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