Last Updated on February 13, 2022 by Devaun Lennox
Many photographers often overlook the humble monopod when it comes to stabilization tools. But, they’re an excellent means to reduce the strain of a heavy camera setup. And they’ll do just that while ensuring you also get sharper images. Yet, they also undercut traditional tripods in their versatility since they’re usually much more compact, lighter, and have a smaller footprint. Sure, with a single leg alone, they can’t offer the rocksteady support of a large tripod. Even so, you can use these devices in areas and situations where larger tripods are unfeasible, say when there isn’t enough space or tripods aren’t allowed.
Not to mention, you’ll also save a substantial amount of carrying weight in the process, as even the lightest tripods are still somewhat bulky by comparison. Plus, their setup time is near-instantaneous, saving precious time capturing a fleeting moment. So gone are the days of missing an opportunity from fiddling with deploying a heavy-duty tripod.
As such, monopods are a must if you want that extra touch of support needed to nail a shot, especially at long shutter speeds. And they’re also ideal when you need to remain quick and reactive when setting up a composition. Together, these humble tools solve some notable problems. And they’re a must in a new photographer’s arsenal. But, when it comes to monopods, like tripods, there are several things to consider. And picking the right one will depend on your needs and the factors you find most important. With that, we’ve compiled a detailed guide outlining the factors you’ll want to consider beforehand. And we’ll also cover the best monopods on the present market.
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5 – Manfrotto 290
Manfrotto’s 290 brings simplicity to the table. The 290 uses a carbon fiber construction, weighing only 1.1 lbs ( 0.5 kg) and supporting a maximum payload of 11 lbs (5 kg). And it collapses to 19.3 in (49 cm) and extends to 59.5 in (151 cm). While not the highest payload at this price point, it’s well suited for most travel cameras and lens setups nonetheless. And instead, it’s here, ready to keep things light and mobile. Even so, it uses 4-section legs with magnesium flip locks for quick and easy setup or teardown. It also offers an upper disc with integrated 3/8 and 1/4-inch threads, ensuring maximum compatibility. Other bonuses include a wrist strap, a padded grip, and a rubber leg warmer. Overall, Manfrotto’s 290 is an excellent choice for those wanting something nimble, discreet, and lightweight for traveling.
4 – IFOOTAGE Cobra 2
IFOOTAGE’s Cobra 2 is their award-winning release boasting a modular design. The Cobra 2 uses a carbon fiber construction weighing 2.75 lbs (1.25 kg) and supporting a maximum payload of 22 lbs (10 kg). And it offers a compact design, collapsing to 27.7 in (70.5 cm) and extending to 70.9 in (180 cm). But crucially, it boasts clever 3-in-1 functionality with a patented quick-release system. In this case, it offers a quick-release sleeve to attach fluid heads with a simple locking mechanism. There it doubles as a fixed video monopod. But, you can even remove its stabilizing feet and use them as standalone minipod, perfect for low-angle shots. The stabilizing feet are also adjustable with three settings, adding much-needed versatility when shooting on uneven terrain. And it also has 3-section legs with flip locks, for quick hassle-free setups. Other bonuses include a carrying case. Overall, IFOOTAGE’s Cobra 2 is an excellent option for those who want class-leading functionality.
3 – Benro Adventure 4 Series
Benro’s Adventure 4 Series is the perfect suit for those on the taller side wanting more reach. The Adventure 4 uses an aluminum frame weighing 1.85 lb (0.84 kg). But, crucially, this otherwise lightweight monopod can support a whopping maximum payload of 39.7 lbs (18 kg), more than enough for the heaviest setups around. So no worries about overloading it with camera gear and accessories. It also boasts an outstanding range, collapsing to 21.3 in (54 cm) but extending to 75.2 in (191 cm). So no issues if you’re on the taller side or want a high-angle shot. Otherwise, it uses 5-section legs with reinforced flip locks for quick, hassle-free one-handed setups. Other bonuses include a swiveling foot, optional stabilizing feet, and a 3-year warranty. Overall, Benro’s Adventure 4 Series is an excellent choice for those on the taller side wanting more reach. And it’s also a perfect option if you frequently travel with heavy setups.
2 – Vanguard VEO 2S
Vanguard’s VEO 2S is their latest range, now with three legs. The 2S uses a lightweight carbon fiber frame that weighs 1.75 lbs (0.8 kg), supporting a maximum payload of 13.2 lbs (5.9 kg). And it uses 4-section legs with twist locks, collapsing to 21.5 in (54.6 cm) and extending to 64 in (162 cm). Unlike most rivals, though, it offers folding stabilizing feet, which unlock to follow moving action. And this configuration makes it ideally suited to sports, wildlife, and journalism applications. Sure, it adds minor bulk in the process. But, the trade-off is welcomed given the flexibility it offers. Other bonuses include a smartphone connector, a Bluetooth remote, a wrist strap, a rubber grip, and a carabiner clip to attach it to a belt. Overall, Vanguard’s VEO 2S brings excellent stability and functionality for both photo and video.
1 – Sirui P-326
Sirui’s P-326 is the best mid-range all-rounder. Not only is it extraordinarily lightweight at 0.9 lbs (0.40 kg), but it’s also incredibly compact and robust. In this case, it uses six sections to collapse to a mere 15.6 in (39.6 cm) but extends to a whopping 61.4 in (155 cm). And it does so offering silicon twist locks with weather sealing to improve its durability. Yet, its eight-layer carbon fiber frame supports cameras up to 22 lbs (10 kg), making it well suited for full-frame DSLRs and long telephoto setups. It also features a reversible mounting screw supporting both 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch sockets. So you can attach virtually any camera or tripod head. Other bonuses include a retractable steel spike, a foam grip, a wrist strap, a mini compass, and a carabiner. Overall, while Sirui’s P-326 lacks stabilizing feet, it’s an excellent option for traveling photographers wanting something ultra-lightweight and insanely durable.
What to Look for in Monopods:
Above all else, you’ll want to ensure the option you’re considering meets the maximum load rating of your heaviest camera setup. So it’s wise to double check it’s at least equal to, but preferably, exceeds, the combined weight of your heaviest camera and lens. Doing so will guarantee that the device will remain sturdy and won’t arch or bend during use.
Not all of these devices offer similar extensions. So it’s critically important to ensure the option you’re considering meets your appropriate standing height. For this, measure the distance from the ground to slightly below eye level. And that distance should be the maximum height of the monopod. If you opt for a model that’s too short, you’ll have to stoop over while shooting, causing unnecessary back strain. So getting the appropriately sized option will ensure you can stand upright comfortably without strain.
You’ll find that most monopods come in either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions. Aluminum is relatively lightweight, strong, and surely more affordable. While carbon fiber is more robust, weather-resistant, lighter, and more durable. If you’re looking for a long-term option, it’s wise to skip those using aluminum constructions and opt for carbon fiber instead. Most carbon fiber monopods can last upwards of 20 years, compared to the only five years of most aluminum variants. And for this reason, they provide better long-term value.
You can find heavy-duty and lightweight monopods. The heavy-duty ones are more stable and durable, making them better suited for professional DSLR and telephoto setups. However, many of them are as heavy as a tripod, defeating much of their benefit. So if traveling light is essential, look for options weighing less than 3 lbs.
You can find newer options with additional stabilizing feet, replicating the effect of a tripod. But, they do tend to be bulkier. Even so, it’s something to consider if you want the added stability that they provide, especially if you have a heavy DSLR setup or a video camera. Otherwise, most models come with a retractable metal spike for added stability. And spiked feet alone are sufficient in most circumstances.
You can find options with either twist or flip locks. Generally, twist locks are more robust and durable long-term. But, flip locks are easier to engage, making the setup process noticeably faster. Which style is best, though, comes down to personal preference. Either way, find a device that has high-quality locks so it doesn’t collapse accidentally or wear unnecessarily over time.