Is Monopod essential for Alaska cruisetour?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Highgrovemanor, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. Highgrovemanor

    Highgrovemanor Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 12, 2011
    Hello Everyone,

    I've already slimmed down my M43 gear to what I think is minimal: G3 wearing 100-300, GF1 with 9-18 + viewfinder, plus 20mm. I'm also taking some extra gear to try time lapse: canon p&s hacked with CHDK, window suction cup mount, and DIY lens hood. I don't plan on taking the gorilla pod, as the window mount is enough for the train and on-boat time-lapses I want to try plus golden hours are much too early & late, so timelapse it will be. :) Its a family trip, with others wanting to shoot some, but I'll definitely have the most gear.

    So my question is would a monopod really help? I did a trial hand held run @ the local zoo, with acceptable results. I do have a hand-me down monopod available, but it doesn't collapse very small but goes REAL tall to hit eye-level.

    I can't have my camera gear put me packing more than the wife! hahahaha. But I must admit, I'm pretty excited about my time lapse on a budget strategy.

    But I think this is my LAST camera related decision for the trip.

  2. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Given that the 100-300 has IS built in I would think that you could leave the monopod at home. :cool:
  3. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    There is no such thing as too stable. Take it.

    In Alaska you will not get very close to animals. Most shots will be at 600mm equivalent and you will be wishing for more.

    I shot that lens all over Southern Africa, using a monopod wherever possible and glad to have it. And, in Africa you get quite close to many animals.

    Buy a good carbon monopod and a small ball head on eBay then sell it when you get home. Having the right equipment will cost you almost nothing compared to the cost of your trip.
  4. enricosavazzi

    enricosavazzi New to Mu-43

    Apr 6, 2013
    Well, I did take an Alaska cruise tour a few years ago, when I was still using a Nikon D300s. I used all the time a 100-300 f/4 with 1.4x multiplier, practically always shooting the wildlife at maximum zoom. On Micro 4/3, this is equivalent to always using the 100-300 at 300 mm.

    I did quite a bit of field photography recently with the Panasonic 100-300 on an Olympus OM-D E-M5. In spite of the light weight of this lens and of IS, I find it a big help to use a monopod. Don't forget that 300 mm on Micro 4/3 is a supertele, with all its problems.

    I always use, and strongly recommend, the Rösch Feinmechanik tripod shoe (Rudolf Rösch Feinmechanik) for the 100-300. Attaching the camera body directly to a monopod with this lens simply does not cut it - too front-heavy.
  5. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    There was a recent thread here where the need for this gadget was discussed extensively. My experience is that these tiny and lightweight lenses and cameras work just fine when mounted using the camera body attach point. This may not be true for video, where slightly better balance might smooth things out when panning, but for still photography I think the gadget is a waste of time, money, space, and weight. YMMV of course.

    In that thread I asked the proponents of the gadget to please post two near identical photographs, one shot with the camera mounted directly on the tripod and one with the camera mounted using the gadget which, proponents seemed to argue, would be clearly superior. No one took me up on it.
  6. Jesse_S

    Jesse_S Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 7, 2013
    Seattle, WA
    If you are doing any hiking (and Alaska is an incredible place to hike) then a lightweight monopod also doubles as a convient hiking pole. I use mine more for that than photography to be honest.

    Also handy to defend yourself from bears (not really.)
  7. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    Lived in several parts of Alaska, for several years. (Have a son in Talkeetna, and daughter in Kenai) Tried tripods, etc. My final choice is mostly, no. I use any thing nearby, for steady support. I do, actually like and sometimes use a very small tripod, for macro work. Something small and light enough to carry in a small day pack. Wind can be very strong, next to water and/or mountains. Mono pods and medium weight tripods will not stop the movement. Been there and tried several, including a couple Bogens, one medium and one heavy pro unit. Everyone has different ways, methods, and preferences. whatever YOU like to use is the right approach. And as Jesse S said, for hiking, a walking stick is very helpful.

    An Alaska trip is, like no other. Pack light, dress in layers and have fun!

    And post a "travel log", when you get back. :smile:
  8. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    I don't have any experience with the P100-300 or the third-party tripod mount, but this recent post (and video) on the Discover Mirrorless blog discusses several techniques and strategies for getting the best possible shots out of this lens. Chief among their suggestions are to use the tripod mount mentioned. It might be worth a view.
  9. TetonTom

    TetonTom Mu-43 Regular

    I originally bought my monopod to use with a heavy and non-stabilized lens (80-200 f/2.8) mounted to a film camera (and relatively slow slide film). IMHO, this was their intended use, and as our equipment is getting exponentially lighter, image-stabilized, and with exceptional high-ISO capabilities, the utility is nearly gone from this device.
    Now, when I think I need a monopod to get the shot, then what I really need is a tripod. When I think I can get by with a monopod, I can probably get by without it, with a little support from a nearby tree trunk, fence post, or bracing my camera on a trekking pole.
    EXCEPT, where I still find a monopod useful is shooting video. I'm not talking about getting an absolutely solid and level camera position or getting silky-smooth pans, but definitely a far cry better than my best hand-held footage. And as a bonus, I can actually get pretty smooth pans with a monopod.
    As far as any kind of ball head, I've never seen the logic to it. It seems that most of what you would be shooting will likely be fairly true to the horizon; I can't imagine you'd be doing much straight up or straight down (again, probably more in the domain of a real tripod). I have the basic manfrotto q-r on the monopod, and have always found this adequate.
    Most recently, I've been using my monopod (along with my articulating LCD and remote release) to boost my camera up above the crowd. Or maybe my favorite use, when using an UWA zoom I'll boost up my camera as high as possible to keep a horizontal orientation and avoid nasty converging vertical lines as much as possible.
    So that's just me; I have one and use it. But when it comes to "long lens" shooting, I'd rather go at high ISO, or if the light isn't there I'd wish for a tripod...
  10. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Biggest reason is that without it you can only shoot landscape format photos. I agree that for most shots, tilting the monopod is an adequate movement range but I won't accept losing portrait format shots from my repertoire. If someone is shooting only landscape video, though, then the need for a ball head is probably not there.

    I've seen it. Basically he is pleased and surprised to discover that stabilizing the camera and shooting at high shutter speed produces better photographs. Duh.

    In passing, he does assert that having the lens supported via the gadget "you're going to get sharper results." Saying it, even on the always-infallible internet, doesn't make it true and as an engineer who has shot the lens a lot I see no reason why it would be true. The only tenable argument for the gadget IMHO is that it moves the CG of the assembly closer to the mounting point. But with everything clamped down, CG location has no effect on the photo.

    Anybody who can produce A/B comparison shots to prove that mounting via the gadget produces better photos, I'm interested. I'd even be interested in seeing a logical explanation of why it might be true, considering weights, moments, CG location shift, polar moment of inertia, or whatever. Compared to the gigantic rigs where the lens must include a tripod pad, this lens/M43 body combination is a flyweight competitor. I have shot the big stuff and I have shot these little things. There is no comparison.

    But hey, the gadget looks cool and appears to be very well made. Those are adequate reasons for many people. I understand. I have an English army prismatic marching compass with a mother-of-pearl compass card. It is an exquisite piece and a pleasure to own even though I have absolutely no need for it.
  11. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Sep 5, 2011
    My opinion, and that's all it is, is that for what you're planning a monopod would be a waste of space. A monopod helps with marginal situations, giving you maybe an extra stop, but for real time exposures it's of no value at all.

    I'd suggest something like this, instead:


    Joby GorillaPod Hybrid Flexible Mini-Tripod with Ball
  12. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    No question a monopod is not a tripod, but with a little effort and creativity you can get a lot out of it.

    I carry a couple of short bungee cords with hook ends. With these I can lash my monopod tightly to a railing or a post. I have also had good success just using my hand to hold the monopod against the corner of a building or other stable object. I hand-clamped to a fence railing for the light show at the pyramids in Giza and have shots with up to 2.5 second exposures that show no camera motion. When doing this kind of stuff a ball head is really required, though, since the monopod will inevitably be immobilized at an angle that doesn't work for the shot.

    Here are the lobby lights at one of the Glacier Park lodges, with the monopod lashed to a second-floor railing. EXIF says 0.8 seconds, ISO 200, f20, Oly 9-18 @ 15mm:


    This exact shot could not be duplicated with a tripod because the tripod would have forced the camera farther back from the railing and I would have have had to raise it significantly to keep from getting the railing in the picture. I wanted the camera low so that the topmost lights would not be so prominent relative to the bottom one.

    There are also various pages on the internet showing how to use a monopod with your body to make a quasi-tripod and showing other options like putting the end behind you and between your legs, then bracing the monopod against a leg. You really aren't limited to holding the monopod out in front of you like a walking stick.
  13. uci2ci

    uci2ci Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 22, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Definitely take a monopod. Tie a shoe string around it and wear it like a sling on your back. They even make legit walking sticks with a screw on top which you can mount your camera on.

    Yes, yes its not a tripod, but ut helps eliminate up and down and shutter press shakes. Even if you find something to prop yourself againts, a monopod still helps and it could act almost as a tripod. Lean againts something, angle the monopod forward and put the weight of your body agaist the monopod

    There is a very thin line between a keeper and a "meh" shot with the 100-300. You want to be able to crop your shots which mean you need all the help you can get.
  14. lawa222

    lawa222 Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 3, 2013
    I live in Juneau, probably the most frequented cruiseship destination, and doubt you'll really need one. In fact, I can't remember a single time I've seen a cruise tourist using a tripod or monopod, though plenty of people carry them. Almost all of your shooting is going to be well within bright daylight. What is not will be while you're on the boat where you'll have railings, chairs, etc. to set the camera up on.

    Also, it's not like you're going to be going hiking into the wilderness off a cruise because you only have like 8 hours or so at any given location. You'll be able to find stuff just as effective as a monopod to brace against.
  15. Highgrovemanor

    Highgrovemanor Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 12, 2011
    Thanks for all the feedback everyone.

    While I agree the monopod won't come off the boat, we also have a week long land tour with 2 or 3 days in Denali, etc. So for me at least, the trip is about wildlife and landscapes.

    I did take the ballhead off a small tripod I already have and put it on the monopod to serve as a quick release, as the quick release it came from stinks. But the jury is still out. :tongue:

    I do like my gorilla pod, but she's staying at home as I'm taking a mini gecko suction cup mount for time lapse from the train and boat. I got a great across Boston Harbor shot right before a leaf peeping cruise, long exposure to flatten the water. Probably my all time best shot, which isn't saying much since I don't shoot alot. :frown:

    Thanks again for all the feedback

  16. nathan_h

    nathan_h Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 23, 2013
    Hey you can't describe an awesome shot and hot share it with us. Please post!

  17. sigamy

    sigamy Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    I just picked up the TrekPod for exactly this purpose. I've only taken it out once but it did a nice job of adding stablitity.

    As a combined treking stick, monopod and monopod with legs it definetly doesn't excel at any one aspect, but it is a good multipupose tool.

    Monopod, Travel Tripod and Camcorder Tripod Outfitter | Trek-Tech
  18. Highgrovemanor

    Highgrovemanor Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 12, 2011
    Well we're here!

    Train ride from Anchorage to Talkeetna was ok, but not stellar. We could see the mountain from the train (which is pretty rare), but the bush pilot tour of the mountain range was FANTASTIC. Pilot said it was a top-5 day for the 10 years he has been doing it. My canon p&s was doing time lapse from the dash, and I snapped about 300 pix with my G3 and 9-18 from the front seat.

    I did get some sunset shots, braced via Adiandak chair. :)

    I'm on the Lodge's kiosk, so no pictures to share.

    2nd train ride into Denali later today, and will probably break out the 100-300 tomorrow in Denali.

    I do appreciate everyone's feedback, and wound up leaving the stick at home since it was rather long even collapsed.

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