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Old May 25th, 2014, 09:17 AM   #1
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Monopod

I have been intrigued lately but the idea of using a monopod (with little 3 legs on the bottom) to shoot "handheld". Is anyone doing this here? If so how is that working out? I am thinking of getting a monopod and I also need a head to go with that. If anyone here has any recommendations for this set up and doesn't mind sharing info that would be awesome.

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Kathy
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Old May 25th, 2014, 01:19 PM   #2
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Re: Monopod

Last year I acquired a Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 with the fluid head through a trade for a pair of Panasonic mic mounts. While I wasn't looking for, and frankly never even considered, getting a monopod, since I didn't have a Panasonic camera the trade seemed like a step in the right direction - get something that I could sell in exchange for something I had no use for.

Prior to the trade I did some research and found an "issue" with this monopod that was mentioned a number of times - the ball at the base would squeak or shudder. I did the trade anyway and lo and behold, (surprise!) that's what this one did. Never fear. I have a garage and on the shelf amongst a bunch of other spray cans is a spray can of "Teflon Multi-Use Lubricant" by Du Pont. "Sets up dry, A better way to lubricate, No oily or greasy film", it says. Hmmm....

So, long story short, a little squirt here and another there then Bingo! Squeak and shudder gone. That was over a year ago.

After trying the monopod out I could see where it could have some benefits in certain situations. It is very quick to set up and get the camera rolling but there is the stability issue. The good news was the spray lube got rid of the ball joint problems but now the bad news is the "three little legs" don't hold it up very well. I found the camera has to be within an inch or two of being exactly balanced vertically. Getting it balanced close enough to stay vertical doesn't take all that long and once one gets the hang of it it's okay. Starting and stoping the camera, tweaking the focus, pushing buttons, etc., requires one to pretty much keep the camera and monopod in position.

What I'm finding is that I use that the monopod a lot, and for the most part, it goes everywhere the camera goes and the tripod not so much. The tripod takes up a lot of space, isn't nearly as portable, takes a lot more time to set up even though it is a two-leg with cam locks, is heavier, and bulkier. If I'm doing B-roll, though, the main camera will be on the tripod and I'll use the monopod for the B-cam.

Stabilization: I'm using FCPX and it has stabilization so this works very well. There is one serious drawback, though, and that is the "jello" result caused by something in the foreground that moves and fools the program, otherwise, the FCPX Stabilization setting is fantastic and is an excellent addition to the monopod use.

For travel, the monopod will fit diagonally in my checked-luggage suitcase but the head has to be removed.

I'm not promoting this particular model - it just happens this is the one I got in the trade. I'm also not saying it fits all situations but there is a time and a place when it is very practical and, in my opinion, for the money, would be a nice and handy kit addition.

This ~"tourist" video was shot with the monopod on an uneven floating dock (so there may be some movement) not long after I got it, hence, there is some learning curve. The chirping is not from the ball joint but from some birds which are on the threatened list. The yacht club set up bird houses on top of some of the pilings and the birds are making a good come-back there.

The mic was a camera-mounted Rode stereo video mic (tourist video) and FCPX audio settings were adjusted to improve the voice part of the audio. This was also my first try doing that.
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Old May 25th, 2014, 03:32 PM   #3
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Re: Monopod

I looked at the three-foot monopod, but was concerned that it wouldn't fit in my luggage. In fact, I checked out about 15-20 monopods at Pro Photo Supply in Portland. I was surprised to find that many were quite heavy and bulky and that many of the carbon fiber units were far from solid. They might be fine for photos, but for video, we need it to not bend or rattle. (It's the connectors on the multi-section carbon fiber units that cause the problem.) I found one CF unit that was very nice, but it cost over $300.

I ended up buying the Slik ProPod 600 (floor model) for $50. It was as solid as the $300 model and weighed only a few grams more - if any. I've put a number of miles on it without problems.

That said, it clearly won't deliver tripod-like results.

I use it in three modes - all by mounting a handheld rig to the top.

1) I use it like a normal monopod, extended to the floor,
2) I use it like a handheld rig with a loupe, keeping the monopod short and tucking it into my belt. It could also tuck into a sling. This keeps my back happy as I don't have a whole DSLR setup pulling my shoulders forward, and
3) I extend it a bit and hold it at the balance point - like a faux steadicam.

In fact, I might upgrade to the Steadicam Solo, once it starts shipping.

I use the stabilizer in After Effects. It takes out that last bit of jerkiness that you get with a monopod and can deliver either a floating or locked down result.

Maybe the three leg monopod would be better, but I can't say. I looked at it in the shop but have never used it.
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Old May 25th, 2014, 05:20 PM   #4
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Re: Monopod

Thank you both. I was thinking of a monopod as an alternative to handholding not a substitute for a tripod. Let's say I have two cameras on tripods already rolling and I just want to do some quick handheld b-roll while my main cameras are rolling. I was wondering if a monopod would provide more stabilization than handholding the camera. I understand that it won't be as stable as using a tripod but maybe meter than handheld shots?
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Old May 25th, 2014, 07:40 PM   #5
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Re: Monopod

And don't forget the old photographer's trick of using the "string tripod" if the limits on what you can carry with you are extreme. People laugh, but it does actually work better than hand-holding.
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Old May 25th, 2014, 11:18 PM   #6
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Re: Monopod

Yes, it's definitely more stable than pure handholding - and if it's a long event, it's much less tiresome, especially if we're talking about a DLSR setup. DSLRs are terribly front heavy and cause fatigue quickly, and fatigue makes things less stable.
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Old May 26th, 2014, 03:24 AM   #7
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Re: Monopod

A monopod is better than handheld, using the belt or pocket trick is good if you have back problems. The monopods with "little feet" are surprisingly effective. I've got the smaller lighter 560, handy for lighter cameras, and the bigger 561 for if you want height. Usually end up with the 560, but both can be handy!

I've see some other brands making monopods with slightly larger feet, tempting, but the Bogen/Manfrottos have been working fine (I adjusted and lubed mine, just a normal maintenance thing, IMO).

The big advantage is mobility - you can move quickly, set a shot, pickup and move again, retract it into a belt pocket, etc.
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Old May 26th, 2014, 07:39 AM   #8
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Re: Monopod

Thanks everyone. This is very helpful. I will probably get one and give it a try!
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