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by Bart Arondson

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So I am confused on choosing a monopod or tripod for night photography, considering the fact the camera may need delayed shutter speed tripod is better.

I know everyone would prefer a tripod over monopod for night photography (I just guess tripod is preferred more) . I find it heavy and at times uncomfortable carrying it around due to its complexity and weight.

Give me a reason to choose a monopod for night photography(if you think monopod are good) and what model would you choose. I don't want it to be too expensive something affordable.

*Camera: Nikon D5100 *Lens:18-105mm

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When you say "night photography" are you referring to scenes unlit by any artificial light? Or are you talking about sports stadiums or other areas lit with significant artificial light? –  Michael Clark Aug 20 '13 at 16:40
    
I am actually speaking in general !! You can keep both the scenarios which you have stated above. For example: Say I am standing in a street and I am taking a picture of a person and when I long exposure my image you can see the background image flashing like "The flash" (cartoon character) but the pic of the person will be sharp. if you know what I mean !! –  DRK Aug 20 '13 at 18:08

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Although I've used a monopod in a pinch (because I had a monopod with me and didn't have a tripod), the only real way to go for night photography unless you are shooting in a place very well lit with artificial light is a tripod. In general I've found a monopod buys about three or four stops slower than the 1/(focal length X crop factor) rule for non-stabilized lenses. For stabilized lenses the monopod will help extend whatever benefit the Image Stabilization, Vibration Reduction, etc. by another couple of stops or so. A good tripod, on the other hand, will allow you to take much longer shots than a monopod. For me the primary benefit of a monopod is supporting the weight of a heavy lens during an extended shoot such as a sporting event or air show, not to allow longer shutter speeds. For that you really need a tripod. The other use case for a monopod is when you are in places that do not allow tripods but do allow monopods.

This shot was taken from a monopod at 1/5 sec, f/3.5, 35mm focal length, ISO 1600. The lens used was a non-stabilized Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L mounted on a Canon EOS 5D mark II. I was shooting a little over three stops below the 1/focal length rule. I had used my longer lens and a 7D on the monopod all afternoon at an air show. Not being aware there was going to be fireworks after dark, I had left my tripod in the car quite a distance from the venue. It is not razor sharp as there appears to have either been a little camera movement or the manual focus left the foreground a little soft. Fortunately, the fireworks in the picture are very forgiving since they are very short bursts of bright light for any single spot in the photo.

Airshow fireworks

This image, on the other hand, was exposed for 30 seconds and would not have been possible without a tripod or other solid camera support. There may be someone that could hold a monopod motionless for 30 seconds, but I've never met anyone that can.

Bridge at night

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That's a precise detail. I now understand !! –  DRK Aug 20 '13 at 18:12
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I really like that fireworks shot with the silhouette of the plane in the foreground! :) –  NULLZ Aug 21 '13 at 1:29

As a general rule, if you couldn't get the shot freehand with a point and shoot, then a monopod isn't going to help much. The primary purpose of a monopod is to support the weight of the camera. This is why you rarely see someone using a monopod with a point and shoot. The heavier the weight, the harder it is to hold steady because you have to fight that weight.

While a monopod does provides a single point of solid contact that can hold the weight, it doesn't do a whole lot to stabilize beyond what you are capable of yourself since it can still move along two radial axis and that still ends up giving a lot of room for your unsteadiness to interfere with the shot. It does help a bit, but not super significantly. I find that at most it gives a couple stops of shutter speed, but at slower shutter speeds, that can drop even further to only one or two stops.

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I've seen monopods used with compact digital cameras, and even iPhones. I've used a monopod with a compact digital camera when shooting video. –  Michael Clark Aug 20 '13 at 18:00
    
Right Now I understand !! thanks :) –  DRK Aug 20 '13 at 18:13
    
@MichaelClark - I suppose it is true that people will use just about anything with anything. I've personally not seen it in person, though I've heard of people using a full blown Steadicam with an iPad before. –  AJ Henderson Aug 20 '13 at 19:28

Because of the longer exposure times usually needed for night photography, often as long as 30 seconds, I doubt you will get acceptable photographs with a monopod. If your tripod is cumbersome and heavy, I suggest you look for a lighter tripod. As an example, there are many carbon-fiber tripods that weigh 3-4 pounds.

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