Thanks to my sister, I got a nice gift certificate for Amazon.com, and went ahead and replaced an older monopod with a very nice Vanguard carbon fiber monopod.
Why I like the Vangaurd Elite-CP24 Carbon Fiber monopod:
1. Price: its a very reasonable $114.00 on Amazon. I was looking at Gitzos, Really Right Stuff and so forth, and was looking at in some cases twice to three times the price. While I do believe in getting what you pay for, I also look at the overall factors, which are my next points;
2. Its extremely well-rated, everywhere you look. From Amazon to B&H Video to Adorama to other web reviews, I could not find a negative opinion. In term of quality of construction, durability, functionality, etc., I found universally-positive reviews, which is actually a fairly unusual thing. Photo 1. This shows the overall unit; nice padded wrap at the top, with a strap, a carabiner attached to the strap to clip your pod to a knapsack or belt loop. Photo 2. This shows a nice, solid metal platform for either your camera, or for a ball head to attach. There are two sizes of set screw to cover all models, and they include a neat little metal tool that removes the set screw, and which also has an Allan wrench to screw in the three included tightening set screws that go in through the underside of the base.
3. It is very solid. I received this today, and after expanding all of the sections, there is no appreciable twist or evident torsion weakness. Also, the stated overall length is more than adequate for me, and I stand 6'3". It collapses with twist rings (which I prefer to clamp-snaps) and since the twist rings line up next to each other (Photo 3) with one twist of the hand, you can open all of the twist rings in one go.
4. The base can be raised or lowered by screwing clockwise or counterclockwise. If you go indoors or don't want to mar a surface with the stud, you can screw the base back upwards to recess the stud (Photo 4). To expose a very solid steel stud, for use on ice, mud or other types of terrain where a spike will anchor better than the flat rubber foot, you screw the rubber foot back to reveal the stud (Photo 5). Very neat. The rubber foot is attached to the pod with a ball-socket joint, so the foot will also angle around as you move your position, which is also a very smart design feature (Photo 6). And the overall construction quality is seen in Photo 7, where the size and knurling of the twist ring is shown.
Overall, this is a smart design, made by a large company that manufactures binoculars, tripods and other outdoors equipment. I would prefer to buy Canadian or American, but in this case, the design, the ruggedness, the lightweight of the carbon fiber at an extremely reasonable price, all conspired to get my gift certificate.
Another nice plus of carbon fiber; it doesn't get cold in the winter. I remember many a long, cold winter's night as a crime scene photographer, doing timed exposures of accident scenes at night. The aluminum tripods we had would get so cold, that the chill would go right through your gloves and numb your hands. Nowadays, aluminum tripods and monopods tend to have foam grips to overcome this, but when you adjust and manipulate the frozen aluminum pod, you still maim your hands, both in very hot and very cold weather.
In any event, if you decide you want a monopod for your spotting scope for nature watching, to support a large lens for action/sports shoots, or you want the monopod for those dusk/dawn shoots where you need a stable platform for a 1 second exposure, certainly consider this beast.
Take care and a very Merry Christmas to all,