In this article we tackle the question of whether a tripod or a monopod is better for supporting your binoculars. We consider the pros and cons of tripods vs monopods, along with the birding situations in which each accessory performs best.
Monopods are lighter and less cumbersome to carry from place to place. They are easier to set up and so can be used more quickly if time is often a factor in catching a good view of a fast-moving bird.
When to use a monopod for birding
A monopod would be a great option for someone who hikes a long way or who does a lot of travel. They are often cheaper than tripods too.
Monopods work fine for standard sized binoculars with objective lenses from 40mm to 56mm and mid-sized binoculars with objective lenses from 30mm to 35mm, if you don’t want the extra stability from a tripod.
When to use a tripod for birding
Tripods provide much more stability than monopods. Their extra stability translates into very sharp, blur-free images through your binoculars.
Because tripods have three legs instead of one they can be left unattended safely. They are good if your bird watching is done from a stationary position, or not far from your transport.
Having said that, there are some light and compact tripods designed specifically to be easily packable.
If you are more interested in exploring the specific situations when you might require a tripod with binoculars, then we cover that topic here >>>> When do I need to use a tripod with my birding binoculars?
What are the similarities of tripods and monopods?
Tripods and monopods have the same primary function: to support an optical device. In this case we are considering them in relation to binoculars.
In both cases, the accessories extend telescopically and can be adjusted to the height that suits you. With both tripods and monopods, one of the most important specifications is the maximum capacity - how much weight they will cope with.
At the top of the tripod, there is a plate to attach the head that holds the binoculars. Many tripods and monopods can be bought as a kit, with the tripod head included.
But if you prefer to buy the tripod legs and head separately, even from different manufacturers, this is also possible. Many brands of tripod heads have universal attachments so are compatible with a range of other brands.
Tripods and monopods take the strain
Both the tripod and the monopod will bear the weight of your binoculars. This eases the burden on your arms, neck and shoulder muscles.
The benefit of this is clear for long sessions of bird watching. Even with the most comfortable neck strap or harness, binoculars can start to feel heavy after a while.
Using some kind of support, whether it is the tripod or the monopod, for your binoculars might also reduce the chance of accidental damage to your precious optics as they would be less easy to drop.
Pros and cons of tripods and monopods?
A monopod is a stand that has one single leg with a small base, whereas a tripod has three legs that splay out to provide a more stable base. Some tripods even include a center column that can be converted into a fourth leg.
Most monopods have a basic rubber foot, but in some cases you can upgrade this to a tripod-style foot. Because of the weight distribution, it may not be advisable to leave this unattended in the same way that you could with a tripod.
Let’s dive into more detail about how the differences of tripods and monopods affect their usage.
Advantages of a monopod
- Lighter weight
- More easily packable
- Versatile for hiking and trekking - and doubles as a walking stick
- Quicker and easier to set up and reposition
- Take up less ground area in tight spaces like narrow trails or crowded hides
Disadvantages of a monopod
- Less stability than a tripod
- Cannot be used hands-free
- Less suitable for digiscoping with larger binoculars
- Difficult to switch optics if using both binoculars and a scope
- Less easy to share with fellow birders in comparison to a stationary tripod
- More limited range on the market
Advantages of a tripod
- Holds the binoculars in a fixed position - better for sharing views with other birders
- Provides a more steady image
- Wider range of tripods to choose from
- More suitable for taking photos through your binoculars
- Table-top tripods will take up little space and fit in crowded hides
Disadvantages of a tripod
- Weighs more
- Is more bulky to carry
- Slower to deploy and put away
- Takes more effort to make small adjustments in positioning
- Full-size tripods take up more ground or floor space, which causes issues in tight spots
When is a monopod good for birding binoculars?
If saving on weight and size are important to you, then it can be worth finding a good monopod. Depending on the size of the binoculars, they offer stability that approaches that of a tripod.
Standard sized binoculars with objective lenses from 40mm to 56mm and mid-sized binoculars with objective lenses from 30mm to 35mm work fine with a monopod, if you don’t want the extra stability from a tripod.
Monopods are more versatile
The monopod can be more versatile when watching more active birds that require you to rotate the binoculars and physically change position. It’s more easy to move your body around a monopod than stepping over or around tripod legs, trying not to knock over the whole contraption.
It’s also easier to shift the position of the monopod itself when you want to change your viewing position just a bit without moving to a whole different location.
If you are birding in a small area, such as on a narrow trail or in a hide, then space will be at a premium. Monopods are better at not being a trip hazard for other birders!
Binoculars up to 8x combine well with monopods
Monopods work well for smaller binoculars, with magnifications up to 8x. Binoculars of 10x or 12x magnification can also work well with a monopod if portability is paramount.
The comparative portability of the monopod makes it more suited to someone who walks a long way for their bird watching, or perhaps takes it on hiking or camping trips.
For those birders who do a lot of travel and need their birding kit to fit within a weight allowance, it’s a lighter option than a tripod.
Plus if you are on a limited budget then a monopod tends to be cheaper and provides better support than nothing!
When is a tripod better than a monopod for birding binoculars?
Tripods’ extra stability means that they make it more likely you will see clearer, less blurry images through your binoculars. They are extra suitable for binoculars with large magnifications, such as 10x or 12x, or larger.
With their three legs instead of one, it’s okay to leave tripods standing by themselves - although in windy conditions or on unstable surfaces this is not recommended.
Tripods are good for sharing
Because tripods hold their position, they are better if you are sharing your optics with others, so you can train the binoculars on a spot then show it to someone else. They are also good if your bird watching is done from a stationary position, or not far from your transport.
Many people like to take photos through their binoculars and for these purposes, a tripod beats a monopod because it is so much more stable.
Final thoughts - Tripod vs monopod: which is better for binoculars?
For those who would like the option to have both a tripod and a monopod without buying the two separate accessories, there are brands producing tripods that can convert into a monopod.
Some of these use the central column as the main monopod leg. With others you can detach one of the legs then reattach it to the central column. To see an example of this, take a look at these reviews of the best tripods for birding.
If you are looking for a tripod that takes less time to set up, then models with three-sections are simpler to deploy. The downside of these is that their folded length can be longer than a tripod with four- or five-section legs.
How and when will you use each accessory?
In order to determine which is better for you, it’s worth considering how and when you will be using the tripod or monopod. They suit different uses. If you had to choose a priority would it be stability or mobility?
The monopod is the more portable option, at the cost of some stability. It’s a great option to use even with low powered binoculars. The extra support makes a difference to images and to viewing comfort.
Tripods will give you the stable views that you need, especially if you have higher magnification binoculars. Full size versions of tripods are less portable than monopods.
But the upside is that there is such a wide range on the market, including table-top tripods and ultra-compact models. For some examples of compact tripods for birding, check out these >>>> Travel light with the best compact spotting scopes for birding
- 1 What are the similarities of tripods and monopods?
- 2 Pros and cons of tripods and monopods?
- 3 When is a monopod good for birding binoculars?
- 4 When is a tripod better than a monopod for birding binoculars?
- 5 Final thoughts - Tripod vs monopod: which is better for binoculars?