With the HDSLR and HD camcorder revolution comes a whole new way of dealing with transportation and support. Light weight and small size ripples down through the entire production process, replacing armadas of teamstered trucks with backpacks. In the Alps, they even have a name for it: photo-trekking.
The idea is to pack camera, lenses, tripod, head, laptop, production accessories, lunch and some extra clothes in a small and lightweight backpack.
The winning backpack for me, so far, is Kata’s KT R-103 Rucksack. It weighs a mere 3.74 lbs and is 17.7″ x 12.9″ x 5.9″.I’m not a fan of carrying a high-end carbon fiber tripod strapped to the outside of the backpack like an ice-axe, but most tripods are too big to fit inside.
Paul Fishkin of Manfrotto Distribution (previously Bogen Imaging) suggested a terrific combination from Gitzo, the famous company in the foothills of the Italian Alps, halfway between Venice and Cortina d’Ampezzo. They certainly know a thing or two about schlepping tripods around mountains, beaches and cities. With names like “Mountaineer,” “Traveler” and “Ocean,” you know you’ve got the right support.
Gitzo’s GT1541T Traveler carbon fiber 6X legs (4 sections, 3 locks) fits neatly inside a backpack. The best feature is how the legs fold inward 180 degrees over the center column, which significantly reduces size. It folds to 16.14 inches, and weighs a mere 2.14 lbs.
The head I liked best for these legs is Gitzo’s sculptural, form-fitting-function G2180 series 1 counter-balanced fluid head. It attaches to the tripod’s center column with a 3/8″x16 threaded flat base. It weighs 21 ounces, and supports up to 8.8 pounds of camera and telephoto lens. The quick release plate for your camera is clever: it attaches four ways, so you can do a sideways mount for Dutch angles or even backwards. You can also get accessory square, medium and long baseplates. The head has 6 settings of counter-balance to adjust the load.
I used the Gitzo Traveler and Fluid Head with a Canon EOS 7D and lenses up to 200 mm. I also spent a lot of time using it to support a JVC GY-HM100U camcorder, shooting from 3.7 – 37 mm (25 – 250 mm in Super35 format).
It’s not going to replace a bigger support system for precise moves, product shots or title sequences, but when you need to carry your entire camera department in something smaller than a Galpin Ford Cube Truck–this combination is perfect.