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Best macro focusing rail -- Kirk or RRS?

Jason Neuswanger , Mar 14, 2005; 09:53 a.m.

I need to get a really solid macro focusing rail with very smooth movement that doesn't slip even when holding the camera point down, moving it up and down for vertical shooting. I haven't been able to find any reviews that compare the two, so which is better -- the offering from Kirk or RRS?

I'll be using it on a Bogen 3275 geared head on a Gitzo G2220 tripod for macro shots up to 5X magnification at all kinds of weird angles.

Responses

Edward Ingold , Mar 14, 2005; 11:13 a.m.

Both the RRS and Kirk focusing rails are intended for use on an head with an Arca-Swiss clamp. Both have an 1/4-20 threaded hole for other mounting, but may tend to twist if the head is not level from side to side. For that reason, you may find a ball head more useful in the long run than a geared head fitted with an Arca-Swiss clamp.

The clamp on the Kirk rail can be rotated 90 degrees for use with a lens plate. That's important if you use a lens with a foot, like a Nikkor 200/4 Macro or a long lens with extension rings. It's not clear whether the RRS clamp can be rotated, but RRS has adapters to accomplish the same effect (but adding height).

The clamp is fixed on the Kirk rail, and sliding on the RRS rail. This give the RRS rail nearly twice the focusing range, since the rail can slide in the tripod head mount (Arca-Swiss), while the head can be adjusted using a rack and pinion. It is also much faster to rough in the position before fine-tuning with the rack and pinion.

Edward Ingold , Mar 14, 2005; 11:18 a.m.

I should add that I use an RRS long rail fitted with an RRS lever clamp, on a B1 head. I haven't done macro greater than 1:1, so it's just as effective to slide the rail in the clamp as use a gear drive, and much easier to carry the simpler device.

Jason Neuswanger , Mar 14, 2005; 11:31 a.m.

Thanks.

I'm definitely sticking with the Bogen 3275 head for now, because I need the kind of subtle single-axis control it gives. So I've gotta figure out which focusing rail will work best with it.

Range isn't a huge issue with me, because I'm shooting in studio and can adjust the placement of my subject for coarse focusing. So the focusing rail on the tripod head will be for fine adjustments.

I'm using the 20D with the MP-E 65mm or the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lenses and the MT-24EX flash. My main priority is on smooth, fine adjustments without slippage while holding that setup vertically to take pictures straight down from above the subjects.

Douglas Stemke , Mar 14, 2005; 12:46 p.m.

While I personally have never used either Kirk or RRS, I have tested several others, Velborn, Slik, Novoflex, Minolta and Pentax focusing rail III. If you have relatively light equipment the Novaflex and Minolta are very nice. If you have heavy equipment and need only 2-D movement I would recommend the Pentax focusing rail III-a solid piece of equipment. The Velborn to me was too bulky but is capable of back forth and left right.

Ted Thayer , Jul 07, 2010; 07:23 p.m.

I have both the Kirk and the Novoflex Castel-Q rails. The Kirk is necessary for my 200/4 macro (rotating quick release), but the Novoflex has more range (like the RRS) and is more compact and a bit easier to use. I had the RRS lever quick releases, but they didn't work with the Novoflex rail, so I got rid of them and didn't really want to buy more from RRS. Their rail looks well made but is much more expensive. I got my Novoflex rail through the UK and saved $100 from US prices (cost me $240 delivered), while the Kirk is $270 and the RRS is $345.

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