01 February, 2012

Fotomate LP-01, LP-02, LP-03

Since I am trying to sink deeper into macro photography and an usual macro lens ain't macro enough I thought about the other tweaks of the trade: reverse lenses, extension tubes, lenses back to back. All these require a focusing rail for ease of use.

This wasn't the only need for a focusing rail. I recently purchased a motorized astro head that I plan on integrating on a bigger project I'm working on and didn't have the chance to post yet. But to stay on track, the need came for such focusing rails and at first I tried the usual approach with well known brands and big stores. Sadly, as with most photo equipment I was shocked about the prices involved. I'm pretty mechanical open minded so I have quite a clue about what a focusing rail involves and it's nothing close to justify the hundred of dollars prices.

So.. same as before, I turned to my Chinese friends for a cheap bail out. One day or two on ebay and I put my order, three of four weeks later my rails were at the post office. I had a hard time determining what was the proper length needed and since price wasn't a limiting factor anymore I got one of each model that was worth it.

They're labeled Fotomate LP-01, LP-02, LP-03, where Fotomate is just a showcase name for Jiangmen MIDAS Hardware Electronics Co., Ltd. All rails come in plastic blisters, all rails have a central tripod mounting hole of 3/8" with an included 1/4" adapter. All rails come with two 1/4" camera fixing screws and all rails share the same pinion wheel - gear rack system for the rail movement.

Now for the hands on impressions: well, can't say I'm blown away but I didn't expect to be either. For they're price point they're quite a bang for the buck. They're now overbuild, they're not super quality and they're not highly engineered either but for a home user like me.. they definitely do the job.

I made a little video unpacking and playing a little with the rails. What I wanted to point out in the video but didn't have a mouth to do it was that:
- the paint job isn't the same on any two rails, not that it matters that much
- the paint job isn't that good either. Here and there the paint is chipped away and in some places clogged up, not affecting the functionality though
- the roll and lock screws both have quite a big play. It doesn't seem to affect their functionality at all but I don't know how this translates after 1 year of use of more.
- being a rather direct drive system, if under load and on an angled position the rail will slip if not locked. Since the lock mechanism uses a plastic pad between the rail and the base plate, the lock screw can be used  just like a friction screw on a tripod ball head, so you can limit that slipping to acceptable levels. Either way the rails has end stops so the base plate can't fall of the rail.
- because of the relative big teeth on the rail, the movement is a little jerky and needs a little friction from the lock screw if smoother positioning is required.

So if I draw the line.. Am I happy with the purchase? Yes. Would I buy them again? Yes. The only question left to be answered by every user is if the quality provided is enough for one's standards. For me it is


  1. Hi, thanks for the review. After almost 5 months of usage, are they still alive?

    1. hello. can't say that I used them much in the meantime but didn't have a problem with them so far

  2. Hi, I enjoyed the review. Good work.

    I was just wondering, what is the difference between LP-02 and LP-03? They seem to have the same dimensions and features, what's different?

    Cheers :)

    1. LP-02 is 200mm long, LP-03 is 250mm long and has flash hot shoes on both ends