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Sports Traditional Sports, as well as Dance, and other organized activites which involve human bodies in motion.

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  #1  
Old September 13th, 2006, 08:03 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Default Some musings on monopods

Ah, fall. Football season. And the young sports photographer's thoughts turn to — monopods!

Because I've started shooting football with both rigs (1DMkII's with 400 & 70-200) on monopods instead of one of them strapped around my aching neck, I recently found myself in the market for a third monopod. My primary unit is the uber-expensive Gitzo 1588, about which, other than price, there is little to complain unless you're an inveterate despiser of the twistlock. (I myself am a hardcore hater of fliplocks, but let's not get into religious discussions here, if you please.) My second monopod was an older, anvil-like Bogen that felt like it weighed 10 lb. (not to mention its axis-of-evil, shin-biting, strap-snagging, self-loosening fliplocks).

So I did some shopping, and I thought I'd pass on what I found. Here's a summary of some of what's available:

Brand Model ........... Max" .. Min" .. Wt-lb Load-lb Sections .. Price .... Ship .... Total .. Link

Gitzo G-1588 .......... 65.0 .. 22.0 ... 2.0 .... 26.5 ..... 4 ........ 295.00 .... 9.75 .. 304.75 .. B&H
Gitzo G-1578L ........ 77.6 .. 23.6 ... 1.6 .... 17.6 ..... 5 ........ 274.00 .... 9.75 .. 283.75 .. B&H
Gitzo G-1568 .......... 65.0 .. 21.9 ... 1.0 ... 8.75 ...... 4 ........ 237.00 .... 9.10 .. 246.10 .. B&H
Gitzo G-1564L ........ 78.7 .. 22.4 ... 2.1 .... 17.6 ..... 5 ........ 142.00 .... 9.25 .. 151.25 .. B&H
Gitzo G-1564 .......... 63.4 .. 22.8 ... 2.0 ... 17.6 ...... 4 ........ 127.00 .... 9.25 .. 136.25 .. B&H
Feisol CM-1471 ....... 66.9 .. 21.6 .. 1.5 .... 24.2 ..... 4 .......... 99.00 .. 28.00 .. 127.00 .. Feisol*
Feisol CM-1401 ..... ..64.2 .. 20.9 .. 0.8 .... 15.4 ..... 4 .......... 70.00 .. 23.00 .... 93.00 .. Feisol*
Bogen 685B NeoTec 66.9 .. 29.3 .. 1.8 .... 33.0 ..... na ...... 131.00 .... 9.90 .. 140.90 .. B&H
Bogen 681 ............. 63.4 .. 26.4 .. 1.7 .... 26.4 ...... 3 ......... 51.00 .... 6.25 .... 57.25 .. B&H
Bogen 680 ............. 60.0 .. 20.0 .. 1.7 .... 22.0 ...... 4 ......... 53.00 .... 6.25 .... 59.25 .. B&H
Bogen 679 ............. 61.5 .. 25.2 .. 1.3 .... 22.0 ...... 3 ......... 42.00 .... 5.60 .... 47.60 .. B&H

All prices as of Aug 2006
*Feisol now has a direct purchase link with prices somewhat below their eBay prices. The Feisol prices are from that link.

I ended up ordering the Feisol 1471. It matched my Gitzo 1588 almost spec for spec at 1/3 the price (not counting shipping from Taiwan). I figured if it was even 2/3 as good as the Gitzo at that price, it would be a good value indeed.

It arrived very promptly and in good order from Taiwan. I tried it at Friday night's football game, and I have to say I'm very pleased with it. I used it side-by-side with my Gitzo 1588, to which it begs comparison. (Shooting with two monopods sounds goofy I know, but it works better than I could have imagined.)

Pros:

1. 1/3 the price of the Gitzo!
2. Slightly lighter than the Gitzo.
3. Same compacted length almost exactly.
4. 2 1/2" extra extension length (as I measured it, more than the specs indicate).
5. Very nice fit and finish. Quality gear.
6. Quick release hand strap.
7. Includes a nice padded bag.
8. Slightly cushier padding on the top section.

Cons (all relative to the Gitzo, not absolute):

1. Doesn't have the Mercedes-like quality feel of the Gitzo. Most notably, the twistlocks don't have the same silky solid feel. But they're OK. (But if you already hate Gitzo twistlocks, you'll hate these more.)
2. The extra lightness trades off just a bit of solidity and rigidity. Not noticeable with a 1-series and 70-200 f/2.8 on board, but with the 400 f/2.8 loaded I noticed a bit of "twang." Again, only as compared to the ultra-solid Gitzo, and nothing that's not controlled by reasonably good technique anyway.
3. As far as I could tell, the circular platform doesn't come off. This makes for a slightly less elegant QR-clamp installation, but it's no big deal.
4. The cushier padding looks like it won't wear as well, but that remains to be seen.

That's about it. The question I started with was: Can this monopod possibly be 2/3 as good as the Gitzo for 1/3 the price? The answer — yes, maybe even 3/4.

I'm glad to have the 1588 under the 400, and I'm just as glad to have the 1471 under the 70-200. I could easily live with it under the 400, and unless you're actually using the Gitzo side-by-side I doubt most people would ever know the difference.

Highly recommended.

I've installed Wimberley C-10 clamps on both of them. I particularly like the C-10 clamp for monopods because its extra set screw prevents rotation of the clamp on the pod. And there's something to be said for having things that work the same — I like working with two identical 1DMkII's, and I like having the two monopod clamps work exactly the same too.

Speaking of clamps on monopods, some have asked if using them is any more or less secure than screwing the pod directly into the lens foot or if they're just a matter of convenience. Well, they are more convenient, especially if you use Arca-compatible QR's on your tripods already. But I think it's about security too. I use a Wimberley replacement foot on my 400 f/2.8, so there's no extra plate-to-foot connection to add another potential point of failure, and it seems to me that because the replacement foot lowers the lens's center of gravity, it also reduces the torque on the mount, probably to a fairly significant degree. The Wimberley clamp's set screw prevents its coming loose from the pod unintentionally, and it attaches with the stronger 3/8" bolt.

Also, purely as an experiment, I recently removed the Wimberley foot and reinstalled the stock foot to see which I'd like better on the monopod. (My original reason for installing the replacement foot was so I could use the Wimberley Sidekick with the lens on a tripod.) After shooting one game that way I wasted no time in putting the Wimberley foot back on the lens and the stock foot back in the closet. What I had underestimated was the degree to which the replacement foot improves the handling of the rig by lowering the center of gravity. Intuitively that doesn't make much sense because it's all up there on stop of a long skinny pole anyway, but you tend to grab it and pick it up right where the lens and pod connect, and having the center of all that mass two inches farther away from your hand makes a big difference in how easy it is to handle.

Anyway, in my entirely non-scientific opinion, using a good QR clamp & plate allows you to put everything together more tightly without constantly stressing the connections, and without the (admittedly minor, but this stuff does last and get used for years) wear that results from frequent attaching and detaching via the bolt.

Purely subjective, no doubt, but I know *I* feel more secure about doing it that way. Not to mention it's a lot more convenient!

The second religious question that arises is whether to fit a head of some sort on a monopod. But again, we're not discussing religion here, so I'll skip that one (except to say that I've tried every sort of head from swivel to ball to gimbal and — for sports use, mind you — have come back to using, and strongly recommending, none at all).

The third and last question that tends to take on a religious fervor in this area is whether or not to use the RRS Lever Release Clamp on the monopod in lieu of a more traditional screw-release clamp. While I like that clamp a lot — I have it on both my tripods and one of my flash brackets — I vote no on using it on the monopod. When I'm shooting a game I'm constantly moving, putting my gear down and picking it back up, slinging it over my shoulder, trotting down the sideline and bumping into people. I don't want even to have to consider the chance that the lever release might get snagged on something and come open. Besides, I put the lenses on the monopods when I get to the game and don't take them off again until it's time to go home, so it's not like I need the smidgeon of extra convenience that the lever clamp offers. So for the monopods, I'll stick with that nice solid screw clamp, thank you very much.

Nill
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Last edited by Nill Toulme; June 10th, 2008 at 11:57 AM. Reason: NOTE THERE ARE SEVERAL UPDATES TO THIS POST DOWNTHREAD. PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE THREAD.
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  #2  
Old September 13th, 2006, 09:34 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Hi Nil,

Nice report.

Could you post some pics of the work ends of the monopods? Also in use!

Asher
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  #3  
Old September 13th, 2006, 10:28 PM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Nice review, Nil, thank you so much for sharing!
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  #4  
Old September 14th, 2006, 05:35 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Here are a couple pics of the Gitzo and Wimberley replacement foot in action, together with my should-be-but-not-patented BumberShooter™. I'll try to get a couple of snaps of the Feisol next time I drag it out.




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  #5  
Old October 4th, 2006, 09:28 AM
tooltime47 tooltime47 is offline
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Great write up Nill. It was very helpful in my decision to purchase the Feisol 1471.
Thanks a bunch.
Dave
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  #6  
Old October 30th, 2006, 07:50 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Here's how I mount the flash on the monopod, using the Wimberley flash bracket system. For football I use two extensions, which puts the flash head either about 28" below or about 20" above the lens. (The difference is because it mounts to the QR plate on the lens foot.) It's very sturdy, and I very rarely get any red- or demon-eye with it even when shooting all the way across the field.








Not shown in the pix is the CP-E3 battery pack, which I just hang on one of the extensions.

Nill
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  #7  
Old October 30th, 2006, 11:23 PM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Nil,
amazing! I would never think a simple speedlite can be used to shoot across the field!!
I have a copy of 580EX, I'll try it next time:-)
Do you use ETTL or manual? Full power? How much of extra exposure can you get with that thing in the accross the field case?
TIA!!
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  #8  
Old October 31st, 2006, 11:15 AM
Marian Howell Marian Howell is offline
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thanks nik for bringing nill's original post back to the top page again. i missed it the first time 'round.
and thank-you nill for sharing your detailed knowledge and experience again with us! tripod discussion seems to be everywhere but serious monopod talk is rare. and your additional foray into wimberly parts, RRS clamps, and your use of the wimberly flash bracket system are thoughtful, practical, fascinating and inspiring.
and speaking of fascinating, i'll be interested to read your answer to nik's question:
"How much of extra exposure can you get with that thing in the accross the field case?"
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  #9  
Old October 31st, 2006, 12:26 PM
Tim Gray Tim Gray is offline
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Re your question 3, I would use the lever QR plate on a monopod as long as the lens plates have some kind of anti-slip mechanism. I had a 1d2 with a 100-400 slide out of the RRS lever qr last spring, fortunately about 18" onto soft sand. I've since upgraded the Kirk plates to their newer models that have 2 small screw heads (removable) protruding from the bottom of the plate, these prevent the plate from sliding out of a qr, including the RRS lever version. I think the newer RRS plates have something similar.
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  #10  
Old November 18th, 2006, 10:43 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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I've decided I like having the flash above the lens better than below. Having it below can produce some remarkable shadows, even in the occasional field shot...

Above

Below

This is brought home painfully on sideline shots and shots of the stands.

Having it below does make it easier to handle, and *maybe* does a marginally better job of throwing light up under the helmets, but I don't think it's worth the tradeoff.

Nill
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  #11  
Old January 1st, 2007, 09:13 PM
Lucio Gomes Lucio Gomes is offline
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Default Wimberley Sidekick on a Monopod

Hi, all

An English friend just sent me a link to this thread about using monopods with
Arca-style clamps and it made me want to share my set-up.
I shoot mostly birds, so I'm not sure if this is a good set-up for football,
but I get the feeling it's great for any type of action photography.
I have pretty much retired my tripod in favor of a Feisol 1471 carbon fiber
monopod with a Wimberley Sidekick and a custom-made aluminum block that
allows the Sidekick to work on a monopod.
http://photosbylucio.com/sidekick.jpg
http://photosbylucio.com/sidekick2.jpg
It's an awesome combo!!! I use a Canon 1D MkII with a 500mm f4 IS
and once I balance everything, tracking moving subjects is a piece of cake!
The rig stays put with the lock knob completely loose, and I carry it around
over my shoulder while holding on to the twist lock on the monopod to
keep everything from twisting around and hitting me on the head.
I'm not sure if all Sidekicks have the two extra screw holes, but if yours
has it, it is definitely worth a try! All you need is a block of aluminum with
a 3/8" threaded hole on the bottom and two through-holes to reach the
Sidekick's 1/4"-20 holes and make a rock-solid connection; or, if you wanna
go the extra mile, attach an Arca-style clamp to the block so you can remove
the sidekick more easily to use with your ballhead on a tripod.

This set-up should be even better to use with a Wimberley replacement foot,
for those using 400mm and 600mm lenses.


Happy New Year to all!!


Lucio
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  #12  
Old January 2nd, 2007, 08:35 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Lucio, that looks great. Thanks very much for posting this.

I checked both of my Sidekicks, and they do both have the extra screw holes.

Did you have the block made up for you at a machine shop? How much did that cost?

I wish Wimberley would make something like this available. You can of course accomplish more or less the same thing using the Bogen 3232 swivel head tilted 90 degrees, but that solution is neither as secure nor as well centered as yours — and not nearly as elegant.

Nill
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  #13  
Old January 3rd, 2007, 06:10 AM
Tim Armes Tim Armes is offline
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Nill,

Thanks for the great review. Very interesting.

One thing you haven't mentioned are options such as the GoPod and it's alternatives. I hadn't actually heard about them myself until I saw this page yesterday:

http://www.outbackphoto.com/the_bag/...ods/essay.html

Supporting the camera on the chest seems like it would offer a lot more manoeverability than a classic monopod - have you ever tried one?

Tim
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Old January 3rd, 2007, 06:49 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Thanks Tim. I have not tried the GoPod although I have referred any number of people to that same article, and have never heard back from anybody who followed through and actually bought one. The cost is a little daunting.

I've often thought you could accomplish much the same thing by setting a retracted monopod in some sort of pouch hanging off a utility belt. Never tried that either though. ;-)

Nill
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Old January 3rd, 2007, 07:37 AM
Tim Armes Tim Armes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nill Toulme
The cost is a little daunting.
Yes. There's also the Cullmann ChestPod, which is much cheaper. I can't find much info on it thought. For example - can you replace the silly quick release with an arca/swiss style clamp? How good's the build quality?

Anyone here ever used one?

Quote:
I've often thought you could accomplish much the same thing by setting a retracted monopod in some sort of pouch hanging off a utility belt. Never tried that either though. ;-)
Not really, the weight would be on your hip, not your shoulders. I don't think it would be as stable.

Tim
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Old January 3rd, 2007, 08:34 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Armes
...Not really, the weight would be on your hip, not your shoulders. I don't think it would be as stable.
Hmmm ... why do you think your shoulders are any more stable than your hips? I'd think it would be other way around.

Nill
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  #17  
Old January 3rd, 2007, 10:30 PM
Lucio Gomes Lucio Gomes is offline
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Default Sidekick on Monopod

Nill,

I actually emailed Clay Wimberley those two pics and suggested they sell
the adapter. He said he had tried in the past to sell the idea to sports
photographers but had little luck. I suggested he try again, as they
must have sold quite a few Sidekicks by now.
It would be great if they made it with a quick-release clamp.

I actually used to use a Bogen swivel-tilt head with a Kirk
clamp, but the Bogen head can't handle the weight well, and
I was always worried the whole contraption was gonna fly right
out of the monopod. I don't worry anymore! :-)

A friend made me that adapter. He makes telescope rings
and plates, and had a block of aluminum around that was
perfect for my application.
You could try your local machine shop and see if someone can
make you one. It could cost you $50.00 or maybe a 12-pack!

If you can't find a shop, email me and I'll try to get you one.


Lucio
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Old July 31st, 2007, 01:35 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Update to compare the Gitzo 1588 with its successor, the 5540, and their primary competition in my opinion, the Feisol 1471:

Brand Model ........... Max" .. Min" .. Wt-lb Load-lb Sections .. Approx Shipped Price

Gitzo G-1588 .......... 65.0 .. 22.0 ... 2.0 .... 26.5 ..... 4 ......... Discontinued
Gitzo GM-5540 ....... 63.8 .. 21.7 ... 1.9 .... 55 ........ 4 .......... US$315
Feisol CM-1471 ...... 66.9 .. 21.6 ... 1.5 .... 24.2 ..... 4 .......... US$125

Revised pros & cons as between the Feisol and the new Gitzo:

Pros:

1. Less than half the price of the Gitzo
2. Still noticeably lighter than the Gitzo.
3. Same compacted length almost exactly.
4. At least 3 1/2" extra extension length (as I measured it — more than the specs indicate). For some shooters in the 6'+ height category, this can be a very significant factor. As I mentioned upthread, I ended up having a 3" extension machined for my 5540, while my 1471 fits me just right.
5. Very nice fit and finish. Quality gear.
6. Quick release hand strap.
7. Includes a nice padded bag. (Gitzo now includes a bag, but it's not padded.)
8. Slightly cushier padding on the top section.

Cons (all relative to the Gitzo, not absolute):

1. To my thinking, the new G-locks on the Gitzo have lost some of the the "Mercedes-like quality feel" that I remarked on in the earlier model. But they have done so in trade for the new model's most notable advantage — non-twisting leg sections that make extending and retracting the pod somewhat more convenient, quick and sure than the twisty sections on the 1588 and Feisol.

2. The extra lightness trades off just a bit of solidity and rigidity. Not noticeable with a 1-series and 70-200 f/2.8 on board, but with the 400 f/2.8 loaded I noticed a bit of "twang." Again, only as compared to the ultra-solid Gitzo, and nothing that's not controlled by reasonably good technique anyway. (And not nearly the amount of deflection under the 400 that I noted with the Gitzo 3550. Again, for my own use with the 400 I consider the 3550 unacceptable; the Feisol 1471 is fine.)

3. I mentioned in the OP that the circular platform doesn't come off the Feisol, making for a slightly less elegant QR-clamp installation. This now seems to be equally true of the new Gitzo, so it's now a non-factor (not that it was ever a particularly significant one).

4. The cushier padding of the Feisol still looks like it won't wear as well, but that still remains to be seen. It's holding up fine under fairly light use so far.

5. While I don't entirely credit the new Gitzo load ratings (see my remarks on that upthread), it's true that you must tighten the Feisol sections a little tighter than you might otherwise in the ordinary course of things, or else they will slip under the load of a 400 f/2.8 and 1-series body and arm rested thereupon. Once adequately tightened, however, they hold the load just fine, so I consider this a matter essentially of convenience, not actual capacity.

Bottom line — unless you just want the very best and can live with the height issue, or simply must have the new non-twisting leg sections, the Feisol 1471 is easily the better buy.

Which one do I reach for first? The Gitzo of course. ;-)

Nill
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Old July 31st, 2007, 02:43 PM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Many thanks for the update, Nill, very useful!
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Old July 31st, 2007, 11:48 PM
Paul Bestwick Paul Bestwick is offline
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Thanks Nill,

based on your recommendation I have purchased the Feisol. It has become clear after a day of walking around with the 300 f2.8 on the MK3 that hand holding is not an option.
Thanks for the lowdown.

Cheers,

Paul
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Old August 2nd, 2007, 05:02 AM
Paul Bestwick Paul Bestwick is offline
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Nill,

I am now considering an RRS ball head for the feisol to be used with my 300. What are your thoughts.
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Old August 2nd, 2007, 06:57 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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My recommendation would be to try it for a while first with no head at all. Personally I find a head on a monopod awkward, especially with a heavy camera/lens. But then when I'm using the monopod I'm always shooting sports on level ground, so I have no need to shoot very high or very low angles.

Other alternatives to a full ballhead include the Bogen 3232 swivel head (see the RRS writeup here), and the Bogen 3421 gimbal head. The 3232 is pretty strong, strong enough IMO to handle a 300 f/2.8 but not something larger. Note that I would not recommend using the 3232 head without making the easy modification suggested in the RRS paper.

Of course, there are also the other, more expensive gimbal heads up to and including the full Wimberley II Head.

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Old August 2nd, 2007, 02:26 PM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Nill,
would be a dear and post your thoughts on tripods? ;-)
I'm thinking of selling my Manfrotto and interested in good ideas and real life experiences..
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 06:55 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikolai Sklobovsky View Post
Nill,
would be a dear and post your thoughts on tripods? ;-)
I'm thinking of selling my Manfrotto and interested in good ideas and real life experiences..
Nikolai I am not widely enough experienced with tripods to offer more than a few very prejudiced opinions (not that my monopod opinions are not equally prejudiced...). Here I am a Gitzo bigot also. The "standard" Gitzo tripod for serious medium-to-heavy work, and not requiring particular lightness such as for hiking, has long been the 1325. In Gitzo's new line, its equivalent is the 3530LSV.

But tripod needs tend to be highly individual and specific, based on use, location, transport, equipment, budget, and impressing the opposite sex. This would be a good topic for a new thread in the gear forum.

Nill
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Old August 2nd, 2007, 02:38 PM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Bestwick View Post
Nill,

I am now considering an RRS ball head for the feisol to be used with my 300. What are your thoughts.
Hi Paul

after having tried a lot of cheaper solutions for my 500mm IS L and carbon monopod, I just got today a Bogen ballhead which friction strength can be adjusted very precisely.
It can hold 16 kgs (about 35 pounds)



More:
@ B&H
@ Manfrotto

It seems to be Ok but I'll have to come back after real life tests for some comments...

If I were shooting mostly horizontal (which is not the case!) I would follow Nill's advice…
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Old August 2nd, 2007, 04:22 PM
Paul Bestwick Paul Bestwick is offline
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Thanks guys... great help !!
Nicolas I am awaiting a full report of your experience with the Bogen.

Also, I am wondering about the RRS BH55. Can I attach the B61 lens plate directly to the LR bracket.
Would that setup work out OK on a monopod ?

Last edited by Paul Bestwick; August 2nd, 2007 at 08:51 PM.
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  #27  
Old August 3rd, 2007, 12:56 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Bestwick View Post
Also, I am wondering about the RRS BH55. Can I attach the B61 lens plate directly to the LR bracket.
Would that setup work out OK on a monopod ?
Unless I misinterpret what you want to do, the B61 lens plate attaches to the lens collar and the BH55 ballhead.

Bart
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  #28  
Old August 6th, 2007, 10:30 PM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Default It arrived!

The Feisol arrived today, beautifully packed. Looks very nice and solid. I can see what you were saying about tightening, but I guess it's OK.
Funny, it arrived today, while B&H, to whom I made another order the same night as Feisol only notified me that my order has been shipped today. Feisol guys shipped within a few hours and it had to cross the border. Nice shipping department!
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  #29  
Old August 8th, 2007, 03:10 AM
Paul Bestwick Paul Bestwick is offline
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Yea my Feisol arrived a few days ago. Concur with Nikolai regarding quality & prompt delivery. It really is a high end product & about half the price of the competition.
I am now leaning toward stickin a Markin M20 ball head on it.
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Old August 8th, 2007, 10:34 AM
Nikolai Sklobovsky Nikolai Sklobovsky is offline
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Originally Posted by Paul Bestwick View Post
Yea my Feisol arrived a few days ago. Concur with Nikolai regarding quality & prompt delivery. It really is a high end product & about half the price of the competition.
I am now leaning toward stickin a Markin M20 ball head on it.
You know the mounting screw is reversible, right?
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