Why are the best monopods preferable to using a decent tripod? You might well wonder, but the truth is that monopods offer distinct advantages over tripods in a host of different situations.
Even the best tripods can be a little bit cumbersome, and though a travel tripod is far from bulky, they can take time to unfold and set up. Monopods, by contrast, allow you to simply rest your camera at a moment's notice, giving you a little boost of stability that can mean the difference between nailing the shot or snapping a blurry mess. It's also worth simply having something simple that can just take the weight of your camera, especially if you're on a long hike.
It's also worth noting that tripods aren't allowed in all places. Lots of famous and popular tourist attractions forbid them (and with good reason, as they take up a lot of space and tend to be a trip hazard). Monopods have no such restrictions, and you're much more likely to be able to take one wherever you please. They also fold down slimmer, fitting more easily in a smaller bag or suitcase, making them excellent for travel.
The best monopod in 2020
1. Manfrotto XPRO 5-Section photo monopod aluminum
For strength, stability, versatility and value, this monopod can’t be beat
Material: Aluminum | Sections: 5 | Max load: 6kg | Extended length: 141cm | Packed length: 41cm | Weight: 0.7kg
The standout feature of Manfrotto’s entry are its user-serviceable Quick Power Lock extension clamps. The levers extend on both sides of the hinge, creating a push/pull design that’s faster and more satisfying to use than conventional clamps, though they’re less compact.
Thankfully the 41cm closed length is fairly compact, but it does result in a stunted max extended length of 141cm. The XPRO’s overall rigidity is good, though, and is certainly stiff enough to substantiate Manfrotto’s 6kg max load rating, while overall build and material quality feel excellent for an aluminum design. Likewise, the monopod’s 700g is also respectable for a non-carbon fibre pole.
This MPMXPROA5 version of the XPRO monopod uses five leg sections for optimal portability, but if you need more height, go for the four-section Manfrotto XPRO MPMXPROC4. It boasts a lofty 164.5cm max reach, albeit with an inevitably longer 52cm closed length.
2. Vanguard VEO 2S AM-264TR
Vanguard's latest three-footed monopod (it makes sense, trust us)
Material: Aluminum | Sections: 4 | Max load: 6kg | Extended length: 163cm | Packed length: 55cm | Weight: 0.89kg
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 stable 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.
3. Manfrotto Compact Photo Monopod Advanced
Designed for entry-level setups, this is a perfect first monopod
Material: Aluminum | Sections: 5 | Max load: 3kg | Extended length: 155.6cm | Packed length: 41.5cm | Weight: 0.35kg
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.
4. Gitzo Series 2 Traveler GM2562T
A premium monopod for a premium price
Material: Carbon fiber | Sections: 6 | Max load: 12kg | Extended length: 142cm | Packed length: 36cm | Weight: 0.4kg
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.
5. Benro Adventure MAD38C Carbon Fiber Monopod
Another higher-end model, with a unique adjustable rounded foot
Material: Carbon fiber | Sections: 4 | Max load: 16kg | Extended length: 158.5 cm | Packed length: 52.5cm | Weight: 0.5kg
Made from durable and lightweight carbon fiber, Benro’s Adventure MAD38C is also equipped with a round, vari-angle, rubberised foot that expands the photographer or videographer’s options for shooting angle while still providing optimal levels of stability. Quick-flip leg locks for its four leg sections make the monopod fast to deploy and simple to pack down, while the maximum payload it can support is a hefty 16kg, making the Adventure MAD38C a great choice for use with heavy pro-spec DSLRs and long lenses. If you’re planning some challenging shoots with distant subjects, this should definitely be in consideration, but really it’s a great choice for all stripes of user – its weight of 0.5kg makes it easy to carry, and it packs down to 52.5cm, which isn’t quite as short as other monopods in this round-up but is still very much travel-friendly.
6. Velbon Ultra Stick Super 8 Monopod
Extends long and packs down short – though has a few handling quirks
Material: Magnesium | Sections: 8 | Max load: 3kg | Extended length: 156cm | Packed length: 26cm | Weight: 0.34kg
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.
7. 3 Legged Thing Alan
A hugely impressive – and costly – combination of portability and strength
Material: Carbon fiber | Sections: 5 | Max load: 60kg | Extended length: 149cm | Packed length: 45cm | Weight: 0.6kg
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.
8. Vanguard VEO 2 CM-264 Carbon Fibre Monopod
Carbon fibre construction with Vanguard quality, all for a great price
Material: Carbon fibre | Sections: 4 | Max load: 6kg | Extended length: 160cm | Packed length: 53cm | Weight: 0.43kg
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.
9. iFootage Cobra 2 A180
Hefty, but strong, with height that’s well-suited for 360-degree shooting
Material: Aluminum | Sections: 4 | Max load: 8kg | Extended length: 180cm | Packed length: 70.5cm | Weight: 1.51kg
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.
10. Joby GripTight PRO TelePod
And finally, a monopod and also much more – though only for small setups
Material: Aluminum | Sections: 3 | Max load: 1kg | Extended length: 69.8cm | Packed length: 10.2cm | Weight: 0.24kg
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.
• The best tripods you can get right now: take sharper shots with the right base