Sliders are an essential tool for filmmakers. They help us get those super silky smooth shots that even a gimbal can’t. The problem is finding the right slider. The market varies so much with regard to the price of a slider based on its materials, features, and length. The Zeapon Micro 2 slider is a beast of a slider. After using it for just a few weeks, you will forget everything you know about sliders. This Slider packs a bunch of features into a surprisingly small package.
The first thing you’ll notice when unboxing your slider is that this thing is a tank of a slider. It is made almost entirely out of anodized aluminum. I say in the video that this can probably take a beating, I didn’t mention it can probably also give one. Every piece of the slider feels like an integral part of one solid machine. I remember when I first opened the box, I messaged our editor and told him: “dude, this thing feels REALLY good”. It weighs just under 2.5kg with the motor and the legs. Don’t let the weight fool you though, with regards to other sliders, this thing is tiny. While the slider comes in at only 33mm in rail length, you get a full 54mm of travel. What this means in practice is that you can do 50cm of travel with something that fits into your bag.
Sliders have always been kind of a pain point for me. I never really seemed to be able to justify the immense investment required to buy a good one. It also seems like unless you’re spending a lot, they just all feel kind of flimsy. Everything we got in our kit is built to last. I feel confident treating it like cinema equipment without worrying that it will fall apart on me before the end of the warranty.
- Zeapon sent us their fully loaded micro 2 kit. This includes:
- Zeapon Micro 2 Slider
- EasyLock Low Profile Mount
- Zeapon Ball Head
- Motor for Micro 2
I feel stupid starting with the ball head. Funny enough though, one of my first indicators that I’m going to be happy with this product was actually the ball head. It’s super easy to skimp here and send out any old standard ball head. Instead, Zeapon sends out a really high-quality ball head that is really strong. It’s the little things that tell you, the big things are going to be ok. Moving on to the Easy Lock Low Profile mount. This little gadget has two really nice features. first of all, you can speedily set your slider on a hard surface and even balance it out with adjustable legs. in addition, when you flip it reveals the quick-release system, but more on that later.
Finally, the big beefy motor, this is the main event right here. This motor can carry a fair amount of weight in any direction. It ships with all the tools necessary to semi-permanently attach it. To be clear, it is removable, but I’ve done it four times and it still takes me about 15 min while watching the tutorial. If you were going to do this on the go, you would need to carry the motor and all the parts required to reverse the process.
When talking about the payload there are actually two ways to look at the slider; With and without the motor. If you’re scratching your head wondering why we’re talking about the payload of a motorless gimbal, that’s because the Zeapon has a really nifty feature. There’s a sort of built-in tension that makes the movement of the “analog” slider really smooth. When doing slower movements on analog sliders, it’s hard to keep a steady pace. Quite often, that translates into jitteriness or staggering. Zeapon’s solution is a built-in resistance that allows you to push the gimbal with relative ease, but more importantly, at a consistent pace. There is no way for me to know what the limitation of this friction is, but when the load is heavier it obviously reduces.
When I had my Blackmagic Pocket 4K on it with a cinema lens and an NPF battery, it managed to still have that natural resistance. I would call that about 3.5kg.
With the motor, the slider is rated for 4.5kg. I would say most slider manufacturers probably would write that number with an asterisk. Zeapon confidently states that your Slider can carry 4.5 kilos in any direction! We actually tested this with a pretty heavy top shot rig coming close to 4kg. All in all, the slider definitely delivered. the only thing I would say is that as you’re coming closer to 90 degrees and the weight limit, I would consider lowering the speed to reduce shake.
The movement of this slider is incredibly smooth whether you have the motor or not. Unlike other sliders that don’t have the natural resistance built into them, the Zeapon manages to be a great purchase either way. If you did opt to get the motor, then you will enjoy the same smoothness of the motor-less rail. Both options really have their niceties, but the downside between both of them is that they aren’t “interchangeable”… per se. You attach the motor using tools and a couple of clever finger coordinations. I’ve only done it four times, but it still takes me about 15 minutes. It’s not something I would recommend against – but 15 minutes and extra parts can end up being more of a problem than a solution on game day (or during production).
I opted to leave the motor on the slider “permanently”. I do sometimes find myself wanting to control it manually, but it’s usually not a big deal. With that being said, the motor does add a feature that’s less doable without it. Full 90-degree slides are made possible because the way in which the motor attaches binds the rails.
On the other hand, the only way to move the slider once the motor is attached is with the motor (for better or for worst).
To be completely honest, I had no idea what a quick release system for a slider even looked like before the Zeapon. When I finally got it, I was amazed. Essentially, you connect:
Zeapon slider > Spider Base Legs Thingy > Plate > Tripod Head
In practice, this just means you connect a removable base plate on the bottom of the spider leg base, to any video head’s plate. The spider leg base has a single screw that you can loosen and the whole slider slides off the removable plate of the Spider Base. This is awesome for two reasons. Firstly, you only need to adjust an easily accessible screw to release the whole slider. Second, it leaves the video head plate in the exact position. Going between on the go, and a tripod is now seamless and easy.
Speed vs sound
I don’t want to give this section too much attention because in all honesty – it really isn’t loud. However, the slider with the motor isn’t “that” fast. At the slider’s fastest speed it only travels the whole length in 16.5 seconds. The only reason I’m mentioning it at all because it is audible as opposed to the other levels and I don’t know how often in a video situation you would use slower speeds. I don’t think a lav would pick it up. But if you have a shotgun mounted to the camera, there’s a chance you’ll hear a buzzing.
As any motorized slider in 2020. The Zeapon also comes with an app. Before we dive into the app, I think Zeapon deserves some points for figuring out a pretty nice system (once you get the hang of it) for settings up your e-slider without a phone. Using only three buttons you can basically control and program movement and speed to the slider. I think this is a nice touch, whether you want to set up something really quickly and don’t want to tinker with your phone. Another example would be if you had a lot of different shots to set up, resetting waypoint and connecting to the phone can be its own ordeal.
If you do decide in the end you want to grab your phone and control the slider, the app is… well… not great. But, and there’s a big but. It’s full of potential. Firstly connecting to the slider for the first time was a joke. It was so quick it kind of blew me away. You download the app, turn on the slider, connect to its self-generated wifi, and that’s basically it. From there you click on the slider and go into the app where you see a multitude of features. Unfortunately, you can only play with one right now. The leftover potential is in all the grey parts you can’t touch. We see follow focus, pan, and tilt. If this company keeps up the good work I would love to see what comes next with a feature set like that.
The app has a fairly confusing language for setting waypoints. Just to be sure it wasn’t just me I had a couple of people try and set it up and they too failed. The weird way in which you set the point that you’re going to, but never know which point you’re on causes a lot of unnecessary headaches when trying to set up a move. Zeapon seems to have come up with a new way to set waypoints, and it doesn’t work for me. I would much rather a “set waypoint” button. It’s also annoying that the only way to adjust the time of the entire slide is by adjusting the graph. I would much rather the ability to manually dial in the speed.
The Zeapon slider definitely has a lot going for it but it wouldn’t be v1 if it didn’t have its quirks. A couple of things bothered me during my use of the slider. First of all, the semi-permanent motor. I am sure there is a lot of smart engineering choices that go into the design of a semi-permanent motor. For me, the design could be a little better to allow hot-swapping. This would allow me to swiftly take off the motor do a couple of super simple slides and go back to motorized work.
Second, the app. Boy, this needs a lot of work, a redesign even. I have already mentioned the drawbacks – but I will say this: during productions, this app gave me anxiety while I was trying to troubleshoot why it wouldn’t lock a certain position. Their are a bunch of bugs as well. For example, when I turned my phone it would return to the connect screen. However, Android phones like my Note 10+ have a much more diverse design standard and I’m sure that iPhone users would probably have fewer problems with weird things like that.
The last thing I want to be critical of is the quick release plate. The quick-release plate has to be one of the best things about this tripod. The most annoying thing about my complaint here is that they already kind of solved it. At least on one side, they did. When you screw in the spider base to the Zeapon itself there is a mechanism that prevents rotation. When loading up 3.5 kg moving down a slider, I’m confident it’s going to be ok. As for the quick release plate, it only connects with one screw. I really wish it could be with two screws.
The little things
The magical thing about this slider is that there’s a bunch of little things. The Zeapon slider makes it hard to go back to the prehistoric sliders knowing that it can do all these great things. Here are my favorite things, in no particular order. First, I can’t get enough of the hidden length. As long as I’m not flying this Zeapon neoprene case fits nicely into my bag or sits on top of my roller. The other nice thing about it is that its easy to handle. Because its real size is a little more than half, it makes it easier to transport even when loaded.
The next best thing is that motor. the sheer simplicity of being able to simply tilt a video head and your camera is ready for an automatic pedestal shot is great. You can even combine a pan while it’s moving to another axis of movement. Other sliders usually have a catch if you can tilt them. The Zeapons motor actually holds the camera in place even when its off so setting up is really easy.
This last one might surprise you, but I can’t get over it… the included ball head. Let me start off by saying that I definitely recommend you get a bigger ball head with a quick release. But the point of the ball head isn’t that you should use it. For me, it’s more that you actually could use it. If you have ever had a free ball head with some Chinese product you can pretty much universally expect it to be crap. Zeapon includes a friction ball head that really is a great ball head. Its something so simple, but they don’t charge you extra for it, they write their name on it, and its a testament to the hard work that they put in the rest of the product.
I love that I keep finding myself saying this, but Chinese products just aren’t what they use to be. What was once a bad rep or a risky product is now slowly becoming a true contender in the professional market. Zeapon has designed a sturdy, feature-packed, and compact slider. It’s a slider that is not only affordable but also drives a hard bargain when comparing to other sliders. Even with the few drawbacks, the $500 price tag (Amazon| B&H) makes this slider amongst the most desirable features that people look for in a slider. I’m personally excited to see when they’re coming out with those firmware updates and in general for new things from this company.