engineering degrees from Stanford University, and did doctoral work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Wu several grants to document wildlife and research in Antarctica. He has received the U.S. Antarctica Service Medal "for his contributions to exploration and science," among other grants and awards.  Wu served as a consultant on Apple Computer's Aperture software development team and for the Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) series LIFE.  His most recent large-format books, Under Antarctic Ice and Diving the World, resulted from his work in Antarctica and and a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.

After years of trying different tripods, I have settled on the tripods that the vast majority of professional photographers use: the Gitzo line of tripods.  The Gitzo tripods are tough, well-made, sturdy tripods that last forever, and that get the job done.  They are more expensive than many of the tripods that you will find in local camera stores, but their cost is minimal when you consider that they will literally last your lifetime.

I have had three Gitzo tripods for over a decade: a light 200-series tripod with a Gitzo ball head, which I carry when backpacking, a heavier 300-series tripod with an RRS ball head for longer lenses, and an enormous 400-series tripod with an equally enormous Studioball head, for use with long lenses when I have a vehicle to carry everything in.

Before a recent assignment to the Grand Canyon, I re-evaluated my tripods, looked at the new developments and models that had been made, created a spreadsheet to compare features and prices, and chose the following models. I am greatly impressed with the new line of Gitzo tripods and their numerous new features.  The leg clamps are easy to use, better than the older models; and the tripods keep getting lighter, without sacrificing stiffness and load capacity.  I decided that the 400-series tripod and Studioball head were overkill, so I sold them.  I kept my 300-series aluminum Gitzo tripod with RRS head for long lenses.  I've often used this sturdy tripod with a locked-down ball head to shoot 16mm and HDCAM scenes which did not require panning.

For backpacking and field work, I chose a Gitzo carbon fiber leveling tripod, model G1227LVL.  This is an expensive tripod at a street price of $650, but the innovative leveling column and light carbon fiber legs allow me to shoot all kinds of still camera work, including panoramas, at a weight of only 3.84 lb and a load capacity of 17.6 lb.  This tripod truly has everything.  With a lightweight fluid head, it is a great tripod for using with small DV camcorders. I was also impressed with the G2220 Explorer tripod with aluminum legs, which costs about $200, weighs 5 lb, and holds 13.2 lb.

When I shoot with large HDCAM cameras, I use standard industry-leading tripods and fluid heads made by Sachtler and Miller.  The only problem with these tripods is that they weigh a great deal and can cost more than a new car.  One of the most important parts of a video tripod is the ability to quickly level the fluid head so that the horizon stays level throughout a panning shot.  The top-quality Sachtler and Miller tripods feature heads that rotate within a bowl, which allow you to quickly level the head with a bubble level.  A videographer can get by with Gitzo's new leveling column tripods for a lot less money.

Equipment List:

Gitzo carbon fiber tripods of various sizes:
Gitzo carbon fiber leveling tripod, model G1227LVL
Gitzo GT-5530S Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs
G2220 Explorer tripod with aluminum legs
Gitzo G-1380 Video Fluid Head (75mm Ball Base)
GS5320V75 75mm Bowl Adapter  for All Studex Tripods/Video Heads

For my underwater stills, time-lapse, and video, I’ve used an old Bogen  3021 anodized aluminum tripod for over 25 years!

I use Canon 7D cameras and associated lenses, and I also use Nikon D800  and D7000 cameras with associated Nikon lenses.

Nikon 500mmf4 lens
Nikon 70-210mm f2.8 lens
Nikon 105mmf2.8 micro AF VR lens
Nikon 14-24mm lens

Canon 70-300mm L IS lens
Tokina 10-17mm lens for Canon
Canon 10-22mm lens

Nauticam underwater housings for Canon 7D and Nikon D800 cameras.
SPL surf housings for Canon 7D and Nikon D7000 cameras.