High magnification macro focusing rails

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Stosh, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. Stosh

    Stosh TPF Noob!

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    I'm interested in a set of macro focusing rails. I admit that most of my macro work is near or less than 1:1 magnification, but I also enjoy using my MP-E 65mm 1x-5x which starts getting pretty extreme. My main reason for the rails would be so I could stack images to gain a greater depth of field, so 1 dimension of rails may be enough for me. Sure, the 2 dimensions would probably be handy, but probably also adds quite a bit a cost and worse yet, could remove some of the stability. At 5x DOF is extremely thin, so I would need something with very fine adjustment.

    I've searched and read tons of reviews. Looks like the Bogen and Novoflex would be up my alley, but even some of those reviews say that fine adjustment is barely sufficient at 1x. I have a feeling I would be disappointed at higher mags. Any real experience out there?
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Darn it I was aiming to be first regular on the site with that lens- beaten by a matter of days (kinda..) anyway

    I've done work at higher magnifcations - around 2:1 and 3:1 - and I personally have this to say: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/...ails-comparison-different-market-options.html

    Upshot - ebay cheap rails (or possibly the Velbon rails) are your best budget bet for a set of rails. From there novoflex appear to be the next level up - but they do cost.

    Also you need a good sturdy and fine controlable tripod head - a Manfrotto junior geared head is an ideal choice for this (very solid and easy to control). I have heard some macro shooters say that when things get to 5:1 they get a lot harder on the gear - but I have a sneaking suspicion that if you are outside working on macro even the ground shifting under the tripod legs in tiny amounts is going to be a problem
     
  3. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    To accomplish what you want, I would highly recommend geared focusing rails. I wouldn't recommend the lock and sliding style.

    I use a novoflex focusing rail. Fairly old but they do appear on ebay for a good price occasionally:

    Novoflex Mini Castel Focusing Rail "German Made" - eBay (item 400096448707 end time Feb-08-10 03:22:49 PST)


    Not to ask an obvious question... Do you have a powerful macro light to allow you to stop down to a fairly small aperture?


    [EDIT]
    Mine is mounted on top of fairly stable 3 way pan head...
     
  4. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    While I've never used the Novoflex or Manfrotto/Bogen unit, in my experience macro focusing rails haven't worked well when shooting true photomacrography at high magnification. They work fine for extreme closeup (less than 1:1) but moving the whole camera if too difficult to do well.

    My pet method is generally to move the subject. This does result that the subject be mounted in a "macro-studio" enviroment and not be in it natural habitat. My pet moving stage is built from an old TLR body with the lens/shutter assembly removed. The focusing mechinism provides a very, very smooth movement.

    [​IMG]

    Another "quick and dirty" method that I use at times is to place a simple flat plate on the top of another lens where turning the focusing ring provide the vertical motion:

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Stosh

    Stosh TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Overread. I had already read your reviews and thanks very much for doing that. I'm pretty sure the eBay version won't work for me, but since you didn't test the Novoflex, I'm not really sure where it stands in comparison. Good luck with your new lens. It open up a whole new world.

    I agree that I'd want geared rails, but the eBay listing you mentioned scares me a little with the word "Mini". The current Novoflex mini focusing rail I don't believe would be strong enough for a 5DmII with this MP-E super macro, but I could be wrong. I'd almost rather try something new so I could return it if it wasn't sturdy enough.

    I'm using the Canon macro twin lite - definitely necessary for >1:1.

    Very cool ideas Dwig. That plate on top of a manual focus lens is really slick. Most of my macro stuff is outdoors, not in the studio. And believe it or not, lots is handheld. It sounds impossible, but since I'm using a powerful flash, all you have to do it slowly fade in and out until it looks like it's in focus and fire. Using a tripod is extremely frustrating, but I have had some success getting close and then moving one of the 3 legs with my fingers using very tiny, controlled movements. It's difficult and trying, but it can be done. Also, since the MP-E 65mm is a zoom, you don't have to get your z-axis (in and out) perfectly - the zoom can fine tune it. That's actually much easier than getting the x and y axes lined up!
     
  6. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Hopefully I can soon test the lens with the ebay rails - though other macro shooters I know of (who infact recomended the ebay rails) has moved up to the novoflex for increased control offered.
    Since the prices are rather high is there any chance of a local shop getting some stock in for you to test out? At least then you can have a feel for how they really work for you (since personal shooting style is a big influence on how good a bit of kit is)
     
  7. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeh... it does say mini but it sure looks like mine. The one I have is pretty compact but should be strong enough for a 5dMII +MPE... (see photo attached)

    Its pretty dang strong for its size... completely made of metal.
     

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  8. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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  9. Stosh

    Stosh TPF Noob!

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    Woah. Thanks for the link. That automated thing looks really sweet. I'll keep checking back.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Just don't look at the other stuff on that site - laser macro trips - flying insect hunting - perfect waterdrop timing setups..... :)
     

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