Intro: Light Weight Tripod Camera Slider for DSLR
This tutorial will show how I made this tripod mounted camera slider for under $50. The design uses hardware available in most hardware/home improvement stores. I wanted a design that I could use with any of my tripods & cameras. This design utilizes the removal head aspect of tripods as shown in the last two photos.
Due to the high prices for camera sliders, I decided to create my own camera slider to use for movie making and stereo photography. All of the DIY projects for camera sliders I found weren’t suitable for use on a tripod and the commercial versions were simply too expensive. The main objective was to make a camera slider that would be light weight, yet sturdy enough to use with a professional DSLR.
How sturdy is this slider? The tripod head shown in the photo weighs 11 oz, my Canon SX20IS camera weighs 27 oz (1.7 lbs) and my Nikon D7000 camera with battery grip weighs 64 oz (4 lbs). Therefore, when using the Canon SX20IS there is 38 oz (2.3 lbs) on the slider and when using the Nikon D7000 there is 75 oz (4.7 lbs) on the slider. The slider itself weighs about 39 oz (2.4 lbs).
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Metal hand file
- Pop rivet tool
Quantity Part Description
1 24" clamp & cut guide
4 3/8-16 x 1 1/4" chrome button screws
1 3/8” x ¾” <OR> ¼” x ¾” hex bolt (depending on the size of your tripod mounting screw)
1 3/8” <OR> ¼” bar knob (depending on the size of your tripod mounting screw)
4 3/8-16 nuts
2 1/2" x 4" PVC risers – outdoor use
1 1/2" x 4' aluminum round-tube
1 flat 4-plug electrical box cover
4 3/16” x (1/8” to ¼” grip) rivets & back-up plates (washers)
4 3/4" 1-hole conduit straps
4 1/4" x 1/2" hex bolts with lock nuts
2 2" x 4 1/4" aluminum angle-stock (left over from previous dolly project)
a. Not all PVC risers are manufactured to the same tolerances, so be sure that the ones you select for this project slip easily over the ½” aluminum round-tube.
b. Before selecting your 24" clamp & cut guide, be sure to read the first paragraph of step 2.
Step 2: Dis-assemble Clamp and Cut Guide
If you decide to build this camera slider, you need to choose your clamp & cut guide carefully. Cheaper versions may not be rigid enough to prevent flexing when you use with heavier DSLRs. The first photo shows a cheaper version on the left and the stronger version I used on the right. Since the ends of the guides will not be visible before dis-assembly, you will need to carefully inspect the bottom of the guide to estimate the thickness. Another test is to try twisting the guide to see if it has much flex – the guide should not flex at all.
Remove the ‘locking pin’ from the handle of the clamp & cutting guide. Once the locking pin is removed, save the aluminum channel stock and recycle the rest of the materials. The aluminum channel stock will be the part of the base unit that attaches directly to the tripod.
Step 3: Drill & Assemble Camera Mounting Plate
a. Drill four ¼” holes in the electrical box plate for the conduit hangers. Drill the holes so that the edges of the hangers align to the edge of the electrical box plate (first photo). Drill a hole centered in the plate for the size of bolt you need for your tripod (1/4” or 3/8”). Attach the appropriate sized bolt to the plate using the best method you have available (weld, JB Weld, epoxy, etc.).
b. Next, slightly bend the conduit hangers closed until they form a tight fit around the PVC riser ends (second photo). Attach the conduit hangers (with the risers inserted) to the bottom of the plate using the ¼” x ½” bolts and lock nuts. The distance between the tube centers should be 3 ¼“. If your distance is slightly different, be sure to make the proper adjustment when drilling the holes in Step 4b.
Step 4: Shape, Cut, Drill Materials & Assemble the Base Unit
a. Cut the four foot aluminum round-tube into two equal parts (approximately 24 inches)
b. From the two inch aluminum angle stock, cut two 4 ¼” lengths. On one side, drill two 3/8” holes spaced ½” from the side and ½” down from the ‘top’ edge as shown in the first photo. These two holes should be the distance between the center points of the tubes that will be inserted through the camera mount (3 ¼ “ - refer to Step 3b). On the other side, cutoff the ‘corners so that they angle down to the width of the aluminum channel stock from the edge guide (from step 2). Next drill two 3/16” holes for rivets (first photo).
c. Cut the aluminum channel stock to 24 ½”. Align the aluminum angle stock (ends) to the aluminum channel stock. Using the previous holes drilled in the angle stock as guide holes, drill holes in the aluminum channel stock. Assemble the ends to the aluminum channel stock with the rivets & back-up plates (washers) as shown in the photos above. Finally, drill your mounting hole (either 3/8” or ¼”) in the center of the aluminum channel stock to match the size of your tripod.
Step 5: Assemble the Camera Mount Plate & Base Unit
Start by attaching the button screws & nuts to the base unit. On one end tighten the nuts on the button screws all the way (photo one). On the other end just place the nuts on the screws but only screw on until the tips of the screws are flush with the nuts. Place the mounting plate assembly on the tubes and insert the tubes onto the button screws and finish screwing in the opposite screws into the tubes. On the bar knob, shown in the last photo, I needed to file about 1/32” off the bottom of the head due to the depth of the channel stock. I store the bar knob on the camera mount portion of the camera slide.