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Great Monopod Tales

by Photo.net members, 1997

I have a Bogen 3249B with a small ballhead on top and love it. It has 3 sections and therefore goes short enough to fit inside a day pack or a suitcase. I've gotten it into many public places that exclude tripods. The only place I ever got told I couldn't use it was the United States capitol building. Even there I got it in, but some guard stopped me when I set it up. No one complained at the Lincoln Memorial or the top of the Washington Monument, or in the Bath Abby, Bath, England. A monopod is especially good when combined with a bean bag. For example, at the Lincoln Memorial, I shot down the capitol mall by using the monopod and leaning the camera body against one of the pillars with a beanbag between the pillar and the body.

-- David Jacobsen

I use a Bogen 3016 monopod with the 3229 swivel head with quick release (costs about $50 as a combo). It comes along with me when I want to enjoy walks through Boston. When I want to suffer, I strap the 3221 to my back.

I used to use a Kaiser small professional ballhead. The swivel head has three big advantages (in addition to costing 1/4 what the Kaiser cost...):

  1. It's much shorter than any ballhead, hence more compact to carry and better balanced when shooting verticals.
  2. There are fewer degrees of freedom than a ballhead, hence less to think about while shooting (use the swivel to switch from horizontal to vertical, adjust aim by moving the monopod, very natural).
  3. It uses Bogen's small rectangular plate quick-release, which is very sturdy and much more compact than their huge, ugly hex plates (I used to use Bogen's hex plate quick release system on the Kaiser, which made it HUGE).

I can hardly stand using a tripod without quick release, but I'd go insane with a monopod! Having the quick release helps you resist the temptation to carry the camera mounted to the monopod at all times, which can be dangerous, as I found out the hard way: If you bump the end of the monopod and lose your grip, an extended monopod is a VERY long lever arm that will slam your camera into the ground with great force...

--Andrew Kim

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Eli Rubinstein , September 05, 1997; 05:56 P.M.

I use a "Bebo" with a Cullman Ball Head which I leave unfastened. But this "arrangment" is a little Awkward since somehow unstable (because I have to use both hands to fasten the head) so I think to switch over to the Manfrotto Pistol Grip head which gives me the advantage of having a ball head and the abillity to fasten it with one hand ("squeezing" relases While "relising" fasten's the headt all with one hand leaving the other "free" for camera handling).

George Beinhorn , September 17, 1997; 09:14 P.M.

People who've never used a monopod don't realize... I've persistently been plagued with assignments to shoot at dark venues where I'm not allowed to use a tripod, or flash. Bleh. Most recently, I took the Bogen automatic monopod. Boy, what a revelation. Bogen now sells a nifty brace/ball head combo that is great. I took 3 rolls of pix at 1/25 to 1/50 using primarily a 24mm and an 80-200/2.8 (both Nikkors). Speak results: the designer is using a bunch of them for a CD cover. I'm a believer--the monopod now goes along behind the seat of the truck.

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , September 23, 1997; 02:37 A.M.

It has been a revelation to me how much support my two firm quadriceps- powered legs and a monopod can provide- assuming no coffee jitters. Allow me to suggest one more equipment alternative for those who fancy the Arca- swiss style quick release concept ( it does seem to be gaining popularity for good reason). I use a Bogen Monopod ( happens to be model 3218 in sexy black finish with no-nonsense knobs instead of colletts or whatever those Gitzo rubber rings are called. On top is a Bogen model 3232 swivel (about 15 bucks,- a million lire probably) and on top of that is a 70.00 B-2-Pro clamp marketed by Really Right Stuff (tel (805) 528-6321. With the quick release plate on camera, I am ready to grab tripod with Arca B1 ball head or described compatible monopod at will, and the camera packs easily with the slim RRS plate permanently fixed. Hope you will at least get Bryan Geyer's RRS catalog and follow his arguments. Good luck, Aloha, Gerry

Paulo Bizarro , April 14, 1998; 05:18 A.M.

I have just bought a Gitzo 1564 monopod to use with the 70-200L, allowing me to gain perhaps up to 2 stops extra speed (it depends on wind, extension of the legs, etc). I really like the releasing locks or knobs, they work great for me. Also it is light (less than 1 kg) and sturdy (supports up to 8 kg). I highly recommend it, and I am no girlie-man, though I also have a Gitzo tripod.

Paul Forlenza , January 29, 1999; 10:05 P.M.

I am going downhill skiing out west in March. I want to take my Contax G-2 with me on the slopes, occassionally stop, take some pictures and continue skiing. I prefer using slow speed slide film - thus I need a tripod (too cumbersome) or monopod (better). Anyone have a resonable idea about converting a monopod to a ski pole or a ski pole into a monopod ? thanks

Richard Townsend , February 07, 1999; 08:33 A.M.

I combined a SLIK Handy Pod II with a SLIK Mini Pod by pulling the centre out of the mini and sliding the Mini II's legs onto the second bottom extension of the Handy, which luckily is the same diameter as the mini centrepole. Then I replaced the bottom extension of the Handi, now it operates as a tri or mono pod. Light convenient and cheap. Works well if tramping around with a lot of gear gives you as much pain as it does me. You can even rig up a safety harness (adviseable) using any spare stap and attaching it to the Handy II's wrist strap. The SLIK bag that comes with the Mini can be attached to the other end of the stap to put the legs in and it becomes a shoulder sling. Give it a try, works well.

Arthur Gottschalk , February 13, 1999; 04:12 P.M.

I've been using a Gitzo 1586 carbon fiber monopod and a Nikon 300 mm F4 lens to shoot polo games. My pictures are very sharp, even though I focus manually. The Gitzo is feather-light and packs easily. I also use a Kirk Enterprises quick release, which works perfectly.

Timothy Breihan , March 23, 1999; 01:14 P.M.

I recently purchased a Manfrotto 3016, a three- segment monopod approximately 27 inches long, and was wondering if anyone had any ingenious solutions for attaching it to a Domke F2 bag.

Lars Holst Hansen , June 02, 1999; 03:34 P.M.

Ever tried to use your monopod as a boom? Using a wideangle, a cable release and preferably motordrive you can shoot from a new high angle. I used my monopod as a boom shooting a girdled lizzard in South Africa. It worked out fine but then I realized that he didn't really bother being photographed so I could get right up to him. Of course the pictures got better than the ones with the boom!

Tony Zipple , October 07, 1999; 10:25 A.M.

I just got a Bogen 3231 monopod with a Bogen 3025 head. The monopod is a bit heavy at 2.3 pounds, but it is rock solid even fully extended to 67". The removable legs are great when I am shooting sports and am in one place (relatively) for a while. They add a bit of extra stability without a lot of size/weight. It is not a tripod but with the removable legs in place it is as close as you get at this height for the weight. The 3025 head is a decent cheap (about $21) choice. It is smooth, small, well made solid and meets most on my monopod needs well. This combo in black is about $90 ($84 in silver) and I am really happy with it for the price.

David Marhadoe , November 06, 1999; 03:56 P.M.

Andrew Kim's comment above that a monopod will "slam" your camera into the ground if you let go is simply preposterous. Horizontal and vertical components of acceleration in falling bodies are independent of each other, which means that a camera dropped from six feet and a camera that falls over on a six foot monopod will hit the groud with exactly the same force. Try it! And he claims he went to MIT. . .

Anton Marcu , January 07, 2000; 05:05 P.M.

Leki makes colapsable hiking and ski poles with a threaded camera attachment in the pole grip. Most poles are made up of 3 sections of about 20 inches, so one of your poles functions as a monopod.

James Jingozian , January 29, 2000; 02:35 P.M.

Adding on to the outdoor monopod threads, Cabela's makes a combo gun rest/hiking stick/monopod. I haven't seen in in operation but it seems interesting if you shoot both cameras and guns.

Will Peterman , February 07, 2000; 07:14 P.M.

Just a quick addition to the monopod-safety thread: a falling camera really will hit the ground harder if it's fixed to a monopod, especially if the foot doesn't move. The short version is that the camera is above the center of mass; the center of mass falls more or less normally; the foot doesn't fall at all; the camera falls fast. The heavier (and longer) the monopod, the greater the effect. Also, the camera tends to hit the ground first, so the additional momentum of the monopod is transferred to the ground through the camera body.

I'm quite fond of monopods (personal choice for light duty: Bogen 3245.) Just don't drop them.

Larry H. Smith , February 21, 2000; 04:12 A.M.

Will, take a bowling ball on top of a monopod. Balance it standing upright. Take another bowling ball, equal in mass to the 1st ball/mono combination. hang it by a line at a height equal to the height of the center-of-mass of the ball/mono combo. Nudge the ball/mono just off balance, and snip the line at the same instant. The solo ball will fall straight down, not resisting gravity, in a direct path equal to the height of the ball/mono combo cm. The (cm of) the ball/mono combo will fall in a curved path, 1.5708 times as long as the solo-ball path, resisting gravity to the degree that it is still supported by the vertical component of the pod tip pushing against the ground ( resistance decreasing of course, with the angle from horizontal). So we have: same force acting...in one case on a non-resisting body, over a shorter distance... in the other case, on a resisting body over a longer distance. They cannot hit the ground at the same time. The "dropped" ball(camera) must hit the ground first. The body hitting the ground first (from an equal height) must travel (vertically) faster. The faster body , with equal mass, will strike with greater force. The ball(camera) on the mono is by far the greater component of the weight, so the cm will not be far below it. So the "leverage " speed increase of the ball vs the cm will be slight ( < 1.5708X). I suggest not enough to make up the speed/impact difference, even with the additional mass of the monopod adding to the impact load on the camera. For my money, the "dropped" camera will hit the ground sooner, and harder, than the "leaning/falling" combo (even though the camera, if dropped from the same height as the camera on the mono, wold be a little higher than the combo cm., it wouldn't be 1.5708X as high). What do you think?(Sorry Dave..about the complex sentences and polysyllables!)

Randal R. Ketchem , February 25, 2000; 03:44 P.M.

Falling Camera on Monopod - The point is that if you BUMP the monopod (as was stated in the original comment) the monopod will indeed act as a lever arm and SLAM the camera into the ground. This effect will be more pronounced with a hard bump near the bottom of the leg. Drop one camera and tie another to the end of a bat...

Marco Anglesio , March 15, 2000; 06:58 P.M.

Dropping camera on monopod: the camera will hit the ground harder (maybe not faster, which depends on your monopod height and , but certainly harder) because the monopod proper is not massless. The camera absorbs the energy of both (since the camera has diameter greater than that of the monopod) when they move from the higher energy position, upright, to the lower energy position, on the ground. Travel in any direction but the vertical is irrelevant; gravity is a vector field which only pulls down.

Now, this does postulate an ideally hard surface and an ideal monopod, which doesn't absorb energy as the monopod/camera rotates and falls. These, I believe, are insufficiently strong to counteract the energy supplied by the added mass with a monopod of reasonable heft and height.

The argument that the monopod + camera will take longer to fall than the camera alone is true, but irrelevant. We are not dealing with *average* velocity through the entire fall, or even velocity of the center of mass at impact, but the energy that it takes to slow the whole thing down to a standstill and which the camera absorbs most of.

William Nicholls , March 17, 2000; 05:56 P.M.

Hmmm. I'll take rational physics and math in a well-worded explanation over, "...it slams..." pretty much every time. To avoid the temptation to lean your camera+monopod in a kinetically dangerous way, it may be wise to add a quick release to your monopod.

On another note, I destroyed a Gitzo monopod by using it as a hiking staff a few years ago. I took it on a backpacking trip to southern Utah. The lower section was a soft enough alloy that it ended up a little crooked from the use. The bend, combined with some nicks and dings from hits on sandstone along the trail were enough to render the monopod impossible to compress. The famed Gitzo tight tolerances work against you in this regard - any minor metal burr is enough to hang up the nesting legs. I've found that hiking/trekking poles by Komperdell, Black Diamond, Leki and Trax are much better as hiking monopods. They use hardened alloys that can survive the same kind of leverage forces ski poles endure. The joints tolerate nicks and sand without binding. Trekking poles are also much lighter. Look for models with a removable knob at the grip that reveals a 1/4 inch thread. There are retrofit grips available for some brands, too. I prefer the cork-like grips. Save your Gitzo for cotillions and operas...

Okay, so what did I go and do? I bought a Gitzo Monotrek hiking staff/monopod. It's made of a resilient alloy and should hold up to hiking use. It has a cork composite grip, a detachable basket for snow/sand, a ski grip style wrisp strap and a cute little ball head that has a protective snap on cover. The tradeoff is that the Monotrek isn't very "dead" compared to the real monopods. Can't have it all, I suppose. The Monotrek's hardened steel tip isn't the best for cotillions and operas, either. Not much bite on polished marble floors.

Will Peterman , April 22, 2000; 02:38 A.M.

Well, since you asked... (OK, it's a feeble and transparent excuse to continue a somewhat off-topic thread, but it's the best one I have.) David was basically right about the relative effects of falling with and without a pole... you start out with the same amount of potential energy, you convert it all to kinetic energy (speed), and you point it down. The end result (speed at impact) is the same; the only difference is that the pole complicated the path (and the math) in between. (You lose a little more energy to friction with the pole than without, but not much.) It's an idealized model, but it works pretty well for heavy objects (like bowling balls) on light poles. For lighter objects, the center of mass will be below the camera; the camera/'pod combination will pick up a significant rotational moment as it falls, and the camera will hit the ground faster than it would have otherwise. My Nikon 950/Bogen 3245/tilt head balances about 15 inches below the camera; that puts the cm about 60 inches off the ground. That means the camera would be going about 25% faster than the cm when it hit (assuming I were crazy enough to let it fall,) with (1.25^2) or about 55% more kinetic energy than an equivalent mass at the cm. It only had 25% more potential energy to start with, so the extra 20% came from the gravitational potential of the 'pod below the cm (which wound up falling slower than it would have otherwise) - it's as if it fell from 90 inches instead of 75. So yes, it matters, but not a lot; get a quick-release anyway. (If there's a physics prof around looking for an exercise to torment seniors with, ask them what would happen if the 'pod had one of those rubber fake ballheads on it. Ouch.) As an aside (but probably more on-topic,) I just spent a week crawling around the Gulf Islands (BC) with the 950/3245 and an extra lens or two, and had the most fun I've ever had hiking with a camera... I got pictures from places I wouldn't even have thought of going with a heavier kit, and some of them were even good. Definitely recommended. (Sorry about the long post, but the last one was too short... I'll get the hang of this eventually.)

Chriss Hoffman , July 09, 2000; 06:42 A.M.

Reading the Monopod thread was very informative, I think a monopod is just what I need, a combination walking stick and camera staballizer.

As for the REAL answer to which hits the ground first a camera by itself or a camera on a monopod = Is the money hitting your repair shops' counter as it falls from your wallet!

Good thread.

melvin bramley , July 17, 2000; 10:13 P.M.

I have a Gitzo monopod,no better no worse than others. What does make it better is the addition of a Manfrotto rubber mount that goes between the camera & monopod. This allows the monopod to be used in other positions than just staight up & gives much more stability... Melvin

Ms. Mjausson , May 16, 2002; 10:21 A.M.

I have a Leki anti-shock trekking pole with a camera mount. The advantage in low light over handheld exposures is great. Most of the photos at http://www.mjausson.com/collections/collection_twilight.htm would simply not have been possible without it. However I would really prefer a tripod if I could just find one that is the right size and weight.

In ordinary use the handle covers the camera mount. When you unscrew the handle, you gain access to the mount. It takes more than a couple of seconds to do that. Some people find it quite tedious. Be careful not to damage your camera by screwing it onto the mount too hard. Rely on the plastic guard plate on the thread to give stability to the camera instead. Also make sure that you do screw on the handle all the way when you're done. Otherwise you'll end up with just the handle in your hand at the most inopportune moment.

At first I thought that the anti-shock function would negate the stability offered by a monopod but the spring is quite stiff. The reason I bought anti-shock is that my elbows get sore when using trekking poles without it. For people who don't have problems with their elbows anti-shock isn't necessary.

Leki's trekking poles have an excellent reputation in the outdoors community. Importantly, when folded down they fit diagonally in an ordinary suitcase. You'll recognise Leki poles with camera mounts from the Photo System logo on the pole. The cost is somewhere around 30 British pounds for one. There are cheaper brands than Leki but also a few that are more expensive. The corporate web site is http://www.leki.com/.

One last thought, the trekking pole cum monopod was conceived as a trekking pole first and camera support second. That means that people who hike and photograph may love it whereas people who hike to photograph probably won't. --Mjausson

justin ames , July 29, 2002; 05:09 A.M.

since the camera on a monopod is describing an arc, the camera dropped alone will reach the ground significantly quicker (this assumes that the camera/monopod combo's initial velocity, due to mishap, is not great enough to overcome the inertial difference between it and the dropped camera)--almost .0023 seconds quicker (lol)--and, since it's path is longer, the camera attached to the monopod may well hit the ground with a greater speed, but not a greater instantaneous velocity. however, only the dropped camera will be acted upon by the undiminished force of gravity at 32ft/sec^2. the motion of the dropped pod may or may not reach a greater true speed, (that depends on the radius of the fulcrum--i.e. the length of the monopod) since angular motion is described as a series of sloping angles of fall, each with a percentage of the gravitational force figured in a rough approximation as FsinA, where F is gravity, and A, the angle between the pod and the horizontal (obviously, as the pod's angle to the ground grows more acute, the sin of A approaches one). so, only a laboratory test will suffice... anybody want to volunteer their F5 to find out?

now, what the hell does this have to do with monopods anyway?

Oren Gampel , December 16, 2002; 05:43 P.M.

Sometimes even one leg is too much. If you need an extra step and you aren’t allowed a monopod, or don’t have one, just take your string-pod (c) from your front pocket and use it. Best described here.

The string-pod is a body length cord with a 1/4 20 screw on one side and a little loop on the other end. Attach the screw to the camera, step inside the loop on other end, and pull the camera upward to stabilize. With a beanbag as described above you get the lowest-tech stabilizer available (and the cheapest).

Regarding the falling camera thread, my personal experience shows that when attached to a monopod, a camera will always fall butter-side down.

james kingston , January 20, 2003; 06:48 P.M.

Take a look at a y-pod , far more stability than a monopod.

Image Attachment: pod2.jpg

Scott Spencer , March 10, 2003; 10:55 P.M.

Although I do not own a monopod (I'm currently trying to decide which type of support system is best for me) I found this forum quite entertaining. More specifically, the basic physics and math discussion. I decided to test all this out. I bought two identical VERY expensive camera systems. I placed one on a monopod and let it fall to the ground. The other system I just dropped from a height identical to the first system resting on the monopod. The result is in. Both systems are destroyed. Oh well. ;)

Joe Sonneman , March 19, 2003; 05:54 A.M.

Shot a wedding, where minister would not allow flash in dimly lit church nor allow standing close to bride & groom. Solution? Rent an 80-200 zoom. Problem: stability without tripod size or time-consuming adjustments. Solution? A flip-lock monopod did the job easily: the flip-lock lets you get the camera to the right height instantly, holds firmly. "UNIPOD Model UNP". Worked for me!

Jim Davis , June 19, 2003; 07:09 A.M.

I bought a Manfrotto Carbon One monopod. It's a beautiful piece of work and very light. Only one light head could I find and it's a manfrotto swivel/tilt with QR. It is very light and allows me to tilt the camera forward and back.

I'm mystified as to why no one makes a nice monopod carrying case with shoulder strap. Do I have to make my own? Also, tripod cases are few and far between. And most are not sized for a monopod. However, I've seen some nice fishing pole bags that I'm going to get.

David Johansen , November 26, 2003; 12:55 A.M.

i found a 3" that extends ~1.25" more, functions just like a mono untill necessary to unfold. it fits within the camera bag (never gets removed), and the pickup roof is exactly my height and serves well for greater altitude. aswell there being a 2' and 6' stepladder convieniently in the back (pu truck). fits 95% of the work i have need for it.

David Johansen , November 26, 2003; 12:58 A.M.

i found a 3" that extends ~1.25" more, functions just like a mono untill necessary to unfold. it fits within the camera bag (never gets removed), and the pickup roof is exactly my height and serves well for greater altitude. aswell there being a 2' and 6' stepladder convieniently in the back (pu truck). fits 95% of the work i have need for it.

jim clagett , January 25, 2004; 03:26 P.M.

another alternative for hikers...althought i've looked, i haven't yet found a hiking stick with a built in camera mount that i like as much as my tried and true wood staff. my solution thus far has been to use one of those inexpensive "mini" tabletop tripods (less than ten inches when folded) that has a velcro strap which allows it to be secured to something - in this case the end of my hiking stick. the attachment is surprisingly robust, and it provides a reasonably stable platform.

this is obviously not a solution for everybody, but it is extremely compact, very inexpensive, versatile and surprisingly effective.


Evan Cornell , February 10, 2004; 03:27 P.M.

Try just countersinking a 1/4" bolt on the top of your hiking staff, then no need for the tripod thingy on the staff.

Trent Whaley , May 16, 2006; 04:15 A.M.

If I'd known of it last fall, I'd probably have one of those tilt-heads. When I needed one, I rigged up a portrait bracket from a corner brace, a bolt, a nut, and some washers. It did the job, but only allowed me to shoot portrait orientation.

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