While tripods are a necessity for landscapes or if you use a gimbal head, a monopod is the perfect tool for any time you are shooting over 300mm.

There are a few key things to know when purchasing a monopod. 

  1. load rating – do not buy a monopod that is only rated for the weight of your camera & lens combo. You need to factor in adding some of your own weight. you will inevitably lean on the camera or lens (and you should to increase steadiness)
  2. Height – open and closed. Its really nice that the closed height is closed to your chin height while sitting or kneeling. Max extended height should be as closed to your body height as you can get or higher. 
  3. Head – you need a monopod head. yes, you will be able to connect the monopod directly to your lens foot or camera. However, screwing it off and on gets old very fast. You would also be likely to strip the treads of the monopod or worse your camera or lens foot. When shooting down to lower elevations or up into trees, the tilting ability a monopod head makes shooting much more comfortable than without.
  4. Budget – Just like tripods, there are many to choose from and prices are all over the place. We would like to reccomend brands we have used or workshop participants have used with great success.

Monopod Leg

Premium brands are worth the money if they are in your budget. They can be disassembled for cleaning, and the companies stand behind their products. We have used Really Right Stuff for over 12 years. The same monopod, and its still working great. We also have a ProMediaGear monopod that is now about 3 years old and looks brand new. It features a building quick release and metal, instead of rubber, leg adjustments but they are easy to operate even when we.

We truly put our gear to the test and these 2 truly hold up. The only thing, which is recommended by the manufacturer as well, is to use thread lock when you attach the foot.

If you are on a tighter budget, we were surprised at the quality of the Amazon Basics Monopod. We have seen it hold up to the Alaska test. Volcanic mud, sea water, gravel, black sand, rain… no issues. And, under $100!!

Monopod Heads

Unlike tripod heads that articulate to allow leveling, monopod heads are 1 axis tilting heads. A ball head from a tripod can be used, but it will be a challenge and most people pinch their hand and fingers when the camera falls over.  

Monopod heads should have a quick release. Acra is the standard. If you do not have the area plates already, get one for every lens you will utilize the with monopod

Again, we have Really Right Stuff with the lever style quick release. Same as the leg, they have lasted and still solid. No issues what so ever.

Pro Media Gear’s head is really nice as well. It does have a knob style quick release vs the lever, but it uses a unique tension system. The tension knob it actually in a great place if you are using a zoom lens.

Now if you are on a tight budget, Desmond offers a significantly less expensive option. The construction is solid and the tilting action is smooth and locking it down is tight. 

The trade off with the less expensive options are the warrantee, load capability and overall construction. If you are using a 100-400mm lens or similar and need a light weight and affordable support they will definitely get the job done, but I would not expect it to last the 10 years we have tested the premium brands.

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