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It started as a highly successful Kickstarter project to create the best video camera slider. The developers, a small company of young people who are passionate about photography and video, found that no camera slider under 800.00 EUR was good enough. They decided to make their own. They created a sub-500.00 Euros slider that goes well beyond what you’ll find on the market for under anything up to 1000.00 EUR. Meet the Rhino Slider.
The Kickstarter project was a huge success. Rhino Camera Gear clearly hit a soft spot with their presentation, and the prototype the CEO of the company showed, looked like it would tick all the right boxes. Lightweight, easy to clean, easy to use, smooth, you name it. It made me want to test and review as well as compare it with the other camera slider I’ve reviewed in the past — the Glidetrack Hybrid HD (at the end of this review).
First I’ll take you through all there is to know about this new camera slider. Rhino Camera Gear sent me a box with the following equipment:
- One complete carbon fibre system (4ft/120cm long)
- One solid steel travel system (2ft/60cm long)
- One pulley system
- One carrying bag aka “RhinoArmor”.
The Rhino Slider Carbon is a system based on two exposed carbon fibre rails capable of carrying loads of up to 4.5kg (10lbs). The rails are mounted on a cleverly designed pair of feet that can be placed under any angle. The feet easily accommodate for uneven terrain. Nothing on this slider requires you to use any tools. You can mount, unmount, fix and remove everything by hand — and do so repeatedly without breaking or wearing out the material.
The heart of the system is a hard-anodised aluminium carriage with six nylon rollers filled with 12 sealed ball bearings. You can buy one complete system and mount the carriage on any other Rhino Slider rail, e.g. the travel rails the company sent me.
Except for the carbon fibre model, the Rhino Slider comes in two other versions. The basic camera slider that loads up 3kg (7lbs) and the Rhino Slider Pro that loads up to 17.5kg (35lbs). The first thing to notice is the weight/load ratio. The Rhino Slider Carbon weighs only 3.6kg, yet can load up to 4.5kg. The heaviest component of this model is the carriage. With the Pro version, the ratio improves even further. The slider only weighs 4.5kg.
In short: carrying around this equipment isn’t going to break your back.
CEO Kyle Hart is proud to say this camera slider is “Made in the USA”, and rightly so. This is not some cheap Chinese junk, but sturdy material with a nice quality of build. The care that went into the design of the Rhino Slider is apparent when you take a good look at the carriage. It has two locks that you can handle with gloves on. The two “preload” knobs that define the drag on a slide are so small you won’t inadvertently change their setting — in addition, you can’t change the setting unless you also unscrew two larger knobs.
I noticed a couple of things that perhaps could require a change. The two larger knobs I just spoke about can come loose over time. You’d better check/tighten them every day before going on a shoot.
Another thing is how the feet extenders are set. They can be so finely adjusted that I actually found it difficult to perfectly level the slider without a spirit level. To me, these were the only design minuses. The tripod mounting screws and the way you can store them for switching between them is well thought out. The many tripod mounting points with each 1/4 inch hole having a companion 3/8-16 one earn high marks.
The Rhino Slider is a highly flexible system in terms of usage. For example, the entire Rhino Slider Carbon can be mounted vertically on a tripod using one of the 3/8-16 inch tripod mounts at either side. These mounts also allow you to “hang” the slider off a tripod head. The possibilities are endless.
Using the Rhino Slider
A camera slider can be built like a tank and weigh as little as a bird’s feather but that doesn’t mean it is also good for sliding. To me, a camera slider needs to offer the following benefits or features:
- Be silent when sliding so as not to have the microphone pick up ‘swoosh’ sounds
- Give me a smooth slide, not one that even occasionally seems to lock up or ‘hesitate’
- Allow for easy and smooth vertical slides along the complete length of the slider
- Enable me to quickly change setups.
The smoothness of the ride can be changed with the preload knobs, as I briefly explained earlier. The Carbon system that I got was too tight to my liking, so I loosened it up a bit. After that, the slide was exactly how I wanted it. The nicest part about the ease with which you can change preload settings is that you can change equipment from let’s say a GoPro Hero3 to a 4.2kg camera setup (I tested with both) and quickly make the firmness of the slide a bit tighter for the heavy gear (or the GoPro — it’s all a matter of personal taste).
You don’t have to do this to make the slide smoother. It’s always smooth, but your taste for ‘grip’ could be different from job to job. When I say it’s always smooth I mean exactly that: there are no hesitations, no lock-ups, no unexpected higher counter-pressure while you’re pushing or pulling the carriage during a slide. At least, when the rails are not too dirty — of course.
As the Carbon version weighs next to nothing, it’s also a breeze to move it, even with all the equipment mounted. The carriage locks are robust enough to keep the carriage from moving with even a full 4.2kg load.
Good news also from the sound front. I’ve made two recordings. The first is without load, the second is with the 4.2kg load. The recordings also contain the sound the Glidetrack Hybrid HD makes — for comparison. The Rhino Slider is almost completely silent, except when there is very little weight on the carriage (GoPro scenario). Even then, it doesn’t interfere with normal voice sounds. (NOTE: When you listen to the samples, please keep in mind that I used an Exciter filter to make the whole track sound louder.)
Vertical slides are just as smooth as horizontal ones, but there’s one caveat. The Rhino Slider measures 120cm (4ft) which means you will need to stretch your arms quite a bit to get from end to end. Horizontally, that’s just fine but vertically it’s another matter as you’re also holding up the full weight of the equipment.
A brilliant option for any slide that isn’t horizontal therefore is the Slider Pulley. This optional accessory (that was included with my test kit) is designed for vertical and remote shots for any model Rhino Slider. The pulley, the steel cable and the tool-less mounting screw come in a counter balance weight bag. The bag can be filled with ballast, and really should be used to assist vertical pulls, as it is the secret to smooth slides with heavy equipment.
The pulley is installed on one of the two 1/4 inch tripod mounts at either side of the camera slider. You just screw it in. To unmount, just unscrew. The steel cable that comes with it is 240cm (8ft) long and rated to hold approx. 200kg (400lbs). The pulley itself can support up to about 10kg (20lbs) of load when vertically mounted.
I thought the pulley would make vertical slides totally effortless, but that didn’t prove to be the case. You need force and concentration to get a smooth ride. The pulley does make it easier, but if it were attached to a servo or stepper motor, it would be perfect.
You can limit the carriage travel distance as an alternative by positioning one or both of the two included bumpers away from the slider’s extreme ends. And you can also use a travel model such as the Pro travel rails that came in my test kit. The Pro rails have the advantage that you can mount the Rhino Slider on one tripod, using the centrally positioned mounting plate (with spirit levels built-in!).
However, even with the short Pro travel rails (60cm – 2ft), you’ll quickly reach the maximum load capacity of any average photo tripod head. It will just fail to hold the weight of the steel rails and your equipment. My Novoflex Classic 5 ball head did the job, but only at the highest “grab” position. To mount the Pro version using the central mounting plate only, I would therefore recommend a robust video head and tripod — a Miller Compass or a Sachtler.
Target market and usage scenarios
After having played with the Rhino Slider for a week or two, I have come to the conclusion this slider targets the dSLR documentary shooter as well as the professionals who need a slider they can carry around without worrying about bumping into anything, motors to care for, etc.
The Rhino Slider is especially appealing for outdoors work. It’s easy to clean as everything is exposed and can therefore be swiped to perfection using a moist cloth or in many cases just by rubbing the rails with your bare hands or a dry cloth. You can take the Rhino Slider with you to a damp, hot jungle as well as to snow topped mountains. If you want to just use it in your studio or on location indoors, it won’t look out of place either.
Do you need a carrying case? The carbon fibre rails may be strong enough to hold 4.5kg, but I wouldn’t like to bump them into a sharp object. I think that could ruin the rails. SO yes, I was enthralled to see the optional Rhino Armor carrying bag in my test kit. The bag allows you to carry your slider inside a cleverly designed strong nylon bag. It’s padded, has fasteners and space for other options, extra rails, etc. It can even be carried inside out, so you can protect your camera slider when switching locations during the same shoot.
Personally, I think the bag is definitely worth buying, especially if you have the Pro slider. It’s easier to carry your slider. However, I hesitate to recommend the bag for the carbon fibre rails. They fit inside the Rhino Armor case so tightly that each time I got them out of there, the carriage moved slightly less smoothly until it had been out for a couple of hours.
If you’re going to carry the Carbon version inside the Rhino Armor, it is better if you don’t fix it inside at least one of the internal pockets. Perhaps a hard suitcase-like thing would be even better.
Usage scenarios for the Rhino Slider include video and time lapse. For anything that requires you to position the carriage in exactly the same spot after it has moved to another location on the slider, I believe you will be better off with a motorised (and much more expensive) camera slider, like the ones Kessler Crane is famous for.
Rhino Slider vs. Glidetrack Hybrid HD
I promised a short comparison between these two camera sliders. The Glidetrack is a fine piece of kit, but it really can’t compete with the Rhino Slider in two areas. The sound it produces, even at slow slides, is quite outspoken. You’ll need an external microphone mounted away from the camera in order not to hear it.
The second thing is that the Glidetrack isn’t as smooth as the Rhino Slider. It will occasionally lock up or ‘hesitate’ while you’re sliding. This behaviour will also vary, due to factors that are still a mystery to me, even after having had the pleasure of playing with this slider for over six months. In short: it’s noticeable and you can’t prepare for it as it varies from one job to another. The Rhino Slider is consistent in its behaviour: it’s always smooth.
But there’s perhaps an even more important reason why the Rhino Slider is the better choice: it’s cheaper. The Rhino Slider Pro (120cm) with a Pulley and an Armor case costs around 525.00 Euros. The Glidetrack with a 100cm Igus rail purchased from the company (has all the holes pre-drilled where they belong) costs 510.00 Euros. You can’t buy a bag or case of the Glidetrack, and a pulley or motor isn’t available — at least not from the Glidetrack company.