Wow. That was quick. Thanks Neuro and Spokane!
I think you can remove the center column on the Gitzo Mountaineer for a lighter/more stable support. Is that any different from a tripod sold without one to begin with?
Are there any retailers that sell RRS or do you really buy it from them directly?
Depends on the design of the platform, but generally yes - if you remove the center column, the head should attach directly to the platform and that would be the same as a tripod without a center column. That'll be true for Gitzo and RRS.
RRS only sells direct, unfortunately. They've got a 30-day no questions asked return policy, but their gear is really top-notch and I've never needed to send anything back.
I've got their TQC-14 travel tripod (and the TVC-33), and the leg section diameters of the travel set are similar to the Gitzo 25xx series. The RRS legs are rated to 25 lbs, but that's very conservative...I've personally swung my 180 lb self from them.
If you really do shoot the night sky a lot, you may want to consider a taller set of legs. Without the center column, the GT2541 is only a little over 4 feet high, and that will mean a lot of bending over. The RRS TVC-24L is over a foot taller than the GT2541 without column, and still several inches taller compared to the Gitzo with the colum installed and extended.
Definitely a good setup, altough I'd consider a tripod without a center column. IMO, for the best legs choose Really Right Stuff or Gitzo, for the best heads choose Really Right Stuff, Arca-Swiss, Markins, Acratech, or Kirk. Best clamps/plates are Really Right Stuff, Kirk, or Wimberley.
You might want to look at the Really Right Stuff TVC-23, -24, or -24L (depending on the height you need) and the BH-40 ballhead.
Seriously, I really am having doubts about Canon's commitment to EF-S lenses. With the exception of occasional upgraded of existing kit lens, the EF-S seems pretty dead for the past year or two.
While Tamron, Tokina, and Sigma have been coming out with their versions of 18-xxx zooms, Canon's 18-200 has never seen an upgrade since its release. Meanwhile, Nikon has moved from the first 18-200 VR all the way to 300.
My suspicion would be if there's any progress in terms of lens for the APS-C format, it would be for the EF-M mounts...
Again, just my opinion.
Just curious why you choose 3200 for portraits? That is my preferred setting for my 5D3 and like you will go higher but that is for dark venues while run and gun shooting.
If I set up a couple of lights I shoot at 400. I may have misread what yo mean by portraits.