Camera sliders for video and film come in two categories: the expensive heavyweights that have been around since the time of film and the inexpensive toys that target the digital enthusiast. There’s little in-between. One new player in this market that has been very successful is Rhino Camera Gear. Documentary and Indie film makers were delighted with their first slider when it launched a couple of years ago. The Rhino Slider EVO is announced as a new generation of their camera slider. A motor and flywheel accessory are to complete the new offering. I reviewed a pre-release 24in (60cm) Rhino Slider EVO Motorized Camera Slider with the optional Rhino Motion motor system.
Ask any film maker and they’ll tell you they love a slider if it is lightweight, robust enough to carry the load of a camera with lens and accessories, such as a mic, a monitor and perhaps even a recorder or video lamp, has a smooth and choppy-free ride, is sturdy enough to take a hit in rough terrain and can be easily transported.
Using these criteria, most sliders fail in several areas. But after a couple of weeks trying out the new camera slider, I think the Rhino Slider EVO with the optional Rhino Motion motor is a winner.
Rhino Motion: a smooth operator
A motorised slider should help you achieve fluid slides and ideally be your virtual assistant for shooting yourself. As camera sliders are often also used for time lapse photography, both programmability and a motor that is capable of very fine motion increments are crucial.
I am happy to say Rhino Motion ticks all the boxes. The motor is a stepper motor1 in an aluminium enclosure. On the Rhino Slider EVO, it mounts literally in seconds with two large screws. It can move about 2.25kg (5lbs) when mounted at a 45 degrees slope and about 11kg (25lbs) horizontally — more than enough to carry a fully loaded dSLR with a heavy tele lens or zoom lens, a monitor and some other accessories.
I loaded the carbon Rhino Slider EVO with my Alpha 700, the Zeiss 24-70mm, a Ninja Blade with two Sony NP-F970 (350gr/12.3oz each) and the Akurat V-WHITE LED lamp on top for a total weight of 4.6kg (10lbs) and the motor performed just the same as with the dSLR on its own. And it was not any noisier.
Rather to my surprise, Rhino Motion was capable of extremely slow sliding motion. I set up the camera zoomed in to an object 40cm away and let the motor move the camera over a distance of 25.4cm (10in) in four minutes. There was no choppiness. To make that perfectly clear I ran the clip through the Coremelt Lock and Load plugin. This plugin stabilises your footage and shows its adjustments as a percentage. Whenever I attempt to manually slide the camera as slow as possible, the adjustment is always between 105% and 115%. With the Rhino Motion motor, the adjustment was 100.1% — a near-perfect score.
The Rhino Motion motor seemed to be quiet enough too. Unless you insist on recording sound with a camera mounted microphone and slide at the highest speed, you can’t hear it. I tested Rhino Motion with a sE2200a cardioid pattern studio mic from a distance of 30cm (12in). I set the Duet iPad/Mac ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) to a sensitivity of 54, which is slightly higher than I’m used to.
You can listen to the results at different speeds below, but the real litmus test came from using the motor at a speed set to 5, which is about what you’d use when shooting an interviewee, and speaking into the mic. The motor wasn’t picked up.
The Rhino Motion controller
The people at Rhino Camera Gear did a brilliant job on the controller. First off, the motor has four recessed discs in its alu back. The controller has four discs slightly protruding from its back. These prove to be strong magnets that allow you to park the controller onto the motor. An upcoming accessory will allow you to park the controller on a tripod leg using the magnets.
The aluminium controller houses a battery that is claimed to last for eight hours. I fully charged the battery and it died after seven hours. The controller’s power port also accepts a 12V external battery for an extra long runtime. Finally, you can power the Rhino Motion system from a regular power outlet via the charger (120V – 240V).
Other ports include a control port accommodating a camera control cable for unattended long time lapses with the built-in intervalometer (shoot – move – shoot mode, which is extremely useful for night photography), a Micro SD-card port for firmware updates, and a motor interface. The latter can be locked to keep it firmly in place.
The controller is simple to operate, even with gloves on. If you’re working with long pauses in-between camera slides, you can leave the unit turned on and it will go to sleep after a minute or so. Operation is via a very simple menu structure. The rotary knob navigates through the menus or activates a menu option. Pressing it selects that menu or sets the preference.
Operation options include “Live Motion” and “Time Lapse”. Pressing the Live Motion option leads you into a submenu with two more options: “Turn wheel to slide” and “Create a move”. The Time Lapse menu has two sub-options: “Simple Time Lapse” and “Advanced Time Lapse”.
Rhino Motion: a personal camera slider assistant
With “Turn wheel to slide”, you can move the camera at speeds from 1 to 25 in real-time. The highest speed is great not only to quickly return the camera to its “parking position”, but also when you are shooting clips at a high frame rate and subsequently slowing them down in post-production.
The real fun begins when you select Live Motion > Create a move. After calibration, this mode allows you to set:
- The travel distance in inches,
- In and Out points,
- Speed in minutes and seconds with 5 seconds being the lowest value
- The option to move the camera to the In or Out point
- Whether you want to loop the motion
- A ramp that lets your camera start and/or end slower.
This mode enables unattended operation for as long as the battery lasts and your camera’s memory card’s space allows. I tried this with relatively high speed settings of 10 seconds to move across the entire 24in camera slider.
I also tried it with a speed setting of 4 minutes to traverse 10in (25.4cm) and here the Rhino Motion really showed its power and quality: no choppiness, no sudden pulls. This extreme slow motion was smooth and fluid — and without a motor utterly impossible to do.
The EVO camera slider
The new Rhino Slider EVO that I received is available in two lengths: 24in (60cm) and 42in (100cm). The carbon fibre model I tested has a load capacity of 15lbs (6.8kg).
The slider has fully flush retractable legs, a drive shaft and other nooks and crannies for tool-less mounting of accessories such as the Rhino Motion, the flywheel that provides inertia for more fluid slides when moving the camera by hand, etc.
The carriage has been re-designed and has only one turning knob to lock the carriage in place. It also has only one ⅜” mounting screw and a whole bunch of ¼” and ⅜” mounting holes in the end plates as well as the centre mounting plate that spans the two rails.
The feet are a much better design than those of the first generation Rhino sliders. You can level them easier for use on uneven terrain. The end plates at each side have a built-in pulley that holds the driving belt for the flywheel or motor. The carriage has the necessary tool-less screws and fasteners so you can replace the belt, for switching between 24in and 42in rails, adjusting its tension, or in case it would ever break. The carbon Rhino Slider EVO on its own is a true lightweight at 4lbs (1.8kg).
I was truly impressed with the new Rhino Slider EVO and especially with the Rhino Motion motor system. Even although the motor — the controller — was still in beta phase it performed flawlessly and showed off what great potential a well built, well designed motorised slider system has for anything from interviews to creative film making.
With regards to pricing and shipping details, you can find everything you need to know over at the Rhino Camera Gear website, but for approx. €1,000.00 you’ll get yourself a brilliant camera slider system.
- See The Rhino Camera Gear Motion camera slider motor: an introduction to slider motor technology ↩