Buying guide for
If you live by the idea that more is always better, you might want to rethink that philosophy when it comes to monopods.
While a tripod with three legs is going to provide more support for a camera than a single-post monopod, that doesn’t mean the tripod is always the better choice for your photography needs. A monopod allows photographers to hold the camera steady for almost any kind of shot, just like a tripod. It’s also easy to use and folds down to a small size, so you can carry it anywhere, unlike some bulkier tripods.
When comparing various monopods for your photography, think about your needs and consider the following:
Digital camera gear can vary quite a bit in weight. A simple fixed lens camera doesn’t weigh much. But a DSLR camera with a long lens weighs a few pounds or more. Certain monopods are made to support only lightweight cameras. Others can handle extremely heavy still image and video cameras. Think about the type of gear you use and select a monopod that can easily support its weight.
Monopods typically have a telescoping design. The sections collapse inside each other down to a shorter size for certain shots or a size that’s easy to carry, usually 15 to 24 inches. When it’s time to use the monopod, you extend the sections and lock them in place so you can use the full length of the pole, anywhere from 54 to 72 inches.
A lightweight monopod is a smart idea if you want to take your camera equipment on hiking trips. As a general rule, heavy-duty monopods are made of materials that weigh more than light-duty monopods. However, you don’t want to trust your expensive camera equipment to a light-duty monopod, even if you are trying to lighten your load. If the monopod collapses, your camera could get damaged.
Each section of a monopod locks in place using one of two designs: twist or latch.
Twist: On twist-lock monopods, you to twist a ring on each section to loosen or tighten it. This lock design holds its position tightly and allows for fast adjustments.
Latch: The other lock design involves a latch that you flip. Push the latch one way to extend the sections; flip the latch the other way to lock the sections in place. Flipping the latches can make a little noise, which is undesirable when photographing wildlife.
Monopods come in a few different designs and materials. Pay attention to these to find the best monopod for your photographic needs.
Materials: Extremely inexpensive monopods are made of plastic, so one might not last very long. More durable monopods are made of lightweight and tough aluminum or carbon fiber.
Sections: A typical monopod consists of telescoping sections, allowing the monopod to fold down to a short size for carrying. A unit with five or six sections folds down to a smaller size than one with three or four sections.
Feet: Occasionally, you’ll find monopods that include feet. The unit usually has three feet that extend out from the bottom to provide a bit of extra stability. When the feet aren’t needed, they fold back into the pole and out of the way.
Strap: Some monopods have a strap to make them easier to carry in the hand or on the shoulder. If you’re carrying a monopod with your camera attached, a strap can help you carry it securely.
You can find monopods in a wide price range. Hardware aimed at professionals costs quite a bit more than basic units.
Inexpensive: Beginner-level monopods cost roughly $15 to $35. These aren’t able to support a lot of weight, but they’re sturdy enough for average-size or smaller cameras. Light-duty monopods might be made of inexpensive plastic.
Mid-range: These monopods cost about $35 to $75. They are mostly aluminum and can easily support medium-size DSLRs and lenses. A mid-range monopod provides a good level of performance for most photographers.
Expensive: Professional photographers can spend $75 to $300 for a lightweight but sturdy carbon fiber or aluminum monopod. These monopods are also the longest, usually at least 68 inches.
- Set up quickly. Monopods are easy to use. You can connect your camera and be shooting photos in just a few seconds. A tripod takes longer to set up and start using.
- Choose a monopod if you have limited space. When you’re shooting photos in a tight space, a tripod’s three legs could cause a tripping hazard. The monopod is safer to use because you don’t have to worry about someone tripping on it.
- Adjust your position quickly. Monopods are perfect for taking action photos, when you have to adjust the position of the camera quickly for fast-moving subjects. You have the stability you need for sharp photos, but unlike with a tripod, you also have the freedom to move the camera in all directions.
- Carry your camera on the monopod. If you don’t like carrying your camera on a neck strap, a monopod makes a nice alternative. Just keep the camera attached securely to the monopod and carry the monopod, which is surprisingly comfortable. This technique also works well when you want to have the camera ready to use as quickly as possible.
Q. Do I need a specific brand or model of monopod to pair with my camera?
A. Not really. The mounting screw or ball head on the monopod is made to fit almost any camera. If you’re trying to mount a smartphone onto the monopod, you might need a specific model, but traditional digital cameras should work with any monopod.
Q. What’s the best way to maintain good balance when shooting with a monopod?\
A. When shooting with a monopod, you’ll want to recreate the balance you have with a tripod. Pair the contact points your feet make on the ground with the contact point of the monopod to create a balanced stance.
Q. What’s the best shooting height with a monopod?
A. If your camera has a viewfinder, extend the monopod until the viewfinder is at eye level. This allows you to capture spontaneous photos as quickly as possible. You can line up the photo in a hurry when using the monopod at this height. Shooting photos from a monopod feels natural with this setup.
Q. Should I change the height of the monopod for certain photo angles?
A. Should you need to shoot a photo above or below eye level, don’t count on having time to adjust the height of the monopod. Instead, learn to change the angle at which the monopod rests on the ground. To shoot upward, place the monopod leg away from your body and tilt the camera backward toward you. To shoot down, do the opposite. Then adjust your stance so you can see through the viewfinder while maintaining your balance.