Monopods Vs. Tripods: Which Should You Bring?

TripodsFor many folks, deciding between a monopod and a tripod is actually a pretty big issue. Carry-on luggage restrictions often means bringing one or the other, and many first-time buyers find themselves torn between the two.

Both of these options have a number of useful advantages. In fact, having both available is the best way to make sure all of your needs are covered.

Unfortunately, you have to carry around all that equipment, and having one too many pieces of gear in your bag will weigh you down and make life difficult.

If you plan on taking a plane trip, you should count on having to check any bags with a sufficiently sized tripod. Tripods are bigger than monopods by a factor of three. You can find some very compact and lightweight tripods that travel very well, but these usually suffer from either a low height or high price tag. Carbon tripods and monopods are pricey, but typically the best deal in terms of both weight and size.

Advantages of a Tripod

Tripods have the advantage of allowing you to step away and enjoy completely still video. A cheap tripod, however, will shake at the slightest disturbance and will often only reach to the average person’s chest. In order to get height out of a tripod, you’ll need to invest some extra cash and deal with a much bigger piece of gear to lug around.

Advantages of a Monopod

A monopod helps you to keep your shots stable, and gives you a greater range of motion in terms of tilt and turn. You don’t have to invest a lot of money for one with plenty of height, and even the cheap monopods work very well in a variety of situations. It’s safe to say a monopod will give you bang for your buck at the cost of stability and hands-free operation.

There is a third option. A convertible tripod can be used as either a tripod or a monopod. These come in a variety of different designs including some that are slim enough to travel in spaces that most tripods won’t fit. Heavy duty options are available that will provide the stability you need in the field at the expense of a little added heft.

Perhaps more important than the size or material of the tripod itself is the head connecting the camera to the unit. A good tripod head will adjust in a variety of ways, swivel smoothly, and support the weight of larger camcorders. A cheap tripod won’t allow you to change the head, so you might need to spend a little extra money for this option. I personally recommend Manfrotto, Induro, and Vanguard as companies that make great tripods for under $400 that work very well for still cameras and camcorders alike.

What is your favorite tripod or monopod? Which do you use more?

Image: Gordon Wrigley

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Ryan Matthew Pierson