When to Use a Monopod


Today’s Question: Are there circumstances when you would recommend using a monopod instead of a tripod? It seems to me that carrying a monopod instead of a tripod isn’t really going to make a big difference in terms of how much gear I’m traveling with.

Tim’s Quick Answer: I consider a monopod to be preferable to a tripod for situations where you want to be able to move the camera while having some degree of stability. I don’t feel that a monopod is the right compromise when you want complete stability for the camera and are just trying to travel lighter.

More Detail: A monopod obviously doesn’t provide as much stability as a tripod, although there are some monopods that have extensions that enable them to stand on their own with stability that is similar to that of a tripod. Therefore, when you need complete stability such as for long-exposure photography I always recommend using a tripod rather than a monopod.

While in general a monopod will be smaller and lighter than a tripod when comparing models with the same overall height and construction, in most cases I don’t find the difference to be as helpful as you might expect when it comes to traveling with the gear. That’s not to say there isn’t a difference, but to me that difference isn’t worth the downside when it comes to the greater stability of a tripod.

There are, however, situations where a monopod is generally better than a tripod, and that involves scenarios where you want some stability and support but you want to be able to move the camera with relative ease and freedom.

For example, with sports photography you often want to be able to reposition and pivot the camera with great freedom, but you want to have a bit of help keeping the camera stable. The monopod is also tremendously helpful in terms of helping to support a heavy lens even when you don’t necessarily need the assistance with stability.

My recommendation is to choose between a monopod and a tripod based on the degree to which you need support and stability, not based on the relative size and weight of the two options. In my view the most important consideration is the benefits each type of support provides. Sometimes a monopod is much better than a tripod, and sometimes a tripod is invaluable compared to a monopod.