I had always been resistant to the idea of a monopod, thinking what is the point as I could just use a tripod instead but in many instances a tripod just isn’t practical or even allowed so I was shooting handheld a lot as a result and with a heavy lens I was missing a lot of shots while I was resting my arms. This issue came to a head when I was photographing a nest of bald eagles in The Woodlands recently, the eaglets were alone in their nest while the mom (or dad I don’t know eagle behaviors very well) was off hunting, I had taken a lot of great shots of the eaglets so was resting my arms & chimping when the mom got back with a fresh kill so I missed the opportunity to photograph her in flight with prey in her talons approaching her nest with two eaglets.
Those missed shots coupled with my plans to get credentialed sooner rather than later (generally monopods are allowed for credentialed media and tripods aren’t plus a tripod is unwieldy to carry & setup all over the ballpark/stadium) finally gave me the push I needed to invest in a monopod. When it comes to photography gear I try to find a happy medium between price & quality as the top brands like Really Right Stuff and Gitzo are usually at prices I can’t justify for a hobby so I stick to brands like Benro and Sirui as the quality is usually 90+% there for a fraction of the price.
This lead me to the Sirui P-326 as the few reviews I could find online were all quite positive and seeing how it wasn’t much more expensive to go with carbon fiber over aluminum I decided to shave I think it was 0.2lb off my load. You can technically use a monopod attached directly to your lens foot or camera body but then that leaves you with having to lean the monopod to shoot at an angle, to address this you could use a standard ball head to allow you a full range of movement but as it is easy to rotate the monopod itself you only need to angle up & down so a tilt head is perfect.
There were even fewer reviews available for the Sirui Aluminium Tilt Head L-10 but it was well rated on Amazon and was designed specifically to couple with their P series of monopods so I took the gamble and added that into my cart as well. Amazon were there usual efficient selves and delivered the monopod and tilt head the next day.
The out of box experience was quite pleasant, the monopod has a reversible threaded attachment point to handle both 1/4” and 3/8” threads, it came with the 1/4” ready to use as I’m guessing a lot of people buy just the monopod without the head and the 1/4” attaches to the camera body or lens foot directly. It was simple to work out how to flip it without having to read the manual so I was able to attach the tilt head quickly & easily.
The monopod uses the standard screw locks commonly found on tripod legs to adjust the height, it goes from a compact 15” all the way to 60.6”, which would be right around the perfect height without a head attached for my 6’3” self and with the tilt head attached I need to retract the last leg section about half way for the camera to be at perfect shooting height. I did have some concern over the height prior to purchasing as one of the reviews I read mentioned that it was too short for them and they were only 6’0” but I suspect they were attaching directly to the camera/lens and must not have been extending the monopod fully.
The monopod has a handy wrist strap and a carabiner clip with one of those gimmicky compasses, the clip would come in handy for attaching to the outside of a bag and the wrist strap is handy for a little extra security. It has some padding both to aid with grip and to make it more comfortable when slung over a shoulder but I found for that purpose the padding wasn’t adequate and if I find myself having to lug it around like that I will likely augment it with a pool noodle or similar. The foot of the monopod has a retractable metal spike for extra stability on outdoor surfaces like a muddy field, I will likely never use it as I’ve never found the need to on a tripod but it is nice that it is there and much better than having it be an extra part that you need to swap out that would be easy to lose.
The tilt head has two adjustment knobs, one to adjust the friction on the tilt and the other for the quick release plate, the plate is Arca-Swiss compatible but to make full use out of Sirui’s proprietary safety feature to prevent the plate from sliding out if it somehow gets loose you will need to use a Sirui compatible plate, it also has a bubble level but I don’t see how that would ever be useful on a monopod head. The supplied quick release plate attached quickly & easily to the lens foot of my 200-500 and easily slid into place on the head, where it was secured from sliding out by the safety feature and once the knob was tightened it felt very solid.
I had read some criticism of both of the adjustment knobs being on the same side so it would be easy to adjust the wrong one freeing your lens and allowing it to fall to its doom but I can’t see that really being an issue beyond maybe the first few times you use it when you would be babying the setup anyway to prevent any mishaps like that and even if that happened then the safety feature would prevent the lens from being detached. I’ve found it works best for me to have the adjustment knobs on the left side of the camera so I can quickly adjust the friction on the tilt when on the move or when I want extra stability.
I am yet to do much field testing but I’m finding it much more convenient than bringing out my tripod & gimbal head when photographing birds in the backyard with it offering a similar range of movement to using a gimbal head so I’m really kicking myself for waiting so long to get on the monopod bandwagon. I plan to take it on some backpacking trips, around town to places like the zoo & arboretum in the coming weeks and will hopefully get the chance to use it at a game with credentials before too long so will be posting a more comprehensive review in the coming weeks.