Monopods. No sports photographer can be seen without it. It acts as an anti burglary device in the depth of South Africa. If you are in a cheerleading squad, you might be able to use it to practice your routines. You could also annoy someone from a safe distance and it’s plausible that you can use it to push buttons from about 1.7 metres. If you’re into golf, tennis, or baseball, you can swing it whenever you want it. By suspending it between two chairs, you can even hang some clothes on it. And if you want to do this sports photography thing right, you need to buy one asap.
Eventually, you will realise that the act of holding an object that is a lot heavier than you think for a prolonged amount of time becomes quite annoying. There are two solutions to this otherwise simple problem. A) Goto the gym and be like Arnie. You might get lucky and pick up a 13 year old son on the way back home from the gym. B) Don’t goto the gym and dive right into the wonderful world of GAS, I mean necessary unavoidable essential equipment purchases. Remember, you NEED it and you can’t possibly live without it
As with everything in life (except for love and ladies/gentlemen of the night ), you can go cheap or you can go all out. Amazon.com is showing that I can buy a monopod for less than $20 or as much as $350. Here’s what you do. Take one of your credit cards which isn’t maxed out already due to your past necessary unavoidable essential equipment purchases. Click on the link and voila, you’re done. It’s like hiring Jose Mourinho as your manager, because if money is not an objective, you can’t possibly get any better than special one aka Gitzo GM5541. In a world where the best lens can easily fetch 4 digits and beyond, to think that the absolute best in this particular equipment category that is nearly as important as the stool (more on that some other day) can be had for less than $500 is an outright bargain.
But then, your credit card is probably maxed out and your partner is looking at you with one evil eye from the opposite side of the dining room, let’s look at some other options.
1. Screw or Snap?
I like the screw, because… ahem… this is still a family program. Depending on the monopod, you can either screw or I guess if you want me to go “family” style, “turn” the knob… somebody help my 3rd grade brain. Essentially, you turn it one way to release the leg and you turn it the other way to tighten it. But you must make sure that you get one with some kind of an anti leg rotation system where it requires you to only make half a turn to lock and release. Otherwise, you’ll be lucky to be locking it by the time Christmas rolls around (I’m typing this in June of 2011). Go with Induro or Gitzo if you want the screw or however you want to call this fancy mechanism.
Alternatively, you can lock the legs by snapping a lever. If you’re not afraid to have parts of your finger mauled by your monopod, all I have to say is that you’re brave and I wish you the best of luck. Check out Manfrotto, Velbon, or Slik (except for the PRO Pod 382).
2. How many sections?
Nothing really clever to say about sections other than the fact that the more you have, the more locking of legs you will need to do. The advantage of having lots of sections is that the monopod will become very small. So small that it will wobble like barley shaking in the wind. Yes, I like to go poetic like that from time to time. Yes, I took it straight from a film title and I’m not apologising. For sports, you need your stick to be as stable as possible. Don’t go for anything more than 4 sections.
3. Maximum weight?
No, not the all important Carbon v other materials, rather how much weight the manufacturer of the monopod is comfortable you putting on their love sticks. It’s called load capacity or maximum load. GM5541 can take up to 25kg and Induro 18kg or that’s what they want you to believe. You have to calculate how heavy your equipment is and go with one that has a maximum load a level above that. This is because if you upgrade your gear and your new equipment is now over the maximum load of the monopod, you will have to buy a new one. Just so you know, I have in the past used the Velbon Carbon monopod with camera and lens combo that weighed exactly at the allowed load of the monopod. It worked fine until the sections started to sink into each other, even though the legs were locked.
4. How high?
Simple. The maximum extended height must at least be up to your chin whilst you stand up. If it’s any shorter, you might want to contemplate cutting off your legs.
5. Carbon or not carbon?
Once you go carbon, you will never go back to aluminium or basaltic vinegar or whatever. It’s more rigid and therefore doesn’t vibrate like aluminium. It doesn’t get cold, so you can touch it in -45 C weather and your fingers will still be attached to your palm. Carbon is the lightest and if you don’t think there is a difference between couple hundred grams, you are just a plain old crazy person. Aluminium is used for cooking. Mind you, I wish I can cook with a carbon foil.
Were you waiting for an actual recommendation from me? Really? Okay, if you want to be as cool as me, you’ll go for the Induro CM34 . It’s $152 and I have my D3 and 400 2.8 on it with no problem whatsoever. Unless someone comes and break it over your head for no reason, you will never have to buy a monopod for the rest of your sports photography life.
But if it does break, I’m sure I’ll be reaching for my yet to be maxed out credit card to get the GM5541. :)
*Please Read Below*
Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by supporting us on Patreon and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.