Manfrotto 303plus Mods

I've been planning on doing a macro/possible focus stack of a pocket watch for a while and decided to pick up this Manfrotto 303Plus off of E-bay.

This thing is pretty cool in that it has two very fine adjustment lead-screw adjustable rails with quick positioning features (a lever disengages the threads). The problem with it is that it has a bit of play in the rails making them less than ideal for macro work. 
So I disassembled the thing and drilled/tapped 6-32 threaded holes and inserted nylon tipped set screws. This removed all of the play while still letting the rails move. 
I also added a cheap rack and pinion adjustable rail for vertical adjustment which also had a lot of play and received the same fix. This rail attaches where the camera otherwise would and is easily removable. It adds "multi row" pano functionality and the ability to adjust the third axis (more coarsely) for macro work.

So for ~ $325 and a bit of effort/time I have a 3 axis adjustable head with very fine/accurate adjustments in two directions and ~ 6" of adjustment in every axis. Something similar "off the shelf" will cost a minimum of $600 and probably significantly more. I realize that not everyone has the ability to tap holes for set screws themselves but I would expect any machine shop would charge less than $100 to do it for you. Probably quite a bit less (~$50?) if you did the disassembly/reassembly yourself.

So if you are looking for something like this maybe picking up a used 303Plus and doing these mods would be a good solution for you.

I guess I have to get to taking those pictures soon now...


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