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A Cinematography Buyers Guide for HDSLR Users

Updated March 3, 2011

Part 2 - Follow Focus Units

Part 1 of 4 - LCD Viewfinder Loupes
Part 2 of 4 - Follow Focus Units (x)
Part 3 of 4 - Mobile / Shoulder Supports
Part 4 of 4 - Steadicams / Stabilizers
Part 5 of 5 - Electronic Viewfinders
Part 6 of 6 - The Gear in my Bag

At first glance the video capabilities inside the new digital SLR's may seem all but useless due to the lack of continuous autofocus (the exception being the Panasonic DMC-GH1 / GF1 and Olympus PEN E-P1). But most videographers and cinematographers would never use autofocus as it takes control away from the operator. In cinematography, manual focus is the only way to go since you operator wants to retain full control over what is in and out of focus and when that should change. That's not to say that having the option of autofocus wouldn't be nice, however it's not a deal breaker. I personally would love a reliable AF option for times when I am using my 5DMKII on a steadicam. Yes, I work around it with larger apertures and a preset focus distance, but a fast, reliable autofocus - as an option - would be ideal.

Okay, so we've estabilished that manual focus is the preferred method for serious videographers, but actually placing your hand around the ring of a lens in order to change focus points (pull focus) presents its own challenges. First, it would be nearly impossible to rotate the lens more than 360° in one smooth motion and second, placing your hands around the lens itself introduces camera wobble and shake when trying to turn the focus ring - especially with lenses that have a 'stickier' focus ring. Enter Follow Focus setups!

A Follow focus unit is an add-on device for camera's with interchangeable lenses. A follow-focus unit allows the operator to more smoothly and conveniently control the focus of the lens while shooting. They typically work by allowing the operator to turn a large knob, which in turn rotates the focus ring of the lens by way of a ring that surrounds the lens. The Follow Focus unit sits parallel to the camera making it easier and more comfotable to pull focus. You can read a more exact definition of Follow Focus over a wikepdia.

Follow Focus units vary widely in price and features. They also need to be attached to a shoulder support or rod system that connects under the camera itself. Here is a list of many of the more affordable Follow Focus units, along with a description from the manufacturer's website.

D|Focus V3 via JAG35

Pricing: $139.99

The world's first truly affordable follow focus system just got a whole lot better, again! The new D|Focus Version 3 offers an optimized design for better compatibility with DSLR type cameras. The original D|Focus made follow focuses available to all film makers, the D|Focus V2 brought pro-level follow focus performance (near zero backlash and user-adjustable gearbox tension) to all film makers and the V3 improves on it yet again by adding a smaller and longer knob for better grip and more room on the marking disc.

The D|Focus is manufactured 100% in the USA using the latest in Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Numeric Control (CNC) technology. It is constructed using high quality Delrin™ and Aluminum for strength, durability and light weight.

  • New! Custom manufactured knob. Smaller in diameter and longer for a better grip and more room on the marking disc.
  • New! The reference pin also doubles as the 5/64" hex wrench for making adjustments and flipping the gearbox over. This way you always have your adjustment wrench with you!
  • New! Thinner gearbox, about 1/4" thinner than the V2. With the JAG35 Cage or the new JAG35 DSLR Baseplate we are able to make the D|Focus V3 work with even the shortest of lenses without having to reverse the gearbox (which would get in the way of a matte box.)
  • New! Industry standard accessory port on the knob for whips and cranks
  • New! Thinner slider mount, again reduced by 1/4", saves room on your rails
  • Tension adjustable gearing allows the user to customize how tightly the miter gears mesh. This allows for almost zero backlash!
  • Compatible with industry standard 15 mm Rods
  • Compatible with all industry standard 32 pitch (0.8 mod) lens gears including the D|Focus | JAG35 D|Gears
  • Industry standard accessory port on the knob for whips and cranks
  • Single point of adjustment and tensioning onto your rail system
  • Reversible gearplate – Set it up on either side of your camera
  • End user serviceable and upgradeable design
  • Optional Marking Disc upgrade (sold separately)
  • New 3D Marking disc!
  • Weight 4.5 oz
  • Compatible with all DSLR cameras, video cameras and 35mm adapter
  • Get More Information

Cavision RFD15B Basic Mini Single Wheel Follow Focus

Pricing: $399

The Cavision RFD15B is a mini single-wheel follow focus unit designed for compact digital cameras and prosumer models. You can even set it up with a 2nd follow focus unit with one operating the focus, the other side operating the zoom. This is the least affordable solution that uses a gear system, similar to all the professional and more expensive models above it.
  • Ideal for mini-DV / prosumer cameras
  • Horizontal adjustment allows for use on different lens types & sizes
  • Entirely geared transmission provides smooth operation and minimal backlash
  • Can be used in a dual follow focus setup to control both focus and zoom
  • Removable marking plate with spring loaded mechanism
  • Compact and lightweight for easy storage and carry
  • Most affordable professional quality follow focus on the market
  • Get More Information

Cavision RFD15S Advanced Mini Single Wheel Follow Focus

Pricing: $599

The Cavision RFD15S is a more advanced mini single-wheel follow focus unit also designed for compact digital cameras and prosumer models. This model differs from the RFD15B by adding a reversible bracket and dual joint mechanism that allows for varied positioning of the gear arm.
  • Ideal for mini-DV / prosumer cameras but can also be used on ENG lenses
  • Reversible bracket and dual joint mechanism allows for varied positioning of gear arm
  • Entirely geared transmission provides smooth operation and minimal backlash
  • Removable marking plate with spring loaded mechanism
  • Compact and lightweight for easy storage and carry
  • Highly affordable
  • Get More Information


Pricing: $99 The first fully functioning, all inclusive focusing device for under $100!

Featuring a closed gearbox with low noise and low backlash, this fixed height focusing aid is adjustable for the any lens diameter. Made of aluminum and Delrin nylon, it is strong, light, and with all stainless steel hardware, rust-free even in extreme wet conditions.

Another feature of the indiFOCUSzoom, is that the gearbox can be realigned for the friction wheel to be in either the front or rear facing positions. Therefore, the indiFOCUSzoom can be put on the right side of the lens, and on the zoom wheel of a lens. By using a indiFOCUS on the focus ring and an indiFOCUSzoom on the zoom ring, you can control both focus and zoom even on the shortest zoom lens.

As the lenses on DSLRs are servo-driven and not manual, they have very little resistance and can be driven with a friction wheel and not need gears. The indiFOCUSzoom ships with a large and small friction wheel-allowing for high resolution or speed pulls by varying the driver to lens diameter ratio. The small knurled driver knob keeps the entire units size extremely small---very unobtrusive when shooting live events or on the streets-and under 8 ounces.

New indiFOCUSmini

Pricing: $149 The new indiFOCUSmini is a fixed height, closed gearbox, low backlash, follow focus. It ships with a set of the new SNAP! Gears
  • Designed with the DSLR in mind, the indiFOCUSmini has many features that were only available on the 'expensive' models.
  • An adjustable witness post that can rotate 360 degrees.
  • Gearbox alignment, allowing front or rearward facing of the driver gear.
  • Low backlash, enclosed, noiseless gearbox
  • Low weight, under 10 ounces

New indiFOCUSpro

Pricing: $299 The indiFOCUSpro is a height adjustable, closed gearbox, low noise, extremely low backlash, follow focus. It has a full set of SNAP! Gears to ensure accurate focus pulls.

It features a 360 degree adjustable witness post, full sized accessory port, all aluminum construction, available hard-stops, and low weight, all for under $300.

RedRock microFollow Focus V2

Pricing: $545 (Buy it from B&H Photo)

The microFollowFocus version 2 is a new version of the award-winning microFollowFocus. The new version sports a unique quick release clamp, 3D marking disk, lighter weight design, and compatibility with the Redrock 19mm follow focus clamp. The microFollowFocus version 2 continues the tradition of great features including all-geared design with play-free action, precision machined aluminum construction, standard arri-style accessory port, and standard film pitch gearing. The sliding connector allows the microFollowFocus v2 to be adapted to a wide range of lens diameters, and is fully compatible with cinema lenses that have standard film pitch gearing (0.8 mod32)

Redrock microFollowFocus v2 Features

  • Completely gear-driven design for slip-free, accurate, and repeatable focus movement
  • Unique quick release clamp
  • 1:1 gear ratio allowing smooth movements for still and motion picture 35mm lenses
  • Adjustable slide-mounting mechanism to fit large range of lens diameters, including video camera lenses
  • Interchangeable drive gears including 0.8 film pitch and fujinon pitch (for fujinon video lenses)
  • Easily switchable to either side of camera
  • 3D marking disk allow focus marks to be easily viewed by operator or assistant
  • Standard arri-style accessory port in focus wheel for attaching whip, speed crank, etc.
  • Industry-standard 15mm lightweight (60mm spacing) rod mounted (rod support not included with microFollowFocus bundle)
  • Machined with high quality, machined aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Lightweight design
  • Sleek Redrock look
  • Also works great with DV and HD/V built-in camera lenses**
  • Weight 15 oz
  • MFG Information Page
  • Buy it from B&H Photo

Cinevate Durus Follow Focus System

15mm System: $1195.00
19mm System: $1316.79

The sealed internal gear set and bearing assembly assures effortless movement, near zero lash, and a lifetime of maintenance free use in a commercial environment. The entire unit is computer machined from 3 aluminum billets leaving plastic used only for the dry-erase focus ring and interchangeable (.8 film pitch) drive gear. The focus marking ring is designed for multi-angle viewing, and is indexed and attached magnetically. Our single rail mount design is rock-solid, incredibly versatile and opens up rail space for other accessories. The unit can be mounted left or right, at any height, with the focussing head angle adjustable to suit your needs. In any configuration, the unit can be used with the drive gear oriented forward or back. Designed to work on any 15mm rails system, you can purchase our 19mm clamp to use the system interchangeably on 19mm rails. The unit ships with three of our aluminum annodized universal focus rings for mounting to any 35mm lens. The current pricing is introductory only!

Zacuto Z-Focus

Pricing: 1350
Z-FF-1 ($1110.00)
Z-FF-1F Lightweight Flippable ($1600.00)
Z-FF-S Studio Flippable ($1600.00)
Z-FF-1DS Lightweight Double-Sided ($2700.00)
Z-FF-SD Studio Double-Sided ($2950.00)

Zacuto's Z-focus is an extremely accurate follow focus that allows the operator or assistant to pull focus. Features include: complete gear driven, no play, multiple gear pitches and more. The Z-focus can come single sided or double sided in studio 15mm or 19mm or in a lightweight configuration. The mechanism utilizes a set of gears that connect to and spin the focus ring or Zacuto zip gear on the camera lens. The white disk allows the focus puller to create distance marked for repeatable focus pulls.

The Zacuto Z-Focus (Follow Focus) includes:

  • Completely gear-driven design for slip free, accurate movement.
  • Helicel gear adjustment screw to allow user to tighten up gear play
  • Interchangeable drive gears
  • Magnetic dry erase marking disk
  • Standard accessory port for Zacuto, Chrosziel, and Arri follow focus whips and speed cranks.
  • Industry-standard 15mm lightweight rod mount
  • Lightweight design
  • Other drives available in Fuji .6 & Canon .5 pitches
  • Get more information

Part 1 of 3 - LCD Viewfinder Loupes
Part 2 of 3 - Follow Focus Units (x)
Part 3 of 3 - Mobile / Shoulder Supports
Part 4 of 4 - Steadicams / Stabilizers
Part 5 of 5 - Electronic Viewfinders
Part 6 of 6 - The Gear in my Bag

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