One piece of gear is essential when working with photography or video, yet often overlooked: the tripod. Many of you can’t afford the carbon fibre tripods that professional photographers have, so I’m going to show you one that makes a great starter tripod, the Monoprice 59-inch Travel Tripod and Monopod.
The Need for a Stable Platform
The three biggest differentiators of good quality videos are lighting, sound, and a stable platform. In fact, some of the professional videos you see were shot on a cellphone or tablet and you never knew the difference. However, those videos aren’t rocky at all. That’s because They were shot using a tripod. If you want professional looking video or still images from a mobile device, you’ll want one too.
The Monoprice is a 59″ combination tripod and monopod. The tripod itself is made of metal, but Monoprice doesn’t quite say whether it’s steel, aluminum, or an alloy. The weight is 4 pounds. There are lighter tripods on the market, but carrying 4 pounds even isn’t bad. Especially since it can hold over 4 times its own weight, with a weight rating of 17.6 pounds. Once you have a large bag full of gear that might be a different story, but it’s perfect for someone starting out who might have a limited lens selection, use a super zoom-type camera, or even as I’m using it, with a mobile device. One very welcome advantage for this tripod is that it comes with a soft case, shoulder strap, a small accessory pouch, and adjustment tools.
As a tripod it can be extended from as low as 21″ all the way up to 59″. The 3 legs have non-skid feet at the bottom which can extend at 3 points each. The central shaft also extends up and down. What’s more, the joints for the legs can be adjust to one of 3 points. This kind of adjustability can make the tripod exactly the height you need it. The construction might not be top of the line, but it seems perfectly solid. It seemed to be stable and not junky in the least. On top of the shaft is the mount platform. The screw can be reversed to work with either 1/4″ or 3/8″ mounting holes, so no adapters are needed.
You read that right, the tripod is also a monopod… sort of. One of the 3 legs twists off to become a monopod. It has a screw mount at the top where you can transplant the case and tripod screw. Problem is it doesn’t make a very good one. Your grip is over the latches for the leg extensions. Not only is it not very comfortable, it becomes less stable if you bring out the leg extensions. The leg has a foam grip towards the thicker top of the leg. It would have make more sense to find a way to attach the base mount to the foot somehow than where they have it. It’s like trying to hold one of those retractible plastic swords by the tip. Its not ideal, but if you really need a monopod in a pinch, it’s an option. Otherwise, Monoprice sells a 63″ dedicated monopod for about $21 that’ll do a much better job than the leg.
Lastly, the tripod comes with a head. It,s a 3D Ball Head with 360° of motion. Just a little word to the wise before we proceed: Changing the head includes loosening 3 small allen screws that provide friction. If you don’t have these tight, the head will unscrew fairly easily. Now that PSA is over, let’s move forward. The head itself is not too shabby. It’s not the smoothest ball head, but it stays in place, and does its job well. The head itself is controlled by 3 knobs. The smallest one controls 360° spinning of the head. The angles are clearly marked around the base. The middle sized one controls the friction of the ball head (how difficult it is to move it). The largest knob locks the ball head in place. Read the above section very carefully because you will find it nowhere in the instructions. The diagram for the legs is fairly extensive, but there are no instructions for the ball head whatsoever.
Up top is the mounting plate and the clamp for that. Around the clamp are 3 different levels to help you get the tripod level. 2 mini versions of the traditional line level and a circle level. Make sure you don’t lose the mounting plate though – Monoprice doesn’t sell extras on their site. You may also want to invest in a tilt pan head. The ball is fine for photography, but the lack of a handle makes it less than ideal for quickly panning shots. Monoprice doesn’t currently sell a tilt-pan head, so you’ll have to find one from another vendor. One thing you might need, but can’t buy, is the quick release plate for the head. If you want to easily switch between cameras or tripods, you can’t do this with the included head.
Pricing & Availability
The tripod costs $99 on Monoprice.com. The company only offers their products from their own direct sales channel. While that does mean you can’t pick something up locally, I’ve found that self-branded direct sales companies typically give you the best price.
Monoprice’s 59″ Tripod and Monopod isn’t perfect, but it’s a great option for a first or intermediate tripod. It’s well built, stable enough, and comes with all the accessories you need. On the flip side, the Monopod is a bit of a gimmick, and really so is the quick release plate on the ball head. However, you can add any after market head to this tripod. It’ll stay with you a while as a primary or a backup.
- Good Price
- Sturdy and stable
- Extends from 21″ to 59″
- Ball head does its job
- Includes accessories and tools
- Monopod leg’s grip is in a very awkward place
- No documentation on operation of ball head
- Can’t buy additional plates for head