Tommy Williamson had problems getting his D|Gear Universal Lens Gear to stay on the Canon 50mm F/1.8 lens. Who wouldn't? That focus ring is pretty slim. His solution was to dip the tips of the spokes in Plasti-Dip (normally used to coat the handles of tools). The Plasti-Dip is some very durable stuff, and comes in a variety of colors. [Thanks Tommy] The Black on Black looks invisible and keeps the unit looking the same. If you ask me, this should be something offered coming right from the factory. Pretty simple idea, but seems to make a world of difference to prevent the spokes from slipping out.
Varavon sent out a few units of their latest product - the 'Varavon Sling'. The Varavon Sling is a Focus Zoom Lever, and we decided to try them out for one of our shoots. We weren't doing a lot of tracking on this set, and It's not a required piece of gear for everyone, but the guys on set found it useful. It's a similar idea to the DIY Focus Lever using a silicon kitchen jar opener, but the Sling has a firm plastic handle and fairly long adjustable band to fit almost any lens. Beats setting up a rail system, follow focus, and lens gears when trying to knock out something quick. Check out the Varavon Sling via Vifocam.com
Another reason why you're not seeing too many DIY Follow Focus projects anymore, here's another new and cheaper follow focus system listed on the market. Doesn't look pretty but the listing claims it's made of aluminum (mostly anodized black), ABS, and rubber. Comes with a quick release 15mm clamp style mount and universal lens gear.
With the quick release style clamp, It can be mounted on both left and right side of the camera, but the gear on the box is also reversible. It also has both vertical and horizontal height adjustments, overall a decent feature set retailing for only $88 dollars. Obviously it all boils down to how effective the gearbox is in the FF, but you can find more images and information via eBay (Click Here).
Cheap 15mm Quick Release Follow Focus
Keep in mind you'll still need a basic set of 15mm Rails to mount. Your basic set should include two 15mm Rods, a Camera Baseplate (to mount your camera), and a Tripod Mount (to attach the rails to your fluid head) - like this basic set (found here).
Vimeo member LJ Lee shares a review on the Lanparte Follow Focus with A/B hard stops, removable marking disc, and quick release 15mm clamp [Thanks LJ]. Lanparte has various DSLR equipment which all have excellent reviews, but they can be a bit pricey at times. This Follow Focus with manual stops can average about $400 dollars on eBay (Click Here for more information).
If you're looking to do some remote focus pulling, the wireless systems can be a bit 'finicky'. A Wired electronic remote follow focus system works with a long cable so the camera operator can move about, and the puller can control focus with a remote video screen. This particular one (above) uses a basic '3.5mm stereo' cable for the remote tether. Looking back at some of the older videos, this new electronic follow focus has been a work in progress for at least several months. The final version finally has shown up on eBay with what looks like a similar beefy servo as in the Jag35 kit and starts at only $199 (seen here).
The video above has the Servo mounted on the stiff Zoom ring (not focus ring) to showcase it's strength. There are two different versions available. One with a A/B programmable focus points, and one is just a basic electronic follow focus. The speed of the movement can be adjusted on the remote as well. There's a few other videos showing the effectiveness of programmed A/B stops, and a closer look at the Remote (keep in mind that's the older version ff) on the eBay page (click here).
There's about a dozen USB remotes sold as a USB Follow Focus System, but this particular one lacks lens focus controls and just throws in some basic functions. This one was designed to mount close to your rig handle so that you can access common settings like ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Zoom Focus, Start / Stop Video Mode, etc.
Don't be confused by some of the listings, it's obvious they don't know what they are talking about and list it to be a follow focus controller (wrong!). This looks like the Okii MC1 controller, except it's about $100 dollars less. I like this particular handle design over those ugly round Canon USB Follow focuses but i'm still not sold on paying so much for this type of remote. You can find additional info about these Canon USB Video Remotes on eBay following the link (click here).
Above is a Gini iFocus Follow Focus I use, and have a video review about it (here). One of the shortcomings of this design is that the gear is not reversible, so it could be tricky trying to align it with short lenses, or sometimes you can't get it far enough on short 15mm rods. The marking indicator is also at a fixed position so you have to be able to see this in use. Outside of those small issues, the iFollow Focus is one heavy well crafted solid unit, with almost no backlash.
Recently some images for Gini Rigs on auction show a slightly modified Follow Focus with a shaft (above). This clearly shows that the gear can now be removed from one side and installed on the opposite, making it a reversible Follow Focus. One thing I can't seem to locate though is if there is a change with the marking indicator. Aside from the new shaft poking out the opposite side, it looks almost exactly like my iFocus. So the question is does the shaft design have more / less backlash or maybe it's the same? There doesn't seem to be an official name for this new FF, and he still has the original iFocus available on many bundles. If you're shopping, look carefully when choosing a rig that comes with an FF. If you guys happen to get one of the new ones, would love to see more about the differences.
The great thing about building your own rig is being able to design it specifically for your own needs. Of course most of how we assemble things together are based on what products are available to us. When we're introduced to new products, it opens up so much more possibilities. Industry standard 15mm rails are great for building form and support for your cameras, but here's a new concept that also add more function.
The P&C Swiss Rod has a few inches of 15mm rod on each end, and in the middle are alternating threaded and non-threaded holes. The pass through is designed so that items like a hot shoe can be positioned correctly before tightening. The male/female ends of the Swiss Rod are industry standard and can be used to extend (attach) to other manufacturer rods like Gini, Letus, and I believe even Zacuto, and more. The wide squarish design of the rod also helps nano clamps from slipping.
Even if you're not trying to replace rails on your build, by just adding a single P&C Swiss Rod, you open up totally new mounting options. The 1/4" studs can always be stepped up to 3/8" if needed. Taking advantage of the basic threaded ports, we've also found creative ways to mount the Swiss Rods on light stands or on the hot shoe of the camera to hold many accessories. With several items attached to one rod, the entire rod becomes a quick release system mounted to a simple 15mm clamp. The rods will be available from PhotographyandCinema.com