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Comparing The CI-700 and G-11 Tripods

Posted by Clayton Cramer   03/28/2005 00:00:AM

Comparing The CI-700 and G-11 Tripods
[ARTICLEIMGR="1"]A few years back, Celestron sold a mount called the CI-700. It was not much of a secret that the CI-700 was a cost-reduced version of the Losmandy G-11. Both were intended to handle telescopes in the 30-60 pound range, and both tripods use the same equatorial head mounting pattern as each other, and as the Losmandy GM-8 mount. It is thus possible to put the GM-8 mount on a G-11 or CI-700 tripod--a transplant that provides both increased stability and increased elevation compared to the GM-8 tripod.

Celestron no longer sells the CI-700 mounts, but there are a lot of them in circulation still, and they usually do not command as high a price as the Losmandy G-11. The reasons are not hard to find. Some of the criticisms of the CI-700 were that it was more crudely made than the G-11, and that it lacked the leg height adjustments of the G-11.

I am currently working on a design project that required a G-11 tripod for testing. I was able to borrow a G-11 tripod from an acquaintance, but I also needed one on a more permanent basis. I purchased a CI-700 tripod, expecting to find enough similarities that I could use the CI-700 as a test mule for the more costly G-11 tripod--and I found that while there are definite family resemblances, there are a pretty surprising number of differences--enough so that I can't use it for its intended purpose. (I'm writing this comparison so that someone else doesn't make the same mistake that I did--and to point out for what the CI-700 tripod does make a lot of sense.)

The CI-700 legs, unlike the G-11, stay attached for movement. Note the folding assembly at ground level between the legs.

The G-11 tripod holds its legs on with large clamps that are quick and easy to use--but one more set of parts to carry in the field.

(Those caster assemblies on the G-11 tripod--definitely not standard. That's the "design project" I mentioned above.)

While you can fold the CI-700's legs--unlke the G-11--the CI-700 comes with a leg spreader assembly that defeats the advantage of those folding legs.

The leg spreader would seem to add some stability--perhaps necessary for astrophotography--but with a light load, if portability were an issue, I suspect that you could dispense with it. This spreader is made of plastic, and is held in place by a long screw that threads into the top of the tripod. There are some very impressive plastics out there; the plastic of this spreader just feels cheap.

Perhaps the most tactile area of difference between the tripods is the way that the leg clamps on the G-11 feel. I have mentioned that the G-11 tripod holds onto the legs with clamps; similar clamps control the height of the G-11 legs, and they have the same high quality feel that I have come to know and love about Losmandy products.

The CI-700 legs are not adjustable. If you are going to use the CI-700 for just one telescope--especially a long focal length refractor--this lack of adjustment is not such a big disadvantage.

The area of difference that makes the CI-700 not useful to me won't much matter to most normal users of these tripods. The G-11 legs are 2.36" inside diameter; the CI-700 legs are 2.45" inside diameter.

Another significant difference between the CI-700 and the G-11 is the attachment mechanism for the equatorial head. The G-11 tripod uses a very similar shape and design as the GM-8 tripod, allowing you to put a GM-8 mount onto a G-11 tripod.

The CI-700 is a little different. At least this unit came with an adapter that attached onto the top of the tripod with three large Allan wrench screws, suggesting that there was other adapters available for other mounts.

In spite of my description of it, once attached, it did not feel clumsy, cheap, or poorly made. It is just one more piece--unlike the G-11 tripod, where a GM-8 mount just slides right in.

One difference between the GM-8 tripod and its two bigger cousins is that the GM-8 tripod has slots, instead of holes. This means that you can drop the GM-8 head into the slots with the screws already in the holes in the head, rotate the head a little, and tighten down the screws. With the CI-700 and G-11 tripods, you have to put the mount in place, then turn the screws in through the tripod, and into the head. It is a little more effort, especially in darkness, because you have to line up two sets of holes--both in black metal--before you can get the screws in place.

One other difference: at least the samples that I received show a very noticeable difference in finish, although it may not show in these photographs. The CI-700 felt like painted metal; the G-11 felt like a nicely anodized piece of fine machining. I don't know if this is a real difference or not, but one reminds me of a Porsche, and the other felt like a Yugo.

I've spent this entire review pointing out that the CI-700 tripod is an inferior version of a G-11 tripod. This is reflected in the relative prices of these units on the secondary market. For some people, the advantages of the G-11 tripod over the CI-700 simply aren't worth an extra $150-$200; others can't afford to pay this difference.

One virtue of the CI-700 tripod is that it is a very inexpensive way to improve the stability of a GM-8 mount. The GM-8 tripod has many virtues, but most users acknowledge that it trades a little stability for a little portability. Both the G-11 and CI-700 provide the GM-8 mount increased stability--and especially for this sort of hybrid activity, I am hard pressed to see that the G-11 tripod is markedly superior to the CI-700 tripod.

Click here for more about this subject. -Ed.