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Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 Review

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 Review - The Giottos Vitruvian VGR range offers a tripod and monopod in one. Two models are available and Matt Grayson tries out the carbon-fibre version.

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Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 in Tripods, Monopods and Other Supports


Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 folded up
The Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 tripod kit comes with the MH5310-630 ball head. It folds down to 40cm so it is an excellent travel tripod.

The only good tripod is the one you have with you. Some tripods are brilliantly stable but so heavy that you are inclined to leave it in the car boot. A lightweight unit is a great option for your landscape and travel work and portability is one of the headline attractions of the Giotto VGR8255 that is being marketed with the MH5310-630 ball head. The outfit's guide price is £329 but the street price is down to £270. This sounds pricey but it compares really favourably with the Gitzo GT1541T Series 1 Traveller that sells for £370 (without a head) and has similar features. However, where the Giottos Vitruvian series is very different from the Gitzo Traveller is that you can remove one of its legs and combine it with the centre column to become a very usable monopod.

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Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 main image Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 ball head
A ball head is included in the kit and is okay for DSLRs and a standard lens but it didn't suit use with a large telephoto.

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630: Features
Named after the Vitruvian Man, the famous sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Giottos has legs that swing 180° so when they're in various positions, they resemble the study of human proportions. The advantage that this has is the tripod can be condensed down to a smaller size of just 40cm.

The legs splay out in two steps and at first it looks like the centre-column may be an issue with this but the bottom of the column can be unscrewed allowing the column to be removed and reversed. Each leg has five sections to compact the size even more.
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Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 quick release step 1
The quick release has a double lever system to stop accidental release.
Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 quick release step 2
The main lever won't move until the smaller one is pushed in.
Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 quick release step 3
It prevents undoing the plate by accidentally knocking it.
Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 quick release step 4
The camera can then be taken off for hand-held work.
Despite its small size and tiny quick release plate, the supplied ball head MH630 has a load capacity of 4kg which will hold most DSLRs and a standard lens. The supplied head is ideal for this pod as the legs can be neatly folded back, but it can be replaced if you prefer something more substantial. An Allen key (actually, three are supplied with the pod) to undo the head to reveal the standard 3/8in screw thread.

The carbon fibre legs also helps keep the weight down - six layer carbon-fibre is used. The ball head has three spirit levels, and the quick release lever has a double catch that won't release the plate if you accidentally catch it.

Arguably the best feature of the Vitruvian is the fact that one of the legs has a screw release at the top which can take the leg off the body. Removing the centre-column and unscrewing the ballast hook from the bottom allows the leg to be attached and a nifty monopod is made. A carbon fibre monopod at that.
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Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 monopod conversion step 1 Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 monopod conversion step 2
Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 monopod conversion step 3
Step One: Remove the ballast hook.

Step Two: Take out the centre-column.

Step Three: Remove the leg and screw it into the threaded area where the ballast hook was.

Step Four: Enjoy a carbon-fibre monopod which offers basic support in an incredibly lightweight package.
Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630 monopod conversion step 4

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630: Handling
From transport set up with the legs folded the opposite way to getting the tripod stood up only takes 10sec. Straight out of the box, the legs are quite stiff and take some moving. However, an Allen key is supplied that lets you adjust the tension to suit your needs and strength.

Personally, I'm not a lover of the twist lock legs; I prefer levers. It is a subjective point and pros and cons for each type. Twist grips can be slower to use and it took me a little under 20sec to completely unscrew the 12 twist locks to get the tripod at full height with the centre-column lowered. The legs are firmly held in position without needing to be really firm with the twist grips - it is similar to Gitzo's system. The legs do not rotate either - which used to be problem with twist grip legs.

From there, it takes another 30sec to get the tripod converted to a monopod. Beware when doing this that the ballast hook is left loose so keep a hold of it or put it back in the supplied carrying case. In short, from the folded down position, it takes me just over a minute to get the tripod to an extended ready to use monopod. Of course, time is not normally an issue because you are not normally switching from monopod back to tripod between shots - you will be using it as one thing or the other.

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630: Performance

I tried this pod with several camera/lens combinations: a Olympus E3 complete with battery grip and 50-200mm zoom, a Panasonic Lumix G10 and a Nikon D700 with 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lenses.

At full height with the centre column up, stability is as good as you would expect with a pod of this heft. Of course it has limitations. In a strong wind, it would struggle as would any tripod of this weight and adding some ballast (the camera bag) would definitely help. At full extension, the E-3 and long telephoto was supported reasonably effectively and with sound technique (less use of centre column, self-timer, mirror up etc) the Vitruvian does as well as you would expect of it. Performance was fine with the other two cameras and there was no evidence in your test shots when sound tripod technique was practiced.

I rarely shoot with any tripod at full extension anyway and certainly not with the centre column fully extended, so any wobble is not a real concern, and you have to remember that this is a travel pod. I seen worse wobble on heavier tripods.

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Giottos VGR8255 & MH5310-630 low-angle
The centre-column is reversible so low angle shots like this one are possible using the Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 and MH5310-630 ball head.
The only major problem is with the ball head and its quick release plate. I could not tighten it enough to stop the lens dropping when shooting in upright format with the shutter release at the top of the camera. The problem was with the plate rather than the head, which locks firmly into position. Switching camera position so that the shutter release was at the bottom sorted this.

In the test, I found that as long as I was aware of the tripod's limitations, ie it is a travel tripod, I had no trouble with it. It's light enough to sling on my back as I go out walking around and I got some nice low level shots usingthe reversible centre-column. I love the fact that there is the tripod/monopod option too.

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630: Verdict
The idea behind the Vitruvian is excellent and I love the fact that it can be a tripod or a monopod. There is the risk of unsteadiness at maximum height with full centre column extension, but sound, commonsense technique on a calm day should avoid any problems. If it is breezy, though, not using any centre column extension is advised.

If you do a wide variety of photography and could use the convenience of a tripod with a built in monopod, then this is an ideal option. The £329 guide price is high, but great value compared with the rival Gitzo, and it is already down to £270 in some dealers and an aluminium, slightly heavier option is available at an easier to swallow £199.

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630: Pros
Carbon-fibre construction
Tripod and monopod in one
Double catch on quick release head
Small and light for easier transport

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630: Cons
Quick release plate - camera slowly droops when shooting vertical format images
Twist grip legs will not suit everyone

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 and MH5310-630: Specification
Price £329 - but shop around
Contact www.giottos-tripods.co.uk
Quick release Yes, double catch & lever type
Minimum height 39cm
Maximum height 157cm (inc. centre-column), 136cm (excl. centre-column)
Load capacity 4Kg
Leg sections 5
Leg locks Twist
Head fitting 3/8in
Weight 1.28Kg

The Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 and MH5310-630 costs £329 from Warehouse Express here:

Giottos Vitruvian VGR8255 & MH5310-630
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