What are monopods and why do I need one? A monopod is an extremely handy piece of equipment that photographers of all levels can put to good use. Similar to (but different from) their famous three-legged cousin, the tripod, monopods are a single-leg support for mounting your camera on. While they may not be as stable as tripods, the best monopods shine in their portability and speedy setup. They tend to be lighter, can be set up quickly and are easier to use when you need to make quick camera movements to capture objects in motion. When you need a steadier shot than you can achieve by simply hand-holding your camera, but don’t have the room for a tripod (or the time required to set one up), a monopod can save the day.
We’ve rounded up our recommendations for the best monopods for photographers, from beginners to experts. But before we dive into them, let’s review some of the important considerations to make when selecting the best monopod for your particular needs.
What to Consider When Choosing a Monopod
Stability and Strength
You’ll want to make sure your monopod can support the combined weight of your camera, lens, and any other accessory.
Height (Both the Monopod’s and Your Own)
Consider how high you need your monopod to extend. This will depend on a few different things, including your own height.
The leg sections of a monopod are secured by one of two lock styles: twist locks or flip locks. The former offer greater security, but the latter are faster to do and undo.
Certain models feature feet that flip out, or a fixed rounded foot, to offer greater stability and support. The enhanced stability comes at the cost of a little added bulkiness to your overall setup.
Most monopods will have a grip area where your hand goes. On cheaper monopods, the grip area is often foam. Higher-end monopods have textured rubber for greater comfort.
Our Top 5 Monopods
- Manfrotto Element MII Monopod with Wrist Strap
- Manfrotto Compact Aluminum Monopod Advanced
- Sirui P-326S 6-Section Carbon Fiber Photo/Video Monopod
- Gitzo Series 2 Traveler GM2562T Carbon Fiber Monopod
- Benro A38FD
- Extended: 159 cm (62.5 in)
- Retracted: 43 cm (16.9 in)
- Weight: .5kg (1.1 lbs)
- Material: Aluminium
- Convertible screw for camera or head connection
- Twist-locking mechanism
- Interchangeable feet (rubber or spiked)
- Ergonomic hand grip with wrist strap
Lightweight but stable, the Manfrotto Element is a popular choice for travelers and other photographers who take their cameras on the go (including sports and wedding photographers). On par with its much pricier peers, the Element can easily handle a weighty DSLR, lens, and other equipment (up to 33 pounds), lending it a premium feel for great value.
It unfolds to a generous 62.5 inches, making it a comfortable option for users of average height. It closes up to just under 17 inches and can fit into a regular camera bag or knapsack.
The Element has a rubber grip on its top section that enhances handling and makes it more comfortable to grasp. Also, a wrist strap keeps it securely attached to your arm so you’re less likely to drop it.
- Extended: 155.6 cm (61.2 in)
- Retracted: 41.5 cm (16.3 in)
- Weight: .34kg (0.77 lbs)
- Material: Aluminum
- Quick wheel attachment for one-handed camera mounting
- Comfortable rounded rubber hand grip
Perfect for beginners, the Manfrotto Compact Photo Advanced is small and lightweight.
Its portability comes at the price of sturdiness, as it can only hold up to 6.6 pounds. It definitely won’t be able to handle anything heavier than an entry-level DSLR setup, but if this isn’t a dealbreaker for you, then you may find this monopod to be ideal for a variety of applications.
It deploys in a snap and can fold down quickly, so it’s optimal for travel and an overall pleasure to use. Also, the quick wheel that’s located just under the tripod screw makes it easy to mount your camera one-handed.
- Extended: 153.92 cm (60.6 in)
- Retracted: 38.1 cm (15 in)
- Weight: .40kg (0.88 lbs)
- Material: Carbon fiber
- 6-section adjustable leg extension
- Twist locks for secure opening and closing
- Foam hand grip and wrist strap
- Rubber foot (with interchangeable spike option) for enhanced stability
With a 22 lb. load capacity, this monopod was designed for use with 35mm cameras, DSLRs, and camcorders. Moreover, this sturdy Sirui model is appropriate for a range of photography styles, from wildlife and landscape to travel and sports. A maximum extended height of 60.6 inches makes this monopod comfortable for most people to use, including those of slightly above or below average height.
At less than a pound and collapsing down to just 15 inches, this monopod slips discreetly into just about any bag without adding too much weight.
[Related Reading: Tripod Vs. Monopod | When to Use Each]
- Extended: 142 cm (55.91 in)
- Retracted: 36 cm (14.17 in)
- Weight: .405kg (.89 lbs)
- Material: Carbon Exact
- Compact and lightweight, ideal for fast action and portability
- G-Lock system for easy setup and secure leg lock
- Anti-leg rotation system for fast and precise action
The Gitzo Series 2 Traveler GM2562T’s price point doesn’t exactly make it a bargain, but since this model is hailed as the most compact monopod in the range with a 6-section construction and the compact Traveler G-locks, it’s fitting that the price tag reflects that premium level of quality.
Plus, there’s no denying that Gitzo really pulled out all the stops with this one. It’s easy to carry but also strong enough to support a full-sized DSLR and a sizable lens. It also features cutting-edge anti-leg rotation system technology that allows for setup times as fast as 15 seconds.
5. Benro A38FD
- Extended: 154.94 cm (61 in)
- Retracted: 54.1 cm (21.3 in)
- Weight: 2.1lbs (0.95kg)
- Material: Aluminum
- Three-leg folding base with ball joint for stable shooting
- Anti-rotation leg system for quick set-up
- flip-lock mechanisms for easy height adjustment
- Foam hand grip
Ideal for capturing fast-moving sports shots, this affordable model from Benro combines the portability you want from a monopod while also providing stability that’s comparable to a tripod. A ball joint in the base allows for the smooth tilting and panning required for steady shots.
It can sit securely on the ground, thanks to its three-leg locking base, and can hold up to 40 pounds without teetering or falling. As an added bonus, an anti-rotation leg system makes it a breeze to set up, and flip-lock leg levers make it easy to adjust the height.
I hope you found this roundup of the best monopods for photographers helpful. What other recommendations would you add to this short list?