I'm sure that most readers, like me, are working hard to make ends meet these days. Whether you're a full-time professional photographer or a casual hobbyist, the prices of high-end, brand-name photo equipment can be more than a little frightening. That goes for everything from camera bodies and lenses to tripods and bags. So, if you're like me, getting that top-shelf gear for about half price is a good thing.
No, I'm not talking about one of those weird reward programs or bid-pack online auction sites. I'm talking about something much simpler: buying refurbished equipment. If you're listening to the skeptics out there on the subject all I can say is you're missing out on some incredible deals. Products are refurbished for all kinds of reasons and many are actually upgraded in the process, so as long as you're dealing with a reputable source, there's nothing to fear. Here are a few examples of awesome deals from one of my my favorite refurbished gear dealers:
You can't hang around in photographic circles for long without hearing the Manfrotto name. Their tripods and camera bags are legendary. Here's one of their classiest backpacks, at a price you won't beat anywhere. It'll hold your camera, 2 lenses, a tripod, a 15" laptop and more, securely and in style. You can own it for less than $40. That's less than half what you'll pay anywhere else.
You might as well have a great Manfrotto tripod to strap onto that that awesome backpack. This Advanced Compact comes with a streamlined 3-way head that combines pan and tilt in one lever, with leveling controlled by another. The aluminum tripod goes from a mere 17.32 in / 44cm to 64.96 in / 165 cm extended with the center column raised. The legs have 5 sections for superb adjustability. This compact has a lot to offer and you can save about $40 on these refurbished ones. Take a look at it here.
How about a really sweet monopod for 15 bucks? Yep, it's got the Manfrotto name, too!
It's an aluminum, 5-section gem that performs as good as it looks. It closes to 15.35in / 38.99cm and extends to 57.28in / 145.49cm It supports 3.31lb / 1.5kg while weighing in at just 0.73lb / 0.33kg. It'll look great hanging on that backpack above, too.
Did I mention that it's FIFTEEN BUCKS?
Alright, so you should be getting the idea. Of course, these are only a few examples and you never know what you might find next. Before you buy new, I highly recommend checking with my friends at UsedPhotoPro for their rigorously-tested used and like-new refurbished equipment. Need more convincing? How about a 180 day warranty and free shipping on most items? Go. Shop. Bookmark their site!
photo by Maor Winetrob via iStock
The great thing about tripods is the superb stability they offer. The bad thing is that many tripods are both heavy and bulky - two features that not many photographers really want!
Likewise, some tripods are difficult to set up, and a time-consuming setup process can cause you to miss shots.
Tripods are also banned in some locations, so carrying a big, heavy, and difficult-to-deploy tripod with you won't even do you any good.
The alternative - and it's a good one, if you ask me - is to carry a monopod.
Truthfully, you could stand to have both a tripod and a monopod, that way you can customize your kit to the situation.
But what should you look for in a monopod? And what are the best monopods available today?
Let's find out...
The features you want in a monopod aren't any different from those you want in a tripod:
- Load capacity - How much weight can the monopod support? You want to be sure your gear (and future gear) can be supported.
- Grip - Is there a grip, and if so, what's it made of? Rubber grips usually provide more...grip...and they tend to be more durable than their foam counterparts.
- Leg sections - How tall can the monopod be extended? How do the leg sections lock into place? Taller monopods are heavier due to a larger number of leg sections, but they might be more versatile. Leg locks usually come in twist or flip lock form - twist locks offer more security, but flip locks can be faster to operate.
- Head - Does the monopod come with a head? If so, is it a ball head, a video head, a pan head?
- Price - What is your budget?
Take these factors into consideration when shopping for a monopod, and you'll be able to find something that meets your specific needs.
Below, I've listed three top monopods for 2019 that tick all the boxes.
E-Image MC800 Monopod With 630FH Fluid Head
This is the monopod that made me a monopod guy.
I fully admit that I have been a die-hard tripod guy for decades, but I finally saw the advantages of using a monopod thanks to the MC800.
For starters, this monopod offers an 8.8-pound load capacity with the fluid head attached (over 44 pounds without!), which is far more than I need with a mirrorless camera and lens. But having that extra capacity for future reference is definitely nice.
The foam grip is ergonomic, comfortable, and grippy, and thus far has held up very nicely with everyday use. Granted, I haven't had this monopod for years and years, so time will tell how the foam grip performs over the long haul.
It has four carbon fiber leg sections that take it from a minimum height of 31.5-inches up to a maximum height of 82.7-inches. That's a ton of variability in terms of the eye level and perspective of my shots. The flip leg locks offer secure locking for all leg sections too.
The included fluid head - though it is quite large - is absolutely killer. It offers supremely smooth movement for panning with a subject and for shooting video.
At the bottom of the monopod is a fluid base that allows for smooth 360-degree rotation and 180-degree tilting. That's an especially attractive feature that's not found on many monopods. The three deployable feet are a nice touch as well, and give you even more stability when shooting photos and videos.
At $199.99, it's not the cheapest monopod out there, but then again, cheap monopods aren't built this well, nor do they offer this many features.
Dollar for dollar, I think this is one of the very best monopods you can get right now.
Sirui P-326 Monopod
Another monopod worthy of a look is the Sirui P-236 shown above.
With a 22-pound load capacity, it can't match the load capacity of the E-Image monopod, but 22 pounds is still nothing to frown about. That's more than enough capacity for a camera, a big lens, and other accessories like a cage, microphone, on-camera light, and so forth.
The molded foam grip offers cushioning and the ability to hold the monopod firmly while the six carbon fiber leg sections offer up to 60.6-inches of height. This means that most photographers will have to hunch down to see through the viewfinder, which isn't ideal.
This model has silicone twist locks for quick leg extensions and locking which enables you to get set up to get your shots with ease. The fact that this monopod weighs well under one pound also makes it easy to carry around.
There is no head with this monopod, which is part of the reason why it's so inexpensive - $99.90 at the time of this writing.
Manfrotto XPRO Aluminum Monopod with Fluid Video Head
One of the better aluminum monopods on the market today is this rig, the Manfrotto XPro.
This monopod can safely support up to 11.02 pounds with the included fluid video head.
The long foam grip gives you plenty of real estate for grasping the monopod while the fluid head has a long extension arm that gives you excellent freedom of movement.
With just four leg sections, you'd expect this monopod to have a short maximum height, but that's not the case - it extends up to 80-inches, giving even the tallest photographers a comfortable shooting experience. The beefy flip leg locks are easy to manipulate, but their size does present the possibility of accidentally disengaging the lock if you catch it just right.
The included fluid video head has a built-in counterbalance system for providing improved stability when shooting with heavy lenses. Movement is further enhanced with fluid pan, tilt, and swivel motion of the monopod's base. Like the E-Image monopod, this one has three fold-down legs that offer additional support.
All of these features add up to the biggest price tag on this list - $243.86 at the time of this writing.