Today sees the launch of the 3 Legged Thing “Darkness” range of monopods and tripods. I’ve been using a 3 Legged Thing Alan 2.0 monopod for a little while now but I also have this new more subtle and stealthy matt black “Darkness” version. It seems like a good day to publish my thoughts on monopods and why I am now using 3 Legged Thing’s Alan 2.0 monopods for my wildlife photography and filmaking….
THE MONOPOD ADVANTAGE
Generally speaking, telephoto lenses favoured by wildlife photographers are larger and heavier than lenses used for other photographic genres. Even for just a short period of time, when you’re perhaps waiting for a preferred composition or for your subject to appear or display some specific behaviour, lenses can become uncomfortable to handhold.
I’ve always preferred to have some support for my lenses, but I’ve found a tripod and tripod head to be limiting in many ways. Firstly, to provide the required support and movement for heavy lenses, the tripod and head is often rather large, bulky and heavy. I’ve also found tripods to be a hinderence. They can make changes to your own position slow and limiting, especially when changing height and ensuring your camera and lens remains level.
Travelling on flights with a tripod can also be a hassle as they may not be welcomed in to the cabin with your camera bag and they can take up a significant amount of room (and weight!) in your hold baggage.
Over the last few years I’ve favoured using a monopod instead of a tripod. They’re much lighter and more compact for travelling and also when moving around with your camera.
When your composition can be improved by changing the background with small changes in the height of the camera, it’s much easier with a monopod than adjusting three tripod legs.
I also find a monopod to be a very useful option when I am photographing wildlife from a vehicle in places like the Maasai Mara and Greater Kruger. I would often find myself composed on a subject and awaiting some action or behaviour and sure enough after a minute or so, my arms began to get tired and muscle shake would set in! Tripods aren’t really a viable option given the lack of space but a monopod takes up such little room when it is in use.
Convenience! Using the new 3 Legged Thing Alan 2.0 “Darkness” Monopod with AirHed Pro ballhead.
OUT WITH THE OLD…
My previous monopod seemed to become prematurely unusable with failing twist-lock fastenings. I had little confidence in it being able to hold my main gear and over extended periods of use they began to lose their grip and slowly shorten the monopod! It wasn’t old, it was well maintained and certainly not over used. So, the search for an alternative began.
Criteria? I wanted it to be light, compact and as I am also slowly moving towards doing more film making, to also to have a high load bearing weight.
AND IN WITH THE NEW!
I’d like to claim it was named after me, but it’s just coincidence! I’ve been using the Alan 2.0 monopod since early spring when I travelled to Norway to do some filming and stills photography for the Seabirds in the City project. I also used it when I was testing pre-production versions of the Fujifilm X-H2S and XF150-600mm lens, it has accompanied me to South Africa’s Timbavati and also to Kenya’s Maasai Mara. So, it has been well used!
Let’s look at the specs…
- Shortest length: 44cm
- Max height: 148cm (156cm with Docz2)
- Load capacity: 60kg!!!
- Weight: 615g
- Max tubing diameter: 32mm
- 1/4″ and 3/8″ sprung threads
- Rubber grips, heavy duty fastenings & carbon fibre sections
Photographing lions in the Timbavati, Alan 2.0 Monopod with the AirHed Pro ball head.
At just 44cm and 615g, the Alan 2.0 is very compact and fits very conveniently and easily into luggage when travelling. It’s short height also makes it versatile for use in safari vehicles, for example when resting on a chair or part of the door frame. A large rubber grip makes it comfortable to carry. The twist locks feel reassuringly solid and their size and shape, together with rubber pads provides a great grip (even with chunky gloves!) when making adjustments without compromising the overall size. Each twist lock has an additional safety collar which prevents them from being twisted too far and the monopod coming apart. It is rated to hold 60Kg which is incredible!
Large twist locks for good grip on the Alan 2.0 (“Darkness”)
Super compact Alan 2.0 monopod (“Darkness”)
I’m 6ft exactly, fully extended with the addition of a suitable head, the Alan 2.0 puts the camera at a perfect height.
Going from fully extended to a lower working height is quick and easy with large gripped twist locks.
At the business end we have a spring-loaded 3/8″ thread for attaching standard monopod or tripod heads. But, if you want to attach it directly to a camera or lens collar, the 3/8″ thread can be pushed down to reveal a 1/4″ thread.
We also have a ‘Tri-mount’ plate which I found very useful for helping to prevent cables from remotes, external field monitor and sound equipment becoming obtrusive with the camera and lens handling.
Spring-loaded 3/8″ thread, Alan 2.0 monopod (“Darkness”)
Alan 2.0 monopod (“Darkness”) without ballhead.
Helping to keep the focus steady with a large lens – right on this male chaffinch’s head!
BUILDING A SYSTEM – ADD DOCZ2!
The 3 Legged Thing Docz2, it’s a very useful accessory which can be used as a monopod stabiliser foot or, on its own as a super compact and solid mini-tripod. It weighs just 531g so it shouldn’t cause any travelling baggage weight issues and with it’s built in mini ballhead, can support 20kg of cameras and lenses. I also use it with the AirHed Pro ballhead as it sits perfectly on the shelving in the wildlife hides I have been using. When used with the monopod, it offers an extra level of stablity which I’ve found very useful when filming.
3 Legged Thing Docz2 with AirHed Pro in a wildlife hide. Also, super handy Toolz – a hex key, mini screw driver and bottle opener!
Photographing elephants in the Timbavati, Alan 2.0 Monopod with the AirHed Pro ball head.
Photographing a hyena by a watering hole in the Timbavati. Alan 2.0 Monopod with the AirHed Pro ball head
We sat by the waters edge for a few minutes as a lone spotted hyena bathed.
3 Legged Thing’s Alan 2.0 is a very well-built monopod which is ideal for travelling with heavy camera equipment in mind. The new “Darkness” colour provides a more subtle aesthetic which can be preferred by many wildlife photographers. Functionally, it is well thought out with excellent grips and safety features as well as versatility from spring-loaded threads to the provision of a system when used alongside the Docz2 and their range of heads. When I’m working either locally or travelling, it is always in my kit bag! Given these qualities, I also feel it is well priced at £116-99 via the 3 Legged Thing website (at the time of writing).