May 8, 2014

Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber Twist Lock Monopod Review

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - 5 sec closed horizontal
As an old saying goes: "Eating opens your appetite". Well that started happening to me after I realized that I've been leaving behind my heavier Aluminium Benro A-298 EX (A2980F) Versatile Transformer Tripod (Review) in favor of the lighter and sturdier Carbon Fiber ones.
So, although I've been very satisfied with my Benro MA-96 EX Fliplock Aluminiuim Monopod (Review) in all respects of rigidity and stability and although it is still quite lightweight for its caliber, my appetite opened for a lighter and more compactly folding monopod, into the Carbon Fiber world.

On one hand, I had the ability to take off one of the legs of my Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod (Review) that can be transformed into a monopod. Yes, it is a nice to have option when you come into tight spaces but already carrying the tripod. Otherwise, for individual use, the resulting monopod is quite short for me and would have to carry also the center column in order to extend it more, which is not so convenient.

On the other hand I needed something more sturdy with a thicker top section, so it could support a long telephoto lens without problem. Something close to the 36mm of the Benro, the large grip of which, feels better and more in control in my hands by the way. Yet, I didn't want to spend so much.

In this quest last summer, I came across various brands and models among which what else, the Triopo GL-60 Twist Lock CF monopod that comes at an attractive price, very close to the price of an Aluminium monopod. However, GL-60 has a 31 mm top section diameter and may be found  in 4 section and 5 section versions depending on the supplier/reseller.
In my opinion, the diameter of the last section is more critical on a monopod, therefore in order to get the maximum diameter on the last section and depending on the number of section, we have to get a much larger top leg diameter than we would choose for a tripod.

My next step was to contact the Triopo client service department and ask if they could supply a thicker top section version but keep it compact when folded.
So to make the long story short, here we come to the Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber Twist Lock Monopod, custom made to my specs thanks to the kind people at Triopo.

Packaging & Contents
About a week after placing my order and payment, the custom built monopod arrived very well packed in an extra box, via courier.

Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber Monopod - box
Triopo GL-70 came in a glossy-black, heavy-carton box with the Triopo logo and Triopo® Interantional as well as Triopo Monopod in white lettering. The box is generic fitting many models and only a small sticker on one of the box flaps has the model name and relevant bar-code.
Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber Monopod - box contents
Opening the box revealed a thinly padded carrying case featuring an adjustable shoulder strap, which included the monopod wrapped in a nylon bag. To my surprise I found also a very convenient belt holster inside the box.

The Monopod Specs

Manufacturer Specification:
Model:GL-70 / 5
Sections:5
Maximum Height:1590 mm (62.60")
Transport Height:450 mm (17.72")
Maximum Leg ∅:34 mm (01.34")
Minimum Leg ∅:22 mm (00.87")
Weight:470 gr (0.99 lb)
Max Load capacity*:18 Kg (39.68 lb)

* This is a very conservative estimate of the GL-70 load capacity. Considering that its GL-60 sibling is rated for 14 kg max load, featuring carbon fiber tubes 3 mm less in diameter. GL-70 with a min leg ∅ 22 mm could be easily rated for 18 kg at least.

In order to be able to collapse the monopod into 45 cm (17.72") while maintaining a maximum height of 159 cm (62.60") a 5 section design had to be adopted. Nevertheless, by increasing the top section diameter into 34 mm (1.34") we could still get a minimum leg diameter of a very decent 22 mm 0.87"). In this way the pod can handle long telephoto lenses with ease while being compact enough to get into an airplane size bag.

Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber Monopod - extended
Shown fully extended above, the Triopo GL-70 stands 159cm (62.6") high. Starting with a top section tube diameter of 34mm (1.34"), each lower section decreases by 3 mm into 31mm, 28mm, 24mm and finally 22mm (1.34",1.22", 1.10", 0.98" and 0.87" respectively). Being a custom model, the GL-70 lacks any type of label or sticker on its body.

The Carrying case
Triopo is one the very few manufacturers that include a well made, nylon-fabric carrying case in the price of their monopods. The case follows the shape of the GL-70 monopod, being wider at one end and narrowing down at the other end.
The case dimensions are a little larger than the monopod's, sufficient to contain it with a small head mounted. It is 53 cm (20.87") long with 6,5 cm (2.56") top diameter, a 4,5 cm (1.77") bottom diameter and weighs 104 gr (3.67 oz). It also features both a carrying handle and a shoulder strap.

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - carrying case details
The nylon fabric is of good quality and strong enough to withstand a lot of hardships. The inner foam padding is minimal though. Especially compared with the much thicker padding of the Triopo tripod carrying cases I have. Nonetheless, the case ensures the protection of the contents from dust, scratches and minor impact. While it is well sewn and build to last.
The case zipper is of the coiled nylon type, running from the side all the way around the top, opening 2/3 of the case enabling effortless removal or insertion of the monopod (bottom left photo). The interior lining is made with a soft nylon cloth as expected.
Finally a 3D rubber Triopo® brand emblem gives a quality touch as pictured in the bottom right photo.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - carrying case handle
The carrying handle is comprised of a wide fabric band sewn directly on one side of the carrying case.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - carrying shoulder strap
The narrow shoulder strap is on the opposite side of the zipper also directly fixed on the case. It is stitched near the top case opening, while it passes through a D ring near the bottom, ending into a double buckle which permits its adjustment to the carriers convenience. Minimum usable length is 40 cm (15.75") and maximum 80 cm (31.50").

The Belt Holster
There is no documentation or listing of the Belt Holster, which arrived together with my custom made monopod, in Triopo's website or any of their reseller sites. Therefore, I cannot be certain if it is included or will be included in the future with their other monopod models. In any case it was a nice and unexpected gift.
For more information about its use, you may view the Triopo Monopod Belt Holster Review.

Unfolding the Pod

The Top Mounting Plate

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - top mounting plate & wrist strap
Triopo GL-70 shares the same ∅50 mm Plasticized Aluminium Top-mounting Plate with latest Triopo GT series tripods and monopods, with a reversible stud. The new plate sports large grooves on its perimeter for hand tightening.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - top mounting components
Taking apart the top mounting plate assembly is simple just by turning the plate counterclockwise.  It is comprised of the ∅50 mm Top Plate, a dual 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 reversible stud and a 13 mm hex nut, made of chromed-steel. Plus the wrist strap with its mounting loop. The plate has a hex cavity accepting the steel nut which tightens the plate on the center column via the reversible stud. No tools required.
The monopod top section is equipped with an anodized Aluminium insert with 3/8"-16 threads to accept the mounting stud.
Somehow, based on illustrations of the Triopo GL-60 monopod, what seems to be missing here is a plastic ring which usually caps the top section and is intended to keep the plastic wrist-strap holder centered. Due to the custom dimensions of the top section, I can assume that they were not prepared at Triopo with such a ∅ 34 mm cap, so it was obviously omitted.
The pod works perfectly without it, but it may become a little frustrating when one tries to tighten the mounting plate on top of the monopod, while keeping the wrist-strap holder centered.

Leg sections tubing & Twist leg locks

Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber Monopod - closed vertical
The GL-70 leg tubes are made of same 8X layer Fiber met on the latest Triopo tripods, which consists of pure ballistic Aramid fiber (used for bullet proof vests) and high-temperature composite Carbon Fiber. The Carbon fiber weaving follows a twisted stripes pattern of two grey shades, where each carbon fiber layer is set in an X orientation to the lower one.

The 5 section GL-70 is quite compact when closed, being only 450 mm (17.72") long measured from the tip of the leg spike to the top-mounting plate platform (not including the stud). The top 34mm section is partially covered with a thick Closed Foam Grip, uncommonly set towards the lower end instead of close to the mounting plate as on other monopods. The wrist strap is also uncommonly long compared with the straps found on monopods by other manufacturers. (This is something to be discussed later on in the "Using the Monopod" section).


Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - 5 leg sections diameters
The diameter of the sections, as mentioned earlier is decreasing by 3 mm on each lower section. Following the latest Triopo design, introduced with the GT series of tripods and the latest GL series of carbon monopods, new and improved materials permitted a decrease of the tube thickness from 4 mm to 3 mm in order to achieve an increase to each lower section diameter for better stability and load bearing.
Four Aluminium rings with semi-soft rubber coating are responsible for locking / unlocking the leg sections with a 1/4 of a turn action.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - leg sections dismantled
By unscrewing a twist leg lock completely the quite coarse thread of the aluminium joint is revealed. A thin coat of thick silicone-grease is applied on the threads in order to make locking and unlocking smoother. No harsh sounds, all twist locks worked evenly and smoothly.
By pulling out the leg section completely two 3 cm long Teflon inserts are revealed, which are supposed to keep the tubes from twisting and make the extension/retraction of the legs smooth. The cut between the Teflon inserts match two longitudinal bosses in the inner surface of each previous section so twisting the legs is impossible. Nothing special in this design as it is adopted by most, if not all, manufacturers nowadays.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - twist leg lock dismantled
As I have mentioned before, in the Triopo tripod reviews, the design of the oval shaped holes that keep the Teflon inserts in place, is quite special compared to the round or rectangular holes utilized by other manufacturers. This oval shape prevents the Teflon inserts from moving keeping them snugly in place. Same as with the latest Triopo tripods a wide black and conical locking ring attached in a groove inside the leg lock nut, ensures locking and insulates the leg sections interior from dust and dirt.
Triopo twist leg lock operation drawing
This conical ring design adopted by Triopo exercises a lot more force than their older three ring design. When the external nut is screwed the ring gets between the two leg sections, while still firmly attached to the outer lock nut. as shown in the explicit drawing above. (Photo by courtesy of Triopo.cn)

Optional 6 Leg Sections
Wondering where this option came from while talking about a custom made 5 section monopod? Well, after turning the pod into pieces, and since it uses exactly the same materials as the Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod (Review) I experimented with some lower leg exchange between the tripod and the pod.
It was very simple to remove the pod's last leg section and replace it with the tripod's two lowest leg sections. Everything fits perfectly in place.

Optional Specification:
Model:GL-70 / 6
Sections:6
Maximum Height:1950 mm (76.77")
Transport Height:485 mm (19.09")
Maximum Leg ∅:34 mm (01.34")
Minimum Leg ∅:19 mm (00.75")
Weight:510 gr (1.12 lb)
Max Load capacity*:15 Kg (33 lb)

* Once again a conservative estimate of the GL-70 6 section load capacity. Considering overall tubing structure, there is not much difference from the 5 section model, but with a min leg ∅ 19 mm, I could not be safe rating it the same.

The addition of an extra sixth section increases the collapsed length by only 3,5 cm (1.38") to 48,5 cm (19.09") , but the maximum height increases to 195 cm (76.77").  It is seldom such a high monopod is needed for everyday use, however it may prove convenient when shooting in sloped terrain or standing on stares having to pace the pod on a lower step.

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - 6 sec closed horizontal
The 6 section GL-70 is still quite compact when closed, being only 485 mm (19.09") long measured once again from the tip of the leg spike to the top-mounting plate platform (not including the stud).
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - 6 leg sections diameters
The diameter of the sections, remains the same except for the extra sixth section which decreases by 3 more mm reaching 19 mm (0.75"). In this case efficiency overrides the compromise of the decrease in diameter of the lowest leg section.
With the increase of leg sections, Five Aluminium rings with semi-soft rubber coating are now required to lock / unlock the leg sections.



Leg Rubber / Spiked Foot
Following the latest trend on their Tripods and Monopods, Triopo have replaced the rubber foot cap found on their earlier monopods with a more solid semi-hard rubber foot with an integrated screw-in spike.
As I have mentioned in the past in the Triopo tripod reviews, the spiked rubber feet are more durable for outdoor use.

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - leg foot spike detail
The chromed-steel spike is covered with a bell shaped solid-rubber foot that leaves only the tip of the spike exposed.
Although the spike reinforces the last leg section tip, it does not protrude very much so to enter deep into soil. Nevertheless, it will prove useful on rocky and/or icy terrain.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod - Rubber leg foot detail
By unscrewing the rubber part all the way, the metal tip is hidden so as the pod may be used on sensitive but also slippery surfaces like marble or polished wooden floors. The semi-hard rubber traction is very good by the way.

Attaching an Arca compatible clamp.
Except for the classic, quite frustrating, way of screwing/unscrewing the monopod under a camera, nowadays that many photographers utilize Arca-Swiss® compatible camera plates or L brackets, it is more convenient to simply attach an Arca-Swiss® compatible clamp with an 1/4" or 3/8" tapped hole. This will simplify and speed up the process of mounting / dismounting your gear on top of the pod's mounting plate.

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod w/ Sunwayfoto DDH-02 aside
I have chosen for the illustration the Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp (Review), since its 52 mm diameter matches exactly the pod's top mounting plate diameter and is equipped with a 3/8"-16 threaded center hole. On top of that its panning ability offers extra versatility to the combination.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod w/ Sunwayfoto DDH-02 attached
Τhe Triopo GL-70 Carbon Fiber monopod with the Sunwayfoto DDH-02 screwed on the top plate. The discal shaped clamp fits perfectly on the top plate without any protruding angles that might become at least annoying as with rectangular shaped clamps.

Attaching a Ball Head.
If we need more freedom of movement with a camera equipped with a medium telephoto lens or a wide angle lens, a ball head like the Triopo RS-3 below, can be attached on top of the monopod. As mentioned in the Triopo RS-3 Ball Head Review I had chosen this ball head exactly for this purpose. Not for its smooth operation but for its strong quick locking via a single lever and its ability to tilt back-forth or sideways a full +/- 90°.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod w/ Triopo RS-3 ball head aside
All you have to do is to have the dual threaded stud on the mounting plate turned to the 3/8" thread and...
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod w/ Triopo RS-3 ball head mounted
...tightly screw the ball head on top. As expected the ball head addition increase a little the weight on the top of the monopod but the combo still balances well.

Attaching a Monopod Tilt Head.
Now when we come into supporting and handling long telephoto lenses the optimal solution is a Tilt Head especially designed for monopod use. Being in the process of preparing a detailed review of the latest Hejnar Photo MH-R1 monopod head, I will elaborate on the benefits of using a monopod head therein.

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod w/ Hejnar MH-R1 head aside
Since the Hejnar MH-R1 Monopod Head has also a 3/8"-16 mounting hole at the bottom. we need once again the dual threaded stud on the mounting plate turned to the 3/8" thread.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod w/ Hejnar MH-R1 head mounted
And just screw tightly the monopod head on top. The Hejnar MH-R1 is a little heavier and taller than the Triopo RS-3 but offers superior handling for long telephoto lenses.

Working with the Pod
Considering the height of the GL-70 as I stand 189cm (6' 2") myself, I opted for a maximum height of 159 cm which I consider very convenient, since it brings the viewfinder of the camera slightly below eye level, with the camera directly mounted on the pod. This enables a slight tilt downwards without having to stand on your toe tips. However, with the addition of any head on the pod or a battery grip on the camera, the height has to be lowered a little. For convenience I have marked the lowest and thinnest section accordingly, compensating for the height difference while improving the pods stability.

The leg sections lock solid with comparatively less tightening force to other legs with twist locks. Somehow, when first used out of the box, a little extra tightening force is required  in order to achieve the maximum rigidity possible. However, I have to mention that a little running-in is required for the twist locks, since they seemed to lock tight with less effort after a few operations as the plastic conical inserts fit better into place.
Then, even my 6 section mod fully extended is very stable, without any noticeable flex or movement at the joints when exercising side pressure.
For even better rigidity on the joints, I have experienced that without extending fully the lower and thinner sections, by leaving inside approximately an extra centimeter, the pod became even more stable. This means that if the Teflon anti-twist inserts inside the legs (see "Leg Sections Tubing & Twist Leg Locks" section above) were by one centimeter longer (i.e. 4 cm instead of 3) the pod joints would leverage more side forces. ( Just a hint for Triopo designers :) )
Someone, would say that in this way the pod would shorten a little, but there is a way to compensate for that.

Considering the height of the GL-70, I opted for a maximum height of 159 cm which I consider very convenient, since as I stand 189cm (6' 2") myself, it brings the viewfinder of the camera slightly below eye level, with the camera directly mounted on the pod. This enables a slight tilt downwards without having to stand on my toe tips. However, with the addition of any of the forementioned heads on the pod or a battery grip on the camera, the height has to be lowered a little. For convenience I have marked the lowest and thinnest section accordingly, compensating for the height difference while improving the pods stability.

As mentioned in the beginning the Closed Foam Grip covering the top section is uncommonly placed lower and is accompanied by a longer wrist strap than usual.
The closed foam grip size is very convenient for large hands like mine giving good control of the monopod. After some experimentation and familiarization with the placement of the grip, I found that I had greater control over the pod when holding it lower than I'm used to, while straining the wrist strap with my wrist.

Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod wrist strap optimal handling
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod optimal handling by the closed foam grip and the wrist strap.

Packing or Carrying the Pod
The GL-70 can be carried along in several ways. Its contracted length of 45 cm (17.72") makes it short enough to fit into an Airline sized bag so you can take it with you as a companion to your voyages. Otherwise, it can be directly strapped on your camera bag / backpack, strapped on your belt via the Belt Holster or finally be packed and carried within its fine and lightweight carrying case. Nevertheless, the carrying case adds some little extra carrying weight but offers maximum protection against scratches.

Depicted from my recent Case Logic Luminosity DSB-103 Large DSLR Split Pack Review the GL-70, equipped with a prototype Desmond Monopod Head, is strapped on the side of the Split Pack for long hikes.
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod in belt holster
The GL-70 / 5 section shown above inserted into a versatile Monopod Belt Holster which may prove convenient when you want to walk around light. That's a nice solution considering that it may also be used as a waist level stabilizer for your monopod  For more information you may have a look into the Triopo Monopod Belt Holster Review
Triopo GL-70 CF Monopod in carrying case
he carrying case is large and long enough to contain the monopod either in its 5 section or even its 6 section version.
While there is some extra space left to fit a longer pod, it is not enough to accommodate a small mounted head like the forementioned Triopo RS-3.  Illustrated above is the shorter 5 section version though.

Pros
Outstandingly low price for its caliber.
Extremely Lightweight for its class.
Rigid leg locking resulting in very good leg stability.
Good functionality.
Very nice carrying/storage bag and belt holster.

Cons
Due to the custom top section diameter, the lack of wrist-strap centering ring under the top mounting plate may be a cause of frustration.

Conclusion
I have always considered Triopo one of the most honest manufacturers for what they charge for their products, despite some small disappointments of the past. Taking into account the material quality and manufacturing cost of their products, they charge a lot less than other manufacturers. After spending some time with this Carbon Fiber monopod I found it rigid and very easy to carry.
Monopods like Triopo GL-70 are addressed to the photography enthusiast or professional with a limited budget. However, the GL-70 can stand beside far more expensive pods.
If you are after a rigid and lightweight monopod that can fit in your luggage and be easily carried for long time, without spending a fortune then this one may prove an attractive solution for you. I can declare it as a very good value for money.

I hope you found this review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: ©2013-2014 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
The GL-70 5 section monopod presented in this article is a custom made prototype by Triopo, specifically designed and cut to my measures. Therefore, I'm unable to quote any sellers other than the Triopo headquarters in China.
Regarding its price, you may consider it a little higher than the current price for Triopo GL-60 5 section monopod, which sells between US$ 60.00 and 80.00 +Shipping in eBay. An outstanding figure for the caliber of this monopod.

For further details about ordering, purchasing, shipping or payment methods you may come in contact with Triopo's Client Service Department at service [at] triopo [dot] cn (replace the bracketed characters with the appropriate symbol when using the email address) who are very polite and helpful.

Referenced Articles:
Benro A-298 EX (A2980F) Versatile Transformer Tripod Review
Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Review
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp Review
Triopo RS-3 Ball Head Review
Hejnar Photo MHR1 Monopod Tilt Head Review
Triopo Monopod Belt Holster Review
Case Logic Luminosity DSB-103 Large DSLR Split Pack Review

Relevant Articles:
Triopo Tripod Spare Parts & Accessories Reference
Benro MA-96 EX Fliplock Aluminiuim Monopod Review

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