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Thread: Monopods: Yea or Nay?

  1. #1

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    Monopods: Yea or Nay?

    Im just going to come straight out and say it... I hate carrying a tripod...
    Its 99% because Im lazy, and Im working on that, and 1% because I try to travel as light as possible since its mostly trains and walking in Japan.
    I know the benefits of using them but its just such a pain...

    As I was browsing my local camera shop, I stumbled upon a few and pondered the usefulness or even usability for that matter as I have never used one myself. I mean, expanding and collapsing one leg vs three has got to be a little easier right?

    Seeing as Im more of a "Run and Gun" type vs a "Set up Shop" type, perhaps I could get something out of one?

    Any experienced Monopoders out there?

  2. #2
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Monopods: Yea or Nay?

    I own two tripods and a monopod. With the stabilized lenses I've pretty well stopped using the monopod altogther as I can now handhold the shots I used to use a monopod for. On the rare occasions I shoot film with my old non-stabilized lenses, it still comes out of the closet.

    Bottom line, I find that a monopod is not a good replacement for a tripod.

  3. #3
    RogerCook's Avatar
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    Re: Monopods: Yea or Nay?

    Yes I recently studied about and purchased one (Gitzo GM5561T with a Really Right Stuff MH-01 LR head) and I do love it the only thing I would change if I could is the head. I would of prefered having a ball head due to when tracking birds laterally you can't keep the camera level. The other thing I do when setting out on a photo trip that will last into the evening requiring a tripod is at first when it's light out I use it as an monopod by just having one leg extended about four inches longer than the others. That way you get the benifit of the monopod and don't have to carry the tripod for later use and you can still use it (as a tripod) if needed by just spreading the long leg out a little further. You can't go wrong with Gitzo or Really Right Stuff products!

  4. #4
    DanK's Avatar
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    Monopods: Yea or Nay?

    I use one for macro because setting up a tripod takes too long and does not allow me to lean in towards then subject. For other purposes, I carry my tripod. A carbon fiber tripod with a small head (I use an Oben tripod with a small Induro BHD0 head) does not add a great deal of weight relative to a monopod with a tilt head. However, I think it is all a meter of what one shoots and personal taste.
    Last edited by DanK; 16th March 2013 at 04:22 PM.

  5. #5

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    Re: Monopods: Yea or Nay?

    Anything is better than nothing. A rock, bench, tree, fence, it doesn't matter. I've used a mono-pod for years because I cannot hand-hold steady enough. Is it as good as a tripod? Obviously not but it certainly helps and is easier than humping around a tripod with enough substance to be solid in the wind. In rough terrain I find a mono-pod easier and definitely quicker to use. Many times my mono-pod is actually a more sturdy bi-pod when I also brace it against a tree or leg or just about anything. You'll get creative as you use it. Some suggestions. Get a solid one. The cheaper skinny travel versions of mono/tri pods are only slightly better than hand holding. Get a versatile ball head rather than something like the single adjustment Manfrotto 234RC which at times is a pain. Make sure it is the right height for you and you can stand up fully when using it at all angles. I also have a very good walking stick that has been trimmed to the right length for the same purpose.

  6. #6

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    Re: Monopods: Yea or Nay?

    Hi Mars,
    I love using the monopod, even though I use a tripod quite a bit more often.
    The monopod is lighter than an equivalent tripod, quicker to assemble, easier to manoeuvre, cheaper as well as more functions not directly related to photography.
    Having spent some time at popular birding locations (e.g Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada), it gets very annoying very quickly when you have so many photographers walking about with tripod legs sticking out. Then, when they stop, they take up so much more space than anything else. I understand that it takes time to push the legs together and then to carry it with some consideration around the place. Even better would be collapsing the legs entirely when walking around, far less dangerous. I've been poked and prodded on numerous occasions and felt my eyes were in danger on many more. A monopod is far less intrusive and easier to handle.
    As already mentioned, use an available sturdy/solid secondary object to improve the stability (trees, lamp posts, rocks). When in urban areas I often use barriers to push the tripod against (securing the base with my foot) to add stability.
    Obviously not as stable as a tripod, but I love the flexibility. I use mine with a small ballhead. I tend to leave the ballhead slightly loose so it is easy to move around, makes it easier to follow action (birds, sports) and still provide some extra stability.

    The only disadvantage that I can immediately think of is that of less stability. Even when the light is good, with the tripod I can make small adjustments and make more considered decisions before I take the shot. Small aperture often results in too slow a shutter speed to hand hold. Self portraits of course. Mayhaps only this advantage for a tripod - but it's a biggie (as I said I use a tripod more often than a monopod).

    As an addition to your kit, great. If no tripod, get a tripod first.

    Other uses - all by yourself in the local park, around the back of the popular areas, great comfort against large aggressive dogs (don't worry, he won't bite, he always bares his teeth and goes into attack mode, it's just his way of being friendly). Also a comfort when large aggressive people are eyeing your camera kit. With a ballhead on top, it's a wicked piece of defence.
    Plus a walking aid, a depth gauge, a hook to pull things down, or to push things back. Lots of uses.
    Along with a tripod and a large lens hood, they all act to give you the 'professional' look. Most 'Uncle Freds' at weddings don't have one. I've overheard them commenting knowledgeable that they know it's a monopod and so the photog must be a professional.
    Monopods are great.
    Graham

  7. #7
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    I love using a monopod, especially with longer lenses. Although IS really helps, using IS in conjunction with a monopod is the ticket for sharp images - especially when using my 300mm f/4L IS lens with or without a 1.4x TC on a 1.6x camera.

    I am on my second monopod. My first pod was a Manfrotto 681 which is a great and inexpensive pod. However, it is a three section pod and did not collapse small enough to fit into my rather small luggage which I check aboard airlines. I was denied boarding a flight in Los Angeles because I attempted to carry the 681 monopod aboard. The security checker called it a "weapon-like implement". I now use a Calumet 4-section graphite pod which does fold small enough to fit in my bag. It is as tall as the Manfrotto 681when expanded and holds a heavier load. However, at right under one pound, it is about half the weight.

    I use a Kirk monopod tilting head. This is actually the Manfrotto 234 Monopod Tllt Head with a Kirk Arca Compatible clamp. Some photographers state that this is not a sturdy enough platform but, I never use it locked down. I simply use it to add some support for my camera/lens and it works great for that purpose. The only time I will lock down the camera is when I am carrying the camera/lens over my shoulder.

    I like a tilting head because my method of using a monopod is to have the pod straight down under the camera/lens.

    I always carry two lengths of double sided one inch (25mm) Velcro. Each length is about three feet long and takes up little to no space in my camera bag or photo vest. I use the Velcro to secure the monopod to a stationary object like a fence post, parking meter, etc. This will provide a totally stationary rest for my monopod. Obviously, it is not as flexible as a tripod because you need to find a stationary object to secure the monopod. However, if you are looking, it is surprising how many objects of this type (park benches, etc.) can be found. The cost of the two lengths of Velcro totalled about six U.S. Dollars.

  8. #8

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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    ..............the 681 monopod aboard. The security checker called it a "weapon-like implement"...........
    Jobsworth

  9. #9

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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    It really comes down to shutterspeed (which is in turn dictated to a large degree by focal length, whether or not you have VR/IS, and of course the requirement of the exposure). If any of these mean that hand-holding is out of the question then something else is going to be needed; if a monopod fits the bill then go for it, but appreciate that it's only a stop-gap measure (I'd hate to use one for a 45 minute exposure - or a 45 second one).

    Keep in mind too that not all tripods are equal in terms of ease of use; I use a Gitzo 1548 - it's supreme for 45 minute exposures, but the biggest PITA for nimble/on-the-go stuff.

    Personally, I converted my monopod to hold one of my lighting rigs - but then an assistant broke it and it went in the bin. I don't miss it.

  10. #10

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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    I have made several monpods ranging from a 'mini-mono' about twelve inches high to my biggest which enables me to have the camera in 'portrait' mode sideways on the ballhead while I stand comfortably and looking up [ church steeple ]. My belief is that my two legs are the other two legs of the tripod I am making so they need to be relaxed and steady as opposed to bending.

    If you shoot video you should avoid using a monopod as when you pan the camera probably will intrioduce a tilted horison

    My pods are all made using rectangular aluminium section which slides nicely inside each other and just needs a locking screw for the sections ... pretty basic stuff the way tripods used to be made.

    But now I have OIS and IBIS in my cameras the pods rarely get used. I also have a mini-tripod which is useful for the longer exposure and often there is a handy rock/wall/car hood to rest it on.

    For the experimentor there is the idea I read about years ago of having a length of string attached to a screw into the camera tripod thread with a loop to put your foot into, holding the camera up in tension against your foot ... I have never got around to trying it but of course the originator, perhaps forty plus years ago, was enthusiastic about the idea

    For on the go tripod use there is the idea promoted by the guys who trained American combat cinematographers in WWII. This is to have one leg of the tripod a bit longer than the other two and it becomes a quick and simple matter to pick up the two rear legs and hold the front leg with a finger while you run to the next position. Placing the front leg on the ground the back legs are swung back and you are set to take the next shot in a matter of seconds. Back then everybody used a tripod with their Eymos etc

    A final argument for the pod ... it makes a useful walking stick and I organised a camera thread in the top of my wife's ski-pole, not that I have seen her using it as such, normally just resting the camera on top of the pole.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 17th March 2013 at 12:28 AM.

  11. #11
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    If your a trail/backcountry walker, a monopod that has good performance as a trekking stick is a pretty logical progression. Since I like a stick if I'm walking anything but a bland path, my REI trekker/monopod is a no-brainer and it is nice for to have for early morning/evening longer exposures. I find even when not absolutely necessary, if I decide to use it, it's a step that helps me remember to slow down and think before just firing away.

    I think the outdoor equipment people make better (and less expensive) products for this combination purpose than the photo equipment suppliers.

  12. #12
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    They do overlapping, but ultimately different things. Basically the monopod is for steadying a heavy camera/lens as you shoot. It is good for sports, and panning is particularly easy; you just twist it and it pivots on its foot. But it cannot really give you super sharpness on really long exposures (30 seconds or more). Obviously you can't leave the camera on the monopod and walk away, either.

  13. #13

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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    I use Manfrotto 685B with Manfrotto MH054MO Q5 ballhead on top.
    Love the 685B squeece and extend design. I can use my foot to step on the mono pod pedal and rise and lower it with one hand,
    BUt i use it all the time on video. With the monopod and ballhead, I leaned my camera front to the hockey rink glass panel, Then I got smooth video and flexibility like TV station does.
    Also, I am all the time doing camera and video all by myself on my daughter's skating function. My camera on my neck strap and I easily throw my video camera on my monopod to my right shoulder and grap my camera to take shot. The way like sport photographer does with 2 cameras.
    If I need more stable shot with camera, I also find mono-pod did help me while need less time to set up. I rarely need long exposure and mainly is for sport and action shot.
    Other time, i always find place to lean on as I am kind of a hand shaker.

  14. #14
    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    A monopod confuses museum attendants, they say no tripods but it isn't and I use it like a walking stick, in fact it has a walking stick rubber stop on the end of it. If you find something to lean against you should be able to get a sharp shot at 1.3 seconds or even right down to 2 secs @ 50mm.

    You can do HDR if you can set multiple shots and auto bracketing, but 0.5 sec total time is about the limit for some reason, probably because IS or VC is switched off.

    I like mine, a nice Giotto with Giotto ball head.

  15. #15
    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    Yea!

  16. #16
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    I will not use a Ball Head with a QR like the Manfrotto RC2 on a monopod for the very same reason that I refuse to use one on a tripod. It is simply inefficient when shooting with a camera/lens combination which doesn't include a tripod ring.

    When switching from horizontal to vertical camera positions using a non A/C ball head, you must hang the camera cantilevered over on the side which is both awkward and unbalanced.

    When using a non-tripod ring equipped camera/lens combination with an Arca Compatible L Bracket (I use RRS L brackets for my DSLR cameras) the camera/lens is centered over the apex of the tripod or the top of the monopod.

    IMO, this is a far more efficient way to shoot both on a tripod (as this video shows) or on a monopod...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4iOxH5vyCo

    BTW: When shooting with a long and heavy lens; carrying the camera/lens over one's shoulder while mounted on a monopod is the way I enjoy working. See this video...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMgZ13X_pr4

    I have also converted a sturdy hickory wood walking stick into a pseudo monopod by attaching an Arca Compatible Quick Release to the top of the stick. Since I am growing older, I tend to use the walking stick to help me navigate on rough terrain. I have had a monopod collapse when placing my weight on it. The hickory stick, although not as versatile as the monopod in that it will not retract into shorter lengths also won't collapse when I place my weight on the stick to maintain my balance. Perhaps the REI Trekker walking stick/monopod, that Mark mentioned above, would solve the collapse problems. But, I had the walking stick and the extra A/C QR clamp. There are times when walking in the boondocks when I am breathing heavily from exertion and the extra support of the stick helps steady my hold. That's the price of growing old but, I advise against the alternative...

    If I want to use a very long and very heavy lens on my monopod, I will mount it on a 393 Manfrotto Gimbal Mount. I can support a very long and very heavy lens with this rig...

    http://www.nikonians.org/html/resour...393/393_1.html
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 17th March 2013 at 03:29 PM.

  17. #17

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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    The monpod can work almost like a focusing rack for close shots and if you set the focus you can move it in and out to find the sharp point.

  18. #18
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    I have 2 monopods, and use them on hikes, shooting photos around town, etc when I don't want to take a tripod. One monopod has a ball head and the other has the Manfrotto 234 head. I kinda like the ball head a little better, but they both are functional. One monopod is an off brand aluminum unit that is fairly short and light but not as sturdy as the other which id the Manfrotto 681. I tend to use the off brand a little more as it is smaller and lighter. I have to get some 3 ft valcro that RP mentioned. Great idea!!

    Dr Bob

  19. #19

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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    I too use a manfrotto monopod with the pistol grip to extend and close the length. This makes it quick and easy to use, especially in museums.
    I do get told not to use it in museums, and I politely point out it is not a tripod, it is my disability aid as I have wrist problems. Usually works.

  20. #20
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    Re: Monopods: Yea for me

    the manfrotto 681b with the rc234 head is a reassuringly hefty but light piece of kit. it also makes a good walking stick/visible deterrent to thieves and unleashed dogs too.

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