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12-30-2015, 07:30 AM   #1
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Seeking monopod for Galapagos trip

Mr frogoutofwater and I are heading to the Galapagos Islands in May for a 12-night cruise with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris (Cheesemans? Ecology Safaris | International Nature Tours & Safaris).

I have a tripod (Manfrotto 055CX3 with 327RC2 joystick ball head) and I love its ease of use but it's too large and cumbersome for this trip. (I know that even if I pack it, I won't lug it out onto the islands with me.) Moreover, I'm a little uncoordinated with some depth perception problems, so a monopod that also can function as a walking stick (not to lean on heavily - just another balance point) would be useful on the ground. So I'm researching monopods and heads to go with them. I'm hoping that the monopod will offer a little more stability when shooting at slightly slower speeds than hand-held (when the light is low) and/or when using a larger lens. (The largest lens I've got and will bring is the 60-250). I'm mostly interested in photographing wildlife (not landscapes).

I have seen some other "which monopod" threads recently and they are quite helpful but my priorities are slightly different (size/weight and ease-of-use are critical for me)

My wish list:

1. lightweight (under 1.5 pounds, preferably under 1.25 pounds for the pod)
2. compatible with a quick-release head
3. short-ish (20" or shorter): I realize that shorter usually translates into more sections, which usually translates into less stable/more wobbly, so I'm looking for a balance between length and stability
4. not sure of exactly how high it needs to extend but I'm 5'7"
5. relatively easy to open and close (For a tripod, I much prefer the lever-style than twist-style legs etc because I have some problems with my hands and have found that the twist-style is too fiddly for me. See my thread on the Sirui T-025X https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/22-pentax-camera-field-accessories/261710...right-you.html). But this might be slightly less of an issue with a monopod because I'll be using it for walking so it may already be fully or partly extended a lot of the time.
6. I'm also looking for recommendations for the monopod head. I love the joystick ballhead on my tripod because it's so easy to operate (and I hated having to loosen, twist and tighten the knobs on the Sirui). Would it be possible to use my 327RC2 ball head on the monopod? Or is there something simpler that is still easy to operate? I shoot in portrait orientation as much as (or more than) landscape orientation, so I want the set-up to be easy/quick to adjust.
7. price: the $400 Gitzo monopods are out of my range, but I'd spend up to $200 on the monopod (plus more on the head). But I also know that there are some good monopods out there for a lot less.

Thanks!

12-30-2015, 07:42 AM   #2
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Manfrotto makes a monopod head that is very simple. It has only one adjustment to allow either portrait or landscape orientation.

I tried a joystick head on my tripod and monopod. I found it less satisfactory on my monopod but full disclosure - I don't like it on my tripod either. The difficulty on the monopod was how much extra length and weight it added compared to a smaller head or no head.
12-30-2015, 07:55 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Manfrotto makes a monopod head that is very simple. It has only one adjustment to allow either portrait or landscape orientation.

I tried a joystick head on my tripod and monopod. I found it less satisfactory on my monopod but full disclosure - I don't like it on my tripod either. The difficulty on the monopod was how much extra length and weight it added compared to a smaller head or no head.
Is the Manfrotto monopod head twist-y to adjust it? I hated that aspect of the Siruit tripod. But I see your point about the length/weight of a joystick head.
12-30-2015, 08:23 AM   #4
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Try looking at this monopod: MM290A4US or 680B

And this head:
234RC

The 680b is similar to an older version I have. It weighs more than you requested, but it is very sturdy which a walking stick needs to be. Don't forget the head adds weight also.

12-30-2015, 09:12 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
Sounds like a great trip.

I've tried monopods of various types for doing nature photography in the field using a K3+DA*300/4+HD 1.4TC, but found they were fiddly/clumsy/inflexible to quickly changing conditions and just did not fit my quick shooting style in a variety of settings. I finally settled on a 'monopod shooting stick' similar to this and am quite pleased...

Primos

Cheers... M
Interesting, but I can't bring myself to purchase hunting gear, even if it's to use for photography.
12-30-2015, 10:09 AM   #6
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For speed you can't beat Manfrotto 685B Neotec. But it isn't light or small so doesn't fit your criteria.
12-30-2015, 10:38 AM   #7
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I have nice tripods but I bought a cheap WalMart monopod. It was $12 or so. I had to put a small thread adapter on it to accommodate a little ball head but now it's pretty handy and it's cheapness doesn't seem to be a problem at all. It has a grip to use like a walking stick too. It's three sections with lever locks and taller than I need (I'm 5'10") but I just don't extend it all the way. Good purchase for me and I'm glad I didn't spend a lot because the cheap one (with a decent small Manfrotto ball head) suits my needs. I use it with my K-3 and 60-250 shooting mountain bike races.

Have a great trip! I sure would love to go there one day.

12-30-2015, 11:45 AM   #8
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You live in the Big Apple? THE best way to find your ideal monopod is to visit B&H or Adorama, give the salesperson your criteria, and then hands on decision.

Last summer I hiked and photographed on the 8.5 mile Alakai Swamp Trail to Kilohana on Mt. Waialeale on Kauai, considered one of the wettest spots on Earth. There are some very muddy and slippery sections and I used an aluminum monopod more as a walking stick than its intended purpose. My monopod also has flip-locks, and they tended to snag on foliage more often than you'd think. But the main problem was that the monopod is designed to support the weight of a camera, not me, so when I really needed it for support, the locks would slip. I swore if I ever did this again, I'd go to carbon fiber and a true walking stick that had a monopod function.

Mountainsmith Trekker FX Walking Stick & Monopod is one option, but it certainly doesn't have all your other criteria such as minimum length, flip locks, etc.

Yesterday I hiked a very muddy-slippery Lulumahu Falls trail. I still don't have that ideal monopod, so at the beginning of the trail is an invasive bamboo forest. My son broke a perfect length bamboo stick for me, and when I needed a monopod, I simply rested the base of the camera onto the upright bamboo. No, not as secure as a monopod with a proper head, but it was still more stable than handheld support. At the end of the hike, I don't have to worry about the travel size; just leave the pole for the next person at the trail head....sustainability!

Although the internet is wonderful for research and access to a planet's worth of new and used gear, I hope it won't eventually close the doors of every brick and mortar. My best advice....do this research first hand if you're in NYC.
12-30-2015, 12:25 PM   #9
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Or you could try something like this. I don't know how it is a a monopod, but I like the concept.

Telescoping Hiking Stick - Lee Valley Tools
12-30-2015, 02:48 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
You live in the Big Apple? THE best way to find your ideal monopod is to visit B&H or Adorama, give the salesperson your criteria, and then hands on decision.

Although the internet is wonderful for research and access to a planet's worth of new and used gear, I hope it won't eventually close the doors of every brick and mortar. My best advice....do this research first hand if you're in NYC.
I am supremely lucky to live in NYC, home of Adorama and B&H as well as the excellent photography school (and digital labs) at International Center of Photography.

As for the pod research, I probably will do some more online research to narrow down the list and then get some gear in my hands at Adorama.
12-31-2015, 01:46 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
680B And this head: 234RC
+1, fine Manfrotto monopod been using for a good while now, I didn't need quick release so just using 234 head, see link for more info.

Manfrotto 680B Mono Pod reviews - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database
12-31-2015, 06:40 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Or you could try something like this. I don't know how it is a a monopod, but I like the concept.

Telescoping Hiking Stick - Lee Valley Tools
It might need a small ball head on top😀
12-31-2015, 07:48 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
It might need a small ball head on top��
Definitely a DIY project for someone, but, I bet you can make it work. The problem being a ball head screw mount is not the same as a camera body screw, so you'd have to locate a tripod head that uses the same size screw as a camera.

Time to turn the forum guys loose and come up with a head that could work.
12-31-2015, 07:56 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
Definitely a DIY project for someone, but, I bet you can make it work. The problem being a ball head screw mount is not the same as a camera body screw, so you'd have to locate a tripod head that uses the same size screw as a camera.

Time to turn the forum guys loose and come up with a head that could work.
http://www.amazon.com/Smallrig%C2%AE-Tripod-Screw-Converters-Adapter/dp/B006R38IJY
12-31-2015, 08:42 AM   #15
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Just some quick notes. I went to the Galapagos this past June, a cruise with shore trips via Pangas (rubber Zodiacs). Some things they don't tell you until you get there:
1. Access to the ground on the islands is, for the most part, extremely controlled, by the Ecuadoran park service. There are serious fines for the tour operators for non-compliance. There's a schedule, and everyone must adhere to it. This includes access to the islands, when you can go on, and when you must leave. Naturalists must be present at all times. It's not super conducive to taking your time with photography. 2. You really don't need tele lenses. Short tele is plenty, as the birds and other wildlife can be approached within several feet/1 meter. There was only one bird, a rare owl, that we saw which required a tele lens, and it was so hard to see/track that I'm not sure it would have been worth dragging a 300-400mm lens with you to catch it (and it was not at all a sure thing that we'd see one, and indeed there was only one). 3. If snorkeling is on offer, definitely rent or invest in underwater gear. It's maybe the most interesting of the photo options---even though there's really not much coral.

As far as needing a walking stick---mostly you will be on well-worn paths, not really that rough. My 84 year old father had no trouble at all (except getting in and out of the Pangas). There is no "off-piste" hiking for general tourists---you'd have to be on an authorized scientific expedition to do that.

All that said, a monopod could be useful, and I took both a monopod and a tripod. Never once used the tripod--couldn't have used it even if I'd wanted to. I used the monopod very infrequently, for less than 5% of my shots. The monopod I took was the Varizoom Chickenfoot. I use a Sirui head and pano plate with it. In a pinch you can use it like a tripod, or just as a monopod, or use the detachable legs as their own highhat style tripod. The newer Sirui's can do this as well.
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