During this year’s Photography Show myself and the Camera Jabber team were doing a small FaceBook live feature on the Manfrotto stand. Alonside the tripods, backpacks, backdrops and other equipment I spotted what turned out to be the Gitzo microphone boom XL.
At the time I was filming Jeff running through the Xume Filter adapters with the Manfrotto team. I must admit my attention drifted and once Jeff had rounded up the chat I had time to check out the full potential of what the Gitzo microphone boom XL had to offer. First impressions of what is essentially a collapsable pole was impressive, but what had drawn me to it was the potential to mount a GoPro Karma instead of a microphone.
Without too much persuasion the Manfrotto team allowed me to give it a go, and the results were fantastic, I was basically was able to shoot drone style footage indoors without breaking the law.
Okay I did get a few odd looks but the results of that footage were superb, and although I only had a couple of minutes, really just to test it out and see if it worked, the seed were sown for a later review. Obviously the fallout from the Photography Show is always hectic, coupled with a local election, and then a general election for good measure, and times been pretty short, but thankfully the Gitzo microphone boom XL, has now arrived and I’ve just given it a go.
Gitzo microphone boom XL: Features
The Gitzo microphone boom XL is constructed from carbon fibre, and as it’s name suggests it’s designed for microphones not a small camera and stabiliser grip to be mounted instead, but a check through the spec’s says that at the very least it can support the weight and the footage I shot back in March has had me itching to try it out again. So the
Construction is obviously solid with usual twist lock on the leg and this enables you to extend to the full 4.7m height. Fully packed down the even sections measured just 100cm with each section released and held by twist locks. The full weight is an incredibly light 1120g and it can hold a maximum payload of 2KG. The GoPro Hero5 and Karma weigh in at around 620g so well under the maximum weight limit for the pole.
Each section of the pole is held in place by twist locks and these are well renowned for locking good and tight to make sure everything stays locked and in place as you intended. On the head end of the poll is the standard tripod sized 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch thread which is usually use to attach a microphone mount, or in our case the GoPro camera adapter.
On the other end of the Gitzo microphone boom XL is a rubberised end cap and this can be unscrewed to attach counter weights or feed through internal cabels, neither of which I’ll need for this test. This rubberised end actually sits nicely into your waist if you’re trying to support the weight.
Gitzo microphone boom XL: Build quality and handling
Gitzo has a long tradition of premium support products and this really shows in the quality of the finish and parts, for what is essentially an extendable pole. The pole is made from Gitzo’s CarbonExact material which has a tight weave, the leg locks are finished with metal and hardwearing rubber.
Each of these locks the section firmly into place and a simple quarter turn releases easily enough. These locks are smooth and easy to use and even with the additional weight of the GoPro Karma mounted there’s no chance of these twist locks releasing.
As with all Gitzo products this pole is rather expensive at a whopping £499.99, so if you’re going to make that kind of investment you want to know that it is going to last a lifetime. With all tripods it’s usually these locks that will let you down. Here it’s good to see that each section can be fully dismantled and cleaned and as it’s Gitzo spare shims and alike are always available.
To clean and maintain the pole is straight forward; fully unscrew the twist lock and the sections can be removed making sure that you keep tabs on the plastic shims as the sections are separated. Reassembly is a little tricky as each section has to fit back in the right way, but once you get the technique it’s easy enough.
Attaching the GoPro to the top of the pole is a simple case of attaching the GoPro to a tripod mount adapter an then screwing into place. Once done the Karma Grip can then be attached.
With the GoPro mounted the pole can be extended section-by-section. The pole has obviously been designed for use with a microphone rather than camera, but with a 2kg max payload the gimbal is well within the limits.
As you expect for pole of this length there is some wobble, so when initially using the pole it does take a bit of a practice d to get used to how best to control movement and minimise the wobble created by the length. After a while you quickly figure out how quickly you can move the pole around, and what the limitations are when the pole is used especially when walking.
Strength wise during use I had full confidence over the construction, there are no creeks, no sign of weakness and with the rubber bung sat on my waist moving the poll left and right or walking was exceptionally easy.
The main aim of this test was to see if I could use a pole to capture footage that has the look and feel of that captured by a drone, albeit at a lower altitude. Okay you can only go up to 4.7m, but that’s a reasonable height especially in a built up or event location where you definitely wouldn’t usually be able to use a drone without breaking the law.
In use the footage capture does indeed reflect that captured by a drone at low altitude. No surprise really seeing as how the Karma Grips stabilizer is the same as that used in the Karma Drone. What it does do is to hugely extend the style and type of shoot that you’re able to capture, and this also has the advantage that you can use it wherever you like without restriction.
Obviously you can’t get the height but then when you using a GoPro Hero5 with such a wide angle of view that 4.7m looks far higher than it is and enables you to get a better perspective on the world. This is all a good thing!
Think about it, shooting at events is an ideal scenario for using the pole and GoPro combo. It does take a while to figure out what type of shorts you can capture and how to angle the camera to best maximise the performance of this set up, but once you’ve done one or two test I’m sure it’ll all come as second nature.
Now it is important to remember that the poll really is designed just hold the microphone and not to hold a GoPro and Karma Grip, so the issues aren’t really issues as I’m using the product out of context.
First and foremost is a way to hold your mobile device, a clamp or something similar to connect a phone for easy control and monitoring of the camera. There’s also the issue that the added weight and length does mean that there is some flex in the pole and this can quickly result in bounce if you’re not careful. Walking is a great way to set it off, however practice as ever is the best way to control it.
Gitzo microphone boom XL: Verdict
Quite often you’ll find a product that has been designed for one use but can actually be used for several others. This microphone boom is a perfect example, ignore the primary design as a microphone boom and instead use it to capture low level drone like footage with a GoPro, and there’s no doubt that it works fantastically well for this purpose.
Being Gitzo however means that it’s expensive at £499.99, and so you’re laying out a large wedge of cash for a product that will never be used for it’s intended use. But that price does provide you withthe professional capacity to capture shots that would otherwise be impossible and that means that you can charge a premium for it.
Capture drone like shots in a church of the wedding without the noise… or breaking the law. Capture overhead crowd scenes again without the noise or inevitable law breaking and the list goes on.
At nearly £500 for what is essentially a pole is a heck of a lot of money, but then again a drone is going to set you back a good thousand to £2000. If you compare the commercial use you as a photographer will get out the two items, drone or pole, then I’m pretty confident that you will get better use out of the pole that you would from the drone.
There are no limitations of battery life, no worries about safety, and most importantly no worries about breaking the law by flying close to people or buildings. Yes £500 for a pole might seem a lot of money but then it’s going to enable you to get shots from angles that you would never normally be able to shoot, so I say if you are working professionally the the Gitzo microphone boom XL is well worth the investment.