1.26.2018

Benro All-Terrain Monopod. And by "All-Terrain" I mean it's equally at home supporting photography and video...

Adjustable arm. Ambidextrous. 

This is a Benro A48FD monopod. It's a heavy duty monopod that features the three little support legs at the bottom of the structure to help stabilize the whole unit. It also features a full size Benro S4 video head at the other end. I used to think monopods like this were kinda dumb but now I'm finding them to be very cool. 

Many years ago I got a Leica monopod as a gift. It's a lightweight affair made by Tiltall and it came unadorned; without a head and without the little feet at the bottom. It provided more stability than just handholding a camera, but not by much. The most useful technique with it was to brace one's body against a wall (a corner, if it worked compositionally...) and so get an extra measure of movement curtailment. But until cameras and lenses came with image stabilization a naked monopod was mostly only useful to me to support the weight of heavy lenses that came with their own tripod sockets. Not a common occurrence around here. 

More recently I got a Berlebach wooden monopod and it's nice enough but subject to the sam limitations as the ancient Leica version. When it comes to handling cameras and lenses not equipped with image stabilization nothing beats a good tripod. My big issue with
most monopods is the side to side movement that just seems to happen. The old monopod does okay at keeping the up-and-down axis under control but seems to exaggerate the side-to-side swing.

I have used naked monopods with video cameras and they are okay but I've come to appreciate shoulder mounts more. They can be more flexible and mobile. My opinion is being modified by my experiences with the footed monopods...

I've seen people using the monopods with feet and video heads for years but it always looked a bit dorky to me, having come from the big tripod era. But a recent project with my friend, James, showed me that the right monopod system could be an advantage in both video and still work. The three small feet at the bottom aren't really supposed to allow lazy photographers to leave their camera unattended, and it's kind of crazy to even think of depending on those tiny feet to keep a heavy rig from succumbing to gravity, but they do a great job at eliminating, or at least vastly reducing, the side to side, wiggle tendency inherent in more primitive monopods. That's a huge plus as one can now reliably reject both up and down motion and side-to-side rotation. And if you use one of these monopod systems for video the ability to work with a decent video head is a big plus. Nice small moves can be done well if you practice your hand skills.

The Chicken-Footed monopod I ended up with is this one from Benro. It's not a lightweight. Even though it's made of magnesium and aluminum it's a stout assemblage that weighs in at 3 or 4 pounds. Part of the reason for the weight is that it has four sections and can be extended further than many of its competitors. The second reason is that the head is more robust, holds up to eight pounds and is capable of very nice, smooth tilts and pans. You pay in weight for a more capable head but for video work it's well worth it. 

One reason to use a monopod like this where you can, instead of a traditional tripod, is to reduce your  overall shooting profile when working out in public. You can pick up a monopod and move instantly while a tripod takes time to secure and move. But a mid-tier support like this really comes into its own when you use it with a camera system that has an effective image stabilization system. Pairing the monopod with a stabilized camera system means that you can be almost rock solid, when you want to be, while shooting. The combination of physical support and techno-support is eye opening. 

The cost of this unit is about $189. (oops. now on sale at Amazon for $149).  I thought it was worth it for the work I'm doing. There are lighter and cheaper versions and models but unless you desperately need the least weight possible the performance benefits of a big and more competently equipped model like this one are hard to argue with. 

I used it yesterday for several still shots and found it to be a good companion when we start to get down into the 1/15th to 1 second range. The GH5 is good at resisting vibration but by no means perfect. The assist from the monopod was just what I needed in the moment. The monopod now lives in the car, ready at a moment's notice. I give the Benro a couple of thumbs up. 

Four sections for more "atomospheric" results.

Chicken Feet. Retractable. Removable. 



Big Head. Happy Cameras. 

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Kirk, for your thoughtful, thorough, and, I'm pleased, enthusiastic review. It sounds like a great piece of equipment and, at $149 for the 68" model, reasonably priced as well.

    Robert

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Kirk,

    I just left a comment but I'm not sure it actually posted to the article. I am writing to thank you for your thoughtful, thorough, and enthusiastic review. As I said a few minutes ago, the Benro monopod sounds like a great piece of equipment and, at $149 for the 68" model, attractively priced as well. Thanks!

    Robert

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love my Manfrotto monopod--wish it had the chicken feet. I used it in Antarctica, doubling as a hiking for my own stability--old knees need help.

    ReplyDelete

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