I recently tried out my new Konova slider (plus accessories) for the first time at a beautiful State Park located on the scenic Carmel, California coastline. The time was around 8:30am on a beautiful sunny morning with just a tiny amount of mist still hanging in the air.
I have a rather odd "talent" of finding the few ways NOT to use a piece of production equipment the first time I play around with it, this was no exception. So hopefully you can learn from my observations and "mistakes." (See video at end of post for more details!)
First off, let me review the basic components:
* Konova 30 inch basic slider with the new legs
* ePhoto Professional Heavy Duty 75mm Video Camera Tripod with Fluid Drag Pan Head
* Fancier FT6664H Fluid Drag Ball Head (the same multi-axis head is sold under many different names)
As you might imagine, the slider was mounted on top of the tripod while the ball head allowed me to attach my camera to the sliding platform which runs down the rails.
I was using a Canon T2i (550D) and had a Canon 50mm 1.4 prime lens on the camera for the first dozen or so test shots (later I switched to the Canon 18-55mm kit lens to get wider views). I also had a Zacutto "Gorilla" plate and a 3x Z-Finder that I put on occasionally throughout the morning.
Well I set up the slider on a pathway running parallel to a beautiful cove, except for some trees at the left edge of my frame there was nothing in the close foreground. The dramatic center of the cove was about 250 feet out.
My intention was to have a sliding shot beginning at the far left of the cove and moving out towards the right - hopefully capturing the other side…that was the shot I envisioned anyways when I set up my gear.
So I set my Konova slider rail parallel to the coast line and began pushing the T2i from left to right and guess what….in the LCD viewer it looked like I was barely moving at all! I could see the waves moving in the frame so I know I was rolling but there was practically no left to right movement visible in the LCD…what the heck?????
What Went Wrong?
I think my basic problem was that the object I was trying to film (the cove) was simply too far away - also the choice of starting lens (50mm x 1.6 crop factor=80mm) may have played a role too. The length of the slider (30 inches) was such a tiny fraction of the width of what I was trying to film (from one side of the cove to the other) that not much movement was apparent.
* Keep a strong foreground element in the frame so that you can see something move (within 6-10 feet aprox.) I can imagine that your main subject may be beyond that but as long as you have some kind of foreground element relatively close to the lens, it's going to show you movement.
* If you are needing to have something that close to the lens, a wide angle lens might work better for you.
* Don't think you can make smooth tilts or pans while sliding using your hands to manipulate a still camera ball head like the FT6664H - it may look okay in the LCD but will suck when you look at it in full rez. I think you might be able to do something like that with a more traditional video head however and have it come out fine - I haven't tested it yet. Something like the Manfrotto 701HDV head for about $140 would be an option.
* The ePhoto tripod should basically be eliminated from your gear list:
* It is very difficult to fully lock down so that it doesn't tilt when you have the Konova rails mounted. You have to use a very light touch when moving the camera down the rails or your weight will force the rails to tilt down.
* The ePhoto tripod head has a plastic lever to control the tension of the up/down tilting motion however it only has a small bolt to adjust the left right panning tension. That bolt is in a very awkward location and you'll need a special very flat wrench to get to it and make adjustments; there simply isn't a lot of room to work underneath there.
* The legs are very light but it might be possible to throw away the head and use just the legs to build a custom tripod solution for yourself that will be okay.
* For right now I am suggesting keeping the slider on the ground and not utilizing a tripod to hold it up whenever you can get away with it. A sturdier, high quality tripod would be key when elevation is needed in order to get your shot.
There is a good reason to keep around a photographers style ball head like the one I used. If you set up your slider so that the rails are oriented in a vertical position instead of the more common left-right slide - then this type of ball head is great for positioning your camera so that it can easily ride up and down the slider rails.
An even easier way to go is to use your slider like a dolly shot moving closer or further away from your subject - just turn your rails to point towards your subject - it's not a huge move but still interesting.