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Written by Nic Rossmüller - Tuesday 7th August 2007
Introduction
Some time ago, LetsGoDigital was invited to visit the factories of Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger in Italy. Four days in sunny Italy to get a better idea of how the high quality products of Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger are made. The factories are in Feltre, right in the heart of a beautiful mountain site. Arriving at the factories, right away I had the feeling that everybody that works there does this with a lot of joy and dedication. The atmosphere is relaxed and work circumstances are good. The difference starts with the producing method for carbon; where other factories use the so called roller method, at Manfrotto and Gitzo they have a method where the slips are braided diagonally, horizontally and vertically. For this reason alone the toughness increases many times. If looking at the products, at Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger you will find anything a photographer might need to place or secure his camera, flashes, studio equipment etc. With the following Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger Factory Tour report, you will get a look behind the scenes.
Photographer Harry de Zitter
Harry de Zitter Gitzo makes me love photography
Manfrotto factory - Italy
Manfrotto factory
At the end of the sixties, Lino Manfrotto, a photographer working for a few magazines in Bassano del Grappa, believed that the tripods for cameras and studio equipment were too heavy and inconvenient at that time. For that reason he started with the development of a few of his own products. At first he made these products for himself and colleague photographers. In 1972, Lino Manfrotto met the technician Gilbert Battocchio.
Manfrotto storage hall
Manfrotto tripods
Battocchio's technical insight and Manfrotto's photographic knowledge appeared to be the ideal combination. In 1974, the first tripod was launched; an innovative and light weight product, completely different than other products. Within a few years, Manfrotto grew to be a world leader in the region of tripods and lighting products. The products are being copied a lot, but I don't think that the competition can achieve this kind of high quality standard.
The factories are divided in different parts; one of the largest parts is Manfrotto. The tripods are custom made, so the raw materials can be purchased conform to the demand. In the first factory that I visited, were all the raw tubes for the production of tripods. After that, I continued to the next factory hall where all tubes were cut to measure, flared and cleaned.
Cleaning machine Tube production Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod
Until shortly, this cleaning process was done by hand. After many years of development, finally now there is also a machine that cleans the tubes, but there are still people busy polishing them by hand. After finishing all the facets of producing the tubes to the right size, the fabrication of the tripods truly begins. Carefully and with a lot of dedication to the product, all parts are being put together. This dedication and quality production has, among other things, lead to the fact that the Manfrotto 190XPROB has won a TIPA Award.
Gitzo factory tour - Italy
Gitzo was founded in 1917 in France. Other than Manfrotto, Gitzo did not get founded by a photographer, but the engineer Arsene Gitzhoven. In the early years, Gitzo produced cameras, wire-releases and camera shutters for the photographic industry. In 1942 the factory was immobilized temporarily due to World War II; it was re-opened in 1944. Tripods were added to the assortment in the 50's. In 1960, Arsene Gitzhoven retired and the company was handed over to his daughter Yvonne Plieger and her husband. They developed a wide assortment of tripods and tripod heads, which were distributed to more than 54 countries. In 1992, Gitzo joined the Vitec Group, to which Manfrotto has joined as well. The Vitec Group is a company that supports professional photographers, film professionals and broadcasters.
Gitzo monopods
A good tripod makes half the photo; Gitzo offers a wide choice of monopods.
Gitzo production process Gitzo monopods Gitzo tripod storage
At first sight, Gitzo's production process appears to be exactly like Manfrotto's; nothing is further from the truth. Gitzo's tripods are produced with even more care than the Manfrotto tripods. After seeing Manfrotto's process, you're going to wonder if this is even possible, but you will see the difference immediately when opening a Manfrotto tripod or a Gitzo; Gitzo's tripod is even beautiful on the inside. If you walk into the Gitzo factory after producing the components in the right size, you will see all kinds of people with gloves on putting parts together. Because of the high quality and the time it takes to produce one single tripod, only a few hundred Gitzo tripods are being produced. Although at Manfrotto you will find everything for the amateur, semi pro and the pro, the Gitzo tripods are aimed more at the last two markets; the semi and the pro.
Gitzo Research & Development Testing tripods Electronic microscopes
In the Research & Development centre of Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger, all kinds of new products are developed and tested. The tripods are developed with the most modern equipment. At the R&D centre, they have the possibility to test the design for any weak spots, on forehand, by means of a computer system. Here, among other subjects, the tripods are tested for the degeneration after a certain amount of opening or closing, how many months a tripod can be exposed to salt water and how far the tubes can bend. Also a tripod that has become defective while using it will be examined in the R&D centre for eventual material flaws. Because of this, it can be determined very well, if the tripod has become defective because of wrong use or because of a material defect. For this, they use the most modern equipment and the highest resolution electronic microscopes.
Kata camera bags National Geographic
Kata camera bags National Geographic
Kata's bags inconspicuously link to the products of Gitzo, Manfrotto and Avenger. Kata's bags are thought through and robust. Their special design makes sure that the camera is protected as good as possible and that all impacts a camera might get inside a bag is absorbed by a material, which has been applied in a special pattern, surrounding the bags. The bags have not been designed around the camera, but around the user, because of which they are the ideal travel mates. Kata bags are produced in Israel. Kata's founders started producing bags and corresponding products when they were in the army themselves and came across problems with the inconvenient equipment. Kata produces products for consumers as well since 1992, and with huge success. National Geographic is one of the companies Manfrotto and Kata produce for. Their products are produced especially to support National Geographic's good causes. National Geographic products made by Kata and Manfrotto, among others, are non-profit. This means that the costs for production and development are paid for, and all that is left over goes to the good causes. I had access to a few of these products. Those who like to support good causes, and want superior, thought through and beautiful products should definitely go for the National Geographic products. Among other things, you will find beautiful bags and fine, superior tripods.
Travelling through Venice, Italy
The visit was not only all about and around the factories of Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger. Nature's beauty and the culture were also very much worth it. On Sunday afternoon we traveled to Vicenza, where we visited the Theatro Olympico; an amazing old theatre with a 3-dimensional décor set-up, which represents the old city of Pompeii. In the evening, we went to Marostica for a while, where there is a huge chess board on the market square. The next day, we visited the factories, and to close it all off: dinner in the castle of Marostica, which is built on top of a mountain. A huge climb by bus before we arrived there, but the view was definitely worth it.
Venice, Italy
Nardini Grappa Factory Venice Tour Conclusion
Nardini Grappa Factory Venice Tour
The afternoon we visited the world famous Nardini Grappa factory with afterwards a Grappa tasting with very nice tasting samples. The very unique building at the factory is one of the things that made the biggest impression on me. On Wednesday, we left for Venice by boat from Villa di Malcontenta across the river Brenta to visit the stunningly beautiful old heart of Venice. Venice, where despite all the tourism a lot of the culture has been preserved when looking a bit further, is definitely worth the while.
The philosophy behind the products of Manfrotto, Gitzo and Avenger, has made it clear to me that there are a few distinct differences between the tripods they produce and the competition’s products. In my opinion, with a Manfrotto or Gitzo tripod you will be assured of even more joy while photographing, and with a well chosen tripod you will be half-way towards a successful picture.
Manfrotto Tripod Gallery - next page >
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