One day a nature photographer attached a camera to his walking stick. Thus was born the monopod.

Like a tripod, with but one leg as opposed to three, the monopod is a handy device for gaining some extra leverage, reducing your camera’s shakiness, getting a high-up-there angle, or just providing that extra bit of support you need to rest your wearied appendages.

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For those unaware, monopods are the long, stick-like devices that be found on the sidelines of football matches helping to prop up a telephoto tens larger than the photographer, or out in the wilderness underneath a camera that looks it’s hunting Bambi. More recently, an extremely lightweight and short version of the monopod has gained prevalence in the form of the “selfie stick.”

football photography

Now that it’s summer—meaning, depending on your temperament, that it’s either time to take lots of pictures with friends drinking together on the beach, or of natural landscapes alone in the woods—a monopod might be a piece of gear to consider investing it. More lightweight than tripods, they are easy enough to carry anywhere and, should the weight prove too much, can be turned into makeshift walking sticks.

Meanwhile, they’ll up your game, whether through better-positioned group selfies, longer-exposed nighttime shots, or just a video following a wild doe which doesn’t dip and dive along with the animal itself.

Here’s 5 great monopods for under $50:

Oben ACM  ($39.99)

The Oben ACM is a great introduction to all that a monopod can offer. The lightweight aluminum device comes in at just over 1 lb, making it a breeze to carry, while still managing to support 17.6 lbs of equipment.

A 4-section model, the ACM folds from as little as 19.2” outward to 61”, along with any height in between—making it sized for all but the tallest of people. A key for adjusting each of the screws, meanwhile, is attached to the leg itself, making adjustments easy in the moment.

As for carrying, the ACM comes with the little things that make it a joy to have as company: foam grip, wrist strap, and a belt clip if you’d prefer to support your monopod from the hip. And for an extra $30, you can add a custom-made tilt head kit

Check it out here

Manfrotto Element ($49.88)

Manfrotto is a trusted name when it comes to anything photographic, so it’s no surprise they’re up there when it comes to monopods, too.

A slight price increase over the ACM, the Element has very similar specs with a bit more to show off. A 5-section model rather than four, the Element also comes in at just over 1lb, while almost doubling its load capacity to 33.1 lbs. Its min-max height range, meanwhile, is slightly more elongated—from 16.3” to 59.1”.

In addition to a foam grip, the Element boasts a “leg warmer”: essentially a piece of fabric underneath the foam which protects a users’ hands from the aluminum should it become extremely hot or cold. Finally, it comes with an interchangeable spiked foot for when you may want extra grounding for your device.

Throw in the fact that it’s Italian-designed—smooth and sexy—and under half a c-note, and you got a pretty good deal.

Check it out here

Manfrotto Compact (Red) ($24.88)

Well, here we are again, talking about Manfrotto.; it’s not my fault they got the goods. Unlike the Element, however, the Compact is half the price, and way more fun. With a bright red handle and cool grey legs, you’re sure to be noticed with this one.

The Compact, compared to other models, is just that—compact. Ranging from the minute 15.4” to 57.3”, it may not work for those of us more vertically-gifted. And it’s weight testifies to its compactness, too: weighing in at under two-thirds of a pound, the Compact can handle 3.3 lbs of capacity or less; good enough for your average DSLR or camera, but not quite enough give to be comfortable twirling it like a bandleader while in use.

Despite the price, accessories aren’t skimped on as the Compact comes with a foam handle and wrist strap—though it misses the belt clip or foot spike. It’s sections, meanwhile are held in place by flip locks (not my favorite method), while a protective cap covers the head screw when it’s not in use.

Not the most extravagant monopod by any means, the Compact nonetheless gets the job—as long as it’s not too big of a job, i.e. documenting a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro—done. And with it’s Ferrari-red accents, it’ll add a pop of summer color to your likely-drab photographer’s outfit.

Check it out here

ikan MPA70 ($49.95)

The ikan MPA70 is one tall mother. Sliding from 18.8” to a full 70.8”, this is the monopod for giants—or people with bad backs who are unable to bend over.

With 5 sections and an impressive load capacity of up to 35 lbs, the MPA70 eschews the bells and whistles for sturdy, functional design. The tallest of the bunch, and with one of the highest load capacities, the MPA70 is serious about what it does, all for a reasonable price.

It also comes equipped with a foam grip, while noticeably lacking any strap or belt-clipping-capability. Foot spikes are not available either, but the MPA70 comes equipped with a rubber-lined foot to increase stability.

Finally, unique from its competitors, the MPA70 comes with its own bag and strap. Not sure how much use this is as you’ll probably be throwing this in amongst your other equipment, but good to know nonetheless.

Check it out here

Polaroid 72” ($19.99)

The cheapest of the bunch, the Polaroid 72” nonetheless packs a punch on accessories and is more than capable of fulfilling your needs.

First, it extends from about 24” to 72,” making it relatively large when folded up, but giving it great reach when extended. It doesn’t list a load-bearing capability, but with its own weight—2.23 lbs, about as heavy as a DSLR—it can likely carry whatever you need it to.

As for bells and whistles, the 72” comes with a unique, retractable spike for traction when you need it, as well as a leg-locking mechanism for added security. Finally, a lengthy foam grip promises to absorb all the hike-induced sweat missed by your headband.

Check it out here


Cover photo by Thomas William