Still the best motorised mini slider I’ve tried – Smartta SliderMini 2

Aug 18, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Still the best motorised mini slider I’ve tried – Smartta SliderMini 2

Aug 18, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The SliderMini 2 is Smartta’s latest iteration of the SliderMini, its small form factor motorised slider. It’s largely the same as the original and you can read that review here, but it has received a couple of significant changes since the original that allows it to offer much more versatility.

Like the original, the SliderMini 2 is a super-compact slider that allows for easy portability for use just about anywhere. I’ve been using the SliderMini 2 for the past few weeks now in order to try to answer two very specific questions. But first, how about some pretty (yes, I know that’s subjective) sample footage shot using it?

YouTube video

So, about those two questions… They’re fairly simple questions and pretty common whenever a new version of an existing piece of kit is released.

  1. Is it worth buying if you don’t own the original?
  2. Is it worth upgrading if you already do?

They’re tough questions to answer. They’re always tough to answer when a new model of something comes out because it does depend heavily on the user’s needs. But in this case, the SliderMini 2 is essentially what the SliderMini should have been – for some people, at least.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the original SliderMini. I stand by my claim of it being the best mini motorised slider I’d ever used at the time – and until I received the SliderMini 2, it still was. I have used the SliderMini often over the last couple of years, but it isn’t perfect. It had two fatal flaws for me that limited its use.

  • The motor wasn’t powerful enough to do vertical slides with anything more than the smallest of mirrorless cameras with a teeny tiny lens – the Panasonic GX80 and the little 12-32mm lens, for example (and even then it sometimes struggled).
  • There was no easing of slider movements, so you couldn’t accelerate and decelerate during the slide.

Both of those things have been addressed in the SliderMini 2 and both issues were caused by the same fundamental problem. Essentially the motor wasn’t powerful enough. It didn’t have the torque to lift much more than your phone vertically or to move at the kinds of very slow speeds you’d need in order to have smooth acceleration and deceleration for easing.

What’s changed and what’s the same?

Like the SliderMini, the SliderMini 2 is CNC machined from a big chunk of aluminium. Hardware-wise, the only thing that’s really changed is the motor. The motor in the SliderMini 2 is now much more powerful than it was on the original – which solves both of the issues I mentioned above. It has a horizontal load capacity of 15kg, a vertical load capacity of 1.25kg and weighs a mere 0.57kg itself.

The new motor allows for vertical slides with reasonable camera setups – like the Panasonic G80/G85 and 12-60mm kit lens. Once you add in the weight of a variable ND filter, my favourite little SmallRig ball head and an Arca Swiss compatible plate, that total comes to 954g and it lifts it with ease. With this setup, the original SliderMini had no chance.

With the SliderMini 2, though, the above setup works flawlessly, as you can see in the video at the top of this review – which probably contains far too many vertical slides. Not once did it ever struggle or give me any problems, though. Whenever I set it up for a vertical slide, it would happily go up and down the slider for as long as I wanted it to at any speed.

This extra power also means that it can move at much slower speeds with higher torque, too. So, you can get really nice long slow movements as well as smooth easing transitions from a standing start to full speed and back down to nothing again gradually over the course of a slide via Curve Mode (we’ll come back to that).

Outside of switching out the motor, the two sliders are pretty much identical. In fact, placing the two side-by-side, they’re so identical that it’s impossible to tell which is which. Here, take a look. Can you tell?

They both offer the same 200mm range of movement, they both slide from one end to the other in 20 seconds at full speed (10mm/sec), they both offer timelapse as well as video modes and they both let you shoot stop motion slides. You also get the same three cables inside the box for Canon and Sony cameras. Again, as with the original, you can just use whatever standard 2.5mm trigger cables you have for your camera (it has no problem with the Nikon ones that came with my Godox X1R receiver).

Yes, I reused the photo from the review of the original SliderMini because they’re identical cables!

There’s a Type-C USB socket on the side next to the 2.5mm trigger socket for charging up the SliderMini 2 internal battery – which lasts for 14 hours of active use and charges in 1.5 hours. Underneath, there’s the familiar 3/8-16″ socket with a 1/4-20″ adapter for mounting it to a tripod plate. It has the on/off button on the end that also acts as a way to send commands to the slider without the app – 2 presses sends the carriage to one end, 3 presses sends it to the other and 4 presses moves it to the middle. A long press turns the slider on or off.

On top of the slider is the same 3/8-16″ threaded bolt as the original, which is frustrating. I still think this should be 1/4-20″ because it’s easy enough to add a tiny (pretty much invisible) thread adapter on top for when you want to go from 1/4-20″ to 3/8-16″. But if you want to use a little GoPro mount, smartphone adapter or a tiny ball head that only has a 1/4-20″ socket underneath, you’re going to have to deal with a chunky and clunky 3/8-16″ to 1/4-20″ thread adapter in between the slider and whatever you want to put on top of it.

Let’s talk about the app

The app offers the same set of features as it did for the original slider, with one addition. The app allows you to run the slider at speeds from 1% to 100%. At 100% the carriage moves at 10mm/sec, making its way from one end of the slider to the other in 20 seconds. At 10%, in 200 seconds. At 1% in 2,000 seconds (or 33 minutes and 20 seconds). The bounce (Loop Mode) feature for video that I mentioned in the original review was finally added to the app and is also available to the SliderMini 2 as well.

You also get access to the timelapse and stop motion features of the original as well. Again, the app is pre-loaded with a whole bunch of presets for shooting in different conditions as well as allowing you to customise the timing yourself as well as save your own presets.

Yup, I reused this one from the original review, too as this feature has not changed.

The SliderMini 2 does have one extra feature within the app, and that’s the new Curve Mode. This is where we get the easing. This section of the app allows you to set five different speed points that the slider will transition through during its slide. A number of curve presets have been included in the app, allowing you to quickly tap some defaults for easing in, easing out, easing at both ends or starting and ending at full speed with a slow-down in the middle. Or, you can create your own.

On the little chart to set your speeds in Curve Mode, the horizontal axis shows the physical position across the slider from left-to-right, and the vertical axis shows the speed it needs to hit at that point along the slide.

These screenshots are new, though, and are specifically for the SliderMini 2. This feature is not available when connecting to the original SliderMini.

I did ask Smartta if the Curve Mode would come to the original SliderMini at some point, but I was told that this wasn’t going to happen, basically as a result of the low torque issue on the motor of the original SliderMini that I mentioned earlier.

Aside from this one feature, the app is identical. In fact, you use the same app for both sliders. It detects which version of the slider it’s connected to, only offering the Curve Mode when it knows it’s connected to the SliderMini 2.

The app needs a little work…

It is worth noting about Curve Mode is that it’s kind of a one-time movement deal. You set your slider carriage on one end, pick whatever curve you want to use and tell the slider to go to the other end. And that’s it. Movement done. As of yet, there is no easing or curve in Loop Mode – the mode which causes the slider to continually bounce between the two ends of the slider until you tell it to stop.

Personally, I feel this is a pretty big oversight as the loop/bounce mode is arguably where you need easing the most. If you’re using it as a B-camera in an interview and you’ve got it constantly looping back and forth, then you don’t want it to come to a hard stop at each end. You want it to slide, slow down, stop, and then start slowly accelerating the other way, increasing back up to whatever top speed you set.

Hopefully, this is something that can be resolved in a future app update. For me, this should be a high priority feature addition.

It would also be good to see easing come to the timelapse and stop motion movements as well. This way, if we have matching speed movements for both timelapse and realtime footage, they can more easily be composited together in post.

Another thing I would like to see in the app – and this has really only become a problem now that I have both the SliderMini 2 and the original SliderMini – is a way to select which slider I want to connect to within the app. Right now, if I’m using both sliders at the same time (which I do quite often for timelapse while the other shoots video) and I have two phones, I need to turn on one slider and connect one phone to that, then turn on the other slider and then connect the other phone to that one.

If one or both of the phones disconnects during operation, I’ve no idea which slider a given phone is actually going to try to connect to once it attempts to reconnect. Or, if I want to control both sliders from a single phone, it’d be nice to have a little list of detected sliders and be able to choose which one I want to connect to.

That last issue isn’t really a high priority to resolve I think, as I don’t suspect many people will be running multiple SliderMini or SliderMini 2 sliders simultaneously, but it is something that I think should be addressed for those that do purchase multiple sliders.

Final Thoughts

Because so much is the same as the original SliderMini (it’s just capable of moving more weight and moving more slowly) there isn’t really much to say that I didn’t already say in my review of the original. It’s just as simple to use, but physically more powerful and offers a couple of nice extra features to let you get shots that you couldn’t before.

So, back to my original two questions then…

Is the SliderMini 2 worth buying if you don’t already own the original?

If you need a small motorised slider… Yes, it is. I thought the original was already a pretty fantastic slider, despite not offering any kind of easing or easy vertical slides with anything even slightly heavy. I provided some feedback to Smartta when I tested the original, and the new SliderMini 2 is essentially what I thought the original should have been.

Is it worth upgrading if you already own the original SliderMini?

For me, the answers almost a resounding yes – especially if Smartta can blend the Loop and Curve modes so that it slows down as it reaches each end and then speeds back up as it starts going the other way. Once that happens, it’ll offer me everything I need a motorised slider of this size to do.

I say “almost” above, though, because it depends on you and your needs. If you already have the original, are happy with its features and it gives you all you need, then stick with it. But if you want to add vertical slides, a bit of speed variation and potential future app improvements and features that the more powerful motor can offer, then definitely look into upgrading. And if you’re thinking about adding a second slider to your kit, the SliderMini 2 is a good contender.

The SliderMini 2 will take the lion’s share of my small slider video tasks from now on, while the original SliderMini will be relegated to timelapse duty.

At the moment, the Smartta SliderMini 2 is seeing a $20 discount and is available to buy now for $379 from the Smartta website. DIYP readers can get a further $15 off the SliderMini 2 if you use discount code DIYP15 on checkout. This code is valid until October 17th, 2020.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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8 responses to “Still the best motorised mini slider I’ve tried – Smartta SliderMini 2”

  1. Joost Avatar

    I LOVE the size, 120cm sliders are só 2015 – cant bring em if you’re going in small. This, with the right Curve Loop is definitely great to make simple interviews a bit more visually interesting – keeping my eye on this one

    1. Joost Avatar

      Yep – I got one, and I’m super happy with it for now!

    2. Jared Ribic Avatar
      Jared Ribic

      Can you please explain what ” the right Curve Loop” is?

      1. Kaouthia Avatar

        He doesn’t mean a specific curve, just the one that gives you what you need. Think of position keyframes in After Effects. You can use easying and bezier curves to stretch them out or shorten them to give a very different appearance of motion in the final animation.

        Curves with sliders is a bit like keyframing the position of something in After Effects. Sometimes they’re all full speed with no easing at all and sometimes they speed up and slow down. Sometimes they do it quickly and sometimes slowly (some let you configure the speed yourself and some are coded into the software). So, “right” in this case really all depends on the look you’re going for.

        1. Jared Ribic Avatar
          Jared Ribic

          Thanks. I thought it had something to do with panning the camera in addition to sliding it, because that’s what I’m interested in for interviews. But maybe it’s not necessary to pan the camera on a shorter slider like this?

  2. Jared Ribic Avatar
    Jared Ribic

    Very cool video! Thanks for posting this, I might pick one of these up!

  3. Linsey Avatar

    Thanks for sharing John! Great to read. Would this be a suitable slider for capturing people sitting around a table chatting? Similar to the ‘Class of ’92’ documentary where the players are sat around the table and there’s cameras capturing each person from over the others’ shoulders.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar

      It might be, although it depends how you’re recording the sound. If you’ve got five or six people talking, and one of these over each of their shoulders, they’re probably going to make a lot of combined noise that would be difficult to block out, especially as you’d have to have them quite close to see the sliding effect with such a short track.

      Although I really like short sliders, I think for something like that, you might be better off going with something longer.