It took two missed photography opportunities in the Mara for us to start looking for the best monopod.
Both were ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ shots.
One, when a leopard took down a Grant’s Gazelle stag midair and the second, when a lioness charged at us with the cub in mouth, missing us by what would have been a whisker.
Since the tripod wasn’t even an option and it happened in the blink of an eye (not enough time for the sandbag), we relied on the good old multi-fingered appendage for those shots.
Only, the shots weren’t even close to being sharp, much to our dismay.
Back in the US of A, we started hunting for the best monopod that could stabilize action shots in the wild. The challenge was that we needed something that would sustain the weight of our telephoto lenses.
Nevertheless, after weeks of research, we narrowed down on 20 of the best monopods in the business. Then, we trimmed that list down to 10 of the absolute best.
1. – Manfrotto Xpro 5 – The best monopod
With three Manfrotto Tripods in our kit, the brand was an obvious choice for us. And we knew that the Monopods would be sturdily built like the rest of their products are.
But we didn’t expect the XPro 5 to be built like a tank, which it is. Why, we can fight zombies with this.
This brute of a Monopod is crafted from heavy duty aluminum and comes with Manfrotto’s three-legged fluid base that allows fast but incredibly movements in all directions.
The mounting plate features /4″-20 and 3/8″-16 screws. So you can attach a whole boatload of accessories to it.
Pan and tilt movements are extremely smooth. You can even lock the vertical axis giving you 360-degree horizontal pans without the slightest of glitches. Manfrotto throws in hand warmers to enhance comfort during extreme cold weather.
While the XPRO 5 is designed for video, it is an excellent pick for photographers too. It has a minimum height of just 20.7” giving us those ground level shots with ease whereas the max height is 60.2”
Manfrotto’s patented Power-Lock flip locks make adjustments a cinch. While the locks are as secure as you’d like them to be, the monopod cannot be left free-standing, especially with a heavy lens on the camera.
- Sturdy aluminum construction
- Heavy duty fluid base with four legs
- Smooth pans and tilts
- Max height of 60.5 and minimum height of 20.7”
- Not ideal for free-standing use (Not a deal breaker though)
2. – SIRUI P-326 – Most lightweight Monopod
We were torn between the Sirui P-326, a sturdy little monopod and the Manfrotto XPro 5, since they have very similar specifications and are at roughly, the same price points.
The Sirui is lighter (0.9 lbs.) and better suited for still photography courtesy the retracted length, which is an incredibly low 15.6”.
It extends to 61.4” by the way, which suits our 6-foot frame perfectly while standing up to click pictures.
The Sirui P-326 is surprisingly sturdy for its size. The carbon frame construction gives it a max load of 22 lbs. That’s more than enough for large telephoto lenses like our Canon 600mm. If you work normally with much smaller lenses, this will be perfect for fluid moving shots, quick pans and the likes.
It sets up in a jiffy and comes with a handgrip that makes it easier to grip the camera firmly.
Sirui also throws in a carabiner clip and a compass on the monopod, although that seems a little gimmicky.
The P-326 features reversible 1/4″-20 & 3/8″-16 screws and there’s a retractable steel spike on the foot that can be used for sand, grass and other uneven surfaces.
Overall, we couldn’t be more pleased with the design and quality.
- Lightweight carbon construction
- Weighs just 0.9 lbs.
- 4” when fully extended, 15.6” when retracted
- 22 lbs. weight load
- Handgrip and reversible 1/4″-20 & 3/8″-16 screws
- None yet
3. – Benro Aluminum 3 Series – Best option for heavy lenses (telephoto)
To be honest, the 3-series Aluminum Monopod from Benro looks pretty basic. It has a classic, no-frills design, simple setup.
But, one look at the maximum weight load on this thing and we were sold. It can support a whopping 39.7 lbs.
Now, that might sound like overkill for most still photographers. But we’d rather have something that can support a large telephoto with an extender and stand steady, than a monopod that wobbles.
The Benro 3-series stays as steady as a rock. That’s partly due to the removable, three-leg lockable base on this thing that can almost pass for a tripod.
Sand, grass, uneven turf, the Benro stays firm.
It comes with the standard, reversible 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 screws and a ball joint. That’s a rarity at this price point folks.
Flip locks make it a cakewalk to extend and retract the monopod. It extends to a full-sized 61” and retracts to a space-saving 21. Weighs an even 2.1 lbs.
So, if you are looking for the best monopod that can take a little extra load, you’d be hard pressed to find a better pick at this price.
- Simple design
- Alluminum construction
- Three-legged base for added stability
- Extends to 61, retracts to 21.3”
- Comes with reversible 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 screws
- Weighs just 2.1 lbs.
- Weight load of 39.5 lbs.
- Poor build quality, particularly the head, as compared to some of the other monopods in the market.
4. – VILTROX 73″ inch Video Camera Monopod – Best Monopod for overhead shots
We originally saw the Viltrox Tripod in action during a rock concert at ‘The Cabooze’ in Minneapolis a year ago.
That dang thing took an absolute pounding that night without as much as a scruff to show.
So, we were keen to see whether the performance was replicated to their 73” Monopod as well. And Viltrox didn’t disappoint one bit.
This is a video camera Monopod that extends to a whopping 72.8” for overhead shots. That’s phenomenal for our Vlogs.
Weighs just 1.8 lbs. and retracts to 26”. That’s not the most compact one that we’ve seen. But it’s not oversized either. It’s a comfortable middle ground. Tucks into our backpack just fine.
A wrist strap and a foam grip are added to ensure that you get a firm grip on the overhead shots and the strain on your wrists is minimized.
The Viltrox best monopod features a quick-release plate with 1/4″ & 3/8″ Screws and a removable tripod leg for stable mounting on flat surfaces. If you want to detach the legs, just swivel the monopod and you are done.
The weight capacity is only 13.2 lbs. which is a slight letdown, compared to the other features of the monopod. But hey, as long as you don’t mount your heaviest lenses on this, it will work just fine.
Sturdy construction, easy to set up, assemble, dismantle and lock, excellent pan and tilt movements, can’t ask for more really.
- Extends to 72.8”
- Weighs just 1.8 lbs.
- Fast, smooth pan and tilt
- Easy locking
- Removable tripod leg
- Supports only 13.2 lbs.
5. – Manfrotto MMCOMPACT-BK – Best Monopod for compact camera systems
The Manfrotto MMCOMPACT-BK has become one of our personal favorite travel monopods off late.
This is one of the most compact monopods from Manfrotto. We believe that the only one smaller is the 680B.
Carbon construction, weighs just 0.69 lbs., extends to 57” and retracts to 15.4”. Perfect for the travel bag.
The ergonomic grip and the wrist strap ensure that you can comfortably hold the camera for extended shooting.
It comes with a fixed head for pans and tilts.
The mounting platform has a 1/4″-20 screw head. You can always buy an adapter if you wish to connect a 3/8 -16.
Manfrotto lists the max weight capacity at 3.3 lbs. But we’ve stretched that a tad. We’ve tested this with our Nikon D850 and a range of lenses including a couple of telephotos. Setups that weighed 7 lbs. at least.
It does tend to wobble a bit especially if you have the fifth section extended. But yeah, it’s definitely not going to crack under the weight of your cam.
Overall, we are mighty pleased with the functionality and the build quality of this monopod and highly recommend it for travel use with small, lightweight camera setups.
- Compact and sturdy
- Weighs just 0.69 lbs.
- Extends to 57” and retracts to just 15.4”
- Tucks into a travel bag
- Ergonomic design and wrist band for easy grip and use
- Cannot attach a tripod leg
6. – Sirui P-204SR – Versatile pick
We have to say that the Sirui P-204SR is the most versatile monopod in this list, especially for videographers.
Crafted from aluminum alloy, it weighs 3.3 lbs. and has a 4-section design that extends to a maximum height of 63.5”. Deploying the extensions are as easy as twisting the locks.
A foam grip and a wrist strap allow comfortable gripping for those all-day shoots.
The standout feature is the tripod base, which not only provides a stable base for the camera, but also allows independent 360-degree swivel and 20° tilt movement in any direction.
After shooting at the desired angle and swivel, you can just tighten the locking knob and twist the lock to restore the monopod to its original upright position.
You can also detach the tripod base to be used as a mini-tripod for the ground shots. It provides a max height of 7-inches.
As if it wasn’t good enough already, Sirui also throws in a zippered carry case and a shoulder strap in the package.
- Aluminum Alloy construction
- 4-section design that can be deployed easily
- Extends to 63.5”
- Foam grip, wrist strap
- Tripod base that provides independent tilt and swivel
- Zippered carry case and shoulder strap
- A little pricey, (But completely worth the extra buck)
7. – Manfrotto Element – Best Budget Priced Monopod
With the Element, Manfrotto aims to create a presence in the budget priced monopod market that has been flooded with cheaply made Chinese models in the recent past.
And boy, does it succeed.
This is one hell of a sturdy monopod that’s crafted from aluminum and weighs just 1.1 lbs.
It retains Manfrotto’s signature 5-section design with foam-lining and a wrist strap for handling. A leg warmer has been thoughtfully added for extreme weather conditions.
Extends to 59.1” and folds down to a very petite 16.3” length.
Setting it up and folding it is done in half-turns of the twist lock.
The mounting plate comes with the standard 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 reversible screw and you can switch from a standard rubber foot to a spiked one depending on the surface.
The only possible gripe that we have with the Manfrotto Element is that the screw on the base plate is 5/16” as opposed to the standard 3/8″.
So, if you are looking to use this with an existing tripod foot, you’ll need an adapter. That’s just a minor quibble though.
- Budget-priced monopod from a trusted brand
- Weighs just 1.1 lbs.
- Supports up to 32 lbs.
- Perfect for shooting on-the-go
- 5-section design, twist locks
- Doesn’t come with the standard 3/8” mounting screw on the base plate
8. – Neewer Carbon Monopod
We really liked this Carbon Monopod from Neewer, a relatively unknown brand.
It has a clean design with a foam grip, a wrist strap and 5-sections. Extends to 66-inches which is perfect for our height and folds down to 19.68, which is just the size we need for travel monopods.
Weighs just 1.3 lbs. and is sturdy enough to be used as a hiking stick.
Comes with a tripod base that provides 15-degrees of tilt which enables you to take 360-degree panorama shots.
Standard reversible mounting plate with 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16.
The max weight load is 11 lbs., which is pretty good for Vlogging camera setups, music video rigs and so on.
It’s not the best for still photos with heavy lenses though. There seems to be a little shake no matter how hard you try if you have a 300mm f/2.8 mounted on it.
- Sleek design with foam lining
- Carbon construction
- Extends to 66-inches, folds down to 19.68
- 11 lbs. max load capacity
- A little wobbly when used with heavy setups
9. – COMAN KX3232 – Best tilt and Pan
Despite being heavy (3.9 lbs.) and having a max payload of only 13.2 lbs., the Coman KX3232 is an excellent addition to this list of best monopods in 2019.
That’s because it has one of the most versatile feature list. At the forefront is the tripod base which provides 45° tilt and 360-degree swivel. It also has a 90-degree drop notch that lets you switch from portrait to landscape modes on-the-go.
Coman’s patented flip-locking system is effortless to use. Just unlock the base to use it as an independent table-top tripod.
With a preset counterbalance, the pan and tilt head on the KX3232 is one of the best that we’ve seen. It offers a tilt of 90° or -70° and a swivel of 360-degrees. With a standard 3/8″-16 mounting plate, it is compatible with most accessories.
There’s no knob or hatch to tighten the camera to the mounting plate though. So, you’d have to use something that fits, like a car key for example.
The KX3232 can be extended to a whopping 73”, making it perfect for overhead shooting too (if you can sustain the weight that is). When not in use, it can fold down to just 26”.
It does have a few tiny niggles. But the positives far outweigh the negatives. This is a sturdy piece of gear and can be the best monopod for both videos and photos, if you are looking for a Manfrotto alternative.
- Sturdy construction
- Independent tripod base that provides 45° tilt and 360° swivel
- 90-degree drop notch for switching from landscape to portrait
- Patented flip-locking system
- Extends to 73” and folds down to just 26”
- Slightly heavy at 3.9 lbs.
- No knob to tighten the screw on the mounting plate
10. – IFOOTAGE Cobra 2 Strike – Best Design
While Ifootage advertises the Cobra 2 Strike as a dedicated video monopod, it happens to be one of the best ones for photography as well.
It folds down to a palm-sized 5.3-inches and extends to 47-inches when the four sections are expanded. That’s stable low-angle shots for you.
It won the Red-Dot design award in 2017 and for good reason too.
Unlike twisting and swiveling locking mechanisms, this features a quick-release slide and lock system that can be done with your fingers even when you are holding the monopod. It’s that easy.
The carbon-fiber frame is lined with foam to ensure a comfortable grip. It weighs 2.67 lbs. which is reasonably good, and has a max payload of 22 lbs. By the way, this is also available in aluminum for budget shoppers.
The tripod feet can be detached and used as a low-angle camera pod with tilt and swivel functions.
You can choose from three sizes. The largest one extends to 71” and the medium-sized one to 59”.
We personally liked this one the most. It is petite, sturdy, offers one-hand operation and looks stunning.
Oh, also comes with a carry bag.
- Award winning design
- 4-section carbon-fiber frame
- One-hand operation with slide locks
- Quick release tripod base
- Extends to 47” and folds down to 5.3”
- Weighs 2.67 lbs. and has a max payload of 22 lbs.
Buying the best Monopods
As we discovered, albeit a little late, the best monopod brings with it a lot of advantages over a tripod.
They are smaller, easier to carry, can even be taken to places where tripods are restricted and are more economical.
If you buy one with a detachable three-legged base, you can also use it as a tripod to stabilize your shot.
Nevertheless, browsing through hundreds of models can make it a little overwhelming for the first time shopper.
Here’s are a few things to consider when you go monopod shopping.
The Intended use
What is the intended application of the monopod? Will you be using it mainly for video? You need something lightweight that can be held and carried easily for moving shots. Do you need a monopod for still photography? Ensure that you pick one with a tripod base or one swappable bases like rubber feet and spiked feet. The spiked feet in particular can be very helpful on soft surfaces like sand and grass. Even though a three-legged base cannot be as stable as a real tripod, it does help to go one or two stops higher without the risk of blurring the shot.
The best monopods are either made of aluminum alloy or carbon fiber. Both materials are equally sturdy. But carbon fiber frames tend to be lighter weight and are better suited for cold weather. These are pricier though and are usually preferred by professional travel or sports photographers. If you are a hobbyist, you can do just fine with an inexpensive aluminum alloy monopod. By the way, most photographers also tend to use the monopod as an alpenstock. So buy a sturdy one.
Does your photography involve travel? You’d want a lightweight and portable monopod that can be carried easily and tucked into your travel bag when not in use. Monopods can weigh from 1 lbs. to 4 lbs. While that might not seem like a huge difference, even one pound of weight can seem like a lot when you have a heavy lens and camera mounted on it. So the lighter the setup, the easier it is to use.
Most Monopods come with a reversible mounting plate with 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 screws. This is compatible with most external ball heads, tilt heads, cameras, tracks and jibs. If you intend to swap the base of the monopod with another one, check the mounting plate on the base as well. Some monopods come with a smaller mounting plate on the base and might need an adapter to be attached to a 3/8.
The best Monopods can support up to 40 lbs. of weight which should suffice for even the biggest lens and camcorder setups. However, most models have an average max weight capacity of 10-20 lbs. If your camera set up tends to be heavy most of the time, go for one with a slightly exaggerated weight rating. This will prevent the monopod from wobbling.
There’s the max height when all the sections of the monopod are deployed, the minimum height when all sections are folded and the closed length when the monopod is collapsed completely. Max height can vary from 45” to 75” when fully extended. But anything over 60” is usually overkill unless you have very specific requirements. Like overhead shots, for example. Pick the apt length depending on the intended application.
The Monopod FAQ
After talking to a lot of our friends who are hobby photographers, we have realized that there’s a general misconception that a monopod is too cumbersome or unreliable to use.
Neither are true. In fact, now that we own three of these, we will be using our bulky tripods a lot lesser.
Here’s a brief FAQ for first time Monopod users.
- What is a Monopod and how does it work?
- A Monopod is a single-legged support for cameras and can be used in multiple ways. You can place it on the ground, positioning it roughly in between your legs with your shoulders squared. This creates a very tripod-like balance with your two legs and the one leg of the monopod.
Most photographers will dial down on their own technique after some trial and error.
Monopods can also be held in the hand for videos and you can use it with the right head for tilt, pan and 360-degree swivel shots.
- Why a Monopod?
- Like we said earlier, there are certain applications where the use of a tripod is either too cumbersome or just not feasible. The best monopod on the other hand gives you stability, balance without adding too much weight or bulk to your setup. You can carry it around easily, hold it in one hand while taking moving shots and attach a bevy of accessories to it. It’s a very versatile tool.
- When to use a Monopod?
- A monopod shines in certain settings, like travel photography, wildlife, sports, videography and macro photography.
If you are involved in any of these types of photography, swapping that bulky tripod for the best monopod will make life a lot easier for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking at extreme low light photography, night trials or high depth of field shots, then a monopod might not be the best pick for you.
That’s it folks. We hope you enjoyed reading through this list of the best monopods.
As you would have noticed, the Manfrotto XPro5 is one of our favorites. But we have tried to list the best ones for all the common applications and gear types. We hope that you can find the best monopod for your intended use in this list.