For the run-and-gun videographer, there’s little more annoying than having to unfold and extend the legs of a tripod just to get a quick shot. Many pros turn to monopods when they’re shooting light and fast, but the limitations of many monopods leave camera operators struggling to balance the gear and take a smooth pan.
Manfrotto’s XPRO aluminum monopod comes with the company’s lockable base (with feet) and a video fluid head, and eliminates most of the issues with monopod shooting, making it easy to set up, shoot and get underway again. The combined unit is called the MVMXPRO500US, with a street price of around $300.
The XPRO collapses down into a package small enough for me to fit in most of my suitcases (without the head attached) and has an innovative, lockable pivoting base. Flip down the feet and raise the circular collar on the base, and the monopod is free to pan and (to some degree) tilt. Flick the collar down, and the monopod locks into place, eliminating most movement.
The monopod is sturdy enough that it’s possible to leave a camera standing on it without holding it, though that’s not recommended. Still, it’s good to see that with careful attention it would be possible to let go of a monopod’s stalk for a moment to grab something from a bag. I find myself wishing for slightly longer feet, but the size of the XPRO’s feet allows it to get into truly small spaces. I’ve used it when climbing on rock outcroppings, and I can usually get the feet into small cracks in the rocks.
The flip locks that control the extension of the monopod are easy to use, and I think it’s a better choice on a monopod than twist-locks, as most monopod users don’t have a free hand. The monopod can collapse down to 31 inches and can extend up to an incredible 81 inches (that’s nearly 7 feet).
In a few shoots around Manhattan, I could get set up and shoot quickly, much faster than I could with a tripod in the same situation and much more quickly than I could with some of the monopods that have twist-lock columns.
The only issues I have with the monopod revolve around (pardon the pun) the locking base unit. The lock ring slides down into a groove around a ball, which requires bending down to lock and unlock the monopod (or lifting the monopod up), which isn’t easy to do when you’re shooting with the legs extended.
I also found there was a slight bit of play in the locking mechanism that translated into some back-and-forth motion when attempting to pan smoothly. Between the slight movement in the feet and that in the lock ring, there’s a very small amount of wiggle room at the base when the tripod is locked. Up near the top of the monopod, when shooting at eye level, that translates into around a half-inch of forward and back motion.
With the ring locked to do a smooth pan around the column, I always found myself introducing some wobble accidentally. With one of the other popular monopods, the panning action is separate from the base, which feels more stable to me. It would be nice if the lock resistance on the XPRO monopod could be dialed in the way that it’s possible to lock down a fluid tripod head, and which some other monopods offer, but it would also probably help if I practiced a more stable panning technique.
In any case, at around $300 for the whole system of head, monopod and base, it’s hard to beat the Manfrotto MVMXPRO500US in terms of value and performance.
Learn more about the Manfrotto MVMXPRO500US at manfrotto.us