Monopod vs Tripod: Which One to Use?

Monopod vs Tripod: Which One to Use?

What is the better choice for the camera stabilization – a monopod or a tripod? The task of these two devices is the same – to fix the camera reliably so that in the moment of image capture it does not move and the photo does not turn out blurry.

But what is the difference between them? Why is it better to choose a monopod in some cases while in others a tripod will be the right choice?

What Is Monopod?

If you are looking for a practical way to sustain a camera, a monopod with one single foldable leg is an excellent variant. Monopods can be of different heights and can have a different number of foldable sections.

Those who use long telephoto lenses often choose monopods because they take the weight of the lens. Thus, the image remains more stable than when you are holding a camera with your hand.

The monopod is easier to carry. However, a monopod does not give such long shutter speeds as a tripod does.

Monopod: Strengths and Weaknesses

camera monopod

+ Convenient solution in terrible light. If you do not have a monopod and hold a camera with your hand, you should remember that your hand will not be able to hold the camera steady. So, in order not to have a blurry picture, you must lower shutter speed. As my experience shows, a camera monopod can lower the number of your photos as you need to go about 2 stops slower than usual. Nevertheless, a monopod can raise the image quality greatly.

+ Can be used in restricted areas. In some places it is forbidden to use a tripod. For example, you cannot use it in high traffic areas because it may cause a deadlock.

However, banning tripods does not always make sense. Sometimes this prohibition is just used to urge people to buy photo sessions from the local professional photographers, or else you must go through the necessary bureaucracy. Despite this, unfortunately, the number of places that forbid the use of tripods is growing each year.

+ Two in one. Sometimes, monopods can be rather useful for tourists who travel on foot. It can sound quite strange, but they use these devices like walking sticks. Thus, there is no need to carry a monopod just for a good photo picture. You can combine two useful aspects into one.

+ Lightweight. Though monopods differ in weight, they are lighter than tripods. If you have to go long distances with all your photography equipment, the lightweight monopod can improve the situation and make your luggage lighter.

+ Speed and compact size. Among the benefits of a monopod is its portability. You can easily fit a monopod into your bag and there will remain extra space for the lens or another accessory. Besides, due to a quick-release plate of a monopod, it is very simple and convenient to lock or remove the camera. There is no need to adjust three legs – only one leg is required to hold a camera. This advantage makes a monopod three times faster in use.

- Not so stable. Unfortunately, a camera monopod cannot always take a perfect picture because of its instability. If you want to shoot with a long exposure, your monopod makes slight movements and the picture becomes blurred. The monopod may ruin the image even if you set your shutter speed slower than 1 second.

- You must always control it. Be careful while using a monopod in order not to drop it down. Some monopods have a monopod stand, others cannot be self-standing. Therefore, you must hold it when taking a picture.

- It attracts the attention of the guards. If you decide to bring tripods and monopods while traveling abroad, you must know that they can attract the negative attention of the security guards at the airport. You will not have problems with tripods because they are easy to recognize. However, monopods look like weapons. So, be ready to be stopped by the security guard for a closer inspection. But it is nothing more than just a waste of several minutes of your time.

What Is Tripod?

If you are looking for a device that will maintain your camera totally steady, then opt for a tripod. Using a model produced by any tripod brand, you will feel neither movement nor vibration due to its three legs.

The main tripod definition is a device, as a rule, that consists of folding supported legs, the rotary mechanism (tripod head), and a removable platform where a camera is mounted. “The legs” are telescopic pins and can have several joints with clamps.

As a result, the tripod has the ability to adjust the height – both by folding-extending the legs and pulling the central rod up and down.

In order to take one and the same picture or capture one scene many times, photographers always use tripods. So, if you want to take HDR pictures by capturing the same scenery multiple times at different exposures, then certainly choose a tripod.

Tripod: Strengths and Weaknesses

tripod vs monopod

+ Indispensable for taking pictures of long exposures. Comparing tripods and monopods, a tripod will be the best device for photographing with shutter speeds longer than around 1/60th of a second. With the help of a tripod, your images will not be blurry because of your hand movements.

This device is a must-have when photographing long exposures. In order to capture the movements of nature, sometimes you open the shutter for seconds and sometimes even minutes. So, your camera must be firmly fixed.

+ Necessary for landscape photography. One of the most important camera settings of landscape photography is aperture. Taking photos of nature, it is better to use an aperture between f/8 and f/16. As a result, you will have a wide depth of field. Besides, everything will be clearly in focus. Due to those narrow apertures, the light that comes in is lower.

If you increase the ISO, it will cause the appearance of noise in the picture. Thus, you must reduce the shutter speed.  In this situation, a tripod is needed in order to prevent hand movements.

+ Suitable for any video recording. With the help of a tripod, your videos will look stabilized and more professional, without any undesired wobbling.

+ For lovers of time-lapses shooting. Even special cameras for time-lapse shooting require a tripod. A time-lapse is a sequence of pictures that are taken in the interval of a certain number of seconds and then transformed into a video. So, a tripod is necessary for time-lapse shooting because it makes the frames lined up, which is very important.

+ For a cool selfie on camera. If it is difficult for you to choose which is better tripod or monopod, or maybe a selfie-stick, then be sure that you cannot find a better device for a selfie than a tripod. So, in order to take a great photo of yourself or with your friends, fix your camera on a tripod, set a timer and take wonderful pictures.

+ Necessary for astrophotography. To shoot stars using telescopes for astrophotography, you need to take a shot at both long exposures. Besides, very often, you have to shoot at high ISO values and low apertures too. If you want good pictures of the stars, Milky Way, or the star wheeling across the sky, then a tripod is essential to support the camera.

- More time to set up. A tripod is a three-legged device, so you can have some trouble with setting it up before shooting, especially, if you are in a crowd. Therefore, if you hesitate between tripods and monopods for sports or wildlife photography, where every second makes a difference, then a tripod cannot be a perfect choice.

- They are bigger and heavier. In terms of size and weight, tripods and monopods have a noticeable difference. A tripod is bigger and heavier. So, you can have difficulties packing and carrying it.

- Not for quick and follow-up shooting. If you need to capture moving objects, remember that a tripod can reduce quick camera movements. It mostly depends on the head which you are using. With a tripod, everything will be slower as stability is the primary task for it. So, think about what the main priority is for you (stability, portable size or speed) and then choose which is better tripod or monopod.

Use Monopod and Tripod Together

tripods and monopods

If you are a photographer and you cannot make the decision which is better tripod or monopod, then try the combination of both. Speaking of a tripod, it is a commonly used device and is favored by both professionals and amateurs. As for monopods, they are used not as often as tripods are. But they are necessary when you work on an unusual surface and require additional stability.

+ Shutter speed is even lower. For photographing in low light, you have to use slow shutter speed. But you cannot do it with the help of a monopod only. In order to steadily hold a camera, you need the assistance of a tripod. In this case, combining tripods and monopods is an excellent variant.

+ More mobility. If you are going to shoot in the same place for several hours, I suggest using the combination of tripods and monopods. You cannot provide great stability with the help of the monopod only. But it helps you make your work easier. If you want to turn the camera, there is no need to pick up the tripod, move it and carry it to some other place. The monopod provides good support in this situation.

- Less convenience. Be ready to have some troubles while using tripods and monopods together. In fact, a tripod is a rather large, heavy and bulky device. Its one leg will refuse to extend, and the others will always move aside the initial position as you frantically shake it. Thus, combining a monopod and a tripod leads to bigger inconvenience.

- They will interfere with each other.  Both tripods and monopods have many advantages. Monopods, for instance, help you walk about when taking good photos. Thanks to tripods, you can achieve perfect steadiness. However, using two devices together can be inconvenient. In order not to interfere with each other, you must set up a monopod and a tripod carefully. Do not forget to match their height and angles. If you fail to do so, they will not fit together.

If you still do not know which is better tripod or monopod and can’t choose which one to buy, there is one secret. You can buy a tripod with a detachable leg. Thus, you will have a tripod and a monopod in one device.

Monopod vs Tripod – Who Wins?

tripod versus monopod

If you are a photographer, tripods and monopods can make your work easier and your pictures more professional-looking. These devices give your camera greater support and stability. In fact, there is no definite winner in the monopod vs tripod battle. In some situations, one is more useful than the other and vice versa.

In general, thanks to a tripod, you can take time-lapse, night photography or set very long shutter speeds since it prevents the camera from shaking and preserves consistency between each frame. However, if you can cope without extra support, there is no need to take the heavy tripod with you. It will be more convenient to choose a monopod.

Anyway, tripods and monopods improve the quality of your photos, regardless of the genre. These devices are a must to contribute to the stability of the camera and lens.

Tati Taylor

Hi there, I'm Tati Taylor - a professional blogger, read more