November 20, 2016

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Wormdrive Macro Focusing Rail with Lever Clamp

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail sideview

Although Sunwayfoto has a long term involvement in producing macro/nodal slide rails or low level shooting tripods for macro use, a real macro focusing rail was missing from their arsenal until now.
But not any more, since the introduction of their MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail with a Wormdrive also known as Lead Screw mechanism featuring some innovations, changes that.

The Sunwayfoto MFR-150 is a dual dovetail rail which features a carriage (stage) with an integral adjustable Arca compatible lever release QR Clamp set perpendicularly to the rail length. Which carriage travels sliding along the upper dovetail by means of a Lead Screw.

The Rail structure

Manufacturer Specification:
Total Length:217 mm (8.54")
Rail Length:160 mm (6.29")
Effective Length:150 mm (5.90")
Total Width:53 mm (2.09")
Rail Width:39 mm (1.53")
Heigth (Thickness):33 mm (1.3") w/ clamp
Weight:279 gr ( 9.84 oz)
Quick Release Clamp:50 mm (1.97") Adjustable Lever Release
Max Load:7 Kg (15.43 lb) Varies with angle of load

Construction of the MFR-150 complies with the Sunwayfoto standards as it is CNC machined from T6061 Aerospace grade Aluminium alloy. Its military specification Type III hard anodizing ensures abrasion and corrosion resistance for many years. Thus covered by an extended 6 year Warranty from Sunwyafoto upon registration.

The design concept is not so new but there are some innovations that make it a good candidate when looking for a Macro Focusing Rail. All at a very attractive price for the quality.

Besides the Arca compatible QR clamp with the large lever which dominates the surface of the MFR, there is also something very prominent, seen immediately at first glance. It's its first innovation where the lead screw is equipped with a Hand-Crank on one side while it has a normal Screw Knob on the other side.
It is obvious that Sunwayfoto engineers tried to create a low profile MFR, considering the distance of only 24 mm (0.94")  between the lower dovetail and the carriage (clamp) platform; thus maintaining a low center of gravity. On the other hand this low profile probably made them kill a lead screw release mechanism. So the innovation of a Hand-Crank comes to solve the problem of quick relocation of the carriage.
Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail side/top view
Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail with lever release clamp and innovative hand-crank
Further, the low profile carriage with integral QR clamp does not allow for the QR clamp re-orientation, but nonetheless this is not a feature usually found on MFRs unless for far larger and more expensive models.

Now the Lead Screw specs show that the MFR can provide some quite fine adjustment considering its 1.25 mm travel per each revolution of the knob, at a fraction of the cost of many Lead Screw macro rails..

Lead Screw Specification:
Adjustment Range:111mm (4.37")
Total Adjustment Range*:256mm (10.08")
Travel Per Revolution of knob:1.25mm (0.05")
Thread Pitch:12.5mm (0.49")

*Total adjustment range takes into consideration also the dovetail length which enables for a rough fore-aft adjustment within a quick release clamp.

Another feature of the MFR-150 as mentioned in he beginning is its Lever Release Clamp with a large Lever to facilitate tightening and releasing of the Clamp when space is tight under a camera. Further than that the width of the clamp can be adjusted by the end user with the included Torx driver to much exactly the width of individual QR camera plates or L brackets.

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail adjustable lever clamp
Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail lever clamp adjustment detail.

The MFR-150 is also equipped with a brake on one side of the carriage. By tightening the Knob the carriage is immobilized for utmost stability during macro shooting.

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail carriage brake detail
Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail carriage side brake lock knob detail
The next innovation in the MFR-150 design is the user adjustable tension of the lead screw. For this reason, there are two "damping adjusting screws" on either side of the hand-crank which cleverly move slightly the rest of the lead screw. By tightening the screws with the same included Torx driver, the screw-rest moves forward thus increasing the tension and by loosening the screws the screw-rest moves backwards decreasing the tension. Consequently this affects the feeling of how stiff or easy the knob or the hand-crank become.

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail damping adjustment screws
Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Macro Focusing Rail damping adjustment of rotational tension details

Using the Macro Focusing Rail

The MFR-150 is illustrated below mounted on the top Sunwayfoto XB-52 Ball head. The deep red color of the XB-52 is not mainstream however. It is mostly created for illustrations but makes a good contrast indeed.

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 mounted on XB-52 ball head

Next illustration shows a typical macro setup for single axis fore-aft micro adjustment. A Nikon DSLR camera equipped with a macro lens is clamped on the MFR-150 via a universal DPL-02 L bracket. The set is in turned clamped on a robust XB-52 Ball Head combined with a Sunwayfoto T120A low level shooting tripod. Both able to carry lots of weight at any angle, making them ideal for macro photography.

Nikon DSLR with macro lens on MFR-150 mounted on XB-52 and T1A20 Tripod
Nikon DSLR with macro lens clamped on MFR-150 then mounted on XB-52 and T1A20 Tripod.  
For those who prefer a dual axis minute adjustment, i.e. on both fore-aft and lateral axes, then a combination of two MFR-150 units stacked one on top of the other will give the desired versatility.

Two Sunwayfoto MFR-150 combined for 2 axis adjustment

Accordingly a Nikon DSLR / macro lens combo is clamped on the top MFR-150 taking care of the fore-aft adjustment, while the bottom MFR-150 unit is responsible for the lateral adjustment.

Nikon DSLR clamped on stacked Sunwayfoto MFR-150 units

According to Sunwayfoto the MFR-150 is compatible with (but not limited to) Really Right stuff® (RRS), Wimberley®, Jobu Design®, Arca Swiss®, Kirk Enterprises®, Markins® and others.

For the record, I have received a pre-production unit of the MFR-150 for evaluation, which after some thorough testing I shall present in a more extensive review in order to see how it behaves under load and how it stands against competition. Stay tuned.

I hope you found the information useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: used by permission © 2016

Price & Availability:
Current retail price for the MFR-150 is US$ 99.95 (+Free Shipping where applicable) and is available from Amazon as well as from eBay listed in China for around US$ 112.00 or the UK for GBP 89.99.

If you are interested in the above product(s) or any other product please consider using the relevant link(s) to make your purchase and help support this site. Your support is needed and greatly appreciated.

Update April 4, 2017
Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Wormdrive Macro Focusing Rail with Screw Knob Clamp

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