I’ve been meaning to write a post on the best camera sliders for quite some time. As of late, sliders have lost some of their appeal to other camera movement devices, namely, gyro stabilizers and drones, but sliders are still a fundamental tool that can be considered for almost any project. I like them because they are so versatile, quick to set up, and if you get a well built one they are extremely smooth. Depending on the shot you have to make, they can also substitute for a real dolly.
The market has no shortage of choice. There are dozens of sliders of all shapes and sizes but the problem is 99% of them are not very good or designed for a very light payload. Sliders only have one job to do; smoothly move the camera in a linear motion over a given distance. That’s it. One job and most manufacturers can’t get it right. The best sliders in the world are unknown to most people because they are made by professional grips or small fabrication firms that build smaller quantities without huge marketing budgets. The difference in philosophy is making money vs. solving a problem. I make no apologies when I say, any slider used on a large budget movie was never made with a Kessler or Cinevate.
So when it comes to choosing a slider that really works, should price be of much concern? There is no such thing as a ‘smooth enough’ move. It’s either perfectly smooth or it is not. You definitely get what you pay for and with that being said, I’ve decided to focus on the very best sliders irregardless of their cost. No one likes bumps and wobbles in their moves and in my experience even the most budget conscious clients will pony up extra for slick, smooth moves. Below are my top 5 sliders that I’ve personally used extensively in different applications.
#5 Walter Klassen Side Step
The Walter Klassen FX is a boutique camera equipment manufacturer located in Toronto, Canada. Every Walter Klassen product is hand crafted in house with high quality design and materials. This is one of the better sliders out there. It’s smooth with shorter focal length lenses, but longer lens shots quickly reveal the limitations of the bearing and rail systems and things start to, pardon the pun, ‘go off the rails’. The other main flaw is the offset payload design positioned in front of the rails creates a weight imbalance that at times can be downright dangerous if you are not carefully secured. Still, this is a very smooth, dependable slider when using focal lengths shorter than about 65mm.
#4 That Cat Slider
‘That Cat’ is another professional camera support company from Brooklyn, NY. I’ve used their sliders for a month, 6 days a week shooting food table top and I found this slider to be generally smoother than the Klassen but not built to the same level of rigidity or quality. The frame is constructed of lightweight tubular aluminum which twists and flexes with heavier payloads. I used a Sony F55 with a long Fujinon zoom and it was too much for this slider to manage. Working with this slider leaves me wanting for more. This slider is much better suited for lighter payloads like Canon C300 and lighter.
#3 Mathews Slider
The ‘Mathews Studio Equipment’ Company has been making heavy duty film and video equipment forever, including professional camera sliders. Their offering is a well crafted piece made from strong and non-flexing metals. It is also one of the smoothest sliders I’ve used and can be mounted underslung for increased versatility. That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s one of the poorest designed sliders out there. Many rental companies have complained to Mathews about their carriage system and the clearance issues it has when fitting different heads to it. It seems every time I use it the grips need to take time out and ‘Macgyver’ it to get it to work properly. It seems to me, you need lots of extra bits and pieces to get this thing up and running and it always leaves me feeling really frustrated. When it’s modified to work properly, it works well and it’s smooth, but at the end of the day, there is really no excuse for a blatant design flaw like this.
#2 The Dana Dolly
The Dana Dolly is more micro-dolly but I use it like I would a slider. The shear beauty is the simplicity of its design. It works so well it easily makes the #2 spot on my list. The big deal here is it can be used with different types and lengths of pipe for track. I use grid pipe because aluminum pipe is rigid, light and readily available on grip trucks. The wheels are so soft and forgiving it doesn’t matter what condition the pipe is in. I’ve used the most gnarly pieces of grid pipe without any issue. The Dana accommodates Mitchell and Satchler base heads big or small, quickly and simply without any fuss or muss. (Mathews, I’m looking at you) It can be used with a small DSLR set-up or a full bodied studio Alexa with the largest zooms. It doesn’t matter what I throw at this thing, it just works. I’ve used it as a dolly with 20′ pipe runs but usually as a slider with 5′ runs. If you have some fresh pipe this thing knocks out shots so smooth no other slider thus mentioned can match. The only drawback is in its lack of precision. Without bump stops or drag levers it makes doing small, slower precise slides a bit more challenging which keeps it from being the top rated slider. Bang for buck however, this would easily rank #1 if we were factoring in price point. But I did mention that we are seeking the cream of the crop where cash is no such consideration… so onto #1.
#1 The Original slider
When price is absolutely no consideration and only the absolute best will do, the ‘Original’ is the Bugatti Veyron of camera sliders, bar none. This is the benchmark where all othe sliders are judged. Getting one will set you back anywhere from 10-15K depending on options and length. Some history…In 1999, a couple of industry guys, Ron Veto and Jerry Giacalone used their hands-on experience to invent the very first sliding camera movement system. It was an immediate hit with camera operators who raved about its smooth, precise movement and ease of control. Ron and Jerry have been rolling out new models, adapting and perfecting their design ever since. This slider, in my opinion is as close to perfection as you can achieve. I personally have no complaints about it other than the exorbitant price tag that comes with it. It is considerably light, yet rock solid. It can be mounted in any configuration imaginable and it is so smooth it glides any payload like ice on ice. The original Slider works better than any of its imitators by a wide margin. Sadly, very few rental houses stock these choosing to settle for inferior alternatives. In the rare times I’ve had the privilege to use this slider, they’ve always been supplied by grips who personally own them.
So there you have it. My top 5 camera sliders.