The Gitzo Légende tripod and backpack offer quality well above their current price point
The Légende is the newest travel tripod and bag combo from Gitzo, with both products sharing the same name. It’s currently running as an Indiegogo campaign and will go on general sale once it’s over, with the ability to buy either item individually or both as a kit.
I’ve been trying out both the tripod and backpack for a couple of weeks now and putting them through the limited paces I can while we’re still on lockdown here in Scotland, but here are some of my thoughts on Gitzo’s new Légende tripod & backpack combo.
When the package arrived, it was the tripod that I wanted to see first and I breathed a sigh of relief as soon as I flipped open the top of the box to see that Arca Swiss compatible ball head staring back at me and not some proprietary plate system. As I took it out of the box, it felt good and solid but pretty lightweight, with legs and a centre column made of carbon fibre.
The one thing I wasn’t so keen on – because I’ve never been all that keen on them – is the twist locks for the legs. With other twist-lock tripods I’ve owned, they typically tend to bind up a little within a few uses, requiring dismantling and cleaning far more regularly than I’d like. But they looked rather nicely designed, and this is Gitzo, so I figured maybe they’ll be ok.
But the legs unfolded nice and smoothly but firmly. They weren’t slack and loose, but they also weren’t super tight and stiff. They just felt firm, holding in whatever position I set them to without any kind of flopping.
The ball head on top, as mentioned, is Arca Swiss compatible. It has two knobs on the side, one is for pan and the other is a 2-part knob for adjusting the position of the head, and an inner dial for adjusting the friction (which is far more useful than I ever expected it to be).
On pulling the backpack out of the box, I was immediately struck by how well made it felt. I have a number of bags from Manfrotto and Lowepro (both owned by Vitec, the same company that owns Gitzo) and they’re also very well made, so it shouldn’t haven’t come as much of a surprise. But my Manfrotto and Lowepro bags are of the typical rugged photographer style, whereas this one is a lot more casual in its aesthetic.
Casual looking bags, in my experience, tend not to feel quite as solid and rugged as the usual black affair photographers usually carry around. But this just felt fantastic to hold, with perfect stitching (for real, couldn’t see a single loose thread anywhere) with a bunch of useful and versatile pockets and slots for various things.
I’m not entirely sure the aesthetic is entirely… “me”, but it’s definitely very well made and felt quite comfortable on my back during a quick test-wear to adjust the length of the straps.
But let’s get into both in a bit more detail. Starting with…
The Légende Tripod
As I mentioned, we’re still on lockdown here in Scotland. And sure, it’s a travel tripod, but “travel” is basically limited to walking distance (ie, we’re allowed out to exercise each day). So the only chance I’ve really had to be able to use it at all is in the woods behind the house. That’s not a terrible place to walk, though, as we’re often visited by the occasional fox, deer or badger.
The Gitzo Légende a lightweight tripod, coming in at 1.45kg and a load capacity of 8kg. It has two leg angles, which both hold very firmly with a simple rotating lever, of 25° and 70°. Each carbon fibre leg has four sections held together by twist locks. At its tallest, the Légende sits at 165cm, which isn’t super tall, but for a travel tripod, it’s pretty standard. At its shortest, it’s 43cm, however, it has a trick up its sleeve that we’ll get back to later.
One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is that the tripod comes with its own carry strap that matches the look of the backpack, although it’s generally for use when you’re not taking the backpack out with you. It straps to the two ends of the tripod and lets you throw it over your shoulder instead of having to tie up one of your hands to carry it around. It’s definitely very handy, and quite comfortable, although I didn’t use it that much. I did take it with me on one walk because I wanted to see if it interferes at all with the operation of the tripod and the ability to extend the legs in practical use; which it doesn’t. The legs can still easily move and the twist locks are all still easy to access to adjust the height.
Let’s talk about that height, because other than the build quality, I think this is probably the standout feature for me over just about every other travel tripod I’ve used before. As mentioned, the minimum height is 43cm and the maximum height is 165cm.
I was pleasantly surprised by the twist locks on this tripod. It only takes maybe a half a turn to get them loose enough to extend or shorten the legs, and then a half a turn the other way to tighten them back up again. Despite being metal, they are knurled and they also have a rubber ring in the middle to help you get a good solid grip on them whether you’re bare-handed in warm weather or gloved up in the cold. And despite several trips out into the woods, where there’s all kinds of dust and crap in the atmosphere to gunk up twist lock legs (one of the reasons I typically don’t like them), they still remain just as smooth as the day I pulled the tripod out of the box.
As I also mentioned, it has a trick up its sleeve (this is what makes it a standout feature). None of the other travel tripods I’ve used has a fully removable centre column. Sure, there are a few other travel tripods out there that do, but not ones I’ve used. The Légende does, though. This means that you can take it out completely and re-insert it upside down to get really low down to the ground shots – very handy for macro and close up work on ground subjects or to get a very low angle of view on your scene. The centre column also uses the same locking system as the legs to hold it in position.
The centre column is very stiff and stable, too. Normally I wouldn’t shoot with the centre column extended due to the wobbles that extending the centre column often introduces. Here, though, I experienced so little wobble that for all intents and purposes there’s none in practical use, except maybe in the strongest of winds.
The ball head on top is very nice, offering a much finer thread increment than most of my other tripod ball heads. This means that it takes a few more turns to fully loosen and fully tighten it, but it also means that you don’t need to give it a death grip to undo it once it’s tightened down. Once it is screwed down, though, that head with your camera on it isn’t moving at all, it’s locked absolutely rock solid.
Like the twist-lock legs, though, it actually takes very little turning to loosen it depending on the setting of the friction dial. And that friction dial is a very handy feature. You can either have it completely loose for quick and easy adjustment between tightening, or you can have just enough friction that a well-balanced camera holds its position without having to fully tighten it down if you need to adjust often. The pan knob, too, loosens and tightens very easily and panning offers a very smooth motion.
At the very top of it is an Arca Swiss compatible plate, and unlike some tripods, who intentionally adjust that compatibility just enough to force you to buy their Arca Swiss plates, this one actually does fit other brand Arca Swiss compatible plates (even the cheap generic ones). It also features a bubble level and a super smoothly turning dial to lock it in.
Overall, it’s a very well built and versatile tripod. As far as travel tripods go, it definitely ticks all of my boxes – which is something I never thought I’d say about a tripod with twist-lock legs.
The Légende Backpack
The bag, as I mentioned, is extremely well constructed. Perhaps better than it should be for what it costs. Even after the Indiegogo campaign is over, it will retail for $229, which for a bag of this quality seems like something of a bargain. I’ve seen bags of similar quality and aesthetic style sell for more than double that before now.
But, let’s take a tour of its pockets. Unlike most backpacks designed for photographers, this one doesn’t have one big panel on the front or back that opens up to reveal its guts. It essentially has two main compartments. One for your camera gear and one for whatever else you want to carry around with you. It’s definitely a bag designed for travel.
The top compartment takes up about half the bag and features a drawstring to seal it up with the top cover of the bag going over it and fastening shut with Fidlock style fasteners (which is very nice, I’m a big fan of Fidlock fasteners on bags). The other compartment at the bottom is for your camera gear, and access to this section is through a zipped door on the side of the bag.
It’s an interesting arrangement because on that zipped door is a separate pocket – which opens up plenty big enough to carry a drinks bottle, for example. But you can see here that the zipper for the side access has a locking mechanism on it. A little twisty thing that sticks through a hole in the zip and then twists to hold it in place. Many of the zips on the Légende backpack are like this, providing some added security for the wearer.
when we open it and look inside, though, we can see that there’s plenty of room for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a lens attached and more dividers and pockets for other gear. It can be a little fiddly to get to lower parts of it, though, and you’ll want to be careful of the order in which you insert things, as this side pocket is the only access. The only way to get access to things on the other side of the bag is to remove things in the way and flip the dividers around.
Above this access door and pocket is a slim document pocket that’s just big enough to comfortably hold your passport and other travel documents (if they’re folded up to passport size) or perhaps your credit/debit cards and some spare currency. For larger documents, there’s also a large zipped pocket on the front.
On the other side of the bag, we have another rolled up pop button pocket attached to a larger pocket to house the legs of the Légende tripod. After all, what good is a tripod and backpack set if the backpack can’t hold the tripod? A adjustable strap fitted to the bag (so it can’t fall out and get lost) attaches the tripod firmly at the top.
On the rear of the backpack, we have two straps, naturally, one for each shoulder. There’s also padding up the left and right side to help provide more comfort while wearing it. And it is very comfortable, even when loaded with both a laptop (the 15.6″ ASUS VivoBook Pro – which is a touch larger than most 15.6″ laptops, thanks to its numeric keypad) and an iPad. Yes, that’s right, it has slots for both in there.
If I had one complaint so far – and this would probably be my only complaint about the bag, really – it would be that the iPad pocket just isn’t quite large enough. It managed to hold the iPad Air 4th generation for me just fine, almost as if Gitzo had this very tablet in mind when they designed this, but only if I took it out of its Smart Folio cover. with the Smart Folio cover attached, it was just a little too snug for me to want to try to force it in the pocket.
A note on security…
The Légende backpack is an extremely well made and rather well thought out bag for travel photographers and it’s has some security features that make it at least difficult for opportunistic thieves to enter the bag while you’re wearing it (far more common than you’d think!) even if it can’t stop determined ones entirely.
Most of the zips have twist “locks” which makes unzipping things a little more difficult for would-be-thieves who weren’t expecting them. It’s not going to stop thieves entirely, but it will help to slow them down and make their lives more difficult. Although, they can potentially slow you down as a genuine user, too.
The combined drawstring and Fidlocks on the top lid will also help to prevent opportunistic thieves from opening it up and grabbing the contents on top as they might with a typical zip-top backpack. The strap that holds the tripod also hooks in, rather than being a quick release, making it difficult to steal your tripod. But, again, it can slow the user down a little when taking it out and putting it back in as it’s not the typical quick release.
Even the lower half where your camera gear is stored makes it difficult for thieves to gain access to all of your gear. Aside from the lock on the flap, there are dividers in there, with gear hidden behind them. As mentioned up above in the bag tour, this arrangement of camera gear can slow you down a bit when out and about, but this isn’t really a bag designed for fast-paced shooting needs with instant access to everything. It’s designed for taking it easy, slowing down, and enjoying the environment in which you find yourself with your camera.
The Légende tripod and bag both feel like the top quality products we’ve come to expect from a company like Gitzo. And while there’s no single amazing feature that puts either of them head and shoulders above countless other products on the market, the build quality combined with lots of little details just adds up to a pair of products that exude quality in every fibre – whether it’s the carbon fibres of the legs or the recycled fibres of the backpack.
The tripod is very impressive, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Even the twist locks have won me over. I still dislike them in general and they’ll continue to annoy me on my other tripods, but on the Légende, they really feel well-engineered and show no signs of seizing up yet. But we’ll see how they are in a few months.
The fact that 70% of the parts of this tripod are user-replaceable, though, means that if any issues do pop up, the unlimited warranty should make any issues that might pop up a doddle to fix.
The bag is equally as impressive… I’m still not sure the aesthetic is very me. It doesn’t suit my overall style (not that I really have any style – although perhaps that’s the problem). But that’s a personal thing, and not really a mark against the bag. What is very cool about the backpack, though, is the fact that 100% of its exterior is made from recycled polyester, and 65% of the whole backpack, by weight, is made from recycled materials. The leather also isn’t even real leather. It’s synthetic “Eco Leather” (as is the carry strap for the tripod).
Like the tripod, the backpack is well made and also very well thought out. It’s extremely comfortable to wear and has plenty of pockets and compartments for the many travel adventures you might like to pursue once the world opens back up. As I said earlier, I wish the iPad pocket took the Smart Folio case into account, but other than that, I can’t really fault it.
As a combo, the Gitzo Légende tripod and backpack are fantastic. With the current Indiegogo pricing, it’s an absolute steal at $679 for the pair. If you’ve been thinking about picking it up yourself, I’d go for it sooner rather than later. Once the campaign’s over and it hits retail, you’ll be looking at $799 for the tripod alone and $229 for the backpack.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.