Tripods and Monopods, both are very essential pieces of equipment for a photographer. While, monopod may not be the choice of many people who are starting out as photographer, professionals love the one-legged stand.
Both these cannot be compared because they both are used in very different scenarios, where the needs of the photographer decide which one of these two is to be used. The tripod is used when support is of paramount importance but speed and ability to make quick changes in composition is not. On the other hand, a monopod acts only as a support for heavy cameras and lenses but also allows the photographer to make swift movements or changes since manipulating one leg is easier than three.
Can you think of some genres of photography where a monopod can be used, let me know in the comments section.
TRIPODS – MORE LEGS MEAN BETTER IMAGES ?
Yes, to some extent the heading is true. More legs offer better support which can result into better images. Tripods can stand on their own unlike monopods, which gives them an edge in terms of support.
Also, a tripod can be used in a number of different ways and is a boon specially for people into low light photography. People just love to tinker with those legs and are often amazed by how much they can achieve. Tripods are available in all types, some are flexible (like gorillapods), some are very rugged, some are made of high quality carbon fiber and some out of aluminum (old school). Nowadays, we even have tripods with magnetic legs. THIS IS CRAZY!
Needless to say it is overwhelming when you go out and look for one. Check this page out if you are looking for best tripod for beginners.
There are a few disadvantages as well of using a tripod and where a monopod can come in handy. The biggest disadvantage is the weight which really restricts the ability of photographer to move around freely. Also it takes a lot of time to set it up. If you are shooting action, you must be able to move around quickly. You don’t want those legs bumping around or those lock in knobs to stop you from capturing a priceless moment. I guess this justifies why more legs don’t always mean better images.
MONOPODS – ONE LEG ARMY
Monopods are great alternatives to tripods in situations where you need to hold big cameras and heavy lenses. Wildlife and sports are the two major genres where you will often find people using a monopod. If ease of movement and flexibility is important, going in for a monopod is always the right choice.
How to use a monopod?
There are two ways of mounting a camera on a monopod
- Mounting the camera itself on the head. This is suitable only when you are using a light camera+lens combination.
- Using a gimbal head or lens ring. A gimbal head is a good option because when it comes to handling large lenses, it is unmatched.
One minor issue with a monopod is that although it allows the photographer to pan easily sideways, but not up and down. But panning the camera from top to bottom is not something which is normally needed out in the shoot. If at all you need to move the camera up and down, the leg can collapsed for the height.
WHICH IS THE BEST?
It totally depends upon your requirements. From a beginners point of view, someone who is not in a position to spend some extra cash and is just starting out, going in for a solid tripod is the best option. It can serve you for years to come. Sure it is heavier and it is cumbersome to carry, but the advantages outweigh the cost 9 out of 10 times.
It’s not entirely false when I say that a monopod is more of a professional prop. You won’t need one unless you have those huge telephoto lenses. So if you aren’t very much into sports or action or wildlife, I don’t think a monopod will be the best bargain for your buck.
SOME GREAT MONOPODS
You can follow the same guidelines which I mentioned in my article the best tripod for beginners for selecting a good monopod. But if you don’t wanna go through all that trouble, I have listed some of the best ones for you.
- Gitzo GM5561T : This is most compact and lightweight monopod in the list, very reliable, max load capability is 55lb (24kg). Can extend above 5 feet and weighs only 1.65lb (0.75kg). Very expensive
- Benro A38TD : Main feature is the removable three-legged locking base which gives extra stability. Supports weight upto 39.6lb (18kg). Has a comfortable foam grip, max height -64 inches, aluminum made, weighs 2.05lb (0.93kg).
- Manfrotto XPRO MPMXPROC4 : Carbon fiber built, main feature is the quick lock clamps. Max load is 15lb (7kg), extends over 5 feet and weighs around 0.6kg.
- Sirui SUP204SR : Aluminum built thus very heavy. Has a removable aluminum spike at the bottom. Can support 27lb and extends upto 63 inches.
- Sirui P-326 : Weighs only 0.9 pounds and is only 15 inches long when collapsed fully. Can carry 22lb of weight and extends upto 61 inches.
Check these sample images out. They were taken with the help of a monopod. Notice how the pictures are sharp and well-composed. Much credit goes to the monopod used.
Tripods and monopods undoubtedly offer superior support for your camera, it is upto you when to use which piece of gear. Having both of them in your bag is a great thing. But it takes time, patience and a lot of practice to learn how to use each one of them to their maximum potential .
There are all sorts of accessories available in the market which make them easier to use and offer a better experience while using them but they are optional.
In my opinion, if you have just started out don’t think too much on this. Just pick one and practice. Honestly, having great is gear is nice, but what would make it better is if you mastered using it.
Feel free to drop in a comment about what you think about tripods and monopods. Also, if you have any queries or questions, do let me know and I’ll be more than happy to help you out.
Founder of TripodsforAll