Why might photographers choose the best monopods over a tripod? There are plenty of reasons, but the key ones are flexibility and portability. While monopods don't have that rock-solid stability of tripods, they are much slimmer and easier to carry, and won't obstruct pathways the way a fully extended tripod will. Tripods are also banned in certain places, while the use of monopods tends not to be restricted.
Having a monopod by your side, perhaps attached to a wrist strap, is a great way to summon up a quick camera support at a moment's notice. Setting up a tripod takes time and forethought, during which, a great shot might have vanished. There's no such delay with a monopod. It's also no bad to have something to take the weight off your camera and lens for a bit, especially if you're hiking.
There's lots to consider when you're buying a monopod. Maximum height is one, especially if you're on the tall side, but it's also worth thinking about the minimum length a monopod can fold down, as this is useful to know when you're travelling. The maximum payload a monopod can carry is pretty critical, as if you use a light setup, you can save some cash by picking up a monopod that isn't rated to hold professional gear.
If all this is a little confusing, you can scroll down to our things to consider when buying a monopod section. For now though, let's get cracking with the best monopods you can buy in 2021!
The best monopod in 2021
In a line-up of monopods you'll spot the Vanguard VEO 2S AM-264TR a mile off: it's the one with three feet on the bottom! This tripartite stabiliser is a Vanguard staple and while it makes the monopod a little more bulky and gives it a bigger (literal) footprint, it also majorly improves stability and opens up the user's options, especially when shooting in low light or shooting video. As we've come to expect from Vanguard products, the VEO 2S AM-264TR is brilliantly engineered, with smooth twist locks and an ergonomic design. As well as the standard mounts, it also offers a universal smartphone connector, so those looking to improve their smartphone shooting skills have some real options here. All the tech makes it a little bulkier and heavier than other monopods, but the functionality you get really is something.
Naming your product "SupaDupa" might seem to some like a mighty act of hubris, but Benro has crafted a monopod here that does share a few attributes in common with heroes like Superman. Its sheer strength for a start – it's rated to carry up to 40kg, which is preposterous, and is frankly quadruple the amount even the most committed gear-acquisition addict could need. It's also a six-section monster, rising to heights of 183cm but packing down to an impressively stunted 43cm, meaning it's also a great choice for travel. All this does come at a cost, and there are certainly cheaper monopod options available, but if your budget stretches to it, the Benro MSD46C SupaDupa Carbon Fiber Monopod is a superb choice.
Part of a relatively new range from Manfrotto, the Element MII is focused on being two things: lightweight and affordable. These, it manages with aplomb. Weighing in at a slender 0.5kg and still able to hold up to 8kg of kit, the Manfrotto Element MII is more than enough kit for any roaming photographer or videographer. It's pretty simple, without fancy bells and whistles like a tri-part foot or quick-release plate, but the price is tough to argue with, and if you need a monopod from a reliable plate that you 100% know will be a good product, Manfrotto is a great bet there. We rather like the stylish red finish, too, though you can get it in black if you're a traditionalist.
With a maximum payload capacity of 3kg, the Manfrotto Compact Photo Monopod Advanced isn’t going to be holding anything heavier than an entry-level mirrorless or DSLR setup, with a lens no longer than 200mm or so. However, if your setup meets these restrictions, you’ll find this to be an ideal monopod for all sorts of applications. It packs down really well and is amazingly light, meaning it’s perfect for travel. It’s also pleasingly quick to deploy, with a quick wheel just under the tripod screw that allows you to rapidly attach your camera with one hand – which works perfectly for a monopod designed to exclusively take setups light enough to be used one-handed.
The use of Gitzo’s carbon eXact fiber for the construction of this Traveler monopod is what makes it so light and easy to carry around. The six leg sections enables max extended height of 142cm and a maximum payload of 12kg – more than enough to handle a pro-spec DSLR with a long lens. It also packs down to an impressively short 36cm, meaning it’ll easily fit even in hand luggage and is therefore perfect for taking on your travels, whether for work or pleasure.
The Velbon Ultra Stick Super 8 Monopod is so named for its impressive eight leg sections. These, when fully extended, allow it to reach a maximum height of 156cm, and when fully retracted it allow it to compact itself down to just 26cm. It’s also amazingly light, weighing just 340g. Having a monopod with this kind of versatility is certainly a boon, though it’s worth noting that the leg locks themselves are quite stiff and take some practice to get the hang of using – in our testing, we found one in particular towards the bottom gave us a lot of trouble. It’s also worth noting that the 3kg payload limit also restricts this monopod to entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras – if this describes your setup, this monopod represents tremendous value for money.
No, that isn’t a typo up there – 3 Legged Thing’s Alan monopod can really support a whopping 60kg of camera kit. This is far, far more than even the most deranged of gear-heads could possible need, meaning you can have absolute confidence that Alan will be able to handle your setup. Like the Vanguard, it also has a retractable foot for extra stability, but it also weighs just 600g, making it easy to carry around on your travels. Taller photographers may find themselves wishing for a little more height than 149cm, and it’s certainly one of the pricier models in the round-up.
It's amazing that this Vanguard monopod is constructed from carbon fibre, given its extremely affordable price. Equipped with a spiked rubber foot for extra balance, as well as a hand strap and carabiner hook for easy transportation, the Vanguard VEO 2 CM-264 is also one of the most lightweight monopods of its class on the market, weighing just 436g. With a solid 6kg of capacity it'll handle most DSLR and mirrorless setups, and its extension height of 160cm is more than adequate for most purposes. This is an extremely solid monopod for all different types of photography.
Extending the iFootage Cobra 2 to its enormous maximum height of 180cm and unfolding its ultra-secure adjustable feet will transform it into a perfect base for 360-degree footage – giving you the height and stability you need with no danger of tripod legs creeping into shot. It functions great as a monopod, with a solid aluminum construction, four leg sections and a maximum capacity of 80cm. It’s worth being aware that it’s very heavy at 1.5kg, and even when packed away still measures more than 70cm in length, so it isn’t one for travelling light. As long as you’re up for carrying it, this superbly engineered monopod will serve you well for all sorts of photo and video applications.
Joby has long had a reputation for thinking outside of the box, and the GripTight PRO TelePod is no exception. It can function not only as a monopod, but also as a handgrip, a miniature table-top tripod or a stationary stand for lights and similar devices. If versatility is what you’re looking for then naturally you’re spoiled for choice – though be aware that it’s only designed for light devices like action cameras, smartphones or small mirrorless cameras. It’s maximum payload capacity is just 1kg, so you won’t want to mount a DSLR or anything similar on there. If you’re happy that your setup meets these requirements, then the GripTight PRO Telepod is a great monopod with a difference that can help you in a host of shooting situations.
5 things to look for in a monopod
1. Strength and stability
A monopod must be able to support the total combined weight of your camera/lens/accessories setup – we've listed the maximum carrying capacity of monopods below, so always check before making a purchase.
2. Reach new heights
How high do you need your monopod to go? This will depend on several factors, not least of which is how tall you are yourself! Again, we've specified below.
3. Lock and load
Monopod leg sections will be separated with twist- or flip-style locks. Twist-locks tend to be more secure, but flip-locks are faster. It's up to you what your priorities are!
4. Plant your feet
Some monopods will have additional flip-out feet for a more stable support, or a fixed rounded foot. Monopods from Vanguard tend to be notable for this, though of course it does make the overall setup more bulky.
5. Grip tight
At the top of the monopod there should be a grip – on cheaper monopods it’ll likely be foam, while more expensive models will use textured rubber.
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