All monopods are not created equal. I can say that with some authority now that I have owned and used more than one. When I first started shooting I didn’t have use for a monopod. My longest lens was a 200mm lens, which in my opinion, does not need one – ever. A monopod is a quick way to support or stabilize a camera or lens. And with lenses longer than 300mm, they really come in handy.
My first monopod was the stable but heavy Bogen 680B. Its cheap at about $65 most places and is capable of supporting up to 22.5 lbs. It has 4 sections, folds to 20.8 inches and weighs in at whopping 1.83 lbs. I never thought that weight would be an issue with it but as I started to use it to support more than a 300mm f2.8 (5.6lbs) it started to add up. After carrying a 400mm f2.8 around for an entire day my shoulder was starting to hurt.
When I bought my 300mm f4 IS, I wasn’t planning on using it with a monopod because it is super light weight. However, after a couple of consecutive football games and shooting for nearly 8 hours at a state softball tournament I decided to use one just to relieve the strain from my shoulder. The 300 f4 weighs in at 2.6 lbs with the tripod collar. The Bogen 680B is more than half the weight of the lens, almost as big around and feels unbalanced when used with a lens less than a 300mm f2.8. For hours of shooting, this was not an ideal solution. The solution was the Gitzo GM2541.
The GM2541 is one of the newest 6X carbon monopods from Gitzo. Its a 4 section, 1.1lbs, full carbon fiber, twist leg lock, non-rotating leg, 26.4 lbs capacity monopod. Its quite a bit more expensive at $240 but in my opinion worth every penny. When fully expanded, the GM2541 is extremely stiff. The leg sections do not exhibit the flex like there is in my Bogen 680B. It may only be 0.73lbs lighter than the 680B but it really works well for lighter lenses such as the 300mm F4 IS and 400mm F5.6 and I suppose the 70-200mm f2.8 IS.
The top plate is large enough to accommodate many of the heavier lenses and features a reversible stud for 1/4 or 3/8 threaded mounts. One feature which I am sure will come in handy is wrist strap/wide belt clip attached below the base plate. It is now possible to hang the monopod from a belt (such as my Think Tank belt), a backpack strap, or whatever else you want. Its a nice feature that will come in handy when I am running onto the field trying to get that celebration shot after the game. Previously I either held the monopod and lens in one hand and shot pictures with the other or I just left my monopod under a bench on the sidelines with the hope it wouldn’t be stolen.
There are a host of other features, most of which I don’t really think about while shooting. If you want more tech specs click that link above. One of those features is the foot of the monopod can be removed and a stainless steel spike can be put in place of the rubber pad. It comes in 2 lengths including an extra long spike that can be used for killing zombies and skewering meat (not really). I suppose it would help in snowy situations.
Overall the Gitzo GM2541 is a great, lightweight addition to your photo support arsenal. Its capable of holding some of the heaviest lenses but light enough to travel with. Me and my shoulder are happy to have found it.