Monopod photography with LF : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have a Cambo Wide with 65mm/8.0 Super Angulon, the old type of Cambo's with no movements what so ever. Some people even call it a snapshot camera.

I am tempted to use a monopod with it because I'm going to Athens, Greece this spring, and have to travel light.

How slow speeds can I use, and still expect to get sharp pictures?

(I never enlarge bigger than 16"x20", and the camera is small and fairly wide-angled.)

-- Morten en (, February 01, 2002


With my 35mm system and a monopod I never use speeds slower than 1/30th second, even when using a 20mm lens. There are people who claim they make great shots handheld at 1/15th seconds. I tend to think there are people in the world who either have much steadier hands than me or they have much lower standards for their photographs. In summary, I would take a light tripod or even buy one when you get there.

-- Dave Schneider (, February 01, 2002.


If there are regulations in Athens, as in Rome, restricting the use of tripods then the monopod is your only chance - and even that might be prohibited in certain precincts. That being the case, over-shoot like hell if you venture below 1/30th to ensure getting a 'sharp' one amongst the options.

If tripods are acceptable then go with a Carbon-Fibre Mountaineer - I used one all through the UK with a Linhof MT and lenses up to 450mm. The tripod is still light and compact and it will open up possibilities when the light 'gets good'.

Bon voyage,

Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (, February 01, 2002.

A monopod will definitly help you. But you have to practice with it. (Most of the practice can be done with a 35mm though.) It is a matter of finding the most effective way of using the monopod. When you've found out how to use it in the most effective way, you will easily gain 2-3 steps. I.e. holding the camera at 1/8 or even more should be possible, given the camera/lens combination. But taking 2 shots at these low light instances is recommended. (A Leica M is, or at least feels fantastic at these instances, but we are talking Large Format here, so...)

There's an article that I read some years ago somewhere on the Internet: which give some hints on how to effectively get some steadiness out of a single pole.

-- Bjrn Nilsson (, February 01, 2002.

Thanks for good advice. I have done som serious testing this morning. Even with practice a monopode does not seem any better than holding the camera and leaning on something, or just put the camera on a stone or a railing.

I also have a rather light tripod, which is only slightly better than a monopod(!) The only thing that keeps the camera steady is my 5 kg Manfrotto tripod.

I think i will travel WITHOUT any camera suport and use rocks and railings and caf tables, and a cable release. If I'm alowed to photograph with a tripod I'll by one if I need it.

Photgraphing with LF free-hand is chalenge I'm looking forward to. Limitations trigger creativity!

Need to practice. Need to go:-)

-- Morten en (, February 02, 2002.

danny, here's an idea: I engineered a little "stand" for my monopod. Works great! You can probably buy such a thing commercially, but here's what it took: a short piece of appropriately-sized PVC pipe, a PVC connector thingy (found at Home Depot) that looks like a shower curtain rod retainer and an 8x8 piece of apple ply (again, home depot). Assemble the whole shebang. Next, cut two slots in the pipe and fit a bicycle quick-release clamp ($10 or less, any bike shop) over the PVC. Next, insert foot of monopod, tighten clamp and, when you stand the thing up, step on the platform to brace your monopod. It's really stable! Could probably be improved with a larger foot platform, but, as it is, it fits nicely into a shoulder camera bag and takes up a hell of a lot less space than a tripod (although there are certainly times when there is no substitute).

-- george (, February 02, 2002.

Another "anti-tripod" trick: I learned this from a few PJs some years back and it, too, works extremely well in the right circumstances: a) Attach a Gitzo-type quick release plate (or any that has a loop at the bottom) to your camera's socket. b) take a length of nylon cord and tie a loop at one end (bowline knot works perfectly -- if you don't know how to tie one, just look it up on the wen, you'll find a diagram) and tie the other end to the loop. c) for stability, put your foot inside the loop and apply pressure upwards with the camera.

Again, it's not perfect, but it's extremely inexpensive and compact and pretty effective. Probably the cheapest accessory for my Leicas and Mamiya 7.

-- george (, February 02, 2002.

Morten is of course right about finding whatever possible support is a good idea in general. Adding a monopole to that improves stability.

Now, on my monopod I have a small ballhead (Slik) which I hardly ever tighten even when I shoot. I try to remember the tricks mentioned in the address in my previous answer and those tricks really help. (I.e. not having the monopod straight, but at an angle.)

About stabilizing tripods. If you have a backpack, hang it from the center of the tripod so that a weight hangs down in between the three legs and the tripod will be much more steady. (Will this mean that cameras prefer well-hung tripods??? :-) This trick is especially handy if you are using a heavy camera at an angle and the overhang makes you nervous.

-- Bjrn Nilsson (, February 02, 2002.

(1) The monopod will work. As will the other suggestions you have received. I regularly handheld a Tech IV with a 150 and a Graphic with a 135 at 1/125 without support or bracing. Comparing these results with those achieved on a tripod revealed little difference in quality in at least 65-75 percent of the efforts. Your much shorter 65mm lens should make what you anticipate doing a reasonable proposition. (2) Taking Dave Schneider's caveat to heart, my former life required rigorous training in combat shooting. Nevertheless, I doubt that I'm much steadier than the average person. Remember that for comparable representations on the negative, the large format camera will have to move substantially more than the small format camera to produce an equal amount of fuzziness in each object depicted. (3) I'm 55, so I remember a time when people routinely handheld large format. The old Linhof books have illustrations showing their LF press cameras in use handheld and on monopods. In our rush to maximizing results from the marginal 35mm negative, we have forgotten some of the wisdom of the LF photographic past.

-- Peter Free (, February 02, 2002.

As I said in my last post, I WILL follow David Schneiders advice. I will by a tripod once I get there if one is needed and/or allowed.

But I am also contemplating a trick I learned when shooting small format and MF: I will make a very little bag filled with rice to lay underneeth the camera in order to get it steady if I have to place the camera on a rock or something. It certanly did work with a 200mm on my Contax once upon a time.

The problem (and the reason for my question) is that I never have the luxury of taking pictures at 1/125 sek. (If I had, there wouldn't be a problem:-) I'm always closer to 1/8 or 1/15 (slow film and f.8 as largest aperture.) And I intend to use the film I am used to (APX 100 exposed at 50 ISO, and the deep shadows in zone III). If I have to use a film with larger grain I could just as well be packing my MF with an 80mm/2,8. But that is NOT going to happen.

Consequently my priorities are this:

1) I think I'll try the rice-bag trick as much as possible, or just put the camera on the ground (I'm an artist, so the perspective would indeed be interesting;-) 2) If its practical (and allowed) I'll by a tripod to get the grand viewes and ruins. 3) I do not like the idea of experimenting with a monopod if as much as 35% of my shots turns out to be somthing I did not intend them to be. So the other solutions, including the monopod, seemes not to be an option. If a picture should turn out unsharp, it should be because I intended it to be so, and then I would hand hold the camera to get full control. I have no fear of unsharp pictures, but I like to have a choice!

Anyway: Feel free to give further advice. It looks like this is a subject with very different opinions.

-- Morten en (, February 02, 2002.

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