January 7, 2012

Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Review

Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod overview
When products like Triopo 3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler tripod come in the scene, advertised to have exceptional features against a low cost of 165 EU shipped, while other manufacturers charge twice or three times as much for similar products, then the same old question arises. Is this a real bargain or ...?

As I was looking for a replacement for my 2 year old aluminum Weifeng 595 traveler tripod, I found it interesting to experiment with it.
Since there are not any serious reviews, at least to my knowledge, about the specific tripod and having had controversial experience with other Triopo products which show some very strong points but leave something to be desired like the Triopo RS-3 Ball Head, I was a little preoccupied trying to find out what were the compromises made to maintain such a low price.
But more on that in the following extensive review.

Exquisite specification.
Triopo GT-3228X8C brand-model label
According to Triopo there are a lot of improvements in the design of their new GT-3nnn series compared to the older GT-nnn series. A new leg design with patented 8X carbon fiber tube, which consists of pure ballistic Aramid fiber (mainly used for bullet proof vests) and high-temperature composite made of carbon fiber "Manjuan" which may withstand a stress load of 150kg. With these materials, longitudinal strength increased by 50%, anti-resonance effect by 60%, while toughness was increased by 50%, compared to the traditional carbon fiber tube rigidity.

Further, the new leg tube thickness was decreased to 3mm instead of previous series' 4mm, thus increasing the lower sections tubes substantially. The older GT-228 tripod had max tubes diameters 28,24,20,16 while the new GT-3228 has 28,25,22,19 so that the load-bearing capacity and stability of the tripod is greatly enhanced.
Furthermore, a new twist quick leg-locking system was utilized, where the three locking rings previously used internally, were changed into a single design, the advantage is an effective solution to the former
Triopo GT-3228X8C materials label
occasional locking problems caused by locking rings interfering with each other. Also the new aluminium lock nut system needs only 1/3 turn to easily lock or release the legs. The leg locking force is up to 150Kg, effectively improving the stability of the tripod.

Another major improvement, adding to the tripods stability is the center hub where the tripod legs connect with the main part. The hub is made by a special combination of forging and CNC finishing production technologies. First a block of an imported high-quality Mag-alloy is forged through a special molding process, and then finished by CNC machinery tools. This process makes it several times more solid than the currently available hubs in the market which are made by the traditional casting technology.

All the above urged me to conduct a search on the net and eBay, where I faced the first contradiction between different seller specs for the same product.

Latest Manufacturer Specifications from the www.triopo.cn site:

Triopo traveler series multifunctional specification chart
It is not clear whether the tripod height includes a ball head, but from the tripod presentation in the site one can assume that the height of a Triopo B-1 or RS-1 is included.
According to other Chinese sellers maximum height is 1410mm including Triopo B-2 ball head which was actually the previous specification shown in the Triopo.cn site.

Alternative Specification from the European www.triopo.pl site:

GT-3228X8C Tripod
Material:Carbon Fiber
Leg Sections:4
Maximum Leg Diameter:28 mm
Maximum Height:1525 mm
Minimum Height:280 mm
Folded Height:445 mm
Weight:1.27 kg
Maximum Load:15.00 kg
GT-3228X8C Monopod
Number of Sections:4
Maximum Leg Diameter:28 mm
Maximum Height:1270 mm
Folded Height:415 mm

Another difference between the tripods sold by Chinese sellers and the ones by the European distributors is that the Chinese version has an optional and removable leg-grip which is made of padded neoprene with a zipper, while the European version is equipped with a foam rubber leg-grip on one leg as standard.

Finally a few months ago, I decided to find out myself and ordered my copy of Triopo 3228X8C tripod from Foto-tip, the Triopo European distributors in Poland, at a price of EU 165,00 including express shipment. It was Shipped by Fedex and arrived in exactly 5 days at my door, very carefully packed in an extra outer recycled carton box.

Triopo GT-3228X8C box and contents layout
The Triopo GT-3228X8C comes in a glossy black, heavy carton box, inside a very good quality carrying case and wrapped in a nylon bag. There is a wide shoulder strap included, as well as two smaller self closing nylon bags containing the instruction manual (in both Chinese and English) with an Allen Hex key and a short center column extension.

First impressions after unpacking were excellent. Starting with the box and following with the very good quality carrying case and the unexpectedly good finish of the very light weight tripod. Nothing seemed to be missing as was the case with other Triopo products in the past.

Starting with the Carrying Case
I will stay a little on the nylon-fabric padded carrying case, because in my opinion it is surprisingly well made and elaborately designed for the price of the tripod.
The case dimensions are a little larger than the tripod's, able to contain it either with legs folded at 180o or straight, but in the later case without a ball head. It is 51cm (20") long and 13,5cm (5.31") in diameter.
The case is made so it can also stand upright and has both carrying handles and a shoulder strap.

There is a reflective fabric band on the top side either decorative or maybe quite useful if you intend to hike on a bicycle hanging the tripod on your back, as is usual in China.








Triopo GT-3228X8C carry-bag+strap horizontal
The nylon fabric is of good quality and strong enough to withstand a lot of  hardships. The inner foam padding is quite stiff and thicker than most other carrying cases I have encountered, insuring the protection of the contents. The carrying handles are comprised by two wide fabric bands which run around the circumference of the case, joined with a padded strap on top, designed to carry far more weight than a carbon tripod.
This is a carrying case which seems that is made to last.
The wide shoulder strap is also well made with a padded anti slip shoulder piece and two spring closing hooks.

Triopo GT-3228X8C carry-bag budge
A quality touch with a 3D rubber Triopo brand emblem.
Triopo GT-3228X8C carry-bag zippers
The case zipper is also of strong plastic running from the "base" all the way around the "top"...
Triopo GT-3228X8C carry-bag openning
...Giving a wide opening for inserting or removing the tripod effortlessly.
The internal lining is of a softer nylon fabric as usual with all cases.
However, what I find missing here is a small zipped pocket to store the Allen hex key and the center column extension or even an extra camera/lens plate. That would be nice.
Triopo GT-3228X8C carry-strap pivot hooks detail
As previously mentioned the shoulder strap is equipped with two plastic pivoting hooks with spring clasps. Although they seem very light the design is quite elaborate for extra strength. Time will tell...
Triopo GT-3228X8C carry-strap on bag buckles
On the opposite side of the case's opening there are two buckles at either end, for hooking the shoulder strap. Once again the design of the buckles is quite elaborate by not permitting the hooks to slide around freely, minimizing the play of the case when on your shoulder. Total weight of case with strap 400gr (0.88 lb)

Unfolding the Tripod
Triopo GT-3228X8C folded w/ short column
As is usual with Traveler tripods nowadays, Triopo GT-3228X8C comes with the legs folded 180° around the center column. (I'm still wondering, with a grin, how come every tripod manufacturer claims the 180° folding legs design as unique to their products...)
There is adequate resistance to unfold the legs, with equal force needed at all stages which means that their retaining screws are well tighten without any play.


In order to unlock the leg sections, all three leg locks can be grabbed with one hand and turned counter clockwise simultaneously. Yes indeed it takes less than half a turn to release the legs. But here the excellent impression stops and the first bad impression came up by just doing that. Unscrewing the leg locks is very very easy followed by a harsh sound as metal grinding against metal, which actually is the case since by unscrewing them completely I found only a tiny drop of grease on the threads.
To my disappointment the second bad impression came up when trying to draw out and extend the leg sections. Other sections came out easily and others needed to be dragged, all of them making a harsh sound moving in and out. Pulling each section out, I inspected the thin Teflon inserts that keep the legs from twisting and realized that their finishing was inadequate so as some small protruding edges were grinding the inner surface of the previous sections.
However, more on that later, as I wanted to get into the next thing, what else? To measure and verify the tripod specs myself.

Measured Specification (w/o ball head)
Leg Sections Diameters:28, 25, 22, 19 mm
(1.10, 0.98, 0.87, 0.75 ")
Leg Angles (degrees):22°, 48°, 70°
Maximum Height Center Column Extended:1505 mm (59.25 ")
Maximum Height plus extra short Column:1605 mm (69.19 ")
Maximum Height Center Column Retracted:1255 mm (49.40 ")
Minimum Height with long Center Column (Legs at 70°):370 mm (14.56 ")
Minimum Height with short Center Column (Legs at 70°):280 mm (11.02 ")
Folded Height :445 mm (17.51 ")
Weight:1.233 kg (02.72 lb)
Maximum Load capacity:To be verified

Monopod
Maximum Height with extra short Column:1354 mm (53.31 ")
Maximum Height w/o extra short Column:1260 mm (49.61 ")
Folded Height w/o extra short Column:405 mm (15.94 ")
Weight:!!! 290 gr (0.64 lb)

Extra Short Column
Height (length):100 mm (04.00 ")
Weight:58 gr (02.05 oz)

Most of the specs accord to the manufacturer specs with the exception of maximum and minimum heights and weight. It is obvious that the manufacturer's height includes a ball head.
Having had a prior bad experience with the  Triopo RS-3 Ball Head, it was a nice surprise to find the tripod's total weight less than the specified by the manufacturer and was even more surprised by the exceptionally low weight of the stand-alone monopod.

Leg Sections Tubing & Twist Leg Locks
After reading about the bullet proof Aramid fiber used for the tripod legs, I was expecting a more exotic look for the legs, but the fiber pattern follows the usual twisted parallel stripes of two grey shades. Anyway in my opinion a tripod should not be fancy in anyway, shouting out here I am, but be well made and support my photo gear sound and steady.

Triopo GT-3228X8C leg section diameter layout
The diameter of the four sections is 28,25,22 and 19mm respectively. The last section is capped with a bell shaped rubber foot which seems to hold well on any surface. The rubber foot is fixed and cannot be exchanged with steel spikes.

The leg sections lock solid with very little force compared to other legs with twist locks I have used up to now and even fully extended are very stable, without any noticeable movement at the joints when exercising side pressure. Which actually signifies less vibration to be transferred.
More on that in the upcoming Triopo GT-3228X8C Stress Test.

Triopo GT-3228X8C twist leg lock unscrewed
By unscrewing the new type aluminum leg lock reveals the quite coarse thread. In this photo I had already applied a thick coat of silicone grease in order to make locking and unlocking smoother. I would prefer a finer thread with a better contact between the outer and inner threads, but I guess that by utilizing the new one part locking ring it is not possible.
Triopo GT-3228X8C twist leg lock thread
Triopo GT-3228X8C leg tube alignment/friction inserts
By pulling out the leg section completely two 3cm long Teflon inserts are revealed, which are supposed to keep the tubes from twisting and make the extension/retraction of the legs smooth. The cut between the Teflon inserts match two islands in the inner surface of the previous section so twisting the legs is impossible. Nothing special in this design as it is adopted by all manufacturers nowadays.
Triopo GT-3228X8C leg lock disassembled
What is actually quite special is the design of the oval shaped holes that keep the Teflon inserts in place, compared to the round holes utilized by other manufacturers. This oval shape prevents the the Teflon inserts from moving keeping them snugly in place. As we can see there are not any extra rings locking and insulating the leg sections from dust and dirt...
Triopo GT-3228X8C leg lock nut & cone ring
...but a new wide locking ring attached in a groove inside the leg lock nut. This new design ring exercises a lot more force than the older three ring design, when the external nut is screwed it gets between the two leg sections, while still firmly attached to the outer lock nut.
I left it uncleaned on purpose to show that any excess grease from what I had applied on the threads was kept on the ring and did not enter between the leg sections. This is enough proof that it works as an insulator for dust and dirt too.
Triopo twist leg lock operation drawing
An explicit drawing of the operation of the twist leg lock.
(Photo by courtesy of Triopo.cn)

Suggested Remedies
As I mentioned in the beginning when unfolding the tripod, I realized first the metal grinding of the leg locks and further that the thin Teflon inserts that keep the legs from twisting are poorly and inadequately finished. So I decided to take all sections apart and do some refinements.

Leg lock threads + Silicone grease 8104
Taking care of the harsh noise from the twist locks is easy by applying a thick coat of silicone grease like "Loctite 8104".
This will enhance the smoothness of operation and improve the weather insulation of the leg locks.
Teflon leg alignment/friction insert + fine filler
As for the inadequately finished Teflon inserts, using a fine nail file or a piece of fine sand paper, pass a few times over all the edges of the Teflon inserts to make them smooth and that will do the job.

However, even after all the remedies done, one of the ∅25mm leg sections remained quite stiff when extending or retracting it, so I started interchanging leg sections to see if there was any difference. Well, it seemed that the specific 25mm section worked better in another 28mm leg-tube, but this proved something that I did not like at all... either there is not any consistency in the leg tubes diameter or the specific 25mm section was out of spec. Something that should not have passed a decent quality control at the assembly line.

Legs Hub & Center Column Stem
The CNC machined and hardened anodized Magnesium alloy hub looks and feels sturdy, with a very good finishing. There is absolutely no slack in the leg joints and I felt the difference immediately upon unfolding the tripod and running an old simple test. That is to grab two of the legs and try strongly to twist the tripod on its legs. The slightest distortion or movement shows immediately a weak center hub or loose leg joints. It seems that Triopo has learned a lot from the former GT-228 problems.

Triopo GT-3228X8C leg hub w/ center column removed
The leg joints need not any tightening, as all screws are now treated with blue "Loctite" or an equivalent bonding compound. There are also double washers inside and outside to ensure a long seamless operation.
The center column stem is 60mm tall with a almost half of it threaded which adds up a lot to the center column locking and stability.
Triopo GT-3228X8C center column lock nut
Similar to the leg log nuts is the center column locking nut, depicted here upside down. It has also an embedded plastic ring that inserts between the stem tube and the center column, locking it almost solid without excess force.
Triopo GT-3228X8C center column lock nut + cone ring
Here we can see the plastic insert which attaches to a special groove inside the locking nut.
Triopo GT-3228X8C center column anti-twist boss detail
The interior of the center column stem (tube) is very well finished and its even diameter from top to bottom does not permit any slack to the center column. At the bottom of the tube we can see the 5mm anti twist island (boss) which fits perfectly to the center column's anti twist groove, another well done feature, since there is not any, even the slightest twisting of the center column whatsoever.

Leg Angle Locks
The legs can be set at three preset angles of 22, 48 and 70 degrees as measured by an electronic inclinometer, since there is not any information about this from the manufacturer. (Quite peculiar choices I would say, compared to the usual 25, 45 and 85 degrees of other manufacturers).

Triopo GT-3228X8C leg angle locks detail
The angle locks with the engraved Triopo logo are of the pull-push type without any spring but with a friction plate underneath. Although they work fine I find the metal parts a little thin for the purpose and would prefer them more sturdy.
Somehow, one of the three lock plates felt quite loose from the beginning, so I had to dismantle the whole leg from the hub in order to tighten the center nut that holds the lock plate in place.

Long Center Column
Triopo GT-3228X8C center column extended
The center column is 28mm in diameter, the same Carbon fiber diameter tube as the top leg tubes with the exception of a 5mm wide longitudinal groove that prevents it from twisting in the tripod stem tube.
Total assembled length (height) is 330mm and total effective height  added to the tripod height when fully extended is 250mm.

Somehow, at Triopo they outperformed themselves with GT-3228X8's center column stability. The fitting between the center column stem and the center column is exemplary. No slack, no wobbling, no vibration whatsoever. It locks firmly and feels far more more stable than many center columns I have happened to use or test up to now.

The center column is 325mm (12.79") long, weighs 124 gr (4,37 oz) and has metal taps at each end, with 3/8"-16 threaded holes. The taps are identical at both sides so there is not any orientation problem when disassembling or assembling it.

Triopo GT-3228X8C center column disassembled / components
The top aluminum plate, a dual thread (3/8"-16 and 1/4"-20) reversible stud and an 1cm thick plastic washer/ring are attached at one end. The top plate is 47mm in diameter, 1 cm thick and has a 3/8'-16 threaded center hole. It is hand screwed and tightened directly on the stud, with the aid of grooves on the circumference, without any need of a tool. Total weight of assembly 169 gr (5.96 oz)
This design follows a late trend with tripod top plates as it is more convenient to exchange the top plate between long and short center columns. But care should be taken to tighten the plate as far as possible to avoid any mishaps as it easy to loosen it trying to loosen a ball head attached on top of it.
A spring loaded hook intended for hanging extra low balancing weight is attached at the other end.
Triopo GT-3228X8C center column + spring hook detail
The spring loaded hook is fixed on a thin plastic disk with a 3/8"-16 thread so it can be removed easily from the center column, in order to reverse the later for low level macro shooting or remove it completely, exchanging it with the short column. However, comparing the hook assembly with similar hooks by other manufacturers, I consider it very thin and a little fragile for the purpose.
Triopo GT-3228X8C center column w/ spring hook attached
The hook assembly in place. Its diameter is a little wider than the center column acting as a break not allowing the center column to come off when it is fully extended...
Triopo GT-3228X8C folded - center column stop closeup
... Best seen when the legs are folded back 180° for transport.

Having in mind the very low self weigh against the high load-bearing capacity of this tripod, then this hook is a crucial part. Any heavy camera/lens combination mounted on this tripod should be balanced with a low hanging weight, as your camera bag for example, otherwise a rip of air could trip the tripod down with all the sad results which I don't want even to think about.
However, a good old advice valid for any tripod when shooting outdoors, is to keep your camera strap around your neck at all times. But who does?

Triopo GT-3228X8C lowest pos w/ long center column
Lowest position with the long center column is 37cm (14.57") without ball head and with the legs locked on the intermediate stop.



Short Center Column
If we need to go a little further down for macro or wild-life shooting we can use the short column included.
Triopo GT-3228X8C lowest pos w/ short center column - closeup
The short center column is made of black anodized aluminium-magnesium alloy and has a 3/8"-16 threaded hole on one side and a fixed 3/8"-16 stud on the other.As it is originally intended to be used as an extension for the monopod, it does not have any longitudinal anti twist groove.

The top plate, the stud and the plastic washer/ring need to be removed from the long carbon fiber column and screwed on the short one.


Triopo GT-3228X8C lowest pos w/ short center column - fullview
Next we need to remove the long center column and insert the short one...
Triopo GT-3228X8C lowest pos w/ short center column installed
Lowest position with the short center column is 28cm (11") without ball head and with the legs locked on the highest stop at 70o.
Since the included short column does not have an anti twist groove, it can not go all the way down in the center stem.

However, if we need to go further down to ground level, there is always the option of removing the long center column and reinsert it upside down.

Monopod Function
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod leg detached + short column
Like many of the Traveler design tripods of nowadays, the Triopo GT-3228X8C has a a detachable leg that can be used as a monopod. All it needs to be done is to unscrew the leg with the foam grip from the leg hub and attach the stud with the top plate from the center column.
However, with a total height of 1260mm (49.6") (even 1355mm (53.35") with the extension) it cannot be considered as a full height monopod, it is a function that may come handy when trying to shoot being in a tight space where the use of the tripod could be impossible.

Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod leg screw stud - detail
The detachable leg is held on the tripod hub via a 17mm (5/8") long 3/8"-16 thread stud. There is quite a play when screwing or unscrewing the leg but with the aid of a 4mm deep outer rim the leg is aligned with excellent fitting to the hub without any slack whatsoever. When tightened fully you can barely see any gap and it is quite as solid as the other two legs. Good job!
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod leg + short column components
Considering the low height of 1260mm (49.60") of the leg alone, the included short center column adds another 10cm (~4.00") approximately to the total height. It is a must for taller persons, unless of course you intend to use the monopod, in a theater or a venue sitting between the audience.
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod + short column components closeup
The plastic ring, the dual threaded stud and the top plate needed to complete the monopod, have to be unscrewed from the long center column.
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod + short column semi-assembled
Placing the plastic ring on the top side of the short center column, the stud has to be screwed by 1/3 of its length...
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod + short column assembled
...and then tightened fully with the top plate.
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod w/ short column installed closeup
Then the short center column assembly can be screwed by its fixed bottom stud in the top leg hole.
Triopo GT-3228X8C monopod w/ short column installed full-view
Monopod complete, with a total retracted length of 505mm. Needless to say that keeping it in two parts until needed, it can easily fit in many photo gear cases of back packs.

Attaching a Ball Head
My original intention was to use this tripod with the low cost Triopo RS-3 Ball Head equipped with the Triopo B-2 Quick Release Clamp. However, after spending a little time with it and after overcoming the initial frustration about the manufacturing flaws, its stability and resistance to vibration started gaining on me and made me change my mind. Therefore, I decided to spend a "little" more on a true traveler ball head like the  Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR Traveler Ball Head with a lever release, on which I have a review published.

Triopo GT-3228X8C folded w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR -full view
The Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR 's small foot print fits perfectly the Triopo's 180 degree folding design.
The ball head weighs only 360 gr adding very little to the total transportable weight.
Triopo GT-3228X8C folded w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR -closeup_I
Triopo GT-3228X8C folded w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR -closeup_II
The legs fold perfectly ...
Triopo GT-3228X8C folded w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR -closeup vertical
...from any angle.
Triopo GT-3228X8C standing w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR -closeup
Triopo GT-3228X8C standing w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR -full view
The outcome of this combination is a very stable and functional traveler solution.

Working with the Tripod
There were not so many chances for outings, so as to test the Triopo GT-3228X8C hard and in all possible situations, but the few chances I had, proved some of its very good attributes.

Triopo GT-3228X8C fully extended w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR - park fullview
Fully extended reaches a height of 1590mm with the  Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR attached.
Triopo GT-3228X8C legs spread 44d w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR - park fullview
With legs at 44 degrees and the top three sections extended the tripod maintains an exemplary stability without any bending of the legs.
Triopo GT-3228X8C col down+ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR + Canon 50D + EF70-200L-IS-USM - park fullview
I wouldn't ask for more stability, for a medium weight Camera/Lens combination as the Canon 50D (Gripped) + Canon EF 70-200 L IS USM.
Triopo GT-3228X8C col extended+ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR + Canon 50D + EF70-200L-IS-USM - park fullview
Even with the center column fully extended, the tripod remains extremely stable without vibration. Something I did not really expect from such a low priced product, to outperform well known brands in this aspect.
However, as I mentioned previously, having in mind the very low self weigh against the high load-bearing capacity of this tripod, any heavy camera/lens combination mounted on this tripod should be balanced with a low hanging weigh from the center column hook, as your camera bag for example, otherwise a rip of air could trip the tripod down with all the sad results.
Triopo GT-3228X8C col down+ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR + Canon 50D + EF17-85-IS-USM - park fullview
Triopo GT-3228X8C col extended+ Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR + Canon 50D + EF17-85-IS-USM - park fullview
And a couple of shoots on rough uneven ground.

Pros
Very low price.
Very low weight.
Very elaborate design.
Very solid and stable leg hub and center column.
Very rigid leg locking and leg stability.
Good functionality.
Very nice carrying bag.

Cons
Poor assembly quality.
Poor fitting of some parts.
Center Column Top plate, center column hook and leg angle locks need redesigning or reinforcement.
Short center column would be more functional with an embedded anti twist groove.

Conclusion
Although I consider Triopo very honest with their prices considering the material quality and manufacturing cost of their products, compared to other manufacturers, still there is always a coin to pay for low priced products.
If you are a professional or person that wants a product which works perfectly right out of the box, then Triopo 3228X8C might not be for you and better try a more expensive solution.
On the other hand if you are willing to spend a little time, fiddling with minor improvements (as suggested in the article above), Triopo 3228X8C may prove a very stable, vibration free and long lasting solution for you. Well, then you may consider this tripod a real bargain.

My suggestions to Yuenquin Originality Photography Equipment Co. Ltd. (i.e. Triopo)
Gentlemen,
If you are willing to compete in the International markets then a little more attention at the assembly line and the establishment of better quality control procedures would greatly help the image of otherwise well and elaborately designed products.
For sure an extra cost has to be anticipated for a more strict quality control but I think that a little higher end-prices would not be an obstacle if it were for a perfectly functional product right out of the box.


Disclaimer:
This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods.  Although the findings are good and overcame the expectations for the product, it can not be used as a rule, unless more samples of the same product are tested. Furthermore, similar comparison tests should be run with comparative capabilities products so as to reach a solid conclusion.

Update: Sep 2012
Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Update





Update: Nov 2012
Triopo Tripod Spare Parts & Accessories Reference





Update: Dec 2012
How to Upgrade Triopo GT-3228X8C Tripod with Retractable Steel Spikes






Update: Sep 2013
Latest Updates of Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod






Note: As there are variations of the height and versions offered by different suppliers, I should once again point out that caution should be taken before ordering the Triopo GT-3228X8C tripod. I suggest that you communicate with the supplier first.

I hope you found this review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2011-2012 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
Current Price of the updated GT-3228X8C CF Tripod is EUR 175,00 (+Shipping where applicable)
and is available bei Amazon.defrom Amazon.co.ukchez Amazon.frsu Amazon.it and from Amazon.com
Please consider using the above link(s) to make a purchase and help support this site.

Referenced Articles:
Triopo RS-3 Ball Head Review
Triopo B-2 Quick Release Clamp Review
Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR Traveler Ball Head Review

Relevant Articles:
Nest NT-6294CT Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Review
Triopo GX-1328 Carbon Fiber Classic Tripod Review

11 comments :

  1. Thank you Sotiris for this thoughtful, detailed, very nicely written & illustrated review of the Triopo GT-3228X8C.

    My beloved Gitzo GT3540LS Systematic (w/o column, 32mm top leg, max height 57.5" - 146cm) was stolen & I'm looking to replace it with a cheaper alternative because of limited funds @ the presents. Your photos of the parts & threads as well as the real specs are very useful for comparison purposes.

    One can see where they cut corners to reduce the price besides craftsmanship and where they got their ideas from. Nevertheless it seems that it's a good deal price/quality wise. I wish the leg hub (spider) would be thicker with struts, willing to trade-off the reversible leg gimmick for more strength and vibration absorption quality.

    I agree, it's a pity that the short column does not have a grove preventing from lowering it. If I do buy one, maybe I'll remove the inner island in the hub et trade-off the anti-rotation feature of the long column.

    - Joe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you too Joe, for your kind comments and appreciation of my effort for detailed and meaningful reviews.

      I’m sorry that your Gitzo was stolen, too bad. There is no comparison of a Gitzo GT3540LS in any way with a traveler tripod like the Triopo GT-3228X8C but…

      Referring to the leg hub, I would say that it is one of the GT-3228X8C’s strong points. Although it lacks the reinforcing struts to the center column tube, thus resembling a spider, it seems that the technique of forging to shape the alloy into a mold and subsequent CNC finishing produces a much harder and dense center column/leg hub than the common technique of die casting the part.
      The more dense and compact a material is, the higher its resonating frequency. Therefore, it is less prone to transfer low frequency vibrations.

      However, if you decide to go for the GT-3228X8C, there is no need to remove the anti-twist island in the center column tube. As I mention in the review there is an optional short center column (at very low price) intended originally for the older GT-228 which does have a grove and could go lower. Another option would be to order a spare carbon fiber center column (also at very low price) which you may cut at desired length.

      Sotiris

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    2. Thank you for the GT-228 short column with groove tip.

      Under your http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-egXnhHpaQh4/Ttwvix3-CQI/AAAAAAAABkY/D8s3AEQpBz4/s400/Triopo_GT-3228X8C_29.jpg photo, you wrote: "The interior of the center column stem (tube)... At the bottom of the tube we can see the 5mm anti twist island..." - I don't know if this guide or "island" is made of plastic or metal but I guess it's only glued there so maybe it would be possible to use a heat gun to remove it.

      As you probably know, imagining a three faced pyramid formed by the three legs, the summit point is the apex. That's the most stable point for the camera and that's why I don't use extended columns for low shutter speeds or long lenses if I want sharp photos.

      About the top plate on the column, you mentioned that it's made of aluminum and wrote: "This design follows a late trend with tripod top plates as it is more convenient to exchange the top plate between long and short center columns. But care should be taken to tighten the plate as far as possible to avoid any mishapps as it easy to loosen it trying to loosen a ball head attached on top of it."

      This is an issue, especially if carrying the tripod in the field with the camera & long lens mounted on it. I don't do this on long hikes but when moving around a subject in search of different point of views.

      Three suggestions:
      1 - One could buy an extra top plate and 3/8" stud for the short column and use Blue Loctite on both columns to fasten them semi-permanently (RED Loctite is permanent!). Can the top plate be mounted to the short column w/o the plastic part?
      2 - One could copy Gitzo's solution which is two setscrews in the top plate: one for the ballhead and one for the column. It would not be expensive to have a machine shop or mechanic to do it for you. Search web for images with "Gitzo GS2320D" or check these images: http://www.adorama.com/catlite.tpl?op=large_image&sku=GZGS2320D.jpg http://ai.amisu.net/phobos/assets_c/2012/01/DSCN1310-thumb-480x360-12007.jpg
      3- If one never swap colums, one can secure the ballhead to the stud of the top plate with Blue Loctite for peace of mind. Heating up the stud from the bottom with a lighter makes it easy to weaken the Blue Loctite for removal.

      Two caveat: since you mentioned the tap ends of the column are made of plastic and the bottom of some ballheads are pretty thin: don't overtighten the setscrews.

      About the hook sticking out and preventing from removing quickly the column maybe you could replace it with a 3/4" D-ring (cheap on Fleabay) or a bushing adapter 3/8" - 1/4" so one could use a smaller eyelet or hook available in any hardware store along with a carabiner to hold the weight/backpack.

      Check the simple Markins Tripod Hub Loop solution http://www.markinsamerica.com/MA5/TL1.php for DIY ideas.

      I'm thinking of adding something similar to the following to add mass, vibration absorption & rigidity to the leg hub (spider) while sacrificing the reverse leg folding feature in favor of better image sharpness: http://www.markinsamerica.com/downloads/TB_install_en_v1.pdf

      I wrote to a big reseller about the max height w/o column extended of the Triopo GT-3228X8C and he replied 1410mm which is 15cm higher than your real 1255mm specifications which is really appreciated!

      Maybe you could add to your "Measured Specification w/o ball head" section the height & weight of the long column as well as the weight of the bag w/ strap. BTW that strap could be used to carry the tripod in the field w/o the bag by just adding two DIY nooses at both ends.

      I agree that this tripod cannot be compared to a Gitzo Series 3 because of the top leg diameter & max height w/o column differences. The model to compare with is the Gitzo Traveler GK2580TQR.

      Maybe you could include de measurements conversion in Imperial for our US friends who did not join the rest of the world to the superior metric system yet. :-)

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    3. Since my previous post had reached the max length limit:

      The non-removable leg rubber ends is a big minus IMO. While they work on hard surface, one can see the legs spreading in wet grass or muddy or sandy ground when applying vertical downward pressure on the leg hub. This adds a lot of flex and that's where spikes are really useful besides offering much better anchoring when shooting outdoor with buffeting wind conditions. Maybe it's possible to remove those rubber ends with a heat gun and add some taps with 3/8" holes.

      A photo of cheap DIY spikes on my stolen Gitzo that I made with bolts from the hardware store after cutting the head off: http://www.nikonians.org/dcfp/user_files/129560.jpg

      Joe

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    4. Specifications for the Gitzo Traveler GK2580TQR + head kit (tripod alone: GT2540T):

      Max. Height: 154 cm/60.6”----------- w/o head: 144 cm/56.6"
      Max. Height w/o column ext.: 129,5 cm/51”----------- w/o head: 119,5 cm/47"
      Min. Height: 32 cm/12.6”----------- w/o head: 22 cm/8.6"
      Folded Length: 43 cm/16.9”
      Max leg diameter: 28mm
      Max Load Capacity: 7 kg/15.4 lbs----------- w/o head: 12 kg/26.4 lbs?
      Tripod + Head Weight: 1,72 kg/3.78 lbs
      Tripod Weight w/o head: 1,29 kg/2.88 lbs
      Tripod Weight w/o Column (with the ground set level feature that permits column removal): 1,16 kg/2.59 lbs

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    5. You are welcome!

      Regarding the anti twist island, if you wish to remove it, it is very easy by simply knocking it off its nest. Actually it is a small part with a trapezoid base inserted into a same shape nest at the bottom of the center column tube. (At first convenience I will upload a photo).

      I do agree with you about the pyramid summit, statics has been a favorite subject among other things, hence the choice of the site background which is not coincidental but a symbol of architecture and statics through the centuries… J
      Your specific comment justifies exactly why tripods with large diameter spiders are more stable than others, as well as why there is small variation to tripod leg angles (meaning the narrower angle at full hate) trying to keep the top plate within the summit of the pyramid. However, here I have to point out that we are speaking about a traveler tripod with specific attributes in mind and we should judge it as such. Unfortunately compactness and easy of transport are prevailing characteristics for a traveler tripod so its center hub / spider has to be small.

      About the top plate, your suggestions and links are very useful and thank you for sharing.
      In regard of suggestion 3. I should point out that there is no problem tightening the head to the top plate but more a problem of tightening the top plate on the center column, since there is no washer or a steel hexagonal nut as usual, the aluminum plate cannot be forced too much and sometimes when you try to unscrew the ball head it comes off altogether with the top plate.

      For someone that has already acquired the tripod, I would also suggest to change the top plate with something more stable and elaborate with an extra steel nut.
      Except for the Gitzo top plate there are also available low priced 45-50mm diameter top plates with similar characteristics, as spare parts, from Benro, Sirui or even Triopo !
      For someone that intends to buy the tripod, don’t go for the lowest price on the net, as you may end up with old stock. Triopo proves that listens and modifies for the better, since there is already an improved version of the Triopo GT-3228X8C out in the market.
      The updated version has an improved top plate, a sturdier center column hook and retractable spikes in the leg rubber feet. Please check this link http://bit.ly/yGCPM0 where you can see some of the changes. (However this seller does not provide a short column and the tripod’s max height is 141cm -Chinese version probably).

      If you are not interested in the reverse folding feature or the monopod function of the GT-3228X8C then maybe new Triopo GX-1328C classic type could better suit your needs.
      Please check this link http://bit.ly/wSdOuH There you can see that GX-1328 shares the same legs with GT-3228 but with a classic spider where you can fit the Markins tripod base better.

      As I have mentioned in my review, most Chinese resellers offer the 1410mm version, which is the maximum height WITH center column extended and Triopo B-2 ball head included !
      You may check this reseller review http://bit.ly/w5kb7r which means that the height with center column retracted and w/o ball head would be only 1060mm !!
      I can only assume that the European Triopo distributors had special versions made since they offer also GT-3230 and GT-3232 up to 1900mm max height, which you cannot find elsewhere.

      In regard of the measurements you requested, I will try to update the review appropriately.

      Although the updated GT-3228X8C has retractable steel spikes, you may find 3/8”-16 thread stainless steel spikes by Benro at very low cost too.

      Regards
      Sotiris

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    6. Thank you Joe, once again for the great contribution of ideas and specs.
      Finally I managed to open your link for the DIY spikes today, very nice job!
      Further, the Specifications for the Gitzo Traveler GK2580TQR are very useful for comparison.

      Sotiris

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  2. Thank you Sotiris for taking the time to post additional info & links about the regular Triopo tripods for me and the warning about the 2 versions of the GT-3228X8C w/ different max height.

    That's nuts, they should differentiate the model's length variation with letter(s) or number to avoid confusion like Gitzo for example who uses model#, model#LS or model#XLS.

    Much appreciated!

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    Replies
    1. You are absolutely right. It may drive you nuts trying to understand the logic behind Triopo model numbering. Comprehending their web site (www.triopo.cn) is even worse, but there you can find a small discrimination between models, hidden behind "Generation 1,2,3" or for example the newer version of 3228X8C with spikes and an improved B-2 ball head, is labeled TRC-3228X8C instead of GT-3228X8C.
      However, I may only assume that the problem arises from resellers, who have to order a big quantity and then try to sell old stock when the model changes.

      Gitzo is a long established market leader, by innovating, following standards, keeping spares for older models, client support etc etc. and that is what we pay for Gitzo products. One may copy a product, but not the mentality.

      My suggestion if you want to buy Triopo, is better to choose a European seller as by law they have to adhere to the specs of the products they sell, give warranty and supply spares. Since you live outside EU, you may ask for a VAT exempt, compensating for the freight cost.

      You are welcome!

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  3. Dear Sotiris,

    Thanks for the review & It indeed is the only serious reviews for this tripod I could find over the internet. I went for this tripod after your reviews & few other discussions in forums. My tripod arrived yesterday. However there seems to be a glitch :( otherwise everything seems to be fine!

    There is significant play in the centre column. I am concerned with this. The video shows you the play/movement I am referring to https://picasaweb.google.com/110706908848376415546/July282012#5770088243384161506


    I ordered through Linkdelight.com & got it delivered to USA. I didnt have any local seller & hence resorted to Chinese seller. So returning it back will cost me!

    I am wondering what the issue could be & do you think there is easier solution which I can apply, than shipping it back!

    Thanks,
    Prashanth

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    Replies
    1. Dear Prashanth,
      Thanks for the kind comments.

      As far as I can judge from the short video you have linked, the problem seems to be with the center column locking ring/nut assembly, which doesn't tighten the center column enough so as to immobilize it.

      My suggestion is that you remove the center column, then unscrew the center column ring/nut completely and check that the plastic inner ring is aligned and sits properly in its groove inside the ring/nut.
      Next, check that you can screw back the center column ring/nut all the way without a center column. Then unscrew enough to insert the center column, re-tighten and see if there is any change for the better.

      As I have stated in the review, some issues exist with Triopo products due to insufficient assembly-line quality control.
      I hope that this solves your problem and enjoy an otherwise stable tripod.
      You are welcome,
      Sotiris

      Delete

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