Tripods, monopods and stabilisers

by Tom Barrance  | Updated 25 January 2023

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It’s essential to be able to keep your camera still. And camera movements look better if they’re smooth. Some recent cameras have very good in-body stabilisation, but you’ll still probably need some form of camera support. If your camera doesn’t have stabilisation, it’s essential: handheld shots with anything other than an ultrawide lens will look terrible.

Most filmmakers will need a tripod.

You could also use

  •  a monopod: more compact, and quicker to set up, than a tripod
  • slider, dolly (or wheelchair) for tracking forwards, backwards or sideways
  • a jib for vertical crane moves
  •  an electronic stabiliser for flowing Steadicam-type shots

Tripods and monopods

Your tripod must be solid enough to keep your camera completely still. Make sure it’s tall enough: it should at least reach your eye level. If it’s taller than you, it’ll give you the option of filming high-angle shots.

More expensive tripods are sturdier and quicker to set up, and they allow for smoother and more controlled movements.

Under $100/£80

At this price, you won’t get ultra-smooth pans and tilts, but you can get a quick release plate for easily attaching the camera, and a pan and tilt head for adjusting the shot.

Many budget video tripods don’t reach normal eye level, but the Velbon 638F extends to 5.61 ft/171 cm.

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Under $200/£150

Spending a bit more gets you two important features:

  • A fluid head makes pans and tilts much smoother.
  • A bowl head lets you level the head quickly without having to adjust the legs every time.

The Benro KH26P is good value.

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Under $700/£600

As you spend more, tripods are more solidly built and quicker to set up, with adjustable drag on the pan and tilt.

The Manfrotto 502 aluminium tripod has a pro fluid head.

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Over $700/£600

Sachtler’s ACE M is a professional tripod designed for SLRs and smaller camcorders. The head has 5 counterbalance steps for different sizes of camera and lens.

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A video monopod with feet is another option. They’re quicker to set up and take up less space, but they won’t stand up on their own. They’re really useful in some situations, but not when you need to change lenses singlehanded.

The Manfrotto XPro video monopod is sturdy and extends to a really useful 80″ (230cm) height. I use a similar, older version for working quickly and in restricted spaces.

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For travelling and phone filming I use the very affordable Manbily A-222 and M-1 combination. It’s versatile, light, and small enough to go in cabin luggage. You can use it as a monopod alone, attach the feet for more stability, and even reverse it to use it as a boom pole or selfie stick. You’ll need to buy a ball or pan and tilt head.

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Sliders and dollies

Smooth camera movements will make your film look much more professional. A slider is one of the most affordable ways to film tracking shots (forwards, backwards or sideways). You can mount it on a tripod or the floor.

Neewer’s carbon fibre slider comes in a range of lengths and can be mounted on a tripod.

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If you’re working on a smooth service, you can also mount your tripod on a wheeled dolly for longer and more flexible camera movements. I use an old wheelchair instead.


Electronic stabilisers allow you to film long, flowing sequence shots with complex camera moves. One-handed stabilisers are also useful as a compact alternative to a tripod.

The DJI Ronin SC is an affordable gimbal stabiliser for mirrorless cameras. DJI have a list of compatible cameras on their site. Many other cameras will work but without full compatibility.

It has a smartphone app and includes Active Track (so it can lock onto a subject). It works well with my Panasonic G85. To control focus, I needed the ‘combo kit’ version which includes a mechanical follow focus attachment. You can control focus on higher-end cameras such as the Panasonic GH5 without the attachment.

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The DJI RS3 can handle heavier cameras and has up to 12 hours battery life.

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You can also get stabilisers such as the DJI OM5 for smartphones. It’s foldable, with a magnetic quick-release system, and includes an extension rod for more versatility.

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The OM4 SE is heavier than the OM5 and lacks the extension rod. But it’s cheaper and its battery lasts over twice as long.

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DJI Pocket 2

Another option is the unique DJI Pocket 2 stabilised camera, which you can link to your smartphone. I have the first version of this (the Osmo Pocket): it’s tiny, extremely useful and versatile.


For vertical crane shots, you can mount your camera on a jib. With light cameras and phones, you can get crane shots by mounting a stabiliser on a monopod or boom pole.

The ProAm Orion Jr DVC60 is a reasonably priced jib for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and camcorders. They also make longer versions.

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