Benro vs. Manfrotto, Benro vs. Manfrotto, waffle waffle.
I don’t usually buy stuff I end up not liking because most of the time my endless
obsessing research pays off. The other thing I need to remember is this: If I haven’t already made up my mind, don’t take friends to the camera store with me to look at a new piece of not-so-familiar with gear.
I tried. I did my due diligence, I fiddled with the assorted monopods for what must have felt like HOURS to my patient companion. I asked the poor salespeople question after question. I listened to their answers, I fiddled with the monopods some more.
What I did not do is ask someone whip up a camera system similar to what i actually use and test the monopods under a load.
At the end of it I kind of threw my hands up in the air and went with the Benro because it was a bit less expensive, had the panning function in the head as opposed to the base and seemed ‘smoother’. The Manfrotto had a hitch in it, in retrospect probably due to lack of maintenance and just hanging out as a demo on the floor. Oh yeah, and my friend was getting bored and saying things like “you can always come back”.
From the get go it was not a match made in heaven. I didn’t get why some of my shooter friends are just IN LOVE with their monopods. This thing didn’t love me back whatsoever. My shoulder rig was SO much better for similar shooting situations. I was baffled. Baffled that is until I did a shoot at King FM with Vibe Vision and Michael Goude. It was a camera operator shoot which means I show up with my monitor and use his camera and whatever tripod he hands me. Oh look. a monopod. my favorite.
Wait just a second, what is this… this is… smoooooooth. This pans and tilts like a dream. This actually kind of rocks. Ok, so i’m not a complete convert, I still lovelovelove shoulder rigs for some things, but I’m appreciating the attributes of the monopod more and more.
I think the panning at the base was actually a smart idea by Manfrotto, because it means you control the pan with two hands as opposed to using ‘opposing’ forces for the pan (one to stabilize and hold the base, one to pan the camera). With both hands on the stick doing orchestrated maneuvers its just bound to be better, and it feels almost a bit like flying a glide-cam where your hands are working together. I get it.
So the moral of this story is: just get the Manfrotto 500 series monopod. Don’t worry about the panning feature being at the base. Don’t be a cheap bastard and be unhappy that you can’t pop the head off and use it for other applications. Just get it. Oh yeah, and test out the stuff you want to buy in situation similar to how you will use it. If you use 6 or 8 lbs of crap on top of it, then test it with that. It will act different under a load. Also don’t assume that because folks work in a camera store that sells video equipment, that they know the first thing about what will be better for video. It’s not their fault.