I've been hearing questions from people in my programs as well as other folks about some confusion between using heads on monopods vs tripods. I've written a lot on tripod heads and it's probably time for a quick treatise on monopods and monopod heads.
Most all monopods are sold as a headless stick. So, at that juncture, that's what you have. A stick. You choose between carbon fibre or aluminum for the materials. I always recommend carbon fibre, even though this costs more than aluminum. Aluminum costs less but transmits vibration more than carbon fibre and weighs more. There are so many reasons to choose carbon fibre and now there are enough options in vendors that you can get a very good carbon fibre unit without having to forego a mortgage payment.
That's not the problem, good retailers can offer you options in vendors and you will find a monopod that fits your needs and your budget.
The bigger issue is the head. First off, a monopod without a head is a stick. If you are buying a monopod for yourself or as a gift and you don't get a head for it, you have a very lovely, rather expensive, stick.
Monopod heads move only in a single plane. This makes a ton of sense. A tripod is ostensibly a stable level platform that holds a head that holds a camera. Because the legs don't move, you may need to pan, tilt and / or flip the position of the camera, without moving the legs. As discussed at length in prior articles, the best head for stills is a ball head. A gimbal head is valuable when using very long lenses. If you shoot video, you have no requirement to flip the camera on it's side, so a pan tilt head is all you need, although many of these heads also have a flip lever in a feeble attempt to be multi-purpose.
The monopod, by design is stable but mobile. You don't need pan because you can turn the monopod. If you use L Plates, as I do, I don't need the head to flip at all. For me, I find using a head with a tilt function to be most beneficial. I shoot amateur sports and get to move around to shoot from different positions. I may not have the space or stability for a lot of forward and backward tilting so being able to tilt the camera/lens platform back and forth is a critical value proposition. I can keep the monopod aligned vertically and yet still have good tilt control.
My personal use still monopod is a Really Right Stuff MC-34. It compacts to 21" and extends to 67" can carry a load of 50 pounds and only weighs 1.5 pounds. The head I use is the Really Right Stuff MH-02 LR indexed head. The head can hold 75 pounds, features a super smooth tilt and a lever lock mount for any Arca Swiss style plate. I use Really Right Stuff L Plates on all my cameras, but any Arca plate can be used. The head itself weighs 1 pound, so my total carry weight for the kit is only 2.5 pounds and I can shoot anything I own with this monopod assembly.
If you choose to buy a Really Right Stuff product, when you call to order, tell them you were referred by Ross Chevalier.
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace.