I'm preparing for a feature film and the script calls for some nice slow, little dolly movements. Due to the size of the production and the budget, renting a large transport cart system or a Peewee does not make sense and is not at all practical. Ultimately, of course, the best option is to use a slider. You can get some nice shots with a good slider and steady hand, but if you choose the wrong slider, your shots will be unusable.
Of all the gear I've bought over the years, one of the few items I've never owned is a slider. I've rented and shot with lots of sliders but never found one that caught my eye enough to invest in. They all seemed either really cheap and thin, or a little over the top for my needs. I was looking for something in the middle that was still inexpensive but wouldn't sacrifice the end results. It wasn't until this film project that it became necessary to buy one, and as such, I've done my homework and done some of the tests for the past month.
I'll discuss a couple of sliders I had in mind and explain which one I chose and why. But for those of you new to using sliders, it's important to note that there are two main types of sliders: those that use friction and those that use smooth bearings. In general, any slider that uses bearings is smoother. They tend to glide across the track with almost no effort. The friction-based sliders are usually stickier and give slightly lower quality results. Depending on the camera used and the specific slider, some of the friction-based sliders are also good options. With higher sliders you can often buy a motor that will automatically push your camera based on a speed that you can set. This is often ideal for time-lapse photography and other situations, but the motors can be quite expensive. In some cases, almost as much as the slider itself.
When I started looking for a slider, I took a serious look at three, one of which was friction based and the other two were bearing based:
Hague Camslide – $ 300
Cinevate Atlas FLT – $ 579
Kessler Stealth Slider – $ 899
All three were tempting. I came across The Hague (which I had never heard of) at a local photo specialty store. Of the three, it's the only friction-based slider, but after trying it out initially, I was pretty impressed. It was exceptionally smooth considering the price and workmanship. I bought it, took it home, and started test shooting. The shots looked really good when using lenses with IS, but not as good with lenses without IS. Ultimately, I wasn't 100% satisfied so I continued my search for a slider.
The Cinevate and Kessler sliders seemed like the next best option to me. Both use bearings and were more solidly constructed, which is equally important in my opinion.
After doing some camera tests on both the Kessler and the Cinevate, I finally decided on the Cinevate. Both sliders are very well designed and both are very fluid – but in the end I got better shots on the Cinevate, it just seemed to work. At over $ 300 less, it's great value too.
All in all, I can only recommend the Atlas FLT as it has an excellent cost-performance ratio. However, if you are on a tight budget, The Hague is also a great option. You may be more limited as to where and when to use it, but in many cases it would be a viable option.