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Monopods

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Promit, Apr 4, 2012.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    When I was getting started, I bought a cheap monopod and a cheap tripod. Didn't know what I'd want to use. Overall, I'm pretty happy with both, but a tripod doesn't really suit my style of shooting. It's useful once in a while, but I wouldn't feel bad without it. The monopod, on the other hand, has turned out to be awesome, doubly so for video work.

    So I'm now at the point where I'm considering a serious monopod. The unit I have is a 67 inch Dolica that I got for ten dollars. And I've got no problems with it. I mean, my largest camera body plus lens is two pounds. With tripods, I understand the arguments towards a high end quality unit. There's a lot to think about there. But a monopod? As far as I can figure, it's a telescoping stick with a screw on top. If the telescoping part is holding up, what do you gain from an expensive, nice monopod?

    I guess the Dolica is a bit long when collapsed, but I don't think that really makes much difference for most things. It's light enough that I'm not thinking about jumping to CF. What I really miss are a ball head and a quick release plate. Should I just buy a ball head and stick it on the monopod I already have? I'm wondering if there's a reason to spend money on a better stick. Also, I would appreciate recommendations for a lightweight head to go with a monopod. Obviously fluid would be great as I'm planning to do a lot of video, but it's looking awfully spendy :(
     
  2. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I find it hard to use a fluid head on a monopod! First is that a fluid head has drag and this drag ends up causing you to pitch up and down a tiny bit while panning{looks bad!}. Tilting usually works OK however. I use my monopod for panning video but I mount the camera rigid and pivot the whole pod on it's base, this method works much better. Another neat thing you can do with a monopod and video is use the it like a steadycam. It isn't great for fast movement but works good if you are just walking. Simply rigid mount the cam and hold the pod just below the cam out in front of you. Let your arm be a little loose , not stiff. I have used this several times in filming video and it works. You can also use it over head as a mini jib arm but it is hard to keep it steady for long.
     
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  3. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    836
    Feb 29, 2012
    I have both the Manfrotto 560 and 562 video monopods with the fluid base. The 560 is strong enough for my GH1 or 2 with 14-140 and it comes with a tilting head.

    I got the 562 and replaced the head with a Manfrotto 701 I already had. It works quite well. I got the suggest on how to use one effectively from [ame="http://vimeo.com/15359451"]an intro to EOS stabilizers // canon cinema caravan on Vimeo[/ame]
     
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  4. heedpantsnow

    heedpantsnow Mu-43 Veteran

    332
    Jul 24, 2011
    With a "nice" monopod you get rigidity and reliability. I have used many monopods (and tripods) in my days. The better monopods feel like you're laying your camera on a table...very solid. You can't bend it even if you try while fully extended. You can be confident that your body and 300mm f2.8 lens will stay firmly attached to the top of the monopod as you're carrying it over your shoulder running down the field (I realize may not be so relevant here).

    I don't use any head on top of my monopod, just a Acratech QR clamp. I feel like a head would be too hard to operate while holding the monopod steady; I'm not sure I even understand the rationale behind using it.

    I hope some of that helps.
     
  5. WJW59

    WJW59 Mu-43 Veteran

    235
    Feb 20, 2011
    I don't do video so I can't comment on what works there, but I've used a monopod of one sort or another for years. If I am using a real monopod (Manfrotto 680,681?) it always has a ball/QR mounted and I can take the camera off as needed. This also allows me to angle the monopod so the leg is pointing ahead of me, rather than being vertical, and the monopod and I form a tripod when using an eye-level finder. This is more stable than using it upright and something I've never been able to do with the cheap monopods.

    If I using one of my walking sticks that can double as a monopod then I'll drop on of the small TrekTech Magmount heads in my pocket and either attach the camera to the stick as needed or attach the head if I stop and plan to spend a considerable amount of time taking pics.

    As for what you gain with a more expensive monopod.... I've had my Bogen (Manfrotto) for over 15 years and it still works fine. After a serious fall a few years ago I had to replace parts of one leg lock and the parts were available and fairly inexpensive. I usually have to adjust the tightness of the locking levers every 18 to 24 months (depending on use) but it takes about 5 minutes. With the cheaper monopods getting replacement parts can be difficult to impossible, some have to be adjusted constantly, and the material quality is low so they lack durability.
     
  6. Check out the Benro C38F

    Little over a month of use. 1st mono-pod ever purchased. ~$130 @ amazon or BH. ~1lb, ~20" folded, ~60"max height, ~40#load limit. I like the flip locks vs. rotational locks. Allows for quick, single handed adjustment. The mono is a relatively beefy 4 section unit with tubes 32mm down to 22mm in diameter. Bit different foot. A foot pad that swivels on a ball joint. Outside of one incident of placing it on a rock sitting in a stream underwater the foot pad has provided good traction. Removable by unscrewing from the 3/8" socket. Replaceable wiper O-rings. Reversible head mount thread for either 1/4 or 3/8" thread. Overall happy. Have been using the monopod more often than the tripod. Tripod use has been limited to longer exposure shots.
     
  7. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Sure, but at ten dollars each I can buy a new one every six months and not even feel it.

    I was thinking about it, and I want to buy a monopod with a ballhead included with it. The way I see it, if I buy a ballhead it won't fit in the case for my monopod, at which point it becomes an extra thing to carry around and will always be forgotten. So I want one which includes it. Might sound silly, but convenience is crucial for me.
    Interesting. I really only want the ballhead for vertical adjustment, since of course a monopod automatically works for panning. So I guess a simple ballhead top will do fine.
     
  8. garfield_cz

    garfield_cz Mu-43 Veteran

    218
    Jul 9, 2011
    Czech Republic
    Pavel
    I am using monopod with ballhead for macro shooting and it is very useful for fine adjustments. I would recommend ballhead with friction control for even better user experience.
     
  9. WJW59

    WJW59 Mu-43 Veteran

    235
    Feb 20, 2011
    True, but I paid around $30 and have used it for 15 years with $10 for parts on the repair. I think the current price is around $65 ( guess).
     
  10. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I have never used a monopod that had feet like that. I bet that does work well. With the feet on the base a fluid head might work well. I like the 500 series Manfrotto heads on tripods but the 701 being smaller would be as big as I would go on a monopod. I will have to look into one of those.
     
  11. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    I use a Manfrotto, don't remember which, but is is solid, no flex even when shooting with my 1Ds ana Bigma. The monopod should have a slight angle when shooting (to your front), that way any forward or downward pressure you apply will further drive the monopod into the ground. To attain this slight angle and still keep the senor plane perpendicular to the ground you'll need a basic up/down tilting head.

    Gary
     
  12. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    836
    Feb 29, 2012
    Sounds like a 681, extends to almost 6ft - which I need when shooting birds in trees. It holds my 1Dm2 with 300/2.8 + 2xTC + 580EX flash and extender without any trouble.
     
  13. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Not as much as you gain from an expensive, nice tripod. That's for sure.

    I have carried a Gitzo monopod during years of traveling around the world. Bought it on eBay for well under $100, not even knowing it was a Gitzo. No label. I recently switched to a Benro flat carbon tripod with a monopod conversion leg. Haven't traveled with it yet but I am looking forward to it.

    With video YMMV for sure, but here are some things I've learned shooting stills:

    • Monopods are great walking sticks. On rocky or uncertain terrain, having and using the monopod was a big help. Galapagos Islands for example. Expensive usually means strong. Cheap usually means weak.
    • Walking sticks are not great monopods. The ones that I have seen with screws at the top, at least, are too short when extended and too long when collapsed.
    • Compactness is paramount for me. This means minimum five sections to collapse down to about 16" long and sleeve rather than the less-streamlined flip type leg locks. If it's bulky and awkward I won't be carrying it so much. Having a monopod strapped to my bag was crucial to being able to shoot in the dim chapels of St. Basil's on Red Square.
    • A ball head is important but an expensive one is not. Cheap ball heads don't allow small movements to be smooth, but your small movements are done by tilting and twisting the whole monopod. So the head quality doesn't matter so much. No need for a high buck RRS head, for example.
    • A "real" quick-release system is important. When I'm walking, holding the monopod and the camera, it is almost impossible for me to get the screw threads lined up to screw the thing into the camera. One reason is that with the ball head, the screw is never exactly aligned with the axis of the monopod. By "real" I mean the clamp must automatically capture when the plate is inserted. Like the Manfrotto RC2 system. All the Arca-Swiss systems I have seen require three hands: One for the monopod, one for the camera, and one to tighten the plate clamp. Arrgh!

    If your Dolica is not too bulky for you and is adequately strong, it may be fine. While researching an article I recently wrote for a travel magazine I came across the Promaster 7840 monopod. (http://promaster.com/products.asp?product=7840) Nice and compact, not expensive. It looked like it would be strong enough to serve well as a walking stick but I have not actually used the product. They have other models that may be worth a look, too.

    For a ball head/quick release I am using the Velbon QHD-41Q (Lineup of Head of Velbon). This is a cheapie, but it is very compact and has a "real" clamp system. I actually machined an adapter to put that Velbon QR clamp on my Benro B1 ball head, ditching their really nice Arca-Swiss screw-clamp plate.
     
  14. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Tom
    I second the use of a TrekTech magmount on a walking stick-style monopod--that's what I use, and it works great. But I also love the idea of using a ball-head on a canted monopod to create an even stabler platform. Great idea! I'll have to try that. I wonder if I could rig a ball head on the magmount?
     
  15. WJW59

    WJW59 Mu-43 Veteran

    235
    Feb 20, 2011
    Hmm..... all the MagMount heads I'm familiar with are ball heads. The one for my pocket is the Star (middle) and I use a Pro on my monopod for the Pen and E-620. The walking stick I use is a Tracks Sherlock with the camera extension but my stick is older and is a little different from the current design. Adding the camera extension lets me use the the staff at minimum height for walking and longer for photos.

    As far as using the monopod as one leg of a tripod with the user as the other two, I think I first read that back in the mid '70's in high school. The other ways recommended were standing with one foot ahead and the monopod against your instep or with it going back against your leg. Since I use a spike foot, I prefer option one. And if you really want to go light there is always the old string tripod/monopod or the commercial version (Steadepod IIRC).
     
  16. garfield_cz

    garfield_cz Mu-43 Veteran

    218
    Jul 9, 2011
    Czech Republic
    Pavel
    Walking stick with attached UltraPod II is very good and cheep replacement of monopod with ballhead for m4/3. When hiking I am usually carrying tourists retractable poles and there is hallways room for Ultrapod in my backpack ;) Of course my Manfrotto monopod is much more smooth, sturdy, tall and HEAVY therefore not being with me in the field :)