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Thread: Monopod for bird photography

  1. #1
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    Default Monopod for bird photography

    Hi all

    I'm currently looking at getting myself a monopod I can take along with me on my birding outings, to assist in limiting the affects of camera shake (particularly in low light situations). I've recently purchased an Olympus E620 and 70-300mm lens.

    What kind of monopod and head would you recommend?
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    I have used a Manfrotto 680B monopod with my Canon 500 and it is almost totally useless with this longer lens because I cannot keep it steady enough to get really sharp shots. However with your setup a monopod would be OK because it is nowhere near as heavy. I also found it was not tall enough,(it just srewed into the lens plate) so if a bird was up a tree I would almost have to lie on my back. Also because at close distance there is very shallow DOF and horizontal unsteadiness would cause me to miss perfect focus.

    Regards
    Peter

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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Thanks for the feedback Bassia. I'm currently looking at a Manfrotto 776YB and a Manfrotto 234RC Monopod head.

    I'm also looking at upgrading the lens to a 50-200mm SWD lens, which is a fair bit heavier than the current lens I'm using for birding.

    I'm just looking for a little more stability when shooting, without the awkwardness of carrying around a tripod.
    Adam Blyth Photography on Facebook
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Correct me if I am wrong, but don't most Olympus cameras have an in-camera IS system? That being the case, I wouldn't bother with a monopod at all. Back when I had the Bigma (Sigma 50-500) with no IS on my Canon 40D, I thought it would be a nice idea to get a monopod to provide some sort of stability because of the lack of IS. I have hardly ever used it since I bought it, just because it is a lot more cumbersome than without it. I guess less so than a tripod, but still an added annoyance. The set up doesn't sound too heavy, so you should be able to handhold it at 1/150 or so? Maybe less if the IS is good? I know that I can handhold the MKIV and 300/2.8 (weighs about 4.2 kg all up) at 1/200 with a pretty good chance of getting the photos sharp and the IS there is rated at 2 stops, one of the older versions. That and the pretty decent ISO noise levels on cameras these days should allow shots in my circumstances (??)
    I dunno, I am certainly not telling you to not get one, but just thought I might share my experiences. If you find yourself getting lots of blurry photos, then it may be the way to go I guess. As to what type, I couldn't tell you. Never a bad idea to walk into the local shop and try a couple and see which feels best.
    Tobias Hayashi
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Teds cameras is selling heavy duty monopods for $100 at the moment. Not sure what brand it is but it looked pretty sturdy to me and not bad for that price.

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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Tobias, the E620 does have on board IS (which I LOVE!) and it certainly helps, however the iso performance in low light still isn't fantastic, and in some instances it is difficult to shoot at 1/200. My thoughts were that perhaps a monopod would assist here.

    I went out today and spent a few hours at Healsville Sanctuary in a few of the bird enclosures, and due to the poor light available, I found many of my images weren't as sharp as I'd liked, which is probably attributed to the low shutter speeds I was forced to shoot with.

    Still not entirely convinced I need a monopod either.. I find the more time I spend with my camera and learn how to use it, hopefully the less I'll actually need one. But it's nice to have the option I guess.

    Thanks for your feedback!
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    I have the Manfrotto 334B monopod, but no head for it Ė the head I have is for my tripod and is not as smooth when using on a monopod. I thought at the time that I would get heaps of use out of a monopod, but have only used it on a number of occasions. It does help a little bit with stability, but I find something to lean against or on if I can (even if itís my knee), or failing that itís about handhold technique (correct stance, holding your hand under the lens barrel like holding a gun, etc) and breathing out and holding my breath as I roll my finger over the shutter button (donít poke at the button, just roll your finger on it). Chances are you wonít need a shutter speed much lower than 1/100 or 1/200s otherwise you start introducing possible motion blur due to subject movement. I found the monopod a bit of a pain to carry around on hikes, so just handhold and use a flash if I need more light. You get much quicker and easier movement when handholding and can respond to the action much more quickly. Most of the time you want a highish shutter speed anyway to freeze the motion of the bird (motion of it moving its head, etc), so that lessens the possibility of camera shake.

    I would go to a store and try some out, see if you are happy with weight, etc and take some practice photos with your set up (take some handheld, then take some with the monopod using shutter speeds you expect when photographing birds, so not speeds like 1/10s or anything like that). I am not sure if the lens you have has a tripod mount? If not, you will be mounting using the camera's tripod mount and that lends itself to some instability as the set up will not be balanced very well (will have tendency to fall forward due to weight of the lens). Manfrotto are quite a good brand and you can pick them up fairly cheaply - just make sure you look at the loading capacity of the monopod and when calculating if it's enough, donít forget to include the head in that weight. The head will also have its own weight loading. Heads are a different issue and I would definitely try before you buy. I have been recommended the Really Right Stuff head (see http://reallyrightstuff.com/rrs/Itemdes ... ro&eq=&Tp= ), but that head is of more use for the heavier lenses (not sure how heavy your lens is) and more importantly is only available in the US and at a fairly hefty price, so you have to import as I have done so with quite a few items now (Australia isnít as photography friendly as other nations I am afraid!). I do not have any experience with other heads I am afraid (with exception to the Mongoose 3.5b which is for the really big lenses), so cannot recommend any.

    Just make sure that you really need it Ė hire one if you possibly can, otherwise it may well end up sitting in the corner like mine does and you have wasted a few hundred bucks (if buying quality stuff). In the end you will usually resort back to handholding, much quicker and easier and you can put the money you save towards a new camera if thatís the way you want to go in the future
    Aust. Life List (IOC) - 315 (Rufous Owl- 11/09/2014)
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Excellent post Dale, thanks for your thoughts on this subject.

    The lens I currently use does not have a tripod mount, but the new one I'm looking at certainly does.

    The more time I spend with my camera, the more I think that perhaps I don't need a monopod. Todat I spent several hours photographing birds in low light conditions, and I even used the on board flash for the first time to assist with poorly lit situations (which was an eye opener in itself!). I still found many of my images not as sharp as I would have liked, but I think this can be attributed to the lenses performance in low light conditions (which, as I have both read and experienced, isn't fantastic - bring on summer damnit!).

    As I am relatively new to the world of DSLR, I want to give myself every opportunity to take successful images. I think I'll be spending more time in the field practicing my craft before spending anymore money on accessories at this stage.

    The next step, before upgrading my lens, is deciding if I want to commit to the Olympus line up of glass (which is fantastic quality, but limited range), or consider a possible switch to one of the bigger names. Now THAT is going to be a hell of a decision.
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    i'm using a monopod most of the time adam well all the time actually, you can't just use the pod you need a good ballhead the up down is all i need when panning turn the whole thing i use a miller carbon fibre three stager and it's tall i can stand up straight and shoot up with ease and pretty easy to track birds when you get the hang of it using an arcatech ultimate ball head which is a nice bit of kit, have had a mates 500f/4 on my 1d3 on the monopod and after a short session did not want to give it back.....lol then hiking with gear ready is allways a pain with the mono attached makes it easier to throw over your shoulder and go. just my 2c worth cheers.

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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Yes, forgot to mention that a good ball head will be the right head for you I think.

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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Yeah I think a ballhead is the way to go with a monopod, much easier to manoeuvre. Getting a decent one which is able to take the weight of the lens and camera combo does cost a bit though; you definitely wont need one that can handle the 500 f/4 as that is overkill, but on the same token you dont want to get one which just fits the weight of the lens and camera - it's always good to have a 1kg or so to spare for future accessories, etc.
    Aust. Life List (IOC) - 315 (Rufous Owl- 11/09/2014)
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    I gave up using a monopod years ago, they were more helpful in just supporting the weight of a big lens, maybe gave you one stop extra of SS compared to hand holding. I think it would be even less helpful on a tele lens without a tripod collar.

    While the inbody IS may seem great it is much less likely to do well with long lenses, it's just the basic physics of the problem with a long lens any movement of the camera is going to require the sensor to move much further to correct than it would with a wide to short tele lens. With IS in each lens it can be tuned for the amount of movement it needs to correct. The other problem with Olympus glass is that it is pricey, with Canon or Nikon you're much more likely to pick up a tele lens second hand as there are more lenses out there. As a basic guide, at 300mm you'll need at least 1/300 SS without IS, plus for a given finished image size, with the 2x crop fcator, you'll need relatively more SS compared to a full frame body, so you may well need more SS than you think to get sharp images.
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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Heres a trick I used to use when using a monopod attached to the camera with a smallish lens on it. Screw the camera onto the monopod and set the monopod at its smallest length (about 2 feet). Shove the end of the monopod into your belt at the front (if you are wearing one) and bring the camera to your face. You will look like a twonk but with the right stance it will give you even more stability than if the leg of the pod was on the ground!! If you do it right you can pan etc easily too. If you can't picture it then let me know and I will post a photo (of me looking like said twonk).

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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Quote Originally Posted by wingsonwire
    I will post a photo (of me looking like said twonk).
    I'd love to see that!
    Cheers,
    Geoff


    reposts welcome

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    Default Re: Monopod for bird photography

    Sure Geoff , as you can see it works quite well. Hopefully my camouflage unitard comes in the mail this week, this one just seems to scare the birds (and people :roll: ) away for some reason.
    [attachment=0:2ljjp4aj]green_1524549i.jpg[/attachment:2ljjp4aj]

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