Mini-reviews and useful tips on equipment I
(no commercials here, just honest
This is a Swedish made product that I highly recommend.
I have four of these altogether - two of the 18-inch high
model, one 22-inch model and one 26-inch model. The left photo below shows one way I use the Walkstool.
It's just the right height for using my tripod with the
middle sections extended, and the legs spread wide and
low for maximum stability. This folding stool is extremely
sturdy, very well-made, holds 400+ pounds, and yet weighs
only ounces. It's manufactured from commercial grade anodized
aluminum and has a heavy-duty nylon mesh seat. Each leg
has a pop-up/push-in button to lock/release it when extended.
not cheap (mine were between $70 and $90 each), but I
wish I'd found this before I wasted money buying a couple
of other folding chairs that were nice, but much too large,
cumbersome and heavy to carry around. Everyone I show
this to is amazed at how light and compact it is, yet
so sturdy. It folds into a compact cylinder shape and
comes with a lightweight drawstring pouch with a cord
long enough to sling it over your neck and shoulder.
are 2 models and several sizes (heights) to choose from.
Mine is a "Comfort" model, with black and aluminum legs
and black mesh seat. The Comfort models also have larger
diameter rubber feet and a larger seat area than their
Basic models. They also offer a cheaper "Basic" model
which is green and aluminum with a green polyester seat
(instead of black and aluminum with black mesh seat).
That one didn't appeal to me so I went for the "nicer"
can find out all you want to know about the various models
and sizes of this great item at Walkstool.com.
I lucked into the one I bought while poking around a small
local camera shop, but you can find a vendor on the web.
I know B&H
Photo carries them too.
Padded Zippered Camo Holster for the Walkstool:
to making the holster shown in the photos below, I had made a similar holster for my Walkstool
with a pleated elastic top opening. While it worked well,
the elastic was a bit of a hassle getting the Walkstool
in and out because of the grippy rubber feet. They tended
to grab the material and not slide in and out very easily.
I decided a zippered holster might be easier to deal with.
was relatively easy to make. It's simply a cylinder open
on one side with a padded bottom "cap". I installed a
zipper on the open side to zip it up. It's lined with
rip-stop nylon in an effort to make it more slippery inside
so the Walkstool slides in and out more easily. The back
side of the cylinder against my leg has a bit of foam
padding inserted between the inner lining and the outer
shell of 600 denier polyester waterproof material. A belt
loop at the top lets me use a belt to strap on the holster, whether
over light clothing or heavy winter clothing. An adjustable
leg strap made of 1/2-inch nylon web strapping is attached
at the bottom, like tying down a six-gun holster. It snaps
closed with a plastic snap buckle. Carrying my Walkstool
this way has proven extremely handy and simple. It takes
30 seconds to take it out and set it up, or to put it
away and be on the move again.
685B NeoTec Monopod: This monopod is a neat trick.
There are no leg section clamps of any kind. To extend
it you just pull the leg out. You can do this by hand,
or use the handy fold out foot pedal that you step on
with one foot and pull up on the leg to extend it. Once
extended, you must squeeze a safety catch under your "pinky"
finger, then squeeze the main release grip with the rest
of your hand. Only then can you push down on the leg and
it collapses as far as you wish until you relax pressure
on the the main release. So, up- just pull, and
down- squeeze and push. It could hardly be any
simpler. (Manfrotto also makes a tripod called the
458B NeoTec with legs that work the same way - no clamps)
NeoTec weighs 1.7 pounds (0.8kg) and is rated for 17.6
pounds load (8kg), which is quite sufficient for my Canon
500mm f/4 IS, extender and camera body. Add a head and
quick release plate and you're still covered. I got it
specifically to use with my 500mm, which is a handful
without some sort of support (tripod, monopod or beanbag).
It's tall enough for me when extended (66.9" or 169.9cm)
and collapses to 29.3" (74.4cm). The tilt head and quick
release I added to it adds another 3 inches or so for
a 70-inch total reach.
are only two things one might consider a "con" with the
685B. The "wrist strap" it comes with is useless as a
wrist strap. A true wrist strap would still tie it to
your wrist if you let go of the monopod. This one is just
a simple loop, and would slide right off your wrist if
you let go of the leg. The other "con" is the collapsed
length. At 29 inches, some photographers feel that it's
a bit long for packing for travel or flying. Personally,
I'd love to be able to stuff it into my pocket, but you
can't have everything. I'm willing to trade a little space
for the super ease and convenience of the one-handed operation.
other thing to keep in mind (and it's not really a "con")
is that since it has a grip, you don't necessarily end
up holding it like a skinny pole as with most monopods.
You have to face the grip at the correct angle for your
hand to grasp it, though the leg does spin around easily
inside the grip and doesn't impede horizontal panning
at all. When mounting a tilt head, you need to set it
at about 45° from perpendicular to the grip so the
head tilts in the proper direction while grasping the
grip head. Neither of these is a problem in practice,
just something you need to keep in mind when handling
a monopod with a specific grip instead of just a round
leg to grasp.
users have reported loosing the rubber base foot from
their 685B monopod. I had heard similar stories of loosing
the rubber grip from the 393 gimbal head, but while knowing
of this I took no safety measures other than to keep an
eye on mine. It didn't help. The grip disappeared one
day despite my vigilance. Lesson learned, the hard
way. I resolved not to let it happen with the monopod.
To save space on this "review" page, I've put
full instructions for this relatively easy fix on this
Monopod Foot Safety Cable
page. Follow these links for my longer
review of the NeoTec monopod, and tips on how
to best hold and stabilize a monopod in Monopod
234 Tilt Heads: I needed to find a tilt head for my
monopod and came up with these options: (1) the
basic Manfrotto 234 Tilt Monopod Head, (2) their
234RC Swivel/Tilt Head with Quick Release, or (3)
the Really RIght Stuff MH-01 High Capacity Monopod Head.
MH-01 would be the "proper" option, as it is rated for
75+ pounds load, but it only accepts RRS quick release
clamps, and costs more than the monopod itself. Since
I was already using the Manfrotto 393 Gimbal head,
it had it's own QR clamp and plate. The RRS head only
works with their brand of quick release, and I would have
incurred additional unnecessary hassle and expense by
having to change over to their plates and quick release
on the gimbal head, assuming it could be attached to the
393 gimbal at all.
234 tilt heads are only rated for 5.5 pounds but cost
ten times less than the RRS product. I opted to give
the less expensive solution a try first before going off
the deep end for a tilt head that was sheer overkill at
a 75+ pound load rating. My logic was that I'd only be
out $20 if I didn't feel comfortable with the 234 with
such a large lens, and even that wouldn't be a total waste.
I could always find a use for it otherwise with smaller
glass. I also considered that the only possible reason
a sturdy metal tilt head like the 234 might not be rated
for a heavier load would be the locking factor to avoid
catastrophic tilt/lens droop. The fact is, on a monopod,
the real catastrophic tilt would most likely come from
having a momentary brain malfunction and forgetting to
hang onto the monopod in the first place.
for the 234RC head model, I'm familiar with the style
of quick release plate it has, and I decided against that
option. Not that it isn't sturdy enough, mind you, but
the "fumble factor" with that sort of plate when dealing
with a handful of monster lens and a monopod did not excite
me in a good way. I was already very comfortable with
the fail-safe plate and clamp that comes on the 393 gimbal
head, and wanted that for the tilt head too. I did not
realize the clamp and plate it uses was even available
separately until I learned of it on a photography forum
and went looking.
Manfrotto 357 Pro Quick
Release Adapter with 357PL plate:. Like most of Manfrotto's products, this
heavy duty quick release and plate are not as "sexy" as the Wimberly, Arca-Swiss,
Really Right Stuff, Jobu Design and other expensive brands of equipment, but
they're sturdy and well made, and get the job done for far less money. Besides,
the 357 was an exact match for what I already had, so interchangeability between
supports was instantly simplified.
Assembly: With the
234 head and 357 QR finally in hand, I mounted the tilt head on the monopod.
This required unscrewing the 1/4-20 insert from the head's base, then screwing
the head on with the monopod's 3/8-16 stud. As noted earlier, I made sure to
tighten down the head to the monopod with it turned slighty to the right of center.
That way the monopod grip was angled to the right a bit so my left hand could
grip it easily while the head tilt stayed angled straight ahead. Then I took
the tilt head apart by removing the hinge bolt so I could invert the 1/4-20 stud
in the thumbwheel to the 3/8-16 stud end. Then I reassembled the head and screwed
on the 357 QR clamp using the 3/8 stud. (Later I learned the thumbscrew
ring could not be tightened enough to keep the heavy lens and plate from turning
on the head. To solve this I removed the thumbwheel ring from the stud and replaced it with a 5/16
washer. With the thumbwheel removed, I could then tighten the stud against the washer with a 12mm wrench. This holds the head very well now, and I no longer find the QR clamp and lens wanting to loosen and spin around.)
Next I installed the plate
on the 500mm lens and slipped it into the clamp to test it out. I quickly found
the balance point by sliding the plate back and forth, then tensioned the head
knob so it would hold the lens from drooping, yet would tilt smoothly with a
little nudge from me. That was the part I was most worried about and it seems
that it will work fine. I will note here that the 234 tilt head's tensioning may eventually
prove to need frequent monitoring in the field, unlike a true tension setting,
which was what I really wanted. I don't know whether the Really RIght Stuff
MH-01 head would be any different in this regard. Both may well be designed for
a locked or unlocked setting, and not provide any true presetable tension adjustment
In any case, my plan is to
always hang onto the lens and camera while on the monopod. It doesn't matter
what head I use, how expensive it is, or how much load it is rated to carry.
A monopod is still a stick that will never stand up by itself. I will hug that
lens for dear life while using any monopod, which is as close to confidence as
I'm going to get. I think the 234 head will do just fine.