April 5, 2017

Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Wormdrive Macro Focusing Rail with Screw Knob Clamp Preview

Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rail overview

Sometime after the release of their first Macro Focusing Rail the Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Wormdrive Macro Focusing Rail with Lever Clamp, Sunwayfoto has introduced a sister model with almost only difference the quick release clamp type integrated on the carriage.

The newer Sunwayfoto MFR-150S is equipped with a classic Screw Knob QR clamp instead of the Lever Release Clamp. Thus the S at the end of the model name. Otherwise there are no noticeable differences between the two.

Although not confirmed, I can speculate that the Lever Release clamp was replaced with a Screw Knob one, in order to make the MFR-150 directly marketable in the US where RRS® dominates the Lever Release clamp patents.

For the newcomers, the Sunwayfoto MFR-150S is a dual dovetail rail which features a carriage (stage) with an integral Arca compatible Screw knob QR Clamp set perpendicularly to the rail length. This carriage slides back-forth along the upper dovetail by means of a Lead Screw / Wormdrive mechanism.

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 and crank
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 standard procedures as it is CNC machined from T6061 Aerospace grade Aluminium alloy and then hard anodized according military specification Type III which ensures abrasion and corrosion resistance for many years. So Sunwayfoto covers their products by an extended 6 year Warranty upon registration.

The design concept is not so new but the MFR-150 innovations are maintained making it an appealing candidate when looking for a Macro Focusing Rail. Add the low price and you might end up with a bargain.

Here, since the large lever clamp which dominates the surface of the MFR-150 is not present, one's eye drops immediately on the lead screw control knob equipped with a Hand-Crank on one side. The other side still has a normal Screw Knob though.
As I mentioned presenting the MFR-150, it is obvious that Sunwayfoto engineers tried to create a low profile MFR, considering the distance of only 28 mm (1.10") between the lower dovetail and the carriage (clamp) platform. Indeed it is critical to maintain a low center of gravity for macro photography shooting. Unfortunately, this endeavor for a low profile and utmost simplicity probably made them omit a lead screw release mechanism.
So the innovation of a Hand-Crank instead of knob on one side helps with quick relocation of the carriage / clamp.

Nevertheless, although the MFR-150S carriage/clamp is a few millimeters higher than the original MFR-150 due to the Screw Knob on the QR clamp, still the knob is kept small in order to fit under any camera plate and be still manipulative i.e. turned and tightened by the fingers. This is a reservation I need to verify after a hands on evaluation of the MFR-150S

Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rail front/sideview

As it was pointed out for the sister MFR-150, a low profile carriage with integral QR clamp design serves well for low profile and lightweight but does not allow for the QR clamp re-orientation. We can't have everything, do we? Leave it for larger and far more expensive models. Even though well reputed with triple priced products don't have the feature.

Lead Screw Specification:
Adjustment Range:106 mm (4.17")
Total Adjustment Range*:220 mm (8.66")
Travel Per Revolution of knob:1.25 mm (0.05")
Thread Pitch:12.5 mm (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.

According to the Lead Screw specs the MFR-150S has decent carriage travel of 106 mm within the rail limits which doubles when taking into account its lower dovetail movement within a ball head clamp. The lead screw mechanism provides adequately fine adjustment of 1.25 mm travel /revolution of the knob, not bad at all for the price.

Same as with its sister MFR-150 the MFR-150S design maintains the innovative user adjustable tension of the lead screw. The two "damping adjusting screws" on either side of the hand-crank take the role of cleverly moving slightly the socket-rest of the lead screw. By tightening the screws with the same included Torx driver, the socket moves forward thus increasing the tension and by loosening the screws the socket moves backwards decreasing the tension. In turn the tighter makes the screw-knob or the hand-crank feel stiffer and the looser makes them feel easier to turn.

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

Despite the change of type of the integral clamp on the carriage, the MFR-150S maintains the concept of the brake on one side of the carriage via a lock knob. By tightening the Knob the brake immobilizes the clamp increasing stability during macro shooting.

Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rail carriage brake detail
Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rail carriage side brake with lock knob detail

Both Sunwayfoto MFR-150 and MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rails are equipped with two M3 safety screws A and B at either end of the rail in a diagonal placement due to the Lead Screw sockets in the middle. Safety screws will not allow the rail to fall off from a semi tightened ball head clamp. In this way securing your valuable gear from possible damage.
Besides that it's obvious in the photo below that the MFR's are equipped with two tapped 1/4"-20 holes in the middle of the base, for direct mounting on a pod with such a stud.
Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rail safety screws
Sunwayfoto MFR-150S Macro Focusing Rail is equipped with two M3 safety screws.

Using the Macro Focusing Rail

A typical installation for a ground level macro shooting in nature is illustrated below. The MFR-150S is shown clamped on the top Sunwayfoto XB-52 Ball head which in turn is mounted on a massive T1A20 low level shooting tripod.
Mind that the deep red color of the XB-52 is not mainstream as it is mostly used by Sunwayfoto marketing.

Sunwayfoto MFR-150 mounted on XB-52 ball head T1A20 Tripod

Next illustration adds a camera for single axis fore-aft micro adjusted macro shooting. A Nikon DSLR camera equipped with a macro lens is clamped on the MFR-150S via a universal DPL-02 L bracket. The support set is able to carry lots of weight even at steep angles, which is ideal for macro photography.

Nikon DSLR with macro lens on MFR-150S mounted on XB-52 and T1A20 Tripod
Nikon DSLR with macro lens clamped on MFR-150S then mounted on XB-52 and T1A20 Tripod.

Nikon DSLR /macro combo on MFR-150S mounted on XB-52 and T1A20 Tripod  II
Nikon DSLR w/macro lens clamped on MFR-150S / XB-52 / T1A20 Tripod combo closeup

For a dual axis fine adjustment in both fore-aft and lateral axes, the combination of two MFR-150S units cross stacked offers the desired versatility maintaining a low profile.

Two Sunwayfoto MFR-150S stacked for 2 axis adjustment

Nikon DSLR clamped on stacked Sunwayfoto MFR-150S 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.

I'm expecting a production unit of the MFR-150S for hands on evaluation, which I'll test together with the sister MFR-150 with lever release clamp and hope to present them in an extensive review assessing their behavior under load and compare them with competition. Stay tuned.

I hope you found the information useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: used by permission © 2017 Sunwayfoto.com

Price & Availability:
Current retail price for the MFR-150S 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.

Referenced Articles:
Sunwayfoto MFR-150 Wormdrive Macro Focusing Rail with Lever Clamp

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