Monopods: Standing on One Leg

Sometimes you can’t carry a tripod or there’s no space to use one. That’s where a monopod comes in handy. If you’re shooting sports, a monopod is useful for supporting long lenses and the tight space you’re working in. If you’re photographing from the stands, a tripod can interfere with the other spectators but a monopod won’t. For the photographer with space and weight at a premium—like a backpacker or as in the above shot when schlepping a long lens around a road racing circuit—a monopod can be ideal. The above image was shot at Laguna Seca using a Canon 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens mounted on a Manfrotto monopod. Image ©2011 Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

The weight is one-third of a tripod of similar quality. Monopods can be used with the same type of heads that tripod use, but are typically used without any head. The 1/4″-20 threaded bolt sticking out from the top of the monopod can be screwed into the bottom of your camera or the tripod collar included with long focal length lenses and be easily moved to get “that perfect angle.” The monopod seems to be making another one of its many comebacks.

One of the reasons are new products like Monostat’s Carbon Fiber monopod (They call it a Unipod and it’s seen at right during a shoot last Winter) which collapses from nearly 60-inches down to 20-inches when closed. While not as steady or rigid as a tripod,  they are better than hand holding a long lens, slow shutter speeds, or both.

While shopping for monopod, remember that the same standards that apply to a good tripod also apply to the monopod. One benefit is that because of the simplicity, even a top of the line monopod is surprisingly affordable. If your camera support needs are simple and occasional, a monopod may be all you need!

Author: Joe Farace

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