Good news, bad news

Regular readers of my blog know I have been shooting a lot of studio macro photographs recently. Three essential items of gear are used for every shot but are mentioned rarely in the “Tech Tips” featured in many blog posts, so I thought it would be a good time to pause to share my thoughts about some of the behind-the-scenes gear that I use.

Let me just say at the outset that commercial product photography is more challenging than one might think. Witness the following quick-and-dirty photo used to show two of three items of gear that will be discussed in this post — those are some ugly shadows caused by an external flash unit!

Manfrotto tripod head and tripod legs, plus Neewer focus rails.

The preceding photo shows a Manfrotto 405 Geared Tripod Head plus Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail mounted on a Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum Tripod.

Manfrotto 405 Geared Tripod Head

Let’s start with the three-way geared tripod head. Although the 405 is extremely expensive, it’s a JOY TO USE! It’s vastly superior to both ball heads that I own, including one made by Manfrotto and another made by Vanguard. Each axis of motion features two geared knobs: one for coarse adjustment; another for fine adjustment. The three-way geared tripod head is much easier and faster to use to position my camera exactly where I want it, unlike a ball head.

That’s the good news. So what’s the bad news? The Manfrotto 405 Geared Tripod Head weighs 3.53 lb. Of course, the weight of the tripod head is added to the weight of the tripod itself. In this case, the Manfrotto 055XPROB weighs 5.29 lb, for a combined weight of 8.82 lb, less the weight of the focus rail(s) and camera/lens/flash.

A heavier tripod head and tripod legs can support heavier camera gear, but the obvious trade-off is portability. This rig is good for studio photography but less than ideal for field work.

Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail

Let’s start with the good news. At a price-point of ~$26.00, the Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focusing Focus Rail is priced toward the less expensive end of the cost continuum for focus rails. The product was endorsed by a trusted source, so I bought one.

The Neewer focus rail works well with lighter camera rigs, but it is insufficiently stable for high-magnification macro photography using heavier camera rigs.

If you’re just getting into macro photography and you’re using a relatively light camera such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera (my go-to camera kit for photowalking), then the Neewer focus rail is a good choice. Otherwise you will discover quickly you need a professional-grade focus rail. Can you guess my next gear purchase?

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Good news, bad news”

  1. Studio macro photography rig | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] essential gear, it makes set-up and tear-down easy and fast. The focusing rails are mounted on a Manfrotto 405 Pro Digital Geared Head, connected to a Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod […]

  2. Five-flash studio macro photography rig | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] The L-bracket enabled me to mount the camera in portrait mode quickly and securely. Although the Manfrotto 405 Pro Digital Geared Head can be adjusted to position my camera rig in portrait mode, the heavy camera-lens-flash combo is […]

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