Fstoppers Review of the 3Pod Monopod for Field Photography, Video, and Self Defense?

Fstoppers Review of the 3Pod Monopod for Field Photography, Video, and Self Defense?

The smaller size, lighter weight, and ability to get a high angle shot has made the monopod a useful tool for many photographers and videographers, especially for subjects like sports, wildlife, and run and gun situations. I got to review the new 3Pod Orbit Monopod to test its features on a couple of different projects to see how it holds up to real world shooting scenarios.

3Pod is the moniker given to a line of tripods and monopods made by Flashpoint, sold exclusively through Adorama. Other 3Pod products have been around since 2013, but the product I got to check out was the new carbon fiber Orbit 4-Section monopod.

My background is in outdoor adventure and documentary projects, so I find myself out in the woods or on a mountain with a camera kit quite often. I had a couple of shoots in Kentucky over the last few weeks so I brought the Orbit with me to give it a spin.

Out of the box, the Orbit looks totally pro. All black with red trim matches a lot of other pieces of kit I have, so that was cool. When fully extended, the Orbit stands about 5 feet tall, resting on three locking feet. The locking feet are a neat feature you may have seen before in other monopod systems, which gives the user a more stable base to work from.  A reversible 3/8” to ¼-20” thread exists at the top of the shaft for mounting different heads or accessories.

The legs can extend in three different sections, and are snap-lock style. While they were very secure and I never had a leg slip, I have to say that the lock part itself had a little bit of wiggle when opening/closing them. I tried tightening them down with the supplied allen key, but it still had a little wiggle. Nothing to be too concerned about, just something I noticed.

The Orbit comes with a padded black shoulder bag to carry it in, but for my shoots, I just strapped into onto my backpack for less bulk. I also ended up removing the feet, because on uneven terrain I felt they weren’t very helpful, and when attached it made the monopod another 4-5” taller, which was awkward sticking out of my pack.

An issue that removing the feet created was that the bottom of the monopod was left open to gather dirt and mud. Unfortunately no screw in foot or spike is provided, so I had to tape up the bottom of mine. An easy fix, but versatility in equipment is important to me, so being able to ditch the feet and screw in something like a plug or bumper would be ideal. If you’re a wedding shooter or plan to be on flat surfaces, then by all means leave the feet on. For someone like me who shoots outside, I simply don’t benefit from them in most scenarios.

I had the 3Pod lightweight video head to use for video shooting, and I also used a Manfrotto 494RC2 ballhead when out to capture stills. With the ballhead and no feet, this made for a really lightweight setup! Great for long hikes and bike rides, both of which I did at times for my shoots.

The video head is good for a medium to small sized DSLR or mirrorless camera, and will let you get reasonably smooth pans/tilts. The action when using a Panasonic GH4 with a 12-35mm Lumix lens was awesome in fact. The plate is a proprietary fit, so don’t expect to be able to use other brands of plates. Some users of this head have noted that the tightening screws and pan handle block the mounting of the camera, but in reality the screws are "ratchet style" which lets you pull the knob outward and spin it back without turning the screw. So mounting a camera and locking it down or using the panhandle is not a problem.

With my ballhead, I used a Canon 5Dmkii for stills, ranging from shots I could have easily done handheld, to reaching my camera into the air or under the path of a flying mountain bike. I can safely say that without the monopod, I would not have been able to get the desired angles for these images.

I was able to capture an angle that showed the trail better by raising the camera on the monopod high above my head.

While I’m not out to compare monopod models in this review, I did have a couple others at the time, so I thought our readers might appreciate a little visual comparison. Left of the 3Pod Orbit (without feet attached) is a Benro C48F and a Manfrotto MVM500a.

Getting into a physical altercation might not be the first thing that comes to mind when making a purchase decision for a new piece of gear, but according to the user manual that comes with the Orbit monopod, “the monopod is a favorite self-defense tool of photographers and videographers.” Further more, the literature goes on to say things like, “Go for the eyes” and, “In tight quarters, don’t extend the monopod. Using it as a short club will be your best option.”

I’m not even kidding. Here’s a shot of the manual, which is well worth a read.

I don’t know if they’re being serious or cheeky, but I could honestly see how news photographers capturing images of riots and gangs might need to use this for self defense. Maybe that’s their target market? Hard to say for sure, but it is important to note that using the Orbit monopod for self defense will indeed void your warranty!

Extending my camera on the end of the monopod, away from my body and using a remote, let me put my camera in a precarious position.

Overall this is a very functional and usable monopod, and for $100 (carbon fiber version with no head) it represents a great value. You might want to think about the kinds of content you plan to shoot, as a monopod such as this one with the feet attachment, might not be your best choice. But it could be if you’re often indoors to shoot sporting events or weddings!

The only major issue I found was the fact that they don’t offer an alternative foot/spike option when not using the three locking feet. If you're looking for that style, and need a solid monopod at a reasonable price, definitely give this one a look.

3Pod offers a five-year warranty on their products, but you’ll void that if you decide to go Chuck Norris on somebody bad mouthing the size of your, ummm, lens.

*Edited to add the specs of the monopod, copied and pasted from the product page:

Max Height - 65.5 inches

Collapsed Height - 23.5 inches

Weight - 2 lb

Max load - 18 lb

Mounting - Reversible 3/8 and 1/4-20

Leg Lock Type - Flip lock

Leg Sections - 4

VIDEO HEAD Weight - 1.1 lb

VIDEO HEAD Max Load - 11 lb

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12 Comments
Tyler Newcomb's picture

Great article! You really persuaded me to look more into monopods, i had no idea they could be used for sports. Are there any other budget monopods out there that are great for sports photography? Thanks

Pete W's picture

“the monopod is a favorite self-defense tool of photographers and videographers.” Further more, the literature goes on to say things like, “Go for the eyes” and, “In tight quarters, don’t extend the monopod. Using it as a short club will be your best option.”

Ummm, would be hard to deny this monopod could be used as a weapon if challenged by the police or if you were denied access to an event or an airliners carry-on with the above printed on the device, yes/no? I sure would question their wisdom in providing the instruction's on how to use as a weapon right on the monopod itself ?!? Maybe I am overthinking it here, they might just as well be joking but I don't recall personnel at the average security check as having a well honed sense-of-humor! Sure my best friend's name might be "Jack" but I wouldn't yell "Hi Jack" on a busy passenger aircraft, but that's just me.

Prefers Film's picture

Good thing they didn't print it right on the monopod.

Anonymous's picture

I carry a monopod onto every flight I board BECAUSE it makes such a great self defense tool.

Jacques Cornell's picture

You get mugged on planes a lot?

Anonymous's picture

Only on Southwest flights.

Prefers Film's picture

This review would be much more useful if you provided details like height, weight, max load... You know, stuff that counts. "About five feet tall" doesn't tell me if it will get a camera to my eye level. Max load is important too, as it seems most monopods don't support the sort of lenses I would need one for, making them useful for light video cameras, and not much more.

Mike Wilkinson's picture

Thanks for the feedback, I added in the specs to the bottom of the post.

Jayson Carey's picture

I've often carried a monopod or tripod in one hand and a hot-shoe flash on full-power in the other when walking alone in sketchy neighborhoods with my gear.

Deleted Account's picture

David Hobby did this one best aaaages ago:

"In my left hand, a fully-charged SB, set to 1/1 power and zoomed out. Thumb on the test button too. In my right hand, a heavy Gitzo monopod, strapped onto my wrist and hand on the grip.

Basic strategy:

1. ***POP***

2. Whoppity, whoppity, whoppity, whoppity...

3. Rinse and repeat as needed."

http://strobist.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/stealing-your-flash.html

Chad Rollins's picture

A few years ago while on location I was dropped off by a taxi a couple streets over from my hotel. I took an alley and was approached by two guys with knives that wanted my backpack, money, and passport. I had my MVM500a with a 504HD attached. I can attest that it makes an excellent self defense weapon!

Photography Article's picture