I spent the last few months researching motorized sliders for timelapse photography. I debated between many different models, but finally decided on the Rhino Slider. I started this review the day I bought it, and I’ve been coming back to this article nearly every day for many weeks as I’ve learned more about the slider and its pros and cons. So this review is both a first-impression and a somewhat long-term review of its durability and quality.
In short, the Rhino is the best motorized slider on the market. It allows photographers to create incredible timelapses and video movements from an intuitive interface. It has a simple to understand interface, works smoothly, and the possibilities of what you can create with it are endless. The Rhino Slider is not perfect, however. I found the system to be more cumbersome than I’d hoped because the many parts don’t always work together well. For example, the motor and the arc each require different power adapters, the case fits everything except the fragile controller, and there are simply too many parts and points of failure.
The Rhino Slider System
The Rhino Slider is a modular system that gives different functionality to photographers according to their needs. Here are the parts to the system:
- The slider itself. I got the aluminum 42″ Rhino Slider EVO Pro, as well as the 24″ Rhino EVO Carbon rails.
- Rhino Motion. This is the motor that pulls the rubber EVO belt through gears to move the camera.
- Rhino Controller – The main control for the entire system which tells the system how far to move, how quickly, whether it's a timelapse or video, etc. The Controller holds the battery for Rhino Motion and is connected to Rhino Motion via an ethernet cable. The controller is heavy and boxy, and its controls are reminiscent of the old iPod video with a scroll and click interface. The GUI on the controller may appear overly simplistic at first, but it's incredibly functional. I was able to get up to speed using the controller's advanced functions in under 5 minutes. Well done.
- Rhino Arc – An add-on which goes on top of the carriage and under your ballhead. This twists the camera side to side as the camera moves along the rails.
- Rhino Flywheel – This creates smooth motion for video moves by counterweighting one side of the rail. I didn't buy this accessory, so it's not being covered in this review.
The Rhino Slider Does Have Imperfections
The Rhino Slider is well thought out and very functional, but there are several things about the system that I don’t like and think need to be addressed.
The main problem I have with the Rhino system is that it doesn’t work well together as a unit. It feels like different engineers and designers worked on each part of the system. The motor and the arc both use different power chargers, so you have to carry around two different chargers for the system. Buying a complete bundle means something like 8 different boxes come in the package with the many parts. Both the controller and the arc have different batteries, so there are multiple batteries that could die mid-shoot and ruin the timelapse. At first, I really loved the case it came in, until I packed everything up and realized that there is no pocket for the fragile controller! It just feels like Rhino sourced multiple different items and cobbled the system together. It’s not a clean, integrated product.
I believe Rhino sees all the different parts of the system as a strength. For example, the arc can be used on its own, and the motorized slider can work on its own, or you can combine them. However, the drawback to modularity is complication and points of failure. For me, and I believe most photographers, the drawbacks to modularity overwhelm the strengths.
Another drawback, not related to the modularity, is that the controller (which holds the battery for the motor), does not show a battery monitor while charging. It simply says “Charging controller” and stays like that forever, so you can’t know when it’s done charging unless you unplug it from the charger, turn it on, and give it a minute to analyze battery strength.
The case the system comes in is extremely well made and you’ll probably love it until…. you realize they didn’t make a pocket for the controller with a fragile LCD screen. There is nowhere to put it! The motor isn’t quite strong enough to go up much of an incline with an average DSLR or mirrorless setup. There are issues. This system is not perfect by any means.
The last negative that I'll mention is that the cords can easily get stuck in the wheels on the slider and stop the progress of the move. This happened to me twice during multi-hour timelapses which ruined my shots. I thought I was just being careless in my cord placement until I talked with Kirk Bergman (another writer here at ImprovePhotography.com who also owns a Rhino Slider), who mentioned that he had the exact same problem. I have been able to remedy this by just very carefully placing each cord and monitoring it as the slider moves through a long timelapse progression.
Rhino Arc: Opening a new dimension of movement
You can just choose to get the Rhino slider and Motion setup, or you can add Arc. Arc is an optional add-on that allows the camera to pan (twist) side-to-side as the camera physically moves along the rails.
Arc is helpeful to move the camera to follow the Milky Way during a night timelapse, or the sun during the day, or even just to add an extra dimension of movement and flow to a shot. However, after putting together several timelapses with the Rhino system, one tip I'd give is to not use this panning movement on every shot. If you do, it can become somewhat nauseating when you put together a string of timelapses into a short film. I find it's best to include a mix of still timelapses with no movement, 1 axis movements, drone shots, regular video, and 2-3 axis movement timelapses. If you only have timelapses without movement, the video is a little dull, but too much movement and the technique gets in the way of the subject.
Another negative to Arc is that it significantly increases the weight that the motor has to pull for an incline shot. The Arc weighs 1 lb 2 oz (510 grams). If you add a ballhead that weighs 1 or 2 pounds, a camera that weighs 2 pounds, and a lens that weighs 2 pounds, the weight is too much for even a modest incline shot.
However, I do like the way Arc works. It's really simple to add on to the system and use. Creating a complex movement such as sliding 35″ with a 2″ ramp on either side, at a slight incline, with a 50 degree pan on arc, and stopping the sliding motion for the camera to take each picture, is actually really simple. The interface on the controller is dead simple to use. Even if you've never used the system, you're up and running in minutes.
Rhino Arc costs $400 additional, which is a tough pill to swallow when you consider that the competitor Syrp Genie Mini only costs $249. The Arc is not essential, so if budget is an issue I'd encourage you to just buy the slider and Rhino motion. You can always add Arc to your setup down the line.
Which Rhino Bundle Should You Pick?
I purchased the highest-end Rhino bundle, which they call the Ultimate Rhino Bundle. I bought the Ultimate Bundle through Amazon.com and it was priced the same as on the Rhino website. I wanted the very best they had—including arc, 4’ and 2’ sliders, and the motor. I realize that not everyone can justify that purchase, and the good news is that I can save you money by not recommending you go with their highest-end package.
If I were to go back and make my purchase decision, I probably would have saved some money by going with this Rhino Bundle on Amazon.com which can do 90% as much for a much lower cost. It doesn't include Arc, but that also cuts down on one battery to charge, is less complex to use, and doesn't require as many cords for your system to run. If you change your mind and want to add Arc down the line, you can always do that.
The problem with the high-end package is that, while you get two sliders, only one of those sliders includes the feet and ends. This means that it’s at least a 20-minute job to switch from the 4’ slider to the 2’ slider. They aren’t two complete sliders. This was a disappointment for me. When I’m spending nearly $2,000 on your highest-end package, Rhino, you could at least send me two complete sliders so all I have to do is switch the motor between them.
Now, the question is if you should get Arc. I personally recommend getting Arc for sure as it really opens the possibilities to what you can achieve with your slider. Arc attaches to the sliding plate on the slider so that you can pan side to side as your camera is physically moving side to side. However, if you don't get Arc right away, you can still use the system well. In fact, I only use Arc for about 1 out of every 4 timelapse shots I do. It's nice to have and adds interest to some shots, but it's not necessary by any means.
For your slider, I recommend the EVO 42″ slider. It’s heavy, it’s huge, but you’re totally unlimited in terms of what you can create. For me, I doubt I’d bring this huge slider with me when backpacking into a lake. I might just bring the Arc, but I wouldn’t bring the whole heavy system. So since I’ll mostly be using this on shorter hikes, I think you might as well go with the longer slider.
The benefit of the aluminum sliders is that they have no bend in them at all. They are far heavier, but bend in a slider can certainly ruin a shot. Again, you won’t be backpacking into a lake with this thing anyway, and the 4’ is huge, so you might as well get the heavier one since you’ll mostly be walking short distances with it from your car to a landscape spot.
Comparing Rhino to the Syrp System
I would consider Syrp the main competitor to Rhino. There are lots of different systems available, but Rhino and Syrp seem to be the leaders. I have not personally tested the Syrp system and I would LOVE to try one out as they do look really cool, but on my purchasing decision I decided to go with the Rhino.
What Rhino has that the Syrp does not is (1) Better reliability. I read lots of comments from users who had issues with the Syrp, and I heard of fewer issues with the Rhino. This is largely caused by Syrp's phone apps, which are an essential part of the system. (2) The Rhino is much more powerful for videography. While I mostly shoot timelapse, I like shooting regular video shots as well of nature which I can include in the videos I put together. (3) The Syrp is a really tall rig, which will likely add wind vibrations.
However, Syrp is coming out with its Syrp Genie II in the next few months, and from the preview, it looks to be absolutely incredible.
Should You Invest in the Rhino Slider?
Spending the last few weeks shooting with the Rhino slider has been the most fun I’ve had doing photography in many years. For advanced intermediate and professional photographers, we are past the stage in our learning of photography where extreme growth and progress can be seen in your photos nearly every outing. Progress becomes more incremental as you get better.
So if you’re an advanced amateur, pro photographer, or you’re a film maker of any kind, then I can heartily recommend the Rhino Slider.
I recommend the Rhino Slider not only because using a motorized slider in general is transformative and fun, but because I do believe that the Rhino slider is the best motorized slider system on the market. However, it’s also very expensive. DIY and simple motorized sliders can be had for $100 or less, so investing $1,100 to $2,000 for a Rhino system is a tough pill to swallow. I felt like I gut punched in the gut after pressing “Buy Now” on Amazon.
If you want to get a motorized system, but you haven’t done much with timelapse before, I would strongly recommend getting something less expensive to start out. Make a dIY rig and use it for a few months before committing to a Rhino. However, if you’re experienced with timelapse and you’ve outgrown the functionality of a DIY rig, then the Rhino does come highly recommended from me.
Rhino Camera Gear's Customer Service
Awesome. I was nervous when I found a missing shutter release cable from my package. I imagined dealing with a corporation, which would surely have some odd-ball policy which would require me to package up the entire thing and ship it back to them because they couldn't just send out the cable.
Such was not the case with Rhino. I called their customer service line and a human being answered the phone who was very polite. She got my information and sent me out a cable quickly–no questions asked. This was true even though I had ordered through Amazon and not Rhino. Thank you for making this process simple.
Additional Gear You'll Need
The slider system works fine with the tiny little legs that it comes with as a stand-alone system. However, you'd have to shoot from the ground every time. Most photographers will want to support their system on a tripod so you can get to a crouching height so that the angle is not so extreme in your landscape shots.
For use on the 24″ rails, you can just use one sturdy tripod and ballhead underneath the rails. You'll need an additional quick release plate to put under the rails to easily attach your ballhead connected to the tripod. However, with the 42″ rails, you'll likely need two tripods–one under each end. It's possible to support with one extremely beefy tripod and ballhead in the middle, but the issue is that when your camera reaches the end of the rails (along with the lens, carriage, head, and possibly the motor if it's on that side), the whole rig could easily tip over. So you may need another tripod.
Also, you'll probably want an additional ballhead for your system. You could screw your camera onto the base of the carriage, but that would be very limiting as you couldn't tilt the camera at all.