For low light shooting or when using a large lens, a tripod is generally your best bet but wildlife and sports photographers often will opt for a monopod when a tripod is not convenient or when they need a break from hefting a heavy rig. In this review, we will take a look at the Oben CTM-2500, a 5-section lightweight carbon fiber monopod as well as a tilt head, the Oben VH-R2. Both items have been kindly provided by B&H.
1) Product Specifications:
Maximum Length 65” (165.1cm)
Closed Length 17.3” (43.9cm)
Load Capacity 26 lb (11.8 kg)
Material 6x Carbon Fiber
Leg Sections 5
Leg Lock type Twist lock
Male Thread Size ¼”-20 and 3/8” -18
Weight 1.05 lb (470 g)
Head Type: Tilt (180 degrees)
Load Capacity 11 lb (5kg)
Quick Release Type Yes, RP-20 QR plate (included)
Male Thread Size 1//4” or 3/8” (with included bushing)
Height 2.6” (67mm)
Weight 10.2 oz (290 g)
The first thing that you notice about this monopod, is its size, at barely over 17 inches in length (collapsed) and one pound in weight, it is small and light. It will easily fit in luggage, a backpack or even on a belt with the included belt clip. Despite being lightweight, it will support a professional body and lens up to 26 lbs. when attached directly to the monopod. However, if the VR-H2 head is used, the weight limit drops to 11 lbs.
There is a nice padded section below the base that adds comfort especially in cold conditions. A strap is connected which adds to the stability depending on how you use the monopod. However, one problem that I found is that the wrist strap is too long and I wished that I could have adjusted it shorter but that’s not possible. When using the strap to steady the monopod, it places your hand below the padded portion of the shaft. Notice in the photo below the hand placement on the Oben (top) compared to the placement on my comparable monopod from Jobu Design (bottom).
The sections lock using twist style locks similar to those found on my Gitzo Systematic tripod. Personally, I prefer the twist style locking mechanism to the lever style found on many monopods and tripods. When I first started to use the Oben monopod, the legs and the locking mechanisms seemed to be not nearly as smooth as those found on my Gitzo Systematic tripod, but with use, they have loosened up and are now smoother but still not as nice as on the Gitzo. You have to twist the locks more in order to loosen or tighten the legs than you do on the Gitzo and the sections tend to catch and not extend as smoothly. Like many monopods, at the end of the bottom section of the leg there is an anti slip rubber foot with a retractable spike.
When fully extended, there is some flex in the leg but not anymore than one would expect with a monopod and is comparable to the flex in my 4 piece carbon fiber monopod from Jobu Design:
A clip that holds a hex/allen wrench attaches to the shaft but I find that it tends to be in the way so I remove it during use and only attach it during storage:
To give you some idea of size here is a photo of the Oben CTM-2500 5-Section Carbon Fiber (left), the Jobu Design 4-Section Carbon Fiber (center) and a Manfrotto 3-Section Aluminum monopod (right):
Lastly, the monopod comes in a thin cloth sleeve for storage:
2.2) The VH-R2 head
The VH-R2 is a simple tilt head that offers a quick release mechanism and comes in handy depending on the lens you are using and how you choose to hold the monopod. Using the tilt head limits the weight to 11 lbs, down from 26 lbs if the camera and lens are attached directly. Thus I wouldn’t use the head if attaching a camera with a larger lens, say a 300/2.8 or larger. In those cases, attach the lens foot directly to the monopod.
The locking mechanism for the camera plate is nice with a double lever action. Simply seat the camera and plate into the base and the lever is spring loaded to close and then lock fully by moving the lever against the base. To unlock, both levers must be used to avoid accidental opening. When the levers are unlatched, the base will be unlocked and will raise slightly out of the receiving end of the head.
One limitation is that the head will not tilt a full 90º (or a full 180º) without removing the monopod collar first as seen below.
3) Sample Images
The Oben CTM-2500 Carbon fiber monopod with the VH-R2 head is a nice, light compact kit. While not quite as nice as a comparable more expensive Gitzo carbon fiber monopod, they represent a good value for the price. You will have to exert a little more effort to adjust the leg compared to the Gitzo but it is functional and the size and weight are excellent at a very good price.
5) Where to Buy
The Oben CTM-2500 5-Piece Carbon Fiber Monopod and the VH-R2 head can be purchased at B&H Photo as a kit or separately (prices are as of Oct. 19, 2012):