Monopod - seeking practical advice

I’m probably the last photographer on earth who doesn’t have a monopod. But I think it’s time to change that. Yesterday’s ramble with my tripod in search of birds was made more difficult by lugging it around. So here I am. And since there are about a grillion monopods for sale, I thought I’d ask you lovely folks for some input. Mainly I’m thinking of this for birding and wildlife when I’m sitting unobtrusively or in a hide.

I’m 5’ 8” and would like one to come up to eye height if not higher. I’d like it to be fairly compact - looks like the tall ones close down to about 22 inches or so. Carbon fiber is preferred, but not essential. Not so sure about the tripod of feet that some have at the bottom. Does anyone have experience with those? Do they help or just get in the way? My kit is not enormous, nor does it weigh that much so a 25 pound limit or so should be adequate. I’ll swap my RRS BH-30 over to it unless there is a nice deal to be had with another.

And that brings me to price. The RRS monopods are pretty spendy ($350-500 from what I see) and I’d like to avoid that unless cheaper ones really are crap. I have a RRS tripod as well as a Manfrotto and both are pretty terrific although I prefer twist-locks, which looks to be the standard with monopods.

Hm…can’t think of anything I forgot, but if I did let me know. Of course I’ll continue to do research, but real-world anecdotes or observations are what I’m after here. Danke!

I purchased the Robus RCM-439 4-Section Carbon Fiber Monopod, 65" from B&H and I added the RRS Monopod Head with Standard Lever-Release Clamp. Now, this is my first Monopod setup, and I’ve been happy with it. I use it with the Nikon 200-500mm and D850. Still a work in progress for me. But I’m getting more comfortable using it.

Thanks for the input. I looked at this one and think it might be a good choice in terms of price, size and, for sure, capacity. Your rig weighs a lot more than mine so it will be safe.

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Hi Kris, I have a Manfrotto monopod with a pistol grip that allows me to quickly adjust the height. It’s very handy, but I see they’re not making it anymore. I also use an RRS Monopod Head like @StephenPrunier that works wonderfully.

I will say, I struggle with a monopod. It’s really a challenge carrying around a camera attached to the monopod and trying to set up without dropping everything. Probably just me, being totally uncoordinated. Anyway, good luck with your research.

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I’ve never used a monopod but have had an idea that I would try if I ever do. I would leave it attached to the camera for carrying, either with the camera hooked on my Spyder belt with the leg shortened (since the leg length should be pretty easy to adjust when I set it up) or carried on one shoulder with the leg already extended.

Thanks @David_Bostock and @Diane_Miller - I haven’t used one either, so it will be a learning experience. Still haven’t pulled the trigger on anything, but was entranced by a Manfrotto because it was so pretty. It will probably work, too, but silly to get hung up on looks.

I’m late to this, Kris, but lately I’ve been using the Wimberley monopod head combined with their sidekick which puts the center of gravity of the lens a bit closer to the axis of the monopod. It’s working well for me. I know Jobu Designs in Canada make a true gimbal for monopods. It has a plenty good weight limit for your applications. The only difference from a tripod gimbal is that it doesn’t have the rotational axis because it’s easy enough to rotate the monopod.

Hey thanks @Dennis_Plank - I appreciate the input and there’s another vote for the Wimberly Monopod head!

I’ve been meaning to get back to this thread with some news and puzzling observations. First the news - I have been given a brand new monopod by a Secret Santa here on NPN. It is a 4-section, carbon fiber Oben with their basic tilt-head included. So nice! I’ll reveal the gifter if I get the ok to do so. It was a very nice thing to do.

Now for the puzzling part. I have had more ‘keepers’ hand holding my 100-400mm than using the monopod. It was especially obvious on Friday when I was out scouting kayaking locations. Conditions were the same all day - very windy with bright sun and some small clouds.

What frustrated me the most was that photos of a relatively close and still Canada goose just aren’t sharp. Now you’ve seen my other bird photos and you know I can focus, handle a long lens and manage exposure fairly well. So standing on a levee with a camera on a monopod aimed at a relatively large, still bird using settings similar to handholding should produce at least ONE shot with crisp detail.

Nope. Not a one. So. Is it the stabilization? And let me mention that using a tripod I NEVER turn the stabilization off. Over the years with different cameras I’ve tested on v. off and haven’t ever seen a difference. Even at crazy magnifications like 200% I don’t see it. So why would leaving it on with a monopod change things?

The G9 with this Panasonic/Leica lens is compatible with the very latest Dual IS system. The setting I had it on compensates for up/down, left/right and rotational movements. The other setting is for up/down when panning or tracking a moving object. So theoretically the camera should have been fine with the slight movement on the monopod just as it was with me hand holding the lens. I had similar semi-soft photos of a beaver I found sunning on a small island about 30-40 feet from where I was standing. The shots should be sharper. And yes, Dual IS was engaged - I get a red OFF icon in the viewfinder if I accidentally flip the off switch on the lens.

So my mechanical engineer husband has come up with a hypothesis I’ll have to test. The axis of rotation for monopod or tripod use for that matter is farther out because it’s on the lens collar and is more of a see-saw pivot than it would be if I mounted the camera body directly to the head. If the math used to compensate for movement is based on having the axis of rotation under the sensor, it might be applying the same amount of compensation even though the movement isn’t the same.

That said I can’t believe that the design engineers would overlook the fact that the whole reason the lens collar and foot exists is to be mounted directly on a support. It takes the weight of the lens and eases tension on the lens mount. It’s very weird and I’m going to do some experiments where I move the axis of rotation and also play with the stabilization settings.

Very interesting and puzzling. Set up a test target in your yard and compare the monopod with your tripod, with IS both on and off for both. Before you even shoot images, just enlarge the viewfinder as much as possible and watch the image wobble through the viewfinder, without letting the camera touch your forehead. With my sturdiest tripod and head, at 1000 and 1200 mm I can see a difference in wobble (fine-scale shake) that is worse with my hands firmly on the camera than off. IS improves it quite a bit.

The lens collar idea is interesting but hard to believe it would make a difference – report back!

One other possibility – if this was just one day of shooting, could it have been one of those days where the thermal activity of the air was horrible? It can happen in cold air as well as hot. Humidity seems to make it worse. It the bane of existence out here near the coast.

OR, you said it was windy… Are you sure the results that day were worse than other windy days? You might try it again on a windy day with the lens hood on and off.

Kris, that is really nice that someone on here donated a monopod to you. Thank you, whoever you are.

Wow, I don’t know what is going on. With your IS in the camera rather than the lens, what you said about the balance using the tripod collar could be the culprit. @Diane_Miller also mentioned some factors that could be causing the problem too. If windy, and you were using a lens hood, that could definitely cause problems.

This link of Steve Perry’s on when to use HH, tripod or monopod is interesting. In it you can see where he places his left hand on the lens when using a gimbal head or the Wimberly. That too can make a difference in motion. I hope it helps. Wishing you the very best in getting the issue solved.

Tripod, Monopod, Or Handheld – Which Is Best? (

This was the link I wanted to include too. It was where I learned about the Wimberly head. I hope these links help.

Is This The Best Monopod Head Ever? (

Thanks ladies, I appreciate the input, ideas and links. It’s super windy today so it might be a good time to give this a try later on.

Just for the record, I am using in-body and optical stabilization - the Panasonic system uses both. And it was the same day that I had unusable monopod shots and crisp handheld (the goose & gosling shots are all handheld). It’s crazy. Maybe I just have lousy monopod technique. Chances are it’s user error, but still frustrating.