Tripod or Monopod OR Tripod and Monopod?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by epp_b, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. I've been borrowing a cheap Velbon tripod with a built-in 3-way head from a relative for a while. I returned it to him because I'm sick of using a wobbly, frustrating tripod.
    So, now I need to buy a tripod. I do mostly outdoor nature photos, as well as some event and performance photography. I also like to do long exposure night photography. This will be something that I take on walks and hikes.
    I've found a Manfrotto 190XProB with 486RC2 head as a kit for $230 CAD (approx. $200 USD). From what I gather, it's not a bad deal and it's a lot cheaper than at some other Canadian retailers.
    I tried one out in a store and while it is nice and sturdy, I think it will be to heavy for me at 5+ lbs with the head (in addition to my camera bag). I'm 5'7" and 145 lbs, so while the tripod's height is not an issue (and I don't often use it at full extension anyway), I feel that 5+ lbs with the head will be a problem for me. Yes, I know the tripod rule -- weight, strength, price; pick two -- but I simply can't afford to spend $500+ before the head and I don't think it's even practical to do that for the D40 setup I have.
    Because of that, I'm also considering a Manfrotto 679B monopod for taking along on walks as hikes to use mainly as an alternative to hand-holding. It's a lot more palatable to carry at 2.3 lbs with the head and it's also easier and quicker to deploy than a tripod.
    The only thing is, I feel a little silly spending that much on a tripod that I don't think I'll use terribly often. Or perhaps there's a specific use or something I haven't thought of?
    One more challenge: I need to decide quickly as I am leaving for a vacation in 2 weeks.
  2. I suggest you read the tripod section at before you buy. I did not and spent money on tripods I did not like to use. I now have two tripods each with a ballhead. I found a used Gitzo 1530 carbon fiber which is very light with a Induro head with a total weight of about 2.5 pounds. It is short but steady. If you are using short, light teles and less something like this may work for you. You may not need an expensive ballhead just something that is rigid and locks. A light setup will make it much easier to take with you and be of use. It is your sharpest lens whatever the body. I have not had as much success using monopods.
  3. [oops, double post]
  4. I have read Thom's tripod essay. I understand what he is saying, but I can't spend that much on a tripod, nor do I need nearly that much support (and probably won't for a very long time, if ever).
  5. OK I'm a little old woman - about your size in height but I weigh less. But again - I'm a little old woman. I can't stand monopods. Some people love them & I had a super sturdy one. I could not stand it. I could not get a good shot out of it when I needed it most. So - I now work a two tripod system. I will not ever again buy a monopod. Waste of money for me.
    If you want to go lighter on a tripod system - buy a carbon fiber from the beginning. Manfrotto have carbon fiber ones as well. And buy a Markins ball head. They weigh less than all the rest & are just as strong if not stronger in the same class. Maybe a tad more money - but you'll be happier in the long run.
    Be intelligent in your tripod purchase. Do it right & do it so one time - - the first & only time.
    Lil :)
  6. Epp,
    i have the same combo 190xprob & 486rc2. the nice thing about the 190 is it balances price, weight, and load-bearing (11 lbs) pretty well. it's really well-made and very ergonomically designed. very sturdy too. it isn't an ultralight, but it's lighter than some inexpensive 'pods. i wouldn't describe it as an especially hiker-friendly pod at 4 lbs, though, especially if youre trekking through serious backcountry..
    adorama has a cheapie CF, the f-112, which is a bit lighter (2.6 lbs) and supports a bit less (9.9 lbs). but the price is right ($150). check it out: you can pair it with the f-1 mag-alloy head and be around $200. the manfrotto has better build quality and more features, but the f-112 would be better for hiking.
    the other thing is the d40 is a pretty light camera, and depending on lenses, it might make sense just to get a 'hiking rig' for now and get something else down the line. i've been curious about the new metal gorillapods -- anyone out there used one?
  7. Can you define "hiking rig"?
  8. Eric, I have the SLR gorillapod. Best advantages, it is small, easy to carry and with a ballhead attached, is incredibly flexible.
    But there are downsides, of course. Even with a rating of about 7 lbs, it is only stable with my smaller lenses when the D300 is mounted. It is handy for hiking and travel -- I consider it better than nothing -- but it will never replace the quality and stability of a tripod. Given a choice, I always go with a tripod.
  9. In my experience, monopods are not of great use... most of the times when using a monopod I missed to have a tripod. What seems really practical to me is an ultralight tripod and head, even beyond the limit of what is recommended. I like to use a Gizto CF Series 0 for any walking trip, with a Manfrotto 484 head. I also have permanently on the back of my car a Series 1 tripod, which is certainly light, but not enough to jump over my lazyness of carrying it.
  10. No comment on tripods - very rarely do I shoot in low light - only time I need a tripod for the long exposures - and for that I use a velbon travel tripod.
    Now with regards to monopods, I've not had a need for monopods for general purpose shooting - in daylight, fast shutter speeds do the trick, and in lowish light, owning a VR lens is a godsend.
    When I'm out shooting with my long lens, yes, I will bring my monopod out. While it helps gain me perhaps, *maybe* one stop improvement, nothing beats shutter speed to stop movement, and the monopod is more for helping me support the lens while the critter moves into a photogenic position. It gets tiring holding on to a 3kg rig after while :p
  11. In my experience a monopod is best when there's a need to use long lenses, e.g. in concerts. As a general replacement for tripods, especially in landscape work, I can't recommend monopods.
    The Manfrotto is ok. I have a small Slik ultralight tripod that weighs 1 kg with the head, but it has problems with verticals and I had to get a better head. Still, it's good if extremely low weight is needed. But in general I would suggest the Manfrotto 190. Only you can decide how much you can carry but let's face it -- equipment for higher quality pictures means that more weight needs to be carried.
  12. About a year ago I was looking for a similar hiking tripod/head combo (at the time D70 with the 80-200 being my heaviest lens, now with the D700 and still the 80-200 as my heaviest). For the legs I wound up getting a Velbon El Carmage 630 (carbon). I can't quote the weight but by themselves they're wonderfully light. For the head, it's an Acratech v2 ballhead with an Acratech leveling base (I do a lot of panos). The leveling base adds a bit of weight (of course) but you can easily do without it if you don't do panos.
    The pod has taken everything I've thrown at it, including getting drowned in the surf storm surges on numerous occasions. And I can easily carry it over my shoulder all day long as it balances nicely and all three legs have this foamy wrap on them. I use it for extended exposure night photography, my wife uses it for her close up flower macros... The ballhead makes it extremely flexible, including tracking moving objects.
    I've forced the memory of what I paid for that setup out of my head but it was worth it. I'd definitely second (or third or whatever) Thom when he says to pay for it once, do it right the first time. If you're looking to save some dough in the short term, I'd second the recommendation for the Gorillapod SLR - or if you wanted to go really inexpensive, a beanbag or little pillow. Oddly enough, that's how I got into my low-level wide angle shots which I strongly prefer shooting now... :)
  13. Well, it seems that, perhaps, I've misunderstood the purpose of monopods. As it's now been explained, they are better used for supporting large heavy lenses like fast telephoto zooms than they are at stabilizing in general. Is this correct?
  14. This looks to be true, at least a lot of long lens users, including many pros at sport events, use them. Looks to be something like the previous fashion to the VR system.
  15. I tried using a good strong monopod with my 500mm f4 P Nikkor and did not like it. YMMV. I still think you will be better off in the long run if you get a light stiff tripod and spend less on the head if you don't have the budget for both. Just make sure the tripod is good enough for your lens kit. My big tripod is about six pounds with a Swiss Arca B-1 ballhead. I carry 16 pounds of equipment for low mile walks in the woods looking for bird shots. My 1530 is for hiking, short small and light for lenses less than 180mm and not to heavy. There are many types of heads available that may not cost alot and be of good use for you. Better than spending money for a tripod you will not carry.
  16. If you want to go lighter on a tripod system - buy a carbon fiber from the beginning. Manfrotto have carbon fiber ones as well. And buy a Markins ball head. They weigh less than all the rest & are just as strong if not stronger in the same class. Maybe a tad more money - but you'll be happier in the long run.​
    Lil said everything that needed to be said. If you can't find a CF Manfrotto or Velbon, get a used Gitzo. It's a good idea to visit a store and try various models. Markins do make excellent ballheads and the Q3 (Emille) is on sale on the big auction site at the moment.
  17. I know that I want a 486RC2 head, that's not in question. Some may find the single adjustment lever inadequate for a certain level of control, but I find it convenient. I'd also rather adjust the camera while having all of my fingers at the controls and my eye in the finder than using a clamp-type adjustment.
    A used set of legs might be a possibility, though.
  18. If you've ever photo trekked wetlands or tried to get a shot of Canadian geese landing on the water (where quick response time is critical) the limitations of a tripod become apparent. The OP expresses interest in nature photography, and I submit that yes, a monopod is important when lugging a monster lens around and getting lightning fast photo ops.
  19. Well, I don't have any "monster" lenses. My biggest lens is only a 55-200 VR.
  20. Both tripods and monopods can add a certain amount of stability but they both really need to be matched to the particular job at hand.
    Monopods do a great job of holding a camera up. However, they are relatively easy to rock back and forth or side to side and they pivot very quickly around the single pole. The rocking is what makes them less suitable for longer exposures although there are some positioning "tricks" that can reduce that. But the rocking allows a limited amount of change in elevation as well. People angle up or down by rocking. So this makes the monopod particularly well suited to things like shooting sports or other activities where there isn't a lot of need to shoot steep up or down angles.
    You want to do night long exposures? Tripod. Period. A monopod will not be satisfactory. Tripods hold the head and then the camera in a fixed position. They shouldn't rock or wobble. That does put one in the position of having to use a head which will keep up wih needed movement. Landscapes and slow moving subjects can be fairly easily dealt with. The high cost tension controlled ballheads (and a few others) can be set to hold the camera/lens in position without holding it by hand. Less expensive ball heads and pan/tilts if set for easy, slick movements usually don't hold the camera/lens balanced and it will flop down, possibly damaging something or even toppling the rig if heavy enough. You can often set some of these, if they have a separate panning movement (488 versus 486 Bogens, most pan/tilts, for example) to pan freely and hold angles. Tripods also allow for long enough exposures to make moving water "silky," captuiring light trails from moving vehicles, or any other time that you might need longer exposures than you can hold or don't want to use flash for, etc.
    A monopod (or a folded tripod) provides for a lot of mobility. If you have to move around a lot with a tripod? Well, it's like a movie many years ago with, I believe, Woody Allen trying to play cello in a marching band.
    Many people have and use both monopods and tripods. For walking about, I use a walking stick. Many of the walking sticks have the standard 1/4" camera mounting screw in the top. With a monopod or walking stick, a head is used almost solely to hold the camera in place and provide for a quick release plate. Some will provide for flipping to portrait position. A moving head on top of a moving "stick" doesn't add stability and it's awkward with most types of heads to hold the tripod and camera and loosen/lock the head.
    If you are only going to shoot long exposures infrequently or won't be moving around a lot or too far from your base or car, there is no good reason to overspend on a tripod by buying better materials for lighter weights. You could spend less on a tripod for infrequent uses but you would have to carefully consider the kinds of camera and lenses you anticipate using, whether you need to concern yourself with wind, etc. I have a Bogen 725b which is quite light, not terribly expensive and does well in mild conditions with a dslr and light lens. But it's not good in breezes. The Bogen you mention would do better but is as you've noted, much heavier. It would handle heavier lenses as well.
  21. Epp, they both have their uses. My main tripod is a Manfrotto 055C with a Markins M10 ball on it and I find that it works very well indeed for 6 to 8lbs of camera and lens, but I do not want to carry it very far.
    For hikes, sports shooting, and anywhere with people around, a monopod is difficult to beat. I use a Velbon RUP-40 with a Kirk quick release on the top and it is a great and very light combo. All up it weighs 500 gm (a smidgeon over 1 lb for the non-metric crowd) and Henrys is selling them now for CAD$42. You cannot go wrong.
  22. My 2 cents: Get a really good tripid and head or stick with cheap tripods until you upgrade lenses/bodies. When was using D40x and 55-200 I had a $20 sunpak tripod with a built in head and it did the job just fine, even at 200mm. Now that I have heavier gear, I read Thom's article and went with GT2531 and RRS BH40 which is a joy to use, light, but quite expensive. Don't buy that setup and let it sit in your closet. I think that the cheap aluminum tripod (light) can support that setup just fine as long as you use a timer, cable release, or the handy IR remote that works with D40. I also have a monopod that I never use.
  23. I use a Manfrotto 055XB (legs) and 488RC4 (ball head) for my Nikon and Hasselblad equipment. For the cost / value ratio, I find it personally unbeatable. It stays in the cab of my pickup truck and is ready to go anytime I need it. It's proven itself to be a real work horse, especially after a particularly cold and snowy winter up here in New Hampshire. I have no qualms jamming the legs into the ocean to get some sunrise shots, wedging it between some rocks during a full moon, or throwing it in the back of my pickup bed when there's no space in the cab. And it still looks damn good to boot.
    I admit, I don't view a tripod the same way as a camera body or lens. It's a tool meant to work for me, not be coddled in a cushy case like my camera bodies and lenses are. So far it's stood up darn well to everything I've put it through, and I trust my equipment is safe and secure once I put it on there.
    As far as weight goes, it's heavy. There's no getting around that. If you're looking for something to go on day long hikes with, it may be worth sticking with a cheaper (and lighter) tripod, or saving the extra money to get carbon fiber legs. But if you're shooting near your house / car, or at most doing half day hikes, I don't think the weight of the legs / head will be a problem. That said, I'm 6'0 190 pounds so I'm viewing relative weight from a different perspective.
    As others have mentioned, a monopod is good for saving your hands from camera weight. It can get you a couple more stops of shutter speed, but they won't ever replace all you can do with a sturdy tripod.
    One word of note about Manfrotto heads - they are great for the cost/value, but they aren't perfect. Unlike their more expensive bretheren, they shift ever so slightly when you torque it down. If you're like me, you'll learn to adjust for it and it won't bother you. But I know for some people this a deal breaker.
  24. Dosen't Adorama sell what appear to be so very sturdy tripods that won't bust your wallet?
  25. Dosen't Adorama sell what appear to be so very sturdy tripods that won't bust your wallet?
    That are also light? I doubt it.
  26. I have been looking at the I have not personally held one in my hands but many are saying this is a fine tripod..and reasonable!
  27. mary,
    i would stay away from benro products.
  28. Craig put it best. There are valid reasons for both, which is why I also employ both. I just didn't do a very good job of saying that...
  29. I'll never understand why anyone would want to use a monopod. I would like to travel smaller and lighter, but there's no way I would give up my tripod.
  30. Joseph, any particular reason you recommend staying away from Benro?
    I actually took a look at Benro's Canadian website and found what appears to be a decent set of carbon fibre legs for just over $200 CAD. But I've found no reviews and no indication on the company's reputation.
    Unless it turns out that Benro has the deal of the century, I think what I'm going go to do is buy the 190XProB, which I know is sturdy enough to last me a long time, and also buy a OpTech neoprene tripod strap to make it easier to carry.
  31. Paul, you say "I'll never understand why anyone would want to use a monopod."
    Well, there are occasions when it is a better tool.
    Where I live there are sessions called "Dancing in the park" -- open air dancing on grass. It is a fun evening with many people milling around. Trying to use a tripod would be ridiculous in that venue. The monopod gives you enormous (but not absolute) stability with freedom to relocate quickly.
    Last weekend I was shooting an International rugby game. I was in the stands in the very top row with a long zoom. At first I used a tripod with the two front feet extended to rest on the seating plank of the row below me. However every time someone twitched their ass, the board flexed and the view through the lens oscillated like a drunken sailor.
    I switched to the monopod resting on my footboard and stood up on my seat plank and the view was 100x more stable.
    You use whatever tool makes sense for the environment you are in. There are few absolutes.
  32. Epp, If nothing else, there are plenty of places where you might want to shoot where a tripod just won't be practical - e.g. some public spaces like museums, rail stations, whatever - won't allow a tripod - but you can get away with a monopod. Now a monopod will never be as good as a tripod - they're not really interchangeable - but in the right circumstances with the right technique, it can be a useful tool. For a good brief overview of proper monopod technique, see BTW - although it may be counterintuitive, an inexpensive swivel tilt head, like the Manrotto 234RC can be useful to help you deploy proper technique AND get the right angle. Good luck!
  33. Thanks, I understand that they are different beasts with different capabilities and shortcomings.
    I can tell you that definitely need a tripod as do I like making long/night exposures, shooting fireworks, etc. A good monopod is a lot cheaper to come by later on if I decide I need one.
  34. "I'll never understand why anyone would want to use a monopod."​
    I forgot to mention above that I've also got a Manfrotto monopod, the model number escapes me but it's the one with the pistol grip for quickly extending the tube and a 1 way head so I can drop it into portrait mode.
    It's been very useful when I was shooting rugby tournaments and needed to take the weight off my arms during a very long day. And (this is before this newfangled VR stuff) it really helped with I had the 70-300 at 300mm on a 1.5x body (D70). Shooting indoors in auditoriums where space is at a premium it's been indispensible. I actually look for opportunities to use it (admittedly they're more rare these days).
  35. Take a look at and their tripods. Great products at very good prices. How about a complete tripod, head and carbon fiber base for $109. They also have aluminum and other lightweight models. I do have one of their tripods and I love it, no complaints about it.
  36. Dosen't Adorama sell what appear to be so very sturdy tripods that won't bust your wallet?
    That are also light? I doubt it.​
    this is the flashpoint CF pod i linked to earlier. $150, 2.6 lbs, supports 9.9 lbs. i dont know about 'so very sturdy'. i'm almost positive the manfrotto 190 is a lot sturdier and it definitely has a better build quality. the weight of the 190 is just light enough to lug but not light enough to lug for a very long time. of course, you can get a pack with a tripod holster and sling it that way.
    i'm very happy with my 190, although there are times i would like something lighter and less bulky for more casual use.
    for a d40 with a 55-200 i dont think a monopod would be good for anything but swatting at muggers.
  37. The review I read of the Flashpoint (right here at , as a matter of fact) says that it's pretty good except for the comparitively wobbly fourth leg sections and some annoying quirks with the centre column.
  38. Well, I pulled the trigger and bought the 190XProB with 486RC2 head and saved about $30 by buying it as a kit. I also bought a OPTech tripod strap, which should make carrying the tripder a lot easier; it looks really cushy :)
  39. lol, I don't know how I ended typing "tripder", but it should say "tripod" ;)
  40. I have an old, but still very good SLIK tripod, but I have to admit, even with 500mm mirror lenses, I still prefer a monopod. They are light, and give you far more mobility. Mine also has a wire "step" on the bottom of it, that folds out of the way if you don't need it, which adds to it's rigidity. Now if you are going to do a lot of studio work, well, then a tripod is a must. But for outdoor stuff, it's a monopod for me.
  41. to reiterate the monopod question.....their original design intent was to hold long lenses. And the monopod is attached to the lens NOT the camera. And their primary use is for sports, motor anything where you need the mobility to move around, to pan, to shoot a different area of the scene very quickly, but still have a reasonably stable platform for sharp pics.
    They really are not a repacement for a tripod....ever. Oh, you can use it if you want to outside it's original intent, but a lightweight tripod is best if you are trying to reduce weight. I bought a Slik Sprint Pro for those times when I didn't feel like carrying my Manfrotto heavy weight. I knew it wasn't the most stable tripod in the world but when I read Galen Rowell's method of using his lightweight Gitzo (one that I wanted, but could not afford) by never extending the center column and never extending the bottom flimsy legs....and using large rocks, etc. to gain height, I decided to to give the Slik a try. Weighs 2 lbs with head, and can hold 4lbs (which is what my Mamiya 7 w/65mm lens on it weighs). works great that way.
  42. Monopods and tripods are two very different beasts. A good tripod will allow you to get very long shutter speeds, and very stable shots with all of your lenses. A monopod will give you a couple of f stops worth of extra exposure if used correctly. I have both, and use both.
    You owe it to yourself to search the internet for the proper use of monopods. Most people just put the camera on top of one, and use it straight up and down. This is the most inefective method of use. It will easily tilt in 4 directions. If you put the base about 30 degrees in front of you, and push into it a bit, you will have a MUCH more stable platform.

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