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Focus rails: the good and the bad

Discussion in 'Other Cool Gear, Camera Bags, Camera Straps' started by garyosborne, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. garyosborne

    garyosborne Guest

    Well, i have been into macro a while and decided that i would like to go into serious mag world like 5+x life size. This leads to some unweidly lens coupling with tubes and is nigh on imposs to handhold. So i bought the Manfrotto 454 rail....this unit had good reviews and was rated above that of Novoflex by some.

    Anyway, i did some tests and i was a little dissapointed. I found that as i adjusted in or out the composition was changing as the weight of the camera was moving away from the fulcrum. This was super frustrating as often the subject would drop right out of frame, when you are working at these mags movements of less than 1mm count for a lot. I wondered what other peoples experiences with their rails was like?

    Obviously, i now only set up over the centre of the tripod head. I had a RRS nodal slide in the mix too (to give me some lateral movement) i will get rid of that. I found if i supported the rail with my hand before locking it down with thumbscrew, this was better. What's the RRS rail like? The manfrotto is super fine with only 1.25mm movement with 1 full turn of the knob
  2. Leif


    Feb 12, 2006
    My experience of the Manfrotto rail was the same. Basically the tolerances on the screw thread are such that the platform wobbles from side to side, and up and down as you move it in and out. A bit rubbish IMO.

    The Velbon macro slider is better in that respect, though you need to remove the top axis, and just use the main one. It is let down by the use of plastic components, though the gear mechanism and frame are well made.

    From what I have read the Novoflex Castel L and the AS plate version are the best.
  3. garyosborne

    garyosborne Guest

    i could of bought the Velbon rail. I was put off by the top axis and that there were no distance markers, the manfrotto also had a finer adjustment, oh well i will do some more testing. A criticism i read of the Novaflex rail was that the gearing wasn't that good......hmm. Anyone with the RRS rail have anything to add?

    I just had a look at the Novoflex, i think it would also have issues. The fore aft dolly is attached the rail with Arca Swiss type attachment. I am very familiar with this attachement and know that when you loosen the dolly (to shift the camera) the lens heavy camera would nose down until you retightened the dolly. The only way to avoid this is to have the camera perfectly balanced on the dolly.....which is impossible as it would require to be balanced differently for varying degrees of tilt, sure completely flat would be consistent.

    This all isn't that much of an issue at less than 1:1 (i reckon). I am now understanding why bellows are used
  4. Leif


    Feb 12, 2006
    The Velbon is not a simple gear arrangement. It has two bevelled gears at right angles to each other. I don't know the technical term. But the adjustment is fine, though perhaps not as fine as the Manfrotto. What annoys me about some rails is that the AS platform is at 90 degrees to what it should be and hence will not work with my camera and Markins plate.
  5. garyosborne

    garyosborne Guest

    I have a number of different configurations and i am still playing to find the best 1. I bought a cheap Arca type quick release and tried to attach it to the sliding platform...problem is that i can only orientate it front back (and not side to side) as the release knob fails on the sliding mechanism...this means it will only work on my lens collar and not the body.

    My next idea is to mount an Arca plate to the platform and use this:


    to attach to the camera...the beauty of this is you can spin the top clamp thru 90 easily
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