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on February 4, 2012
Let me start by saying that this is not comparable to a higher end rails like those from Really Right Stuff or the Novoflex CROSS-MC (or DIY rails based on Newport optics bench positioners), but it is a very solid product for the money and a very good investment if you are just starting to explore macro photography and don't want to commit to a much larger investment.

The Good:
For magnification up to 1:1 the rails have relatively little backlash, and I have not yet experienced any creep. There are no locking knobs on the rails, so I expect at steep angles creep might become an issue if your camera+lens are sufficiently heavy. I'm using it with a Canon EOS 7D and 5D mk II with the 100mm f2.8L Macro. I do not know how well it would fare holding heavier macro lenses like the 180 f3.5.

The rails are very lightweight without feeling cheep or flimsy. All the load bearing parts appear to be cast magnesium alloy with aluminum rails. Plastic is only present for the gear covers and the plug that keeps the tripod screw knob captive (more on this later).

The lateral position adjustment is sufficient for reframing a slightly out of position subject, and the longitudinal adjustment is fine enough that you can set your lenst to 1:1 and just use the rail to focus. If your working distance is too short (which may be the case on some 50mm macro lenses) it seems sturdy enough that you could mount the camera backwards on the mounting plate.

As other reviewers have mentioned, you can separate the lateral and longitudinal rails so you can mount the lateral adjustment with its knob on the opposite side. I did this myself when I discovered that in some positions my clumsy fingers would start to adjust the wrong direction of movement.

The Bad:
This set of rails is not all shining and light. The lateral adjustment on my example seem to have increased resistance for about 30 degrees of every revolution. Also, the way the rails stack on each other increases the height of your camera over the tripod head pretty significantly. In turn, this has meant that I have taken to adding more weight under my tripod to minimize vibrations while positioning and focusing.

The Serendipitous:
All my camera gear has Arca-Swiss style plates on it. I was concerned that this rail was going to cause me to have to circumvent that to use the 1/4-20 screws in its camera base. I was happily surprised to discover that if you peel off the cork from the camera mounting plate that it is just large enough to fully support a Wimberley C-12 clamp. The edge of the C-12 clamp rests along the straight lip left in the platform when you remove the cork. Removing the cork also releases the plastic plug that Velbon/Hakuba is using to keep the mounting screw in place.

The other nice surprise was to learn that there are two tripod mounting holes in the lower rail, parallel to the lateral movement. Both are tapped for 3/8" tripod heads but have 1/4-20 reducers threaded into them. One is centered under the slide and the other is ~2cm to the side. They appear to be spaced so that you can use a plate similar to the Really Right Stuff MPR-73 to mount to your Arca-Swiss compatible ballhead.

Finally, there is a similar 3/8" tripod thread and reducer bushing in the longitudinal slide if you want to use it without the lateral slide.
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on November 17, 2012
I was very excited when I got this because it seemed like it was built to last, with metal rails and a metal worm screw axle. I used it very gently a couple times a year for a few years, then one day the focusing axis suddenly seized up. After trying very hard to open the gearbox so that I could inspect the seized drive train, I eventually gave up, realizing that the gearbox was intentionally assembled to be inaccessible to the user once it had been snapped together in the factory.

Curious, I finally cut open the press-fit plastic lid to the gearbox, only to discover that a few of the teeth had broken off each of the two gears that drive the worm axle. And no wonder -- the gears are made of CHEAP, FLIMSY PLASTIC, even though they engage a metal worm screw. In less than 12 hours of total use, they had chipped their teeth. Efforts to resurface and lubricate the gears did not pay off. It was irreparable. I had to throw this piece of junk in the trash, because of course the warranty had expired.

Plastic gears for a metal drive? No wonder they didn't make it easy to open that gearbox. Velbon should be embarrassed of cutting corners like this.

Additionally, I discovered that this flimsy plastic assembly was insufficiently stable for high-magnification macro photography. It's okay for high light, low-magnification macro photography, but for high-mag photos, or for low light, you must have a very stable platform. For that I recommend using machinists' heavy-duty steel, 2- and 3-axis, XY and roto tables, like the kind you would use on a CNC mill or lathe. Those are very stable, user-servicable, and highly configurable.

Do not buy this junk.
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இ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Summary:
ѾѾѾѾѾ Highly recommended with warm fuzzies!

What may be referred to as the "Velbon Macro Slider" is the exact same identical tripod head as the "Hakuba Magnesium Macro Slider"; Velbon is now distributed by Hakuba USA, Inc.

This macro slider focusing rail is built like a rock-solid tank! But it only weighs 16 ounces due to its lightweight magnesium alloy composition. There is only the very slightest bit of play when I wiggle the bottom left-right slider and the top forward-backward slider units, so the construction quality and build tolerances are good. Turning the focusing and traversing adjustment knobs has a very smooth and precise feel as the camera platform moves along the guide shafts and screw shafts.

Although you can use this macro slider with a variety of lenses, including macro lenses, extension tubes, and regular non-macro lenses, the one lens that really benefits from using a macro rail like this is the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, which is Canon's unique "microscope on a camera" lens. When I use my Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens at 3X to 5X magnifications, I either shoot handheld where there is plenty of ambient light along with using Canon's Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, or I have the camera, with 65mm lens and macro ring lite, mounted onto this macro slider and tripod. I also have Canon's superbly razor-sharp Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, and I also sometimes use this focusing rail with that lens, but the lens that really benefits from this focusing rail is Canon's 65mm lens, both because of its extreme magnification and because of its very shallow depth of field, thus requiring precise positioning of the lens.

Before I purchased a macro focusing rail like this, I would often do the "tripod cha cha cha" when focusing at very close macro distances from a subject, e.g. nudge the tripod forward and diagonally to the right a bit, nudge the tripod slightly to the left, angle the lens slightly upward, nudge the tripod slightly to the rear, then wash, rinse, repeat :-)

The macro slider is shipped with both left-right and forward-backward adjustment knobs placed on the left side; the left-right traversing rail is on the bottom and the forward-backward focusing rail rides on top of it. If you just want to use the forward-backward focusing slider by itself, with no need for the left-right slider, you can separate both pieces and just mount the forward-backward focusing slider onto your tripod. Or to make it quicker to adjust both left-right and forward-backward sliders at the same time, you can loosen the top and bottom slider rails using the supplied Allen wrench, turn the top rail 180 degrees, and so now you have the left-right traversing knob on the right side and the forward-backward focusing knob on the left side, and you can use both hands to move the camera platform along both rails at the same time for quicker positioning.
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on April 6, 2014
I am a professional watchmaker doing restoration work (makes parts) and I do quite a bit of precision machining. I am VERY impressed with the engineering and execution of this focus rail. I was looking at the aluminum dovetail rails for about $50. This unit is what I would expect in something 5 times that price point, not 2 times. It IS magnesium.

BTW, I read the review by the poor guy who cut apart his unit to service it. All he had to do was remove 4 screws to get to his gearbox!!! (remove top deck per instruction sheet, screws are on bottom of assembly although no guidance is given for disassembly). Given that, I have no idea how to evaluate the rest of his experience. The instruction sheet does not describe how to use the tools to adjust or service the instrument, but if you are at all handy you will figure it out.

OTOH, I have seen people use a dremel tool to open their watch cases, so ....

The rails are moved using a worm wheel design which is the perfect design for this application (smooth movement that will not shift after you are in focus). I removed the top deck and reversed it on the bottom deck (I may shelve the bottom deck altogether) so I have the adjustment knobs on two different sides. I set my D600 w/200 mm Macro on the camera mount with the viewfinder over the body device so you would think it is the most unstable. But, this provides the best position for tripod and camera and it is, in fact, stable. Of course, I am using a remote or USB release with the setup so the camera is not being touched, causing it to vibrate.

It is VERY lightweight and rigid, with smooth action that stays in the final position without locks. If you are looking for a focus rail to take hiking I would strongly recommend checking this one out. It is well worth the extra $70 over the $50 design. I have no idea idea how it compares to a $400 design, but it serves for me. Who would have thought Velbon could offer such a value!
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on August 10, 2011
I recently bought a new macro lens (paid for with an excellent month of photo sales in July - see BackyardSilver.com for details), and my research identified the real need for a macro focusing rail if I was going to do this properly. The Velbon Super Mag slider was the result. I bought the Canon 100mm f2.8 for two reasons - it seems to be the lens of choice for some great images on DP Challenge, and its review on The Digital Picture was very good as well. There is no way I can do a better review of a lens than they can! Incidentally, I bought my lens from a "used" seller on Amazon - about $100 less than the new price and a filter thrown in as well. The lens was in perfect condition - but that is another story!

Why do you need a macro focusing rail? Well, the main problem with macro photography is the extremely small depth of field. You can try to stop down the aperture to get more of the subject in focus, but that then requires more light (or a higher ISO), and after you pass F16 or F22, the quality tends to diminish a little as the diffraction of light around the aperture increases. As a result, many studio shots with a great depth of focus are as a result of focus stacking, where you take several images of the subject with a each one having clear focus on a part of the object. You then combine these in Photoshop, which blends the sharpest parts of each image into one composite photograph. You can do this by changing the focus ring on the lens to get the different parts of the image in focus, but I understand that this changes the perspective, and so the best way of getting focus stacking to work smoothly is to move the whole lens/camera towards the subject and change the areas of focus that way. Hence a macro focusing rail, which lets you move the camera in very small controllable ways to get focus exactly where you want it. Of course, the same approach lets you focus on a small part of the subject for single macro shots without having to move the tripod and risk disturbing the insect, say.

I looked around for various reviews of macro focusing rails. I wanted one that was sturdy, not too heavy, not too expensive, and had movements in both directions - towards the subject and from side to side to get the right position for the shot. After reading the reviews, I ended up with the Velbon Super Mag slider.

The unit has two main sections - a three rail unit with a long screw mechanism that moves the camera backwards and forwards about 2.25 inches (6 cm). It has a detachable sideways mechanism with three rails again that can move the camera 1.25 inches (3 cm). In the field, you would normally have both fastened together to allow the full range of movement, but for studio shots I preferred just having the actual focusing rail on the tripod. Why? It removed one potential piece of instability, and I just didn't ever use it!

How stable is it - the main focusing rail is very solid. You move it forward with a knurled knob, and once in position, it stays there very securely. I found the horizontal slider to be slightly less secure. At each end of its travel, it is locked in place, but in the center, with the focus rail and a heavy camera on top, there is a little wobble. Of course, if you are using flash, this doesn't really matter, and with a remote release outdoors, it would not cause problems, but this was the other reason I removed it for normal use. It is quick and easy to remove with an allen key (provided.)

I use Arca-swiss tripod mounting plates on my camera/tripod and always have one screwed into the bottom of the camera, and so I decided to buy an Arca-swiss mounting plate and connector combination. This makes it very easy to put the focusing rails on the tripod and add the camera with just a few twists of a knob. Not really essential, but it makes for a smoother workflow and makes it less likely that you would damage the camera by carrying the whole tripod/rail/camera combination around in one package.

I've used this a lot over the past couple of weeks, and I've got nothing but praise for its capabilities. I've really enjoyed my first steps in Macro, and the focusing rails have made this a lot more successful that it otherwise would have been.

One bonus - the rail can also be used to put the camera/lens on a tripod with the rotation point being under the nodal point of the lens. This means that the perspective of near and far objects does not change as you take the various shots for the panorama. Of course it needs to be in your camera bag, but if you plan to go out to take some panoramas, this will increase your chance of success!
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on October 10, 2012
This product is the perfect solution to the intricate world of macro photography. The difference in the clarity of my photos is amazing due to the capability of making teeny adjustments. I paired this product with a Manfrotto geared head and it is a match made in heaven. The quality surpassed my expectations. My only regret is that I went so long without it!
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on April 24, 2012
I am loving it so far. It has brought my macro photography to another level. The action of the rails is very smooth. The positioning of the knobs is a little too close together causing me to sometimes shift the camera laterally when I am wanting to move toward or away from the subject. This is not worth taking any stars away though because it is something I am sure I just need to get used to.
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on April 6, 2013
The Velbon Super Mag Macro Tripod Slider is very well made, it slides very smoothly and it does not cost you an arm and a leg. There are other products that cost about the same or a little more but the are inferior to the Velbon. The Velbon shows great craftmanship, it is sturdy but not super heavy. It can be easily stowed in a camera bag or you can leave it attached to your tripod head ready for macrophotography outdoors. If you want a super fine movement slider for image stacking then you must pay at least 3 times more for it. In my book the Velbon is very useful for magnifications up to 2-3X with camera loads less than 12 lbs. Highly recommended.
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on October 14, 2014
This unit is very well made and smooth as can be. Perfect for focus stacking. The only thing I would wish for would be some sort of graduation to indicate the amount of travel but by witnessing the amount of rotation of the respective knob I have had stellar results. I bought one of those cheap ones on EBay and was very disappointed. It flexed so much the drive gear would skip if I had the camera' lens, and extension tubes mounted on it. This one (although it costs a little more) is rock solid, steady, and predictable. I really like it.
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on March 1, 2015
Fairly easy to use - mounted a Desmond DVLC50 clamp on the so my camera arca-swiss mount will easily fit and transfer from trip and an arca-swiss mount underneath so this makes it incredibly easy to fit on and off my tripod system. The adjustment knobs do not seem to be in an easy to use position and getting really accurate increments is proving a challenge. It is allowing me to learn just how tough getting crisp focus is for macro and how to create workable stacks
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