A macro rail is obviously required when you are doing a bit more than casual macro photography, and recently I have been doing more macro focus stacking than usual. I find that trying to manually change focus on a subject, or use tethered software such as Helicon Focus a little tedious. It doesn’t give me a lot of flexibility when out in the field.
Once my mind was set on a rail, first brand on my mind was Really Right Stuff, but then I found that RRS has stopped selling their macro rail and the next best in my short research was the subject of this review.
Lets dive right into the product. There are two tools included in the package, a small torx screwdriver and a small hex wrench. There is a small piece of paper that has a QC stamp on it and it just says “Quality Certificate”. There is no manual, but I assume they’re available online. Besides I don’t keep paper manuals nowadays anyway. These tools are most definitely for adjustments.
First up is the lever release. At first touch, the lever release is quite loose. you just have to tighten the torx screw and test it out with an arca-swiss compatible plate to get the right tension so that the plate stays snug and tight. Too much tension and the lever release will not even lock. I’m used to RRS’ lever release and I’d say the one on this SunwayFoto is several grades below RRS. Kinda expected as the price is also a lot lower. First of all RRS is precise and gives you 3 positions. You have the locked position, fully open position and a middle position where the plate can move for adjustments but still slides around. RRS levers are sure about what it wants to be and there’s no “maybes”. On this SunwayFoto release, there’s the locked position where depending on your torx screw adjustment, may still be a little loose, or its fully open and the plate can be removed. Nothing in between. There is also some vertical play on the lever release.
However the rail mechanism feels more sure than the lever release. I tried to slide the camera plate by hand and it doesn’t budge. The only way I can get it to move is through the two knobs.
Now on the two knobs, visually you can already tell the the one with the crank is for fast rotations – when you need to adjust large distances and the smaller knurled knob is for smaller adjustments. I like the fact that the knurl is done in such a way that it is possible to discern like 1/4 of a turn or so for precise intervals – likely very useful for focus stacking. 1 turn of the knob feel likes the rail moves 1mm physically. There is a pin on one side of the rail to see how much distance it has moved. This pin barely touches the rail to minimize parallax.
On the side of the camera mounting plate, there is a smaller knob that adjusts the tension of the slide – basically to cut out plays and to make the focus knob more precise. I tested it and it seems to work, and at least takes out the anxiety that the weight of the crank arm may affect the regularity of the focus spacing.
Overall I like the quality of the focus rail. However the camera plate mount and lever release could be better. I double I could swap the top part with a spare RRS lever release that I have. If I could order the item again, I might have gone with the knob release rather than lever quick release.