Marianne Posted Thursday at 17:45 Share Posted Thursday at 17:45 I've spent hours online reading and watching YouTube videos, then spoke to the pros at a few NYC camera stores, but I still need help. Specifically, I need advice about a good pano setup and, separately, a macro focusing rail (to take macros outdoors with a tripod, not indoors for slides and negatives). During Covid, I switched my focus from travel and editorial to landscape and nature. I've had luck selling photos to hospitals, particularly panoramas. So, I need better gear in order to up my game and compete in a crowded market. I've narrowed down some equipment choices, but since I don't want a big multi-level panoramic rig, the camera stores dropped the ball when it came to many of the components for a single level set up. So, I need your help I've already decided that Nodal Ninja ($400) and the similar large multi level pano setups are too unwieldy & heavy for hiking. Plus, overkill for single level panos. I settled on a simple Sunwayfoto nodal rail (good reviews for all their products) and for a simple rail, many folks with Really Right Stuff gear opted for the same $35 rail rather than shell out $100 for RSS. I got the 140mm nodal rail. I considered buying a multipurpose rail to use with a sliding clamp for macros, but decided the nodal rail is easier to set up precisely each time, since the clamp is fixed at one end, and I only have to match the numbers I've deduced from my testing with the midpoint of the tripod, rather resetting the clamp each time & calculating from there. And the multipurpose rail would entail jerkily sliding the clamp by hand for macros, not good for stacking focus with precision. Sound right (or wrong) so far? The rail is here, nodal points tested, but I still need a panning clamp. Apparently, leveling one on top of a ball head, let's me level my tripod from there rather than trying to level the legs on uneven ground. B&H recommended a Camvate clamp for $26 with no reviews anywhere: (it's all they had available other than RRS @ around $300 or full panning heads up to $700+ heavy & not needed. Other Camvate products had bad reviews on Amazon, a red flag for me. No info on load either - others can manage 44lbs. I'm leaning toward a Benro Panning Clamp on sale at Adorama for $99 (usu around $125) that got great reviews. Some guy twisted it 90 degrees, then hung a sandbag off it and there was barely any creep. Not bad for something made to rotate. It's a big jump from the cheap one, but I can safely use it at 90 degrees like a quasi gimbal - There are also a few by Sunwayfoto between $50 and $90, among the $90 ones there's a geared panning clamp intended for architecture, but astrophotographers seem to love it. They also have a panning clamp/indexing panoramic base combo around $90 with very mixed reviews. Indexing would be nice at dusk, I guess but if if it's not top-notch it's just added weight, right? Thoughts? Geared, Indexing, Brand? Any experience with these or other Benro or Sunwayfoto products? Really Right Stuff, even "visibly used," is over $200 for just the clamp (nearly $300 & up new), too much for a single component, I think. The Nodal Ninja could be cheaper because I don't need L-Brackets if I use the full rig - but if I'm at a windy beach or marsh, I don't want that height atop my tripod. It also weighs twice as much as my ball head, rail and L bracket combo - and the similar full pano rigs by RRS & Manfrotto are even bigger. (I swooned over my friend Joe Brady touting the Novaflex setup - but it makes RRS look like a bargain). Any experience with these? Any other suggestions? I don't want to cheap out, but I'm already looking at a few hundred for all these bits and pieces - clamps, brackets, it all adds up. I have a Manfrotto 190 series "mag fiber" tripod (the legs are carbon fiber, the removable center post is aluminum). It's still in great shape at nearly 20 years old, despite banging around in my car and getting its feet wet in the sea. Depending on what I read, the legs can handle between 8.8 and 33 lbs - someone is clearly wrong - I've written to Manfrotto to clarify - but my memory says around 12-15 lbs - and my lightweight ball the head is rated for 26 lbs - plenty extra for torque at 90 degrees. I mostly used it for my heavier equipment, often on windy piers along the New England coast, with my D700 and Sigma 50-500mm lens (6+ lbs) plus a 2 lb. trigger head, with a bag full of other equipment hanging as counterweight. It worked without a shudder, sharp at 500mm, so 8.8 lbs sounds low. My pano rig - L-bracket, nodal rail, even with heaviest Sony, heaviest telephoto, and light ball head, weighs in around 4.27 lbs and I'll mostly use my lighter 50mm prime shaving nealy a pound off. The only weight to add is the panning clamp which the Nodal rail slides right into. How can I use a Manfrotto with L Brackets and other Arca Swiss clamps and plates? For $35, I got a Sunwayfoto clamp and adapter combo to convert my ball head so it now takes both Manfrotto and Arca Swiss plates (really awesome!!!). The fit is perfect and tight. I didn't want to give up my Manfrotto plates with Black Rapid attachments for my slings ...and always prefered the Manfrotto system ...but it's great how the nodal plate dovetails right into the Arca Swiss clamp. Best of both. I'm confident I can recoup the cost of the pano system, since I've been selling panos through an agent and she'd like me to add more, but I can't imagine the RRS is 3x better than the Benro or Sunwayfoto Clamp (tell me if I'm wrong) (Even if the Novaflex is 10x better, it's still too much). I've never used an L bracket - there's a Nisi for the A7rii (great reviews and it looks beautifully made), one that looks like a 3 Legged Thing clone for the A7riv - the real thing is backordered everywhere I looked & aside from a $200+ RSS, can't find many options for that camera. Is it that important to get the best L bracket if it's only for use on the tripod? There are a few used RRS - again for the A7rii (around $85-90, 2x more than the Nisi which is new, and I think better designed since the RRS requires you to take the battery door off and attach it to the bracket- the A7rii came with 2 batteries because they drain super-fast) I usually take three along with me for a day's shooting. I doubt I'll use the bracket other than for vertical shots for stitched panos, though the Nisi and RSS both have 1/4" holes I can screw a Black Rapid clamp into. The design of the Nisi is pleasing and light. Any A7riv ideas? There's also a "well used" RRS bracket for the Oly for only $20 - must be pretty beat up since they run around $200 new, if you can find one for such an early mirrorless. I'm tempted because multiple Olympus shots are faster to combine at 16 vs 61MP apiece...and I still think about springing for their 60mm macro lens with its great stacked focus reputation... but I don't need to shoot macro with an L-bracket. The brackets for mirrorless required a redesign from DSLRS, so I could use some mirrorless input here. I doubt I'll recoup the cost of a macro set-up as quickly, since I'm still learning and the "little things" I picked up used at KEH have already added up - used extension tubes for my Nikon 20mm & 50mm primes to experiment with wider angle macros (I saw a Laowa 50mm Macro that focused right up to the glass, but restrained myself). I also picked up a used B+W 77mm close up filter, good in the 70-105 range of my 24-105 lens, which makes that walking around lens even more versatile. I can also use it with step down rings on a 200mm Olympus prime & on my 90mm macro for more than 1:1 reach. (Between used & new, I spent about $250 on lighting: 2 LCD Lume Cube Go Panels, a battery pack that doubles as a stand, & a combo cold shoe/light stand mount) My flash won't work with my Sonys, my Elinchrome studio lights are great but in a tiny house they're a nightmare to put up & take down daily, so this seemed good for tabletop, even for extra light in the kitchen for some food grab shots, and I can use them on the go instead of a ring light for macro. Smaller than my phone but powerful light even at 5%. In addition to practicing on small tabletop objects, I hope to have plenty of flowers and veggies in my garden. My understanding is that I can't do real focus stacking without a rail - correct? Also needed to photographing my negatives, right? There was a classic Minolta for around $85 last week (if it's still there), but I thought it would be cumbersome to take along to the woods on tripod. Yes/no? The Nisi got great reviews. It's $129, but unlike simply sliding clamps along a multi-purpose rail by hand (about $60 for the components), it has a geared system that lets you stack focus in small accurate increments( & it comes with a really nice Arca plate as a bonus). Top reviews for good design like their L-Bracket. Saw photogs use it simply for framing macro subjects without constantly moving the tripod & for fine focusing too (No creep facing down - at least none with a 90mm lens). The Novaflex bellows system looks great. Way beyond my budget. Part of the reason I'm tempted to get it now (still snow on the ground here) is that I'm assuming it's also helpful in nailing focus when tabletop shooting? I have no experience with these things, so I'm trying to decide, along with what brand to get, whether my assumptions about why I want one are correct or is the use more limited & specialized? I think that I can use my small travel tripod with the legs spread on my dining room table instead of spending another $100 on a tabletop one sturdy enough to hold the rail. One video I saw said the legs of the Nisi didn't hold it steady on a table, but he loved it otherwise. Sorry for the novel, I did so much research that now I'm stuck. Thanks for your advice. Much appreciated as always. I think I'd be lost without you guys. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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