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Focusing rail: What do you use?
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yeatzee



Joined: 29 Jan 2011
Posts: 292

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 8:19 pm    Post subject: Focusing rail: What do you use? Reply with quote

Im seriously getting frustrated attempting to do "deep" stacking handheld so I think its time to go for it legitimately.

My initial thought was towards that stackshot I've heard of before. I expected it to be ~$250 and I thought well its an investment in something I will use for the rest of my life (which is a long time since im 17) but after seeing the price im speechless Shocked

I don't even own a lens that expensive Rolling Eyes

So i've got to assume im not the only one thinking this, thus there must be other options that you guys use to get those incredible deep stack images! It DOES NOT need to be automated, I just thought that was a cool feature. I just want something I have decent control over even if that means I must turn a knob myself only mm's between each shot..... I can handle it.

Whats the best bang for my buck that I can buy today? What is something worth that extra $ (please nothing even NEAR $500 :X )? Any more info I should know, feel free to point it out Smile

(note: I know a couple of you have made your own automated focusing rail. I know nothing about electrics and would probably end up just hurting myself in the end anyways. Analog is fine)
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple of suggestions:

1) Shop on eBay for a micrometer-driven linear stage.

2) Proxxon 27100 Micro Compound Table KT 70, e.g. HERE.

By count, most of the stacks I've ever done have been manually turning the knob on a compound stage rather like the Proxxon except bigger and less precise. See Figure 6 HERE for an illustration of that device in use on my kitchen table.

--Rik
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OzRay



Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 198
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can always look for a microscope focusing block, often found on eBay for reasonably low cost and modify to suit, or consider something like this: http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-Focusing-macro-rail-slider-lock-down-RRS-Kirk-/230600746666?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item35b0e026aa. The gear made by Chris is excellent in the extreme, but once again, you can find something similar on eBay for possibly a lot less, but not quite up to the same standard. The other alternative might be the lower half of a bellows unit that could be converted to a focusing rail.

Cheers

Ray
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Chris S.
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Joined: 05 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Focusing rail: What do you use? Reply with quote

Yeatzee,

The StackShot is actually one of the best bangs-for-buck I can think of in the deep-stacking world. I'm amazed at what they are providing for the price they charge. The price may seem large, but it is quite reasonable for what they are providing, at least compared with anything else I've seen on the market. If you can beg, borrow, steal, mow lawns, or flip burgers in order to purchase one, I don't think you'll go wrong.

I don't blame you for thinking you don't need automation, but wait until you try it--it will rock your world.

In direct answer to your query, here is what I use for a focusing rail when in the field. I think that building your own offers certain advantages over than buying any current commercial solution: My field rig--a bit of the Bratcam. But do note that if you pursue something like this, the cost does add up a bit. Serious macro photography has a cost to it--we can work to minimize this cost, but beyond a certain point, we need to pay up to get needed performance.

Cheers,

--Chris
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OzRay



Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 198
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, the StackShot is the best value for money platform that you can get. One thing to note, as has been pointed out, anything that you want to do properly will cost in the long run and if you eventually end up getting a StackShot, you may have wasted a fair amount of money along the way.

But whatever you get, consider it from a long-term point of view, is it good quality, will it last and can I use it with any future builds? That way at least, you're buying things that won't become totally redundant. I've wasted money on things that may have been better not buying, but at least I've been able to canibalise some parts for other projects. It's all a learning curve.

Cheers

Ray
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yeatzee



Joined: 29 Jan 2011
Posts: 292

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rjlittlefield wrote:
A couple of suggestions:

1) Shop on eBay for a micrometer-driven linear stage.

2) Proxxon 27100 Micro Compound Table KT 70, e.g. HERE.

By count, most of the stacks I've ever done have been manually turning the knob on a compound stage rather like the Proxxon except bigger and less precise. See Figure 6 HERE for an illustration of that device in use on my kitchen table.

--Rik


Wow, I'd say im much more confused now than I was when the thread first started! I searched that into ebay and am very confused as to what im looking at. This is all 100% foreign and new to me, so please bear with my incompetence.

That proxxon looks to be exactly what I need/want at a price I can afford. My question is though, how do I attach the camera to it and the tripod (not as big of a deal) on the bottom? I can't tell by the picture.

That compound stage left me with a Shocked face as did the other stuff linked in here. Im not ready for any sort of stuff like that, just something to play with on occasion. I don't shoot dead insects other than once in a blue moon, I just want something to do it adequately when the time comes. Smile

Like now, with a huge dead fly waiting for deep stacking which I cannot achieve handheld.

Also, just so you guys know, I hate tripods with a passion. I have never purchased one in my entire life. I own two, some cheap POS plastic one and a bogen heavy beast, both of which I got for free. They are used permanently as flash stands currently so i am very much a newb with tripods as well.
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yeatzee



Joined: 29 Jan 2011
Posts: 292

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:45 am    Post subject: Re: Focusing rail: What do you use? Reply with quote

Chris S. wrote:
Yeatzee,

The StackShot is actually one of the best bangs-for-buck I can think of in the deep-stacking world. I'm amazed at what they are providing for the price they charge. The price may seem large, but it is quite reasonable for what they are providing, at least compared with anything else I've seen on the market. If you can beg, borrow, steal, mow lawns, or flip burgers in order to purchase one, I don't think you'll go wrong.

I don't blame you for thinking you don't need automation, but wait until you try it--it will rock your world.

In direct answer to your query, here is what I use for a focusing rail when in the field. I think that building your own offers certain advantages over than buying any current commercial solution: My field rig--a bit of the Bratcam. But do note that if you pursue something like this, the cost does add up a bit. Serious macro photography has a cost to it--we can work to minimize this cost, but beyond a certain point, we need to pay up to get needed performance.

Cheers,

--Chris


The only way I could ever imagine it being a good item for the money is if I already had a plethora of objectives and whatnot (and actually understood the concept of using them!). I own nothing of the sort, just some old film lenses I use reversed. Maybe someday I'll get it, but I've never plopped down that kind of cash ever in my life other than for my Pentax K-7 but thats a DSLR!

For your manual setup you just chopped up an old microscope or what?
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SONYNUT



Joined: 22 Jan 2011
Posts: 633
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you are doing this inside your house with dead bugs you can get something like this and just move the bug..not the camera..


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Craig Gerard



Joined: 01 May 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another example showing the Proxxon in action:

http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=22561

Craig
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SONYNUT



Joined: 22 Jan 2011
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Location: Minnesota USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

or..(from my rig) with a noga arm you can position your bug in seconds


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ChrisR
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we've said before, look for something like an Olympus CH-2 microscope, or parts of.
Do an ebay search for olympus (ch,ch2,ch-2) -batt*
You'll currently find in the US a base for $65, and a new head for $29.
You don't really need the head, but the dovetail ring held on with the three screws, would be useful.

The ring's shown here

You can easily fix it to a body cap with 3 small screws, and put that onto the front of a set of very cheap tubes, with the camera on top.

As you can see, the base comes apart and can be altered to accommodate lumpy specimens.
I've bought whole CH-2 scopes with 3 lenses for under $100, you just have to wait!

A Nikon M Plan 10x NA 0.25 would be about $100, or a 4x 0.13, about the same.
Both would "stretch " to higher magnifications.

The CH-2 base can do down to about 1 micron increments.

No tripod required, and a field of view down to 1/16th of an inch. OK?

If you want something to just mount a specimen on and leave the camera still, you could look for something like this, which would be about $50. Do a search for "linear stage":


Edit - search word: Stairs


Last edited by ChrisR on Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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elf



Joined: 18 Nov 2007
Posts: 1322

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With your budget I'd start with a dismantled CD Rom player:


There have been many threads on focusing rails. These may help:


Another source for a linear slide is an old printer. Automation of the linear slide will require either programming skills or purchasing a ready made system. StackShot is by far the least expensive off the shelf system.

It would help if you defined what magnification you wanted to use. 1X requires a focus step of .2mm, 5X = .024mm, and 10x = .01mm. 1X through 5X can easily be achieved with average quality lead screws like all-thread from the hardware store.
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mark_h



Joined: 05 Mar 2010
Posts: 38
Location: southwestern Ontario Canada

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have both and find the x-y table is too large to sit on the top a of a tripod, it is great for a bench set up.
I got a newport 430 linear stage on e-bay for 150.00 and it is the best I have found for a field set-up.

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Chris S.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yeatzee wrote:
. . . but I've never plopped down that kind of cash ever in my life other than for my Pentax K-7 but thats a DSLR!

Bet you a beer that a few years from now, if you add up the cost of all the photo gear you then have (lenses, tripods, flash equipment, etc.), you’ll find that your DSLR represents a surprisingly small fraction of your total investment. It’s a slippery slope!


yeatzee wrote:
For your manual setup you just chopped up an old microscope or what?

Yes, pretty much. When I bought that particular microscope focusing block, someone else had already sawed it out of an old microscope, so I didn’t have to. Also, I added some bits that make it easy to mount a camera, lens, or bellows on the focus block, and other bits to make the focus block easy to mount on a tripod or whatnot.

You may have seen this long and useful thread on the use of microscope focusing blocks: http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6070

--Chris
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BugEZ



Joined: 26 Mar 2011
Posts: 656
Location: Loves Park Illinois

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 3:31 pm    Post subject: Economy... Reply with quote

A list of the bits purchased to make my "inexpensive" automated stacker actuator... See here... http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12851
Used CD drive... Free
Used PC power supply Free
Cable/adapter to allow me to connect PC to microcontroller for programming $25 +$7 shipping
Microcontrollers $30 (only used $7 worth but had some spares)
Potentiometers $ 12
Push buttons $ 6
Power switch $ 3
Cable from camera to microcontroller $ 6
Linear step motor actuator from E-bay $7 + $5 shipping (.001" min step size is good up to about 4X magnification)
Wire $6
Deluxe digital Soldering Station $90 (This was too cool not to buy and made some of the electronic construction much easier...)
Assorted paint paddles, Shish-kabob skewers and fasteners... Free

Second linear actuator with fine resolution (.00005" steps) for higher magnification $140
Second CD drive Free.

Fuse block to prevent overheating when power supply was stupidly grounded by careless do-it yourself hobbyist who subsequently burned his fingers as wires glowed cherry red......$3...


Grand total:$340

Now, in hind sight, there are better embodyments of the actuator, and if properly arranged using scrap parts it would net out closer to $30 for a very functional machine. I would rig an interface to a PC/laptop and drive the actuator via a program on the PC and a USB port. That would eliminate the dedicated control box I needed. I would also use a tiny stepper motor with a belt drive to interface to the CD trolly. That would allow small step size for high magnification lenses without the $130 I spent for a linear stepper actuator.

I agree with many of the other folks that have replied. The StackShot is a bargain. I did not know it existed when I built my actuator. It appears to be solidly built and can move a relatively heavy camera very precisely. My actuator has more muscle than it uses, but not nearly enough to move a camera, and the wimpy guides are only rated for a few ounces.

Having an actuator that works, I do appreciate not getting a tired back bending over my rig, twisting little knobs in the dark being careful not to bump the bench. Not to mention the frustration of getting half way through a stack and overshooting a few thousandths twisting the knob and having to start over due to the hysteresis in the lead screw's linkage. It is great to be able to set the start and end of travel, step size, step delay, and then hit the go button and let the machine do the rest.

BugEZ[url][/url]
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