QuoteThought I'd post what I ended up getting, after considering all the fine advice:
RRS BH-40, with lever release and panning clamp, an RSS L plate, and for the tripod legs I decided to go with carbon fiber, but compromised on the price, since I got the expensive ball head, and went with Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 instead of Gitzo or RSS.
Even though my heaviest lens is only a 24-105mm, I thought I'd go with the BH-40 in case I get heavier lenses in the future and because I wanted the independent drag on the ball head. I went with the panning clamp so I didn't have to worry about leveling the legs first when shooting panoramas. The only thing I didn't get was the nodal slide, but I can always pick that up in the future.
Are you happy with your choices a few months out? Thinking about tripods myself and trying to learn from your research :-)
I recently bought the same combo and it's been amazing so far. The tripod isn't as light as I thought it would be but the extra heft adds some stability.
The Manfrotto carbon fiber tripods are considerably heavier than their Gitzo counterparts.
@Badger: If you are going carbon fiber, I'd definitely recommend Gitzo. It's light and still very sturdy (I got the GT2541). An expensive tripod that I can carry beats a cheap tripod staying home, any day. The RRS ones don't collapse as compactly (not talking about travel tripods).
I was initially gonna buy the GT2531 but when I played about with it in a camera store one of the legs came off in my hand and I couldn't get it back on. Left me with a unfavorable impression (sure it was my fault but still I took it as an omen!). The metal manfrotto was good to me in the past and I was already used to the layout. And the $200 saved also helped my decision!
I don't use a tripod that often so even that combo I bought was hard to justify.
Anyway, I'm more than happy with it.
If I ever do upgrade it'll be to an all RRS setup.