I've seen rail systems for sale, and a remark from someone wanting to get a rail system. What is the purpose(s) of that? Is a focusing rail for macro a different usage of the term (same as a focusing rack)?

I may have conflated it with rods, which are what I was wondering "what is that for?". I see them under Pro Video at B&H: a pair of long sticks under or on ether side of the camera.

As it turns out, what cameradojo.com’s article refers to a rails is sold at B&H as rods, with rails in their catalog being tracks for hanging lights from the ceiling. The short answer to my question is: a modular way to attach stuff to the camera, coming to SLR culture from pro video.

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    I'm aware of two kinds of "rails": for precise macro focusing, and for flash positioning (most typically in a studio environment). Are you asking explicitly about macro rails? – Dan Wolfgang Dec 21 '14 at 0:23
  • No, more generally if someone wishes to by "a rail system" then what is he talking about? When rails of different length are for sale, what are they used for? – JDługosz Dec 21 '14 at 21:06
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    Perhaps you could link to an example of what you're talking about? – tenmiles Dec 21 '14 at 21:37
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    Although a focusing rail can resemble the type of video rail system that OP is asking about (two rails and a mount for the camera), it's clearly not the same thing (video rail system is significantly larger and is used to mount other equipment rather than to move the camera). This is not a duplicate. – Caleb Dec 22 '14 at 12:41
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    This is more correctly off-topic really, not a duplicate, since it's actually about videography equipment. Camera rails are not especially common in stills photography. – John Cavan Dec 22 '14 at 16:14

It sounds like you're talking about the kind of rail system that's used for mounting video equipment. There's some detailed information here and a video here but in a nutshell a rail system is the foundation upon which all kinds of video equipment is mounted. That includes the camera, of course, but also sound equipment, follow focus adjuster, matte box, additional displays and interfaces, lights, batteries, shoulder mount, tripod mount, perhaps even a teleprompter. The rods come in standard sizes (15mm or 19mm) and are arranged in standard configurations with respect to the center of the lens, so that equipment from various manufacturers works together.

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  • So I suppose they are ovasionally used by DSLR still photographers for si, ilar purposes, having been introduced to the idea via DSLR video. From what you describe it mudt be more than just linear with the camera, but allow different stuff in different dirrections. – JDługosz Dec 22 '14 at 6:28
  • I suppose it could happen, but the fact that three relatively high rep users here had no idea what you were talking about is a good indication that if it ever happens, it's pretty unusual. Hard to see what the point of building a rig "in different directions" would be, but there's hardware available to let you build almost any way you want. – Caleb Dec 22 '14 at 6:44
  • The link to cameraDojo is exactly my question, including the target audience that "rails are relatively new to photographers", and the opening "what a rail system dows for you and why you would need it." By different directions, I mean a lot of what you mention goes to the side or below the camera — I could not put a large monitor directly behind the body without blocking the normal controls. – JDługosz Dec 22 '14 at 7:44
  • A little further into cameradojo's first paragraph: For photographers, this is a clunky thing and not something you would want to ever mount your camera on. I don't think still photographers are part of the "target audience" for this type of rig. – Caleb Dec 22 '14 at 12:36
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    I use them for time lapse series. For some types of time lapses, the rigs, rails, rods, cheese plates, etc are used to hold and move the camera plus all the accoutrements. I've rigged up a makeshift Mattbox to hold custom filters - that's still a work in progress, though. I'm a photographer, but I've learned a lot from film makers and videographers. – B Shaw Dec 23 '14 at 20:29

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