DIY Follow Focus from Fishing Gear

DIY DSLR follow focus systems are just one of those fun projects we try and tackle, and at the same time keep it simple and under a few bucks. One of the hardest parts to tackle is the ergonomics of controlling the lens with a 90 degree transmission of some sort. Thanks to a tip from for pointing out this interesting DSLR follow focus setup with a basic fishing reel from Vimeo member Kemal Güven Erakbaş. Come to think of it, fishing reels are probably one of the most refined 90 degree transmissions. Smooth bearings can crank pounds of tension with ease, can be fairly quite, and speed crank included! Long focus pulls can be done with ease. Some big manufacturer out there needs to reverse engineer this crank into an entirely new Follow Focus transmission.

You hear the operator throwing out some queues on what item is quickly being focused on and it seems to work smooth and fast. Since you're listening to the audio from his camera, you'll notice there isn't much noise from the fishing reel. I guess he didn't set the drag, LOL. Yes it does look quite odd, but with some effort, there's probably more ways to break the molds of these fishing reels down further, or possibly just adding wheels and gears if you're going for a different look. It's definitely a clear path a cheap DIY follow focus system which already lives in the corner of your garage.

Obviously something you're not going to be shopping for at the Camera stores, so cheapest bet probably lies over at eBay. I'm not an expert fisherman, but i'm assuming any decent reel with the switch off will have a reversible option. There's some closeout prices over at eBay for a bunch of Quantum Reels found here: Quantum Fishing Reels at Closeout Prices

10 thoughts on “DIY Follow Focus from Fishing Gear

  1. That is brilliant, it is a way cleaner system than using a right angle drill bit and way less heavy. I would like to see someone show how to take apart the reel, the part that confuses me is that on most fishing reels the outside spins and the center stays put. Is it just a simple shaft on the inside?

  2. Interesting. My father has built hundreds of these open bail rods over the years. I'll bet he has a few scrap ones for me to tear up. The open bail reels are quiet. The closed bail ones are super lousy and not reversible. Great find!

  3. Emm

    Post author

    Touche' this would definitely make for an interesting slider pulley. If it can tow up a 20lb Bass out of the water, why not? LOL.

  4. Emm

    Post author

    You can find similar bands under the Vacuum supplies. Different vacuums use 'belts' or sometimes called 'cog belts'. Many many different sizes.

  5. Madara

    Emm do you know where the gear and rubber band can be found in the states? Also I've seen that plate with the holes uses frequently. I haven't seen it anywhere.

  6. Mike

    Problem is Zebco couldn't capitalize on the "Z" tradition... like Z-spinner or Z-reel or Z-winder... 🙂

  7. The Wallbanger

    When I first read this I instantly thought this might make a good pulley for a slider/time lapse project.

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