Disclaimer: I have never had a monopod before.
I was not sure why you would ever want one? Are they not just like tripods but they fall over? Or expensive walking sticks? Whats the point?
Then I got a monopod, and not any old monopod, but a super duper "3rd Generation 8 layer textured Carbon fiber"! (or Fibre if you are English) Monopod, The Fotopro NGC-65. Still, when I had it, I still didn't "get" it.
Then I looked closely at some events, Football matches (Soccer if your American) and also a number of fashion cat walk shows and I noticed everyone was using a monopod. So lets check out the details to see if they help explain why I would use one.
You see the smallness is not just a benefit to your camera bag but also if you are in a tight situation and trying to spread out 3 legs would just you punched in the face. Any red carpet event I see now all I am seeing is a sea of monopods.
Being so small it also makes it very quick to set up, one quick twist of the hand to unlock all the legs and then BAM you stretch it out and it turns from being a small batton (40.5cm in the Fotopro case) to a ….. longer one….
1m46cm in height.
Now you may all be thinking! only 1m46cm! I thougth that that was not very tall!
You see, I am 183cm tall (or as we call it in the UK 6 foot) But obviously my eyes are not at 183cm so I dont need a monopod that can go to that height otherwise I would be jumping up to the camera.
The top of the monopod comes to just under my collar bone, but that is without a Head! Ie a ball head, a 3 way head, a joystick head, a video head etc.. Add on the head on the monopod and you are up to 155cm then add on your camera on top of that and you are bang at eye height! No need for any hunching off the back or bending of the knees, I can just stand there eyeball to eyeba…..eyecup, and shoot away.
This specific Fotopro one (NGC-65) also has a bunch of height markers on the first drop down section so you can accurately measure how high the monopod is to be.
So size wise, for me at 6foot, it works perfectly. If you are taller than me there is a bigger version the NGC-64, strangely it has a smaller number but is a bigger monopod, that goes up to 1m63.5. I think the smaller number is due to it having 4 sections instead of 5.
The carbon fiber has a pretty stripy effect.
Speed. That is what these things are about. Speed of set up and speed of use.
There really is no denying its speed, I think I can do it in under 5 seconds from picking the monopod up off the ground, twisting all the G-lock grips with one turn (a quarter turn) and then pulling it out to max height then locking them all again with a quarter turn back the way. Compare that to my tripod and well…. the tripod would still be getting set up while the fast cars or hot models etc spin past.
They even give you a little diagram of how to unlock and lock the sections of the legs in case you are thick.
Whoopty doopty its carbon fiber… what has that got to do with anything, apart from price. I hear you ask (and that is what I was asking myself as well).
Ok here are the facts, the carbon fiber monopod weighs 390gramms, the alternative is made out of light weight metal (Aluminum or if your from the UK Aluminium) and comes in at the BACK Breaking, crippling weight of 420grammes… oh wait thats only 30 grammes more.
(No joke people, I have actually read the weight difference of some cameras being described in that way when there was only a hundred grammes or so difference. Check Digital Photographer issue 81 Page 96)
So to me with my massive muscles I do not care for this 30gramme benefit in the carbon fiber. In fact I kinda like the heavier feel of the metal one (the NGL-54) It feels more solid. But if weight saving is a must, ie if you are climbing up a massive mountain then yeah go with the NGC (C for carbon)
Material (and feel)
Ok here comes the Carbon fiber vs Aluminim debate.
Actually I do not know if there is a debate here at all but here are the pros and cons.
Carbon fiber is meant to be hard as nails, super strong. Strangely though when you pick it up it feels so light and if you ping it, it sounds so unencouraging that you would be afraid to use it to turn off a light switch never mind put loads of gear on top of it. But this belies its strength. see video below.
Both the carbon fiber and the aluminium monopods are rated to have a loading capacity of 5kg.
This monopod boasts that it is made from "3rd Generation 8 layer textured Carbon fiber"!
Well that was easy to disprove!
Ok so what is the other benefits?
1) very hard for me to prove but seemingly Carbon fiber has more of a vibration reduction effect than aluminium.
That may be handy if shooting next to a road? not too sure and I have yet to see proof of this.
2) Temperature! Now this is the biggy for me! You pick up the aluminium monopod or tripod or anything for that matter and you feel some COLD METAL! you pick up the Carbon fiber monopod etc and it does not feel cold! This may be the same with very cheapo monopods made out of plastic but we are looking at pro pods here! This is a big win for the Carbon team here as I do a lot of shooting in crappy cold weather, Scotland has a load of it! and also shots up in ski resorts (Scotland has some rubbish ones of those as well) and if you have got your gloves off and using your camera and moving stuff around, if your hands are against ice cold metal then you really start to feel it while if they are against the carbon, then you dont feel a thing! Big win!
It also has a spongy bit around the top section so that it cushions your baby soft paws when holding it. Or for having more grip when using it as a walking stick.
The G-lock (twist locks) are also good if you are shooting in a a cold condition where you will be using gloves or if you are a child... Mittens.
There is also a strap at the top. No idea what that is for or when anyone would use that. Please let me know. (see image at top of blog post)
Update: I have found out that that strap is for using the monopod exactly as I though, as a walking stick! brilliant!
Ok I checked out other sites for the cost of a carbon fiber monopod and I see you can get some super cheap ones which I would fear would be super cheap and fall apart, then you can get super expensive ones like the Gitzo at £250pounds or a slightly less expensive Manfrotto at £150
I was glad to find out that this unbreakable carbon fiber monopod comes in at. £70! Well £69.95 to be exact! And if you want to Aluminium version of this then that is cheaper still at just under £50 and that one comes with a ball head!!! as a kit! And I think that includes postage (there may also be a discount if you put in the code of Dombower (gets you %10 off)
I would say that the £70s for just the fun of taking it to the gym and lifting impossible weights with it is worth it on its own!
But seriously. If you are a sports photographer, or you just need your camera in a ready to use position for longer than normal periods, if you shoot red carpets and races, and need the assistance in holding your camera steady yet not the hassle or weight of a tripod then get a monopod. Weather or not you need it to be a carbon fiber one is really up to you, personally I like it now more than the metal one and as you can see from the videos above it really is bloody strong!
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