Helpful Posts Helpful Posts:  0
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 22

Thread: Macro Focusing Rails

  1. #1
    Dr Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    97
    Real Name
    Bob

    Macro Focusing Rails

    I have read here on CIC suggestions to get focusing rails for macro photos and I am checking them out. They appear to be either high priced (more than $150) and those less expensive. I have a few questions and welcome comments and suggestions from anyone having experience using rails for macro photos.

    Are the less expensive rails of sufficient quality to consider?

    Should I consider 1 or 2 directional rails?

    Are there some rails that are more compact for carrying on day hikes?

    Are there particular brands you would suggest?

    I plan on using a Canon 7D with either the 60 or 100mm macro lens.

    Thanks.

    Dr Bob

  2. #2
    Glenn NK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    1,510

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Bob:

    One must be more careful than I was when buying a macro rail; two weeks ago I found one on consignment sale at the local shop for $100. I was so excited.

    It's the two directional type which would be useful for macro work. Using the sideways movement it would work for stitching photos together in conjunction with a TS lens (which I have).

    I took it out last weekend, and it's going to be back on consignment again waiting for another sucker.

    This is it:

    http://www.adorama.com/MCFRS.html

    My procedure (with a 5DII + 100 macro lens):

    1) set the framing with a ball head and lock it (have used this ball head for six years without the rail and it's just fine),

    2) let go of the camera and the rail flexes so badly that the framing is completely changed (lens drops down),

    3) try to adjust for the deflection in the rail by aiming camera higher,

    4) camera again drops by less but still too much - framing is still wrong,

    5) re-adjust the framing, again attempting to correct for the anticipated deflection,

    6) camera doesn't drop enough - framing is wrong the other way.

    7) repeat a few more times and toss the rail back into the car.

    In my opinion, this piece of equipment isn't any good at any price.

    Glenn

    EDIT:

    Looked around - found some more:

    http://www.photomacrography.net/foru...pic.php?t=9032

    http://www.kirkphoto.com/focusing-rail-macro.html

    http://reallyrightstuff.com/ProductD...ype=0&eq=&desc
    Check the price !!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwyBzPdeq2s
    Read down a few posts. Ugh.

    http://photomacrography.net/forum/vi...686c81254c30ce
    Last edited by Glenn NK; 1st December 2012 at 05:48 AM.

  3. #3
    Stagecoach's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Suva, Fiji
    Posts
    5,579
    Real Name
    Grahame

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Bob,

    I purchased a cheap 'Fotomate' 2 Way rail from Ebay a couple of years back, they are around 10 on there now.

    For the price the quality is very good but I found that it would not have been possible to use its full travel of 100 mm due to stiction (unwanted uneven friction) caused by the camera weight (D300 + 105mm) and balance at extremities.

    The secret was to mount the rig so the C of G was set mid way between nearest and farthest focus positions required. This then allowed smooth travel for approx 70mm which was ample for my use.

    Another drawback was that with the rig set as above the graduations were a bit difficult to see unless I used a torch, that's more to do with my vision I suspect.

    BUT, am I pleased with it, I certainly am for 10 and can overcome its quirks for what I use it for at present.

  4. #4
    John Morton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    New York NY USA
    Posts
    459

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    Bob:

    One must be more careful than I was when buying a macro rail; two weeks ago I found one on consignment sale at the local shop for $100. I was so excited.

    It's the two directional type which would be useful for macro work. Using the sideways movement it would work for stitching photos together in conjunction with a TS lens (which I have).

    I took it out last weekend, and it's going to be back on consignment again waiting for another sucker.

    This is it:

    http://www.adorama.com/MCFRS.html

    My procedure (with a 5DII + 100 macro lens):

    1) set the framing with a ball head and lock it (have used this ball head for six years without the rail and it's just fine),

    2) let go of the camera and the rail flexes so badly that the framing is completely changed (lens drops down),

    3) try to adjust for the deflection in the rail by aiming camera higher,

    4) camera again drops by less but still too much - framing is still wrong,

    5) re-adjust the framing, again attempting to correct for the anticipated deflection,

    6) camera doesn't drop enough - framing is wrong the other way.

    7) repeat a few more times and toss the rail back into the car.

    In my opinion, this piece of equipment isn't any good at any price.

    Glenn
    I have the same focusing rail, which worked quite well (okay, well enough!) with my old 35mm camera - an Olympus OM-4 T (Beautiful camera, light as a feather). I did have one of the rail screws seize up, and had to take it apart to fix it though.

    Now that I am shooting with a Nikon D700 (bit of a brick!) there is no way that focusing rail can handle the weight of my digital camera. I think the basic design is flawed, with the "high rise" platform; so I would look for one with both rails on the same plane.

    Incredibly useful for macro work, though!

  5. #5
    DanK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    3,709
    Real Name
    Dan

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Bob,

    My first question is: what are you shooting that you require a macro rail? I do a great deal of macro work (you can see some at my site), and I have never used a rail. It works perfectly fine to focus the camera at the nearest point and then carefully change the focus a bit at a time, working your way back. However, I work mostly in the range of 1:2 to 2:1. At higher levels of magnification, I suspect a rail might be important.

    Much more important, in my experience, is a tripod head that will allow you to make fine rotational movements. My first tripod head drove me nuts--I would carefully make a small adjustment to frame the shot, tighten the head, and then watch while the camera sagged enough to ruin the framing. At macro distances, even a small amount of sag is too much. At the suggestion of someone on dgrin's macro site, I finally splurged on a geared head, the Manfrotto 410 junior. It's huge and heavy, so I have to swap it for another when I carry my tripod, and it is expensive, but it is worth every dime.

    Dan

  6. #6
    rtbaum's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albertville, Mn
    Posts
    1,521
    Real Name
    randy

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Although I do not consider myself an expert on anything, I do a lot of macro of flowers. I did consider buying a macro rail, but pretty much decided that the cost and the fact that it was just more crap to carry in the field (literally) made it impractical. I have been pretty happy with changing my focal points and stacking in CS4. I think that the money is more wisely spent on a high quality tripod/head combo, for macro stability and position are everything. My current thoughts are designing a combination wind screen/diffuser for flash, my greatest problem is keeping my subject in the same position for each capture so that I can stack.

  7. #7
    Glenn NK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    1,510

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Actually the whole idea of stacking is appealing less and less to me (and with it the need for a focusing rail).

    I will preface my following remarks by stating that although I'm doing macro, in reality I'm usually doing closeup photography - primarily of a flower where most of, or the entire flower, is in the frame.

    I'm finding that many focus stacked images suffer from parallax errors. The problem is particularly noticeable when an near portion of a flower overlaps another portion that is farther away. If the stacking image needs fixing, these areas are very difficult or impossible to fix.

    I started focus stacking in an attempt to improve DOF, but probably more importantly to get the background out of focus. as DanK so notably and poignantly stated in a previous thread a few days back, the entire flower/object doesn't always have to be in crisp focus.

    With Dan's comments in mind, I'm leaning toward using smaller f/stops to maximize DOF. This potentially introduces the ugly background (and with some lenses, bad bokeh).

    The solution I'm experimenting with at present with some reasonable results, is using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom. By setting Clarity at -100, and Noise to +100, and selecting Automask, I can soften the BG without affecting the flower. If required, further passes with Sharpness at -100, renders the BG very soft and out of focus.

    I'm going back to where I bought the Adorama rail, and putting it up for consignment sale.

    Glenn

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Dunedin New Zealand
    Posts
    2,697
    Real Name
    J stands for John

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    When I use my bellows I have the option of mounting it on the tripod at the front end or the camera end ... I normally use the front end to obtain a balanced rig as far as possible ...I imagine a focusing rail would behave in a similar manner. If it doesn't have different mounting options then one organises an 'extension plate' so it can be mounted at the point of balance* on the ballhead ... though the bigger the rig the bigger the ball needs to be and I think I probably prefer a P&T head for such a job.
    *Balance changes with the angle of view so a number of mounting holes would be helpful for when rig is level or tilted up or down.

    I normally duplicate the image, blurr the top layer to the desired amount and then erase with a soft brush the areas I want to be sharp from the top blurred layer to reveal the lower level ... it is usually very quick and easy. There is a judgement call on what works and what doesn't, which is the essence of what we are doing in editing.

    In making panoramas which would be similar I imagine to focus stacking, if there are parrallex problems then one selects the version of reality one wants if one has been generous in overlap to cover that need.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 1st December 2012 at 07:20 PM.

  9. #9
    rtbaum's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albertville, Mn
    Posts
    1,521
    Real Name
    randy

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    I'm not quite ready to give up on stacking, but it is painstaking and has to be done with setup absolutely stable and subject stationary. Kinda like HDR, breathtaking when done well, hideous when not. I am playing with bringing a neutral backdrop into the field to eliminate the messy background; I also wonder if flash could be used to underexpose the background sufficiently to bring emphasis to the subject.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Dunedin New Zealand
    Posts
    2,697
    Real Name
    J stands for John

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    I have yet to indulge in focus stacking or HDR but registration of various layers in a good editor is very easy, I have used PSP from the start. I gather PS works in a similar way.
    I imagine a situation where you have two or more different objects each moving in a different directions one could duplicate [ or triplicate? etc ] the layer and move each in a different direction. Even if one of the objects is subsequently going to be blurred. Or you simply ignore/erase the version you don't want.

    Editing can be time consuming and fun if you want to get involved

    I have only used a tripod once in dozens of panos, it was a mistake early on and not repeated to date.

    As well as registration one should be able to darken a bacground layer[s] to achieve selective fall off of light .... interesting exercise I know there are tools in the editor to do this which escape me now.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 1st December 2012 at 07:44 PM.

  11. #11
    Glenn NK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    1,510

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Quote Originally Posted by rtbaum View Post
    I'm not quite ready to give up on stacking, but it is painstaking and has to be done with setup absolutely stable and subject stationary. Kinda like HDR, breathtaking when done well, hideous when not. I am playing with bringing a neutral backdrop into the field to eliminate the messy background; I also wonder if flash could be used to underexpose the background sufficiently to bring emphasis to the subject.
    Yes - I took this with the onboard flash of a Canon 30D - it wasn't even dark - twilight. Post No.22.

    The nice this about flash is that very small apertures can be used, even hand held.

    Stacked!

    Glenn

  12. #12

    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Norfolk, UK
    Posts
    396
    Real Name
    Yes

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    I too bought one of the cheap ones described above as available from adorama - mine cost 15 second hand. It works ok, so long as camera mounted with centre of gravity not to far off. However mounting on a smallish ball and socket head is bound to create problems as these almost always move a little as the weight on the head moves, which of course it does with the focus rail.
    Manfrotto do a cheapish rail about 60 but it is slow to adjust and only in one direction. They also do sliding plates designed for video work, and these are about 30, which to adjust but not by a screw adjustment. These are also small to carry and not too heavy.

  13. #13
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    12,436
    Real Name
    Richard

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Sometimes, you can get a better product at a reasonable price by purchasing a well made item used; rather than purchasing a less well made item new. I bought a Minolta focusing rail and paid fifty U.S. Dollars for it from eBay several years ago. It is a uni-directional unit but, it is built like a tank and has a trio of rails to support the camera/lens without a bit of flexing. Additionally, adding to the stability of my setup, I use a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 AF SP Macro lens which is comparably light in weight...

    Macro Focusing Rails

    I think though, looking at the prices of used Minolta rails on eBay these days, that I got a very good deal on my Minolta rail.

  14. #14

    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    17,662
    Real Name
    Have a guess :)

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Not my area, but a colleague bought one of these and I was pleasantly surprised (which I don't often experience with Velbon equipment!).

  15. #15
    Dr Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    97
    Real Name
    Bob

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    The discussion on stacking is interesting as this is something I have not done. However at this point, I am considering focus rails to minimize moving the tripod to get focus on a macro shot. When shooting flowers, plants, etc I often don't have sufficient room to move the tripod in close quarters. I am considering rails to minimize this. Also, I will be using these rails on some hikes so weight is a consideration.

    As mentioned here, I am looking at the Manfrotto and Velbon rails. What others have others used that they like?

    Thanks all.

    Dr Bob

  16. #16
    Glenn NK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    1,510

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Bob:

    Which Manfrotto tripod do you have? The centre column of the Manfrotto XPROB will extend horizontally - this permits movement of the camera after the tripod has been set. It comes in carbon fibre and aluminum versions.

    It you add some spikes and push them into the ground, the tripod becomes very stable, and the horizontal arm can be extended out all the way to increase the range of movement. I made my own spikes as the ones made my Manfrotto are too short.

    http://photography-on-the.net/forum/...&highlight=055

    I used one of these for several years (aluminum version) with a 410 geared head, but the combination got heavier every outing.

    Glenn

  17. #17
    Dr Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    97
    Real Name
    Bob

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    Hi Glenn.

    I have both the Manfrotto 055XPROB (aluminum) and the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 (carbon fiber). Both have the center post that can easily be switched to horizonal. Good point you make, I don't need to consider a 2 way focusing rail setup with these tripods. A one way rail should work fine.

    The Manfrotto 410 geared head looks nice, but the comments I read it is quite heavy. I am considering focusing rails so I can take them with me on day hikes if needed.

    Dr Bob

  18. #18

    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Dunedin New Zealand
    Posts
    2,697
    Real Name
    J stands for John

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    I don't know if my reaction is 'over-kill' but after making my own ballhead and using a modified golfball as the pattern for casting the ball I came to the conclusion that anything smaller would be suspect for any camera of appreciable size ... ie DSLR or big lens rig. The more reasonably priced ballheads I would rate as only suitable for small cameras used level or with a small degree of up or down tilting.
    I like the look of Richard's Minolta focusing rail

    For hiking I would have thought the monopod is the 'light' answer since it gives support but permits easy forward and backward movement .. also helps you walk over rough ground
    When I knew I was going to be photographing a garden railway I organised myself a short pod of about ten inches height ... that was in film days before I had flip screen digital cameras

  19. #19
    Dr Bob's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    97
    Real Name
    Bob

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    I decided to purchase the economy single rail, about 6.5 inches long, from a week known NY camera retailer and give it a try. I am only into it for about $20 and for just reducing the movement of my tripod when taking closeup and macro shots, it should work. In researching rails, no rails except for the custom home made design rails seemed great for more than 1:1 magnification. I will try and provide a report after 6 months or so.

    Dr Bob

  20. #20
    New Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Posts
    4

    Re: Macro Focusing Rails

    I'm doing focus stacking using a cheap (about $20) focusing rail from Adorama. It works fine for me. Just need to be gentle with the adjustments. Nikon D300 and 60 Macro lens.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •