Camera sliders won’t be part of your everyday gear to haul around if you are a minimalist Pocket Video Shooter. However, the production value they add to your videos (if not overdone) is worth the extra weight and space in your backpack. Did I mention these camera sliders are travel worthy? At 24″ these sliders can pass straight through airport security in the bottom of your carry-on backpack.
Can a Camera Slider Fit in Your Carry-On Luggage?
Before I shot the above video last summer I was nervous that the slider would not qualify as a carry-on item. I went straight to the forums where I found mixed reviews. “It passes security.” ”They consider it a weapon.” “It depends on the airline.” I called around airlines and did not receive the straight answer I was looking for. Of all the airlines I had booked only one had a maximum length requirement of less than 24”. Was it worth the extra baggage fee to throw my backpack under the plane if the extra inch wasn’t allowed? Should I purchase the luggage fee before leaving if it means paying 75% less than paying in person? I decided to take the risk. Ten different flights, with four different airlines, and the slider made it through no questions asked. Nobody even batted an eye at it.
My Camera Slider
The slider I used on my trip was the IndiSLIDERMini which costs $99. The slider is built like a tank, but somehow remains to be lightweight in your bag. I only pulled out the slider about three times during my travels. The rest of the time it was bouncing around on the back of motorcycles, buses, and planes. After bringing it home it still looks to be in top shape. They also make an indiSLIDERnaked for $69, which is the same slider without the attached legs. This would be ideal for daily use, but wouldn’t work well for travel if you had no room for a tripod.
Why do Everyone’s Slider Videos Look Better than Mine?
When you first buy one of these aluminum sliders you realize your hand is not as steady as you assumed. The trick to a smooth slider shot is to go out and purchase some rubber bands of varying lengths and thicknesses. Wrap a rubber band around the camera mount, which is called the “puck.” Gently pull the band to start the motion. If the band is long and stretchy you will get a very long, slow slide. If the rubber band is too short or tight the slider moves quickly and can add jitters back into your sliding motion. The video below was the first video I ever shot with a camera slider. I learned that using a portrait lens (50mm in this case) was a bad idea with a camera slider because it intensified the vibration in comparison to using a wide angle lens. The slider shots are still appealing in the video, but you can notice the slight bumping motion during the slider movement.
How to Mount Your Camera to the Slider
When I first used sliders I mounted the camera directly to the puck. When you do this all your shots are at the same angles, which can lead to some uninteresting videos. By adding a mini ball head to the puck and then attaching your camera to the ball head you are able to get many different angles to increase the production value of your film. The cheap $12 mini ball head from Giottos works great for travel applications.
Adding a Quick Release Mount
As with my other equipment I also like to add a quick release mount to the top of the ball head such as the Giotto’s Quick Release Mount or the Manfrotto Quick Release Mount. I tend to go with the Giotto’s plates/mounts over the Manfrotto’s because they are cheaper and are built nearly as well as the Manfrottos. Another brand called Calumet makes a quick release plate/mount that is compatible with the Manfrotto plates and costs roughly half the price as the Manfrotto. I have never used Calumet, so I can’t vouch for the quality. Also, don’t get me wrong I own plenty of Manfrotto products and love them. I just want to let readers know there are cheaper comparable options out there. Okay, back to business. With the quick release mount on the slider I am able to quickly move my camera from slider, to monopod, to Steadicam, to tripod without all the twisting and threading usually required during mounting.
Camera sliders under $100…
are not the end all- be all of sliders. They are, however, a great place to start due to their low cost. They can also work well for pro shooters because they can handle a lot of abuse and are relatively small in comparison to other sliders. If you go larger than a 24″ slider you are going to need two tripods, one on each end to support the additional weight and length. With the 24″ slider you are able to keep your gear weight low by using only one tripod.
A future post on PocketVideoShooter.com will focus more on the higher priced models of camera sliders. We will also be looking at truly portable camera sliders as well as some of the motorized camera sliders on the market. If you have a camera slider that you use, and think we should know about, please fill out the comment section below.