Velbon Super Mag Slider

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated May 13, 2017

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A Velbon super mag slider is a handy macro stage for z and x axis positioning, both in the field and as an intermediary in a studio setup. It is one of many choices of macro stages for extreme macro work.

Velbon Macro Stage

A Velbon super mag slider, a handy piece of kit to have in the bag especially for outside work.

The Velbon is very capable of stacking increments in the 1:1 to 3:1 range. It doesn't have any graduations marked, so stacking with consistency relies on you moving several ridges on the movement knob at a time. Or you could make your own by putting a bigger circle over the knob and using graduations on that.

But as a first step to see if stacking is for you or not, I personally think you can do a lot worse than one of these. Cost: about £70.

A Velbon stage doesn't do up and down, but does forward/backward and left/right positioning, and if you're careful you can make some impressive stacks using just this as well.

Field Stage

If you like to do macro or extreme macro in the field then a Velbon will be your friend. They're durable and small, and easily and neatly attached between your tripod and your camera.

The knobs on the Velbon to control the movement are nice and smooth, and have a ridged outer surface. By moving it one ridge at a time you're able to use it for extreme macro stacking as well.

Studio Stage

Personally I have an adjusted one of these in my indoor macro studio, and it lives between the Stackshot on the bottom and a bellows sitting on top. Mounting a lot of things on top of each other can make for a lot of vibrations so you have to be a little bit careful in terms of maintaining a nice centre of gravity for the camera equipment on its stack.

Velbon Bee

Bee Fly, shot with a Velbon stage. If you're very careful you can make some perfectly reasonable stacks using just a velbon stage.

I have adjusted and improved my Velbon slider by switching the handles around. In its default configuration one handle is one the left, and the other on the opposite side. This didn't really work for me because my studio is close to a wall so I took the whole thing apart and made it so that both the controls are on the left. This has proven to be useful as I don't need to lean over and risk knocking the whole structure accidentally, which me being me is sadly all too easily done.

Velbon For Stacking

If you want some finer control over your increments than using the Velbon knobs for focus stacking, then making your own custom dial is the way to go. This is as simple as a 20cm diameter circle on a piece of cardboard with every 3° increment marked on the outer edge. Add that dial onto the Velbon dial and you'll be able to achieve 120 increments per rotation reasonably accurately. In fact you could also make a widget with a bigger dial using moldable plastic cooled over the knob with it as the mold; the advantage with such a widget being it'd be solid and fit exactly over the knob. A Velbon super mag rail moves about 4mm on one turn so marking it into 120 increments will give you approx .03mm increments, right for about 1:1 - 3:1 depending on your sensor and f/stop.

Using a Velbon

All in all the Velbon super mag slider is definitely a nice piece of macro equipment to have both in the field and in the studio. Durability wise the parts are simple and built to last, and having had it in my bag for a couple of years I don't see any obvious mechanical vulnerabilities that will make it break unless it's used badly or dropped. The gearing is smooth enough and whilst I wouldn't expect exact 1µm steps out of it you can achieve 50µm steps (1/20mm) with a bit of care. A Velbon super mag slider is good value for money for the macro photographer looking to get some more control over their precise focusing and a purchase that you're unlikely to regret.

Stability wise it's fine too and it doesn't give you any sudden positioning slides or inconsistent movements. It's nice to be able to take one off and use just the one although I don't personally do so. And amusingly enough I suspect you could also use it as a panoramic gimbal device by rotating it about its bottom bolt.

pretty much on par with the Manfrotto 454

In terms of grade of product, the consensus is that Velbon super mag slider is pretty much on par with the Manfrotto 454 but the manfrotto costs almost twice as much. The Velbon does the job, but as I said don't expect super small increments of parts of a mm or micrometric consistency. The next step up from the Velbon would be something like a Novoflex with arca rail compatibility. It's very nice but also much more expensive. There are cheaper Chinese 2 stage sliders available on eBay but I've never yet heard of anyone to be overly impressed with the smoothness of the gearing. The Kirk product is actually just a cheap Chinese one with Kirk's release plate and clamp bolted on.

Adjusting Tension

Velbon super mag sliders have hexagonal plastic nuts on the end of the slider that can be used to adjust the tension of the slider. Too loose and there tends to be slippage but by playing about and trial and error you can get to a stage where it's very easy to move yet retains its place.

Velbon Super Mag Slider Downloads

Comments (3)

Article: Velbon Stage
Chriss says...
You can use a CD with a protractor printed on it and stuck to the knob and a pointer on the Velbon Super Macro Slider for a more rigid, accurate increment marker. I also came across a forum discussion on Photomacrography.ne thttp://bit.ly/1nidNOv with a discussion of using a Lego Mindstorms programmable brick motor to advance the drive.
25th May 2014 3:46am
Wpresto says...
A "look at" source for a variety of rack & pinion devices is edmundoptics - this is a list of X axis, X & Y axis, and X-Y-Z axis R&P devices with various lengths of motion (=rail lengths). Clicking on a model number brings up a photo. Precision drawings with all dimensions are available with a click. Also, near the top of the page there's a blue click to "basic rack & pinion" devices. Click there and there's an additional list of R&P devices. One on that page, stock #37-603, has 20mm motion with both coarse & fine motion, the latter geared for 0.11mm advance per turn on the knob. As best I can determine all of these devices are tapped with 1/4 X 20 holes both on the rail and the trolley. Prices start @ $135US. The coarse/fine device is $219US.
9th December 2013 2:29pm
Wpresto says...
The lower, horizontal motion unit of the Velbon can be removed to make the top section more compact for field use.
With a little or ingenuity a quick release clamp can be attached to the bottom section so that it can be used as a short-throw slider. Advance is by screw thread and is both tight (=little wiggle, not hard to turn) and smooth. By making a small mark somewhere on the control knob, regular repeatable movements down to 1/8 turn can be made. This is probably sufficiently for about 2X to 3X macros.
7th December 2013 11:52am
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