Fotomate macro sliders
I remember when I first started getting interested in macro photography, and found that focusing on extreme close-ups was far from straightforward. Articles on the subject often suggested putting the camera on a tripod and using a macro slider (also known as a focusing rail) to move it back and forth to fine-tune focus, but there was no way I could justify spending the £100 or more they cost at the time.
Now, of course, we live in a globalised economy and it’s possible to get much cheaper kit online from Amazon or eBay. Among the many photographic products leaving Chinese factories are inexpensive macro sliders that are sold under various guises. The ones we’re looking at here are branded Fotomate, but identical-looking products can be had either unbranded or under other names.
The basic design is simple: the metal base screws onto your tripod head, and has a sliding metal plate on top. This has a large rubberised platform to hold the camera securely, with sliding 1⁄4in screws allowing it to be positioned however you need. Rotating a large knob on the base moves the plate back and forwards using a rack-and-pinion system; a smaller one alongside it locks the camera in the desired position. Scales along the edge marked in centimetres aid in repositioning. Three versions are available in 16cm, 26cm and 31cm lengths.
Given their low price, these sliders really aren’t too bad. They can’t be adjusted as finely as the similar-looking, but much more expensive, Manfrotto 454 Micro Positioning Plate, and they can struggle when set at an angle rather than flat, particularly with heavy cameras such as full-frame DSLRs. But they’re a great entry point for experimenting with macro shooting, especially with lightweight CSCs or entry-level DSLRs.