Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Disappointed With Gitzo Customer Service

Broken Gitzo GT2531 tripod.
You may recall I experienced a failure of my Gitzo GT2531 tripod a couple of months ago.  I spent a cold New Year's Day photographing at Mount Rainier National Park and unexpectedly had. not one, but two leg hinges break.  You can read more about the experience here (or scroll down a couple of posts).

I was pretty frustrated to say the least.  This is not how I would expect a tripod to fail, especially a name like Gitzo.

My first guess was fatigue cracks had developed in the hinges, and cold temperatures accelerated the failure.

I tried to contact Gitzo, sending them several e-mails asking if this was a known problem, or one they had seen before, or entirely new.  I offered to send the tripod to them for evaluation if they wished.  I never received a response from them.

An independent analysis of the failed part detected signs of small stress cracks.  This didn't surprise me as I wondered if I was stressing the hinges when securing the tripod to my pack - possibly cinching it down too tightly and overcompressing the legs inward.  Having removed my center column long ago, this would allow even further inward movement.

Lightweight Gitzo center piece.  Yes, that is 3.5 oz!
It was also pointed out to me that we photographers pay the price for going light.  The Gitzo Mountainer GT2531 tripod uses carbon fiber legs and a magnesium center piece.  While the carbon fiber isn't greatly influenced by colder temperatures, magnesium alloy is.

The yield strength, tensile strength and hardness of magnesium alloy increases as temperature decreases, while its impact resistance decreases.  Basically, this means in cold temperatures magnesium alloy becomes more brittle.  A great source of information on this can be found here.

I originally considered replacing my tripod, but was not excited about rewarding Gitzo with my business now.  I stongly considered switching to another brand, in fact.

Then I realized a repair of my existing tripod would be a less expensive alternative.  This made more sense to me.

Gitzo now partners with a company called CRIS in Chandler, AZ for all service repairs.  On their web site, CRIS encourages you to call first to make arrangements for repairs.  I found them very difficult to get hold off, always going to voice mail and calls never being returned.  It does appear they are going through a transition period, moving stock and operations from Manfrotto in New Jersey.  Maybe things will get better with time.

New Gitzo GT2531 center piece.
It was while I was attempting to contact CRIS that I began questioning paying for somebody else to service my tripod if I could repair it myself (it was becoming clear there would be no gratuities offered). is located in the UK and is an excellent source for parts.  They have a very large inventory, and offer free shipping - yes, even to the U.S.  In just a few days, I had the part I needed at my doorstep, and at a fraction of the price I would have paid for repairs.  I highly recommend them.

I am back up and running now and ready for my next adventure, with no help from Gitzo.