First, and most importantly, know what genres of photography you enjoy the most and if that genre requires a tripod. Then, buy the largest, highest quality tripod you're willing to carry that fits in your budget. Specifically in that order; do not put budget ahead of any other aspect of the tripod. If you go too cheap, you may very well end up with a tripod that meets none of your needs when you're forced to replace it due to instability or fragility. The adage, "buy cheap, buy twice (or more)" applies here.
As much as I like Gitzo as a brand and the quality of their products, some of their stuff just isn't as good as others. Take for example their leveling base; Gitzo features a large lever for tightening a head to the base and a handle borrowed directly from their sister Manfrotto's lineup. Instead, I got the series 3 leveling base from Really Right Stuff. It's lighter, has a simpler attachment system with no silly lever and a much sleeker locking handle with, get this, a gear hook! That hook alone is almost priceless, allowing me to attach weight for stability when I'm not leveling the head, ending any need to swap back to the flat top base. Back into the box that can go.
So, I tore down my Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 to see what's so special about it. Actually, I do this with every tripod I buy to discover its weaknesses and proper disassembly for maintenance, cleaning, and lubrication. During the process I just happen to take a close look at each part to see how well it's been made, purely out of curiosity. In this case, I was truly interested to see if Manfrotto/Gitzo does anything differently during the manufacturing process that justifies the higher retail price or legendary status.
As promised in my previous blog post, I'm revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. After putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing.
So, if you read my previous gear review on the Manfrotto BeFree Compact Carbon Travel Tripod, you'll understand that I needed to replace that turd quickly. This time choosing not to ignore my better judgment, I decided to give the Benro Slim Carbon Travel Tripod (TSL08CN00) a shot. This will be the third Benro tripod I've bought with my own money and while the ProAngel didn't work out after a couple of months of use, my Adventure Series 2 Carbon has held up quite well.
I only had this tripod for a week before returning it from whence I bought it. I was so thoroughly disgusted with it after receipt, then after one use, that I didn't bother to take photos of it before throwing it into its shipping container and sending it back.