Monopods are okay for tracking the fast action of sports, but they are no real substitute for a tripod most of the time. Most monopods are not practical for heavier weight lenses and can be very cumbersome and difficult to operate when excessively top-heavy. Bogen/Manfrotto monopods range in maximum weight capacity from 9.9 lbs to 26.5 lbs and Gitzo models range from 4.4 lbs to 26.5 lbs.
The Gitzo G1588 model is available through Wimberley. It is carbon fiber, weighing just 2 lbs, and has a max. weight capacity of 26.5 lbs. Before you choose a monopod, it is recommended that you add up the weight of the heaviest gear you plan to attach to the monopod (camera body & lens, flash unit & bracket, extension tubes or teleconverters, monopod head) and compare this combined weight against the maximum weight rating of the pod. Exceeding the maximum weight rating puts both your gear and your image quality at risk.
Attaching your lens
The most straightforward way to attach a lens to a monopod is to mount the lens foot directly to the tripod mounting stud. This is the most direct approach, but can be a bit inconvenient if you prefer to swap out 2 or 3 different lenses frequently, or if you sit above the pod and require greater lens positioning ability. This is where the addition of a quick release system and a monopod head can be very advantageous.
Wimberley Quick Release System
Attaching a Wimberley C-10 Quick Release Clamp ($79) to your monopod, and an appropriate Wimberley Quick Release Lens Plate or Replacement Foot ($52-79) to each lens you plan to use on your monopod, works very well (see our recommended lens plates for common lenses at www.tripodhead.com). The Wimberley system is an arca-swiss style system and will work well with most any arca-swiss compatible quick release clamp, lens plate or replacement foot. To keep the quick release clamp from twisting on the top of the monopod when using heavier lenses, apply a small amount of liquid epoxy metal adhesive, such as Loctite, to the monopod mounting stud an allow it to set prior to using the system (use medium strength Blue Loctite if you plan to remove the clamp in the future, use Red Loctite only if you do not plant to ever remove the clamp.)
Various Monopod Heads
For greater flexibility in lens positioning, a tilt-swivel or ball head can be mounted on a monopod. The Bogen/Manfrotto 3232 Tilt-Swivel Head (available through Wimberley for $12) is one simple option, but if you prefer the ease of swapping lenses, it will require the mounting of a C-10 Quick Release Clamp to its mounting platform (see Figure 1). This head is only rated to hold 5.5 lb. maximum, limiting the size of lens that can be used. If you were photographing a sporting event from an elevated position, you could lock the 3232 at a slightly down position, and comfortably operate the monopod.
Finally, the combination of the 3232 and the Novoflex pan base could be used in place of a ball head. The main concern we have here, however, is that the NovoFlex pan base is not substantial enough.
If you wish to use the Sidekick ($250) on a monopod, you can attach the 3232 head to the top of the monopod, attach a C-10 to the top of the 3232, and attach the Sidekick to the C-10. To achieve the ability to pan side to side with set-up, a panning base could be added, such as the Manfrotto pan rotation unit 300N.
The Sidekick works for heavier lenses in conjunction with a ball head with a higher maximum weight capacity. Ball heads with an arca-swiss style quick release clamps are compatible, and screw knob clamps are recommended over flip-lock lever-style clamps for security reasons (an AK-100 Sidekick Adapter plate must be used with a flip-lock clamp to prevent the Sidekick from sliding out of the clamp). Recommended ball heads can be found on our website under FAQs.
Many of our customers who photograph sporting events prefer this setup and use it with great success.
The Wimberley Head
You can attach the Wimberley Head to a monopod, however the weight of the Head in conjunction with a camera and lens makes it top heavy and a bit unwieldy for most people.
You can take any Wimberley equipment out on loan for a period of 60 days to try it in the field. Call our sales office to set this up. Our knowledgeable sales staff will be happy to assist you.