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Thread: monopod and ball head for macro photography

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    Ausphotography Regular glennb's Avatar
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    monopod and ball head for macro photography

    Hi all Im getting an interest in macro photography with insects, Im looking at a monopod and ball head for this reason. Im looking at spending around $200-300 for both. I found a carbon fibre twist release monopod for $100 at camera house which compacts down very nicely which I like. But there is a trigger release monopod which I like from Manfrotto which could be good for that quick adjustment you may need for insects, but does not compact down as much so not as good for traveling (bushwalking). Would love too have you opinion which way too go.

    Second is the ball head, Im looking at the manfrotto 496rc2 or 498rc2 or is there something much better for a little more lay out? I have read that these can move a little when using large lenses 5deg so u need to adjust for the slack.
    cheers
    Glenn
    Last edited by glennb; 17-01-2014 at 6:55pm.

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    Member RobC's Avatar
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    Manfrotto is good gear- agreed, But if it's macro you intend to do- avoid a 'Ball' head- they are so hard to keep accurately aligned on a small subject- loosen the ball and the lens falls!.
    My son uses a Manfrotto Geared Head 410 that is magic for fine adjustments of camera angle. You must put aside some cash to also purchase a Focusing Rack. Just type "Focusing Rack" in Google Images and you will see the idea. A rack is essential (make that Absolutely essential!) for focusing on macro subjects by moving the whole camera/lens unit forward/backward. A good rack will be your macro friend forever!

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    Hi Glenn

    I have used the “squeeze grip” adjustable height Manfrotto monopod and found it a little clumsy. This has nothing to do with the quality of the monopod, more to do with the fact that insects move rapidly and in random patterns. In my experience, this makes it extremely challenging to keep up with them when tethered to a monopod whilst simultaneously operating the trigger grip to lengthen/shorten the monopod at the same time keeping the critter in the viewfinder. Extending the monopod was the most difficult operation as you need to stand on the foot that flips out and pull on the handle whilst squeezing it. This is okay as a one-off action to get to a certain height but it was too hit and miss to do this constantly whilst chasing an insect, either moving, flying or bouncing around on foliage in a breeze.

    My most successful modus operandi was when shooting fairly static insects, positioned at a well-defined level in a bush where little adjustment was required.

    I do have a Giottos CF twist grip monopod which I use (in the field) more or less as a dumb pole. I extend the monopod to shoulder height then I clamp the camera against the monopod shaft and relax my grip whilst letting the monopod slide through my hand then tighten my hand when I am at the right level. This is a very quick and intuitive operation. At home I use a 1.8 metre long, 25mm dia. Pole purchased from Bunnings which is excellent as it does not have the leg locks to get in the way.

    I have successfully used the CF monopod with a PhotoClam ball head where the tension can be adjusted so that the ball head does not move under the static weight of the camera but it can be gently eased if you push on it. The PhotoClam tension adjustment and build quality makes this quite effective. The advantage of having the camera/lens on the ball head is that most of the weight is supported by the monopod which makes long macro sessions less strenuous.

    I don’t use the 1.8m pole in the field because it’s too long and unwieldy, whereas the Giottos CF monopod is very compact yet still rigid when extended.

    I started macro life with a tripod and geared head, moved onto the Manfrotto adjustable monopod then the wooden pole and now go mostly free style. Each stage taught me a different set of skills and has a place in macro photography.

    Cheers

    Dennis
    Last edited by nardes; 17-01-2014 at 9:22pm. Reason: Fixed typo

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    Hi Glen,
    As Dennis said, I also hand hold for most of my macro unless it is a dead subject or one that I know will not move, eggs, fungi etc taken inside so no breath of wind will play a part. Just get focus close and rock back and forth gently. As Dennis said a wooden pole is useful to brace against, I use a 1.8m piece of 16mm dowel. I have all the above mentioned gear tripods monopods 410 geared head, focus rails ball heads, trigger ball heads etc and seldom use them anymore. It's been an expensive learning experience to come down down to a $5.00 piece of dowel.

    David

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    Loves The Wildlife. Mary Anne's Avatar
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    I have hand held all my macro gear for years when chasing Insects though I do have a manfrotto monopod for those times I need one which is getting to be a lot lately, it was the bottom of the range years ago and has three clips that I can manage ok.

    I also have a better manfrotto monopod where three thin legs are packed in the body, I have only used it once it's too heavy for me so I don't like it.

    On top of my old Monopod I use a SLIK AF 2100 Pistol Grip head its perfect for me, especially when I want to swing the camera from horizontal to vertical fast.

    I shoot with Canon And Olympus Cameras



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    Thanks guys a lot of good options there. Think I will stay away from the ball head and go the tilt head way but I get the feeling it will be trial and error to see which is going to be comfortable for me as seems its different for everybody. Ive been out a couple of times just hand holding and Im starting to see why it might be the best option especially when down low around 1ft level. Unfortunately I did get a lot of blurry pics but I guess its all practice and not just hand holding camera settings as well were probably more the reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glennb View Post
    Thanks guys a lot of good options there. Think I will stay away from the ball head and go the tilt head way but I get the feeling it will be trial and error to see which is going to be comfortable for me as seems its different for everybody. Ive been out a couple of times just hand holding and Im starting to see why it might be the best option especially when down low around 1ft level. Unfortunately I did get a lot of blurry pics but I guess its all practice and not just hand holding camera settings as well were probably more the reason.
    I get lots of unusable pics, 70% are unusable as it only takes a slight breeze or the subject to move slightly and you have a oof shot or maybe the tail instead of the head or just behind the eye in focus instead of the eye, it is very hit and miss. Thanks god for digital and not having to get a roll developed to find how many keepers you got. Even viewing on the lcd it is still not totally clear if it is in critical focus, the evf however I am finding way better than ovf for macro….but that is not what you were asking about.

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    Ausphotography Regular basketballfreak6's Avatar
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    as many have said on this thread i too find handheld is the way to go

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