By M.D. McCallum - Aka WarLord720
One thing about being a freelancer is that you never know where your next project will take you. You can count on the fact that the more you try to specialize the more your employers will pull you in different directions particularly if you are known to adapt quickly to new software, new situations and new challenges. This just described a large portion of the Renderosity viewing audience as a lot of creative people are willing tackle any challenge given the proper budget. Such is the case with my involvement with Revolve Camera and this review.
Being a freelancer also leaves you and your employer open to basically being "conned " into doing work you've never even attempted before... such as videography... photography and so forth. The reasons are many from faith in an ability to pull it off to budget considerations and basically wanting to keep it in house or in familiar hands. Recently just such a project was sent my way. A short stop motion clip for a commercial. The studio I was contracted to kindly budgeted enough to include the motorized slider dolly which is where Revolve Camera comes into the picture. It was a nice piece of equipment born of a successful KickStarter campaign so it was decided to do a review on it... from a "rookie that got paid to use a camera" versus a professional photographer's view.
So let's get the basic facts out of the way. Whereas I am a trained animator I am not a trained photographer and that being said I'd like to apologize right now to any REAL photographer that knows their f-stop from their intervalometer. I actually had to turn my camera on to read "intervalometer" from the menu choice (Magic Lantern) to know how to spell it. I can setup a manual shot as I've been playing around with night photography for some time but my main camera is a Canon 600D (t3i) so the exposure times are limited. I understand ISO and white balance but you're getting to the limit of my photographic knowledge. With that being said let's move on hoping the masses won't notice and the old guard won't care that a newb is in charge of this ride.
Having drooled over camera sliders, particularly motorized, the past couple of years this reviewer was extremely happy when the Revolve Camera equipment was delivered. It was shipped quickly after order and received within a matter of days. The package in question is the $499 motorized slider which includes the slider, electric motor, mounting hardware and a drive belt along with other items like tools.
The first thing you notice is the quality of the product. This is not your run of the mill eBay slider that sells for half as much. The Revolve Camera slider is smooth as silk and it has a heft to it. This is a nice piece of metalwork. This doesn't mean you can put just any camera on it. There is a weight limit of 10 lbs. for camera and lens. All the hardware is top notch and like any slider it can be used without the motor attachment but what fun would that be? Even the screws that attach the feet to the slider track have large tool-less metal knobs that hand tighten with ease.
The motor, or maybe I should say motors as there are three speeds available, ships with a standard 5 rpm motor and has a 1 rpm (slow) and a 60 rpm (fast) motor available as options. This author ordered the extra 1 rpm motor and is glad as very slow lateral movement was desired with most uses.
Assembly is straightforward and fast. The legs attach with the tool-less screws, one each, at the ends of the slide. The legs are nicely made units and seem sturdy enough. You can now attach the ball head and use the slider manually if the situation calls for it. Multi-angle table top product shots are a snap with the manual combination of ball head and slider.
Next is the motor base which is held in place by a single large disk that can be screwed down tightly by hand. One bolt each (using the supplied wrench) in the traction band clamps secure them to the ends of the slider. Now you can thread the drive belt into the end clamp through the motor (extremely simple process) and through the clamp on the far end of the slider. It was this authors experience that the belt could be set too loosely inhibiting motor travel but snugging it up in the end clamps was all it took to get the rig moving along its course.
Running this slider couldn't be simpler. Add batteries or plug in a power supply (optional) flip the switch and your off and running... albeit very slowly but smoothly. Twist the control knob for speed and watch your next masterpiece begin to unfold. That's all there is too it. The slider can be sat on the ground with resting on those sturdy but short (5 inches or so) legs but it can be easily attached to a tripod in the center or a tripod on each end. I used it with my Canon T3i and had no problem with a single, center tripod. However if windy conditions I would recommend using two to keep it stable.
They offer a Pro Ball Head Mount 39.99US that is an absolute sweetheart of a ball head for the price. It has become a part of my regular video or photography kit. I would also recommend you get a friction arm mount as you'll need it to mount the control box to slider at any angle plus it just looks cool as hell. You can get these arms just about anywhere as I find this one to be standard issue. The motors are small and lightweight but powerful enough to move my rig with no problems. I would strongly recommend that you order the two extra motors (39.99) as I have found them to be indispensable as movement speed is very relevant to any project and one motor is rather limiting or confining might be a better term.
I do not like the tripod adapter screws packaged with the kit. They get the job done but that's about it. I like the open ended adapters and these are closed on one end with a screw slot which some find helpful. I found they didn't exactly fit well... not without a minor wrestling match the first time but remember I'm pretty much a newb with any kind of camera equipment so wrestling matches are par for the course in some cases. The soft case that packaged with it is nice but hard case would be better if you want to protect the integrity of the slider. This applies to all sliders.
With a cost of 499 dollars it is an investment but not out of the ballpark. In online research this reviewer found it is competitive as you can spend up to $700 easily for the same setup at retailers like B&H Photo and other big name photography stores. This is equipment that should probably outlast the photographer. Once again I will stress it is very well made. The smoothness of the slider makes for some great moving shots especially time lapse. Keep in mind this setup does not include Pan and Tilt.
Overall I have been very pleased with the quick setup, breakdown and general usage of this product. It certainly fulfilled our needs and it is now a valuable piece of equipment that I always look forward to using and yes... LOOK for opportunities to use. If you are not familiar with this type of photography then sashay (that's right I said sashay) over to dakotalapse.com for an inspiring look at moving time lapse art.