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Home > Reviews > Bogen / Manfrotto 680B Compact 4-Section Monopod

Bogen / Manfrotto 680B Compact 4-Section Monopod/Unipod (Black) Review
12/11/2004 - Updated 5/6/2006

The Bogen/Manfrotto 680B is a solid monopod, and I like the quality of the construction. It is compact in size, due to its 4-section leg, allowing you to carry it anywhere and it easily fits in a carry on luggage. My primary reason for buying this monopod was for use with my Sony DCR-TRV950 digital camcorder. There are situations where a tripod is unsuitable, such as a rocky terrain, steep incline or places where you would want to set up quickly and move on. This is where the monopod becomes a very useful tool. However, in low light conditions, a tripod is a must if you want to capture steady/clear footage.

Anatomy of the 680B
The head of the 680B is molded plastic. I guess the idea behind this is to cut down the weight? The camera platform is 2 1/4" in diameter and 1/4" thick. Including the collar, the entire head is 3/4" thick. At the center is a spring loaded retractable 3/8"-16 threaded sleeve. Within the sleeve is a 1/4"-20 threaded rod. Since I don't have large equipment, I'm assuming that is what the 3/8"-16 is for (I later found out that it could be used for tripod heads).

The plastic head also has a loop molded into it for the wrist strap. The wrist strap is (I think) nylon and is adjustable with a plastic buckle.

As you can see in the photos on the left, this monopod was made in Italy. The 4-section legs of the 680B are made of extruded aluminum. It has a black anodized finish, and the finish is extremely durable. Since the legs are extruded aluminum, there are probably guides, channels or rails, that keeps the legs from twisting within one another.

The grip/handle is solid rubber so you know it should last a long time.

The clamps are molded plastic and are clamped/fixed to each leg section with a 10-24 screw. The clamps are adjustable and Bogen/Manfrotto provides a plastic tool with a hex recess to adjust the clamps tension. The tool is readily available since it is "clipped" to main leg of the monopod. The clamps are spring loaded so that when you flip open the lever, the lever just pops open. I don't know if this spring loaded feature is really necessary because I haven't seen this on any other monopod/tripod. Other than that, I really like the idea of being able to adjust the clamps, should there be any wear.

The foot is rubber with a rounded bottom. It's about 1 1/8" in diameter by about 1 1/8" long. It is solidly fixed to the last leg and almost impossible to remove.

680B
Top
680B
Right
Here's a side by side comparison of the 680B and Velbon's UP-40 (see review). The 680B is a bit longer than the UP-40 by more the 1 1/2". Fully extended the 680B is slightly shorter by less that 1/2" and is heavier by almost 2 1/2 times.

I've had the UP-40 for quite a while now, and I'm anxious to find out how durable the 680B is.

Conclusion
Bogen/Manfrotto 680B compact 4-section monopod is more than what I needed, but there was a reason for it. Since my experience with using the featherweight Velbon UP-40 as a steadycam device for my compact digital camcorder, I decided to get the 680B and use it in a similar fashion with my larger TRV950. The TRV950 weighs about 3 lbs with the large battery pack, and the monopod is almost 2 lbs. With the TRV950 mounted on the 680B and lightly holding the monopod about 3" from the top (monopod in folded position), you can move around, walk up and down stairs and take videos with minimum bouncing, swinging and swaying. However, it does take a little practice.

I've added a 486RC2 ballhead unit to the 680B which adds additional versatility to the monopod. With the camcorder mounted on a monopod, it is difficult to capture scenes on the ground or in the sky. With the ball head, or any swivel/tilt head, you'll be able to shoot straight down or straight up and, of course, anywhere in between.

Here is a photo of my Digital Rebel XT on the 680B with ballhead. Although the 680B monopod provides a very stable platform for the lightweight XT, it is a bit heavy and large (when you're trying to keep things light and compact). A smaller, lighter monopod such as Velbon's UP-40 is more suitable for the Digital Rebel (but that's just me).

A lot of videographers do their editing on the computer. As for myself, I use Final Cut Pro. The reason why I brought this up is I found another use for the monopod. With the camcorder attached, you can hold/suspend the monopod upside down to capture ground level shots. Walking through the fields, forest, tall grass with the camcorder at ground level provides an exhilarating video experience. Of course, the video is inverted and the audio is reversed. Using a video editing application allows you rotate the video so that it is right side up and you can reverse the left/right audio channel.

:-)

Gary Kawamura

Specifications (from www.bogenimaging.us website)
Material: Black Anodized Aluminum
Still Photography: Yes
Maximum Height: 60.6 inches (154 cm)
Minimum Height: 20 inches (51 cm)
Leg Sections: 4
Leg Lock Type: Flip levers
Foot Type: Rubber
Male Thread Size: 1/4"-20 & 3/8"-16
Maximum Load Capacity: 22 lbs (9.98 kg)
Weight: 1.8 lbs (0.82 kg)
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