Tripod vs Monopod: Which one should you use?

Posted by on 3/18/2021 to PHOTO TIPS
Tripod vs Monopod: Which one should you use?

When choosing camera support, the question of tripod vs monopod always comes to mind. Both types of equipment are good to use in certain scenarios. But when exactly should you use one over the other?

There are similarities between the tripods and monopods such as material and locking mechanisms. As the name implies, a “tri”-pod has three legs. Remove the two legs and you are left with a “mono”-pod.

Tripods are more stable while monopods are more mobile. It all boils down to your type of photography such as landscape, events, or even wildlife shooting.

What is a tripod?

Before you can decide which one to get, let us first talk about tripods.

A tripod has three legs that support a camera or any piece of equipment. Different models have a certain number of sections or leg segments. 

Some tripods are compact while others are bulky and heavy. Aluminum ones are more affordable. But if you want something lightweight and durable, go for a carbon tripod.

Alongside a tripod, you also need a compatible head. There is a lot to choose from but a ball head is widely used by photographers. Other common types include fluid head, pan and tilt head, and gimbal heads.

What is a monopod?

As the name implies, the monopod only has one leg with a camera mount on top. You can directly attach a camera to it without the use of a separate head. However, doing this will limit your vertical movement. 
To solve this problem, a monopod is either used with a pan and tilt head, ball head. If the situation needs a gimbal head, then it is also compatible.

Monopods are often used by photographers who require quick movement and flexibility. Depending on usage such as event coverages, a nimble monopod is better than a tripod.

There are monopods that have leg extensions that make them stand on their own. However, it is not enough to replace a tripod.

Advantages of a tripod and when to use one

Tripods offer a steady platform for your camera. Excellent tripod models offer great support in any terrain as well as in any weather condition. 

You have a lot of models to choose from too. ProMediaGear for instance has several tripods that last a lifetime. These tripods are very stable and work well in any situation. They are lightweight making them perfect for carrying during shoots.

These tripods also support heavy lenses and cameras for any photography genre. 

That being said, here are some of the scenarios where you need a tripod.

Low light photography

Tripods allow you to take photos with a very slow shutter speed. You can even take minutes of exposure without any camera shake or noticeable movement.

Low light scenarios require slow shutter speeds. Hence, a tripod is essential to make sure that your images are sharp.

Long exposure photography

As mentioned earlier, slow shutter speeds introduce a camera shake to your images. What more if you are using an exposure value of 5 seconds or longer.

With a tripod, you can use a small aperture while allowing the right amount of light to hit the camera’s sensor.

There are alternatives such as sandbags to rest your camera on. However, a tripod offers better stability.

Better stability

Speaking of stable shots, a tripod ensures that your camera setup is stable. 

For example, you are shooting a timelapse and your composition is ready. With a tripod, you will not have to worry that the setup will be ruined unexpectedly. You only have to wait and press the shutter via your remote.

It is also suggested to use a tripod when taking photos of fireworks or the moon. 

Extreme weather conditions such as heavy winds also affect your shot. Sudden gusts may move your body while shooting handheld. That problem is solved by using a tripod.

Extra stand for accessories

Besides mounting a camera, tripods also serve as light stands or mic stands during a shoot. There are dedicated light stands out there. But when an emergency comes, a tripod can do the job as well.

There are clamps that can be attached to a tripod. These clamps may hold reflectors and flashguns. 

Advantages of a monopod and when to use one

Moving over to the monopod side, there are advantages to this nimble accessory. Here are some of them.

Freedom of movement

There are times when rock-solid support is not a priority such as covering sports games. These events require long lenses. But during these times, quick movements and angle changes are required.

Sometimes there are instances where you need to move from one place to another swiftly. With a monopod, you can just pick up your camera and go. 

On the contrary, if you are using a tripod you will have to close all the legs and fold it compact to move freely. This takes up your precious time, especially during crucial shoots.

Solves the weight problem

Shooting with a camera and a heavy lens is fine handheld. However, doing it for a whole day will easily tire you out. You might even feel back pains or sore arms after the day.

But using a monopod solves this problem. Instead of your arms bearing the weight, the monopod will support the camera’s weight. All you have to do is focus on shooting.

Take stable and sharp images

Modern cameras and lenses have built-in stabilization. It is either found on the camera’s body or the lens. These features are helpful when shooting at shutter speeds of around 1/50 or slower. It is also noticeable when taking photos with a telephoto lens.

However, take a look at this example. If you are shooting with a 200mm telephoto that has an f/5.6 aperture in low light conditions, you are required to go below the ideal shutter speed.

To take a sharp image, the rule of thumb is to never go lower than your focal length. So a 200mm lens should have a 1/200 shutter speed to keep it sharp. But with the low light situation, you will be forced to go lower at 1/80 of a second.

Taking a photo handheld during this time is possible and the image stabilization will help. But one of the best remedies for this kind of shoot is using a monopod.

A monopod adds stability allowing you to go with a slower shutter speed. It adds another point of contact between the camera and the ground. This setup combined with image stabilization yields sharper images.

Cost-effective

If you are in need of camera support but a sturdy tripod is out of the budget, then a monopod is worth considering.

An excellent monopod is more affordable than a tripod with the same quality. The ProMediaGear TR34ML Carbon Fiber is worth checking out. It only costs $329.95 but the quality is great to be a companion for your tripod.

Which tripod or monopod should you get?

Out of all the tripod models available on the internet, you can not go wrong with a ProMediaGear tripod. Either the carbon fiber 34 series or the carbon fiber 42 series work well in any condition.

These tripod models are durable and made by photographers so all photography essentials are considered.

If you need a lightweight tripod, the ProMediaGear TR344L Pro-Stix is a great choice. For something larger, then ProMediaGear TR424L Pro-Stix is worth getting. Both tripods can carry a heavy lens and camera.

Moving on to monopods, for a basic on-the-go monopod, the ProMediaGear TR424ML is worth checking out. It includes an Arca-Swiss clamp for ease of use.

If you need more versatility when it comes to angles, then the ProMediaGear TR34ML with a ProMediaGear BH50 ball head attached is a nice combo. The monopod is durable plus the ball head is easy to adjust.

Tripod vs monopod: what should you buy?

Only you can answer the question. Before heading out and purchasing one, you need to evaluate what kind of shooter you are. You also have to check the type of photography you are doing.

Do you prefer mobility over stability? Or you need stable camera support at the expense of moving around?

If your line of work requires quick movements or transfers from one location to another, then you are better off investing in a sturdy monopod. Partner it with a ball head then you are good to go.

On the other hand, if you tend to take your time, shoot slow then a tripod is an excellent choice. This is the perfect choice for landscape photographers or wildlife photographers.

Tripod vs monopod, it basically all boils down to your needs and budget. In the end, most pro photographers use both. There are times when a monopod is enough. But for certain scenarios such as landscape or videography, a tripod can get you better results.

Images used courtesy of Martin Dusek, Football Wife/Pexels

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