A tale of a lost centre column

Unfortunately, I lost the centre column of my new Gitzo GT1542T Traveler Series 1 tripod in the field during my Ethiopia trip. Since it is a product of the “legendary” Gitzo, and even more than that — it is a current model of a popular series, I was expecting that obtaining a spare part in Germany wouldn’t be a problem. After my return home, I searched the Internet for the part that I needed. To my surprise, only a so-called “short” column variant was offered by Gitzo dealers in their online shops. Also at Gitzo website no standard, i.e. long, column could be ordered. At Gitzo’s site I found the address of their service partner — the only one in Germany, by the way. I sent an e-mail to that company asking for help with restoring the centre column. They responded very quickly, sending me a page from spare parts catalogue and asking to choose the part I needed and to send them its number. The centre column that I was looking for had the code D09516.24.

I mailed this code to the service. They wrote back that it would cost me €114 and that they have to order at Gitzo in Italy. Though 114 euros for 30 cm of carbon pipe was quite a lot, I agreed. They informed me that the shipment would take up to a month. (Note: The spare part had to be shipped from Italy — a neighbour of Germany whose border is only about 500 km away from my home.)

Exactly 30 days after that I received the package per post in my office. It contained a column but I recognized at once that it was too short. At home, after I assembled the tripod, it was looking as shown below. Compare this picture with the second picture in my review of Gitzo GT1542T Taveler Series 1, and you’ll see the difference.

This image shows the GT1542T with the same Manfrotto 486 ball head as above, but the centre column is shorter. I got it as replacement for the lost original from Gitzo service.
This image shows the GT1542T with the same Manfrotto 486 ball head as above, but the centre column is shorter. I got it as replacement for the lost original from Gitzo service. 

The disadvantages of this column were obvious: First, the tripod was about 10 cm lower than originally; second, the head was too far between the legs when the tripod was folded for carrying, therefore it was not so compact. Strangely, the packaging of this spare part was labeled correctly, i.e. as containing a D09516.24 item. Nevertheless it was obviously a wrong part. I returned it to service company with my complains, explanations and even photos of the tripod before and after the column replacement. The service replied that they would send the item back to Italy.

Two weeks later I received another e-mail from them where they were informing me that their Italian colleagues are going to send the same wrong centre column again meaning that it was correct. I replied that I wouldn’t accept it: It was clearly a much shorter column; everybody was seeing this — no matter what was written on the package. The service wrote back that they would ask Gitzo to investigate this case for possible error.

Another month was over. I sent an e-mail again to that person in the service company that I had been communicating with before asking him for an update. I got no reply. Then I sent a request to Gitzo directly via their homepage. The Manfrotto (In case you still don’t know: Gitzo is actually a branch of Manfrotto.) office in Germany replied the next day. They offered me two alternatives — either to order a spare part from Gitzo in Italy and hope that it will be that time a right one, or they will send me a longer column from a Gitzo GT1830 Mountaineer model (part number D09906.24), however, made not of carbon but of basalt. Certainly I preferred the first option, i.e. to wait again till a replacement part arrives.

A Gitzo GT1542T centre column compared to one from Gitzo GT1830 which is compatible but much longer and made of basalt. I was afraid that using such a long basalt column may reduce the vibration damping ability of the tripod.
A Gitzo GT1542T centre column compared to one from Gitzo GT1830 which is compatible but much longer and made of basalt. I was afraid that using such a long basalt column may reduce the vibration damping ability of the tripod.

Three weeks later I received a mail from Manfrotto Germany telling that the centre column arrived, and that it was indeed longer. The next day it arrived per post, and recognized at once that this time the centre column was identical to the original. To my pleasant surprise, there was no invoice in the package but only a delivery note: The item was free of charge — as “fair dealing”. Although three months were necessary till the function of my tripod was restored, I was finally satisfied with Gitzo’s service. Of course, it was a bit awkward for people at the headquarters that they weren’t recognizing at first what was wrong with the item that they had initially shipped. However, they took my complaints seriously and finally satisfied my requests.

I also have learned from this story two things — that even small parts of an expensive gear are expensive and, even if they weren’t, that it is better not to loose them because their replacement may take very long.

About Arthur Tiutenko
Nature Photographer and Illustrator

4 Responses to A tale of a lost centre column

  1. Andrei Migia says:

    Very interesting that it’s so time-consuming to get spares. I was actually looking for that slightly shorter center column, I believe it’s the one for the GT1541T. Maybe you knew, it’s designed so that the ballhead does not extend past the legs when you fold the legs in the tripod’s most compact position (center column all the way up, and legs folded upwards – not down). This only really works well with compact ballheads, otherwise the legs don’t close properly.

    BTW, very impressive photos! And I don’t mean the center column ones, but I did enjoy your review of the tripod. Let me know if you’re not using the short column and want to get rid of it, I may buy it from you. I’m EU-based as well.

    • Hi Andrei,
      the current type of centre column, i.e. in GT1542T is also shorter than the legs, so that the head is between the ends of legs. That was the one that I had lost. The one they had sent me first was even shorter, i.e. of GT1541T, but too short for the heads I use with this tripod. I sent it back in exchange for the longer one.

  2. Andrei says:

    I believe whether it stays between the legs depends if you fold the legs down as you have it pictured or up and over towards the center column. You can see what I meant in B&H’s 2nd (folded traditionally, down) and 3rd photos (upwards, more compact) http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/759477-REG/Gitzo_GT1542T_Series_1_Traveler_6x.html

    Thanks for the reply. I’ll get in touch with a dealer to order that shorter column.

    • Yes. I fold it in a compact way – i.e. in reverse direction (3rd photo on B&H) – if the currently mounted ballhead allows it. This isn’t possible with a shorter column – as shown in one of my pictures – because the head is too far between the legs. All my current ballheads are too thick for it. Therefore I need a normal sized column, i.e. the original one of GT1542T. With it the head is placed between the thinner ends of the legs as shown on a picture of my Acratech GP-s review: https://tiutenko.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/acratech-gp-s-ballhead

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