Earlier this fall, Immersive Shooter shared our top stabilization tools for professional 360 videographers, but we know amateurs have other factors in mind, like cost and portability. Now, Eric Orvieto shares his top tripods, selfie sticks and monopods for amateur 360 photo and video production.
Imagine: You’re getting ready for a trip abroad. You have all of your camera gear charged, organized and ready to go, and you realize you only have room for one tripod. Or monopod. Or another stability contraption.
What do you do?
Camera stability, especially when shooting in 360, is vital not just for pros, but for amateur and hobby shooters, too. And with so many options available, how do you choose the right one without breaking the bank – or your camera bag’s zipper?
Immersive Shooter previously asked a number of excellent professional 360 videographers for their recommendations on the best stabilization tools, and, while they are all terrific tools, they may not fit the needs in terms of accessibility, price or functionality of the amateur who is just trying to get some fun 360 pictures or footage on a weekend hike, vacation or family gathering.
Prior to diving into the world of 360 cameras – I use the Insta360 Nano and the Insta360 One – I shot with a GoPro, DSLRs and my iPhone, and am always looking for the best stabilisation tool for my needs; primarily price, size and strength.
All of the tools that I recommend are ones that I own and use. They have to be able to easily fit in a backpack or camera bag, be under $50 and provide great stability for my camera. Here are the five that I notice myself using the most, that fit those criteria.
One note: The Smatree Smapole Q3 Selfie Stick would be tied for No. 1 on the following list, if it weren’t already represented on the previous post for pros. It is versatile, can be used as both a tripod or monopod, is very sturdy, has great reach but is compact when minimized and less than $20 with Amazon Prime. I wanted to provide other options on the list below.
5. Manfrotto Mini Tripod
As most photographers and videographers would attest, no list is complete without at least one Manfrotto product on it. They are among the best in the tripod business, and their mini tripod is no exception. It’s very strong and stable, and compact enough to fit into your camera bag or pocket with little problem.
4. Fotopro 63-inch Monopod (update: currently unavailable)
While I lean toward more compact stability tools, the Fotopro is a beast for less than $20, and should be in most 360 photographers’ collections for its ability to extend to 63 inches, and know it’s going to hold up to walking, running and wind. The major downside for me is that it is definitely larger than any of the other tools on this list, which makes it a little bit more difficult to travel with.
This little selfie stick was such a surprise success for us. While the bluetooth shutter didn’t work well, the monopod itself held up to two weeks of traveling through Italy with zero problems. It is surprisingly steady, even when fully extended to 36 inches, and weighs less than 4 ounces, so it can go anywhere.
The XSories is compact – closing to just 9 inches – and has both a tripod screw mount and a phone adapter. I used it mostly with the mount, because I noticed (at least with the Insta360 Nano) the phone adapter appeared in the footage.
You can also easily add it to a tripod from this list to give it stability on the ground by unscrewing the bottom piece of it. Using the next tripod with this monopod can give you extra stability and versatility without adding bulk to your bag.
2. AmazonBasics Lightweight Mini Tripod
No frills, but just a solid, compact, reliable tripod. At less than 5 inches when fully compact, you can carry the AmazonBasics Mini Tripod in your pocket for on-the-go convenience. It extends to 7.5 inches, is very strong for its size and can be used as either a small monopod or tripod.
I’m a fan of versatility in my stability tools, and for 7 bucks, this provides it.
1. GoPro Jaws: Flex Clamp (or a similar version)
Price: Between $20-$50
If I had to choose one stability tool to use over any other, it would be the Jaws. While it doesn’t necessarily fit into either the tripod or monopod categories, it does everything you need, is lightweight, small and, if you buy used, is very budget-friendly.
Anytime I travel, I usually bring two or three stability tools, but always seem to end up using the Jaws more than anything else. The flexible neck is excellent at finding the perfect angle for your shots, and the clamp is extremely strong and fits on nearly anything you can think of. We have taken this on kayaks, on the roof of cars speeding down windy roads and everything in between, and it lends to excellent stable footage every time.
Note: For the GoPro version, you will need a tripod adapter.
Update: The Fotopro 63-inch Monopod is currently unavailable on Amazon. Immersive Shooter reader and longtime amateur photographer Tom Karches wrote in to recommend the Fugetek FT-568 Selfie Stick as an alternative. It extends to 48 inches and compacts down to 19 inches, and it costs less than $20.