to back, shown collapsed to minimum length: Gitzo MonoTrek;
Manfrotto Carbon One 449; Gitzopod.
© Dave Howard, 2000
What meets the casual eye regarding
monopods is one tripod leg with a 1/4 "-20 screw at the top. However,
those who are familiar with the monopod's unique benefits, and are properly
versed in its technique, know that its beauty is more than skin deep.
Far too many photographers have no idea why anyone would want to use
a monopod in the first place. The reasons are several, depending on
circumstance. Obviously, if you have occasion to make a 10-minute time
exposure, a monopod isn't the camera support of choice. But for most
other situations, it can markedly improve the technical quality (sharpness)
of your photos over handheld shots.
In these litigation-laced times, many places such as museums and amusement
parks are prohibiting the use of tripods. This is understandable, as
it's all too easy for people absorbed in an exhibit or event to trip
over your tripod legs. Many of these venues will, however, allow monopods,
if they're familiar with them.
The "all-weather shoe " for
snow and soft sand use supplied with the Gitzo MonoTrek.
Since the totally unique Gitzopod is
unquestionably the most unusual and adaptable monopod available, it earns
top honors in the individuality department. Its mechanical specs are:
597/8 " maximum height; 265/8 " minimum height (in-use vertical configuration;
folds to 141/4 " for storage); weight is 21/2 lbs; five sections; load
rating is 11 lbs. It is the most compact of all monopods, easily stored
in carryon bags and even many camera bags. Quite a contortionist, the
Gitzopod can be extended, collapsed, folded, bent, tilted, and twisted
into a conventional monopod, shoulder-pod, chest-pod, bi-pod, wall-pod,
and table or knee-pod, as demonstrated in the accompanying illustrations.
Its camera platform has a limited tilting range that's adequate for most
situations. For more extreme tilts, or to flip a camera 90˚ for vertical
compositions, a small head can be added. The length of the built-in shoulder
brace is adjustable, and the shoulder yoke can be turned 90˚ to brace
against your chest; this works better than the shoulder position for cameras
with centrally located viewfinder eyepieces. The bottom leg section has
two scribed markings that are convenient for duplicating the exact height
each and every time. It benefited from Gitzo's recent restyling of their
whole line of tripods, with larger, convex leg locking collars that are
much easier to grip than previously, as well as a handsome finish. A substantial
neck harness is supplied, allowing hands-free operations such as film
changing. The only improvement I would like to see on this tremendously
versatile monopod is a more positive, "snap-in " locking arrangement on
the folding center joint. The tightening lever is adequate as long as
you remember to orient the hinge forward; if oriented to the back, the
joint can "bird-knee " a bit if you lean forward with the upper section.
In any circumstance where traveling with a tripod is just too cumbersome,
the Gitzopod will give you more alternative camera support options than
any other device on the market. It's a bit pricey, so shop around, but
it's money well spent.
Uni-loc's DuoPod foot brace
attaches to most brands of monopods, allows hands-free operation
for film loading or unloading, increases stability when
The Gitzo MonoTrek is much lighter duty
than the Gitzopod. It is specifically designed for use as a walking stick
(the joints of most monopods aren't designed to take the constant vertical
pounding), a feature that will be appreciated by dayhikers. A comfortable
grip and swiveling wrist strap add to its appeal. Best suited to point-and-shoots
and other lighter weight cameras, the G1560 model comes with a small ball
head, which allows easy vertical orientation of the camera. The head is
removable and could be replaced with any heavier-duty unit adaptable to
a 3/8 " screw; a snap-on cover is supplied for the standard head. Minimum
length (with snap-on cover) is 311/2 "; maximum camera platform height
is 64 "; it has three sections, weighs 1 lb, and has a load rating of 41/4
lbs. It also comes with an accessory "all-weather shoe, " which provides
a footing in snow and soft sand.
The last of the trio is the new Carbon One 449 monopod from Manfrotto.
I originally requested it for review mainly because carbon-fiber construction
is the current "in " thing in 'pods. As it turned out, the Carbon One 449
isn't just trendy--it's downright impressive. Weighing only 1.1 lbs (a
mere tenth of a pound more than the MonoTrek), its four sections collapse
to 22 ", and extend to a maximum height of nearly 71 " (the tallest of the
three). The flip-lock leg clamps were fast to use and extremely positive
in action. Leg sections have a faceted shape, preventing rotation and
keeping all the clamps aligned. A 25/16 " diameter, cast magnesium camera
platform easily accommodates large, heavy cameras; I regard the 11 lb
load rating as conservative. My 4x5 Linhof Technika was supported effortlessly,
and since the Technika has a rotating back, I didn't need an accessory
head to shoot verticals. With other cameras, the Manfrotto 3229 (new version
is marked 3232 on the head) Swivel Tilt Head with Quick-Release was a
great match to the Carbon One 449, facilitating more extreme up/down tilts,
as well as verticals. Bogen has a multitude of other heads that would
work well with this monopod, too.
Bogen offers accessories that allow you to customize most monopods to
your preferred degree of versatility. Gitzo and Manfrotto both have separately
available shoulder braces, and adding an all-weather foot deals with snow
and sand. A belt pouch anchors a collapsed monopod for mobile chest/shoulderpod
use. There's even a four-section center column that converts to a monopod
available for Manfrotto 3011 and 3021 series tripods.
The Uni-loc line, distributed in North America by Pro4 Imaging, has a
unique accessory called the DuoPod that's adaptable to most any monopod.
This foot brace clamps to a monopod's lower section, and folds down to
provide a flat plate to step on. It adds lateral stability and allows
easy film and lens changing with both hands free. The Minor model shown
weighs 1.4 lbs and fits a wide variety of leg section diameters; especially
narrow legs can be accommodated by shimming.
As for monopod technique, there are a few points to keep in mind that
differ from tripod technique. The three planes of camera motion that you
need to overcome are: vertical; horizontal; toward and away from you.
The monopod itself takes care of vertical motion; a shoulder brace eliminates
most of the to-and-fro weaving; the DuoPod attachment greatly reduces
Make sure the model you choose is tall enough to bring your camera's eyepiece
to comfortable standing height; having to stoop to look through the finder
decreases stability. Don't tilt the monopod. So doing pits gravity against
you, detracting from the degree of vertical support. If you need to tilt
significantly downward or upward, add a tilt head; unless you're shooting
square format, you'll need a head for verticals anyway. Only limited,
horizontal pans are practical, in such predictable subject planes as racetracks.
When carrying a monopod in crowded locations, carry it vertically alongside
or in front of you to avoid a "Three Stooges " scenario. By the same token,
when shooting, keep the base close to your feet to keep people from tripping
I hope I've made my case for monopods. If you've never tried one, you
should; they're almost hassle-free and can do wonders for the sharpness
of your photos, especially with longer lenses. If you already have a one-legger,
a few accessories will increase its utility. If you're brand-loyal to
a line other than Gitzo and Manfrotto, then check their offerings, as
there are several other good ones out there. Once you've become accustomed
to using a monopod, you're likely to be hooked for good.
Points To Consider When Shopping
For A Monopod
· Maximum height: make sure it's tall enough to bring your camera's
viewfinder to eye level.
· Size when collapsed: important if you plan on packing your monopod in
a carryon bag or backpack.
· Vertical camera orientation possible? If not, add a simple head that
will allow tilting the camera 90˚ to the left or right.
· Leg section clamping method: if setup speed is important, flip-locks
are much faster than collars.
· Maximum load rating: with heavy cameras, make sure the monopod's load
rating is sufficient. This applies equally to any head used.
· Interchangeable tips? Being able to switch between rubber tips and spikes
is a real plus, letting you cope with any floor/ground surface.
· Accessories available? Add-ons such as a head, carrying strap, case,
shoulder brace, foot brace, snow/sand foot, belt pouch (anchor), etc.,
contribute greatly to a monopod's utility.
· If you want it to double as a walking stick, be sure to buy a model
designed for such use to avoid clamp/joint damage.
Bogen Photo Corp. (Gitzo and Manfrotto)
565 E. Crescent Ave.
Ramsey, NJ 07446
fax: (201) 818-9177
Pro4 Imaging (Uni-loc)
21 Spragg Cir.
Canada L3P 5W1
fax: (905) 294-4611