The gracious Wayne Kinney of Shoot 35 LTD, provided me with his new CINEFocus Follow Focus unit to use on the production of “A Verse Before Dying“. ( pardon the lack of a camera in the photo… i needed the 5D to take the picture and i have no other camera right now )
I have to admit, i am VERY VERY picky about what follow focus i use. I have never owned one for more than a month because i honestly hate almost all of them and refuse to pay money for somethign that leaves me feeling, well, blah. I have bought and sold, borrowed, and rented just about every follow focus on the market. The only ones i have found that i like are the Arri Studio FF4 Follow Focus a multi thousand dollar unit or the O’connor CFF1, again a multi thousand dollar unit. However, now for the first time in the indie market price point, the CINEFocus, which is modestly priced at 349 GBP, or around $540. I was an 1st AC for a long time and I’ve spent a lot of time with these things. The follow focus is a tool that has less to do with looks or brand, and more about feel. Its a moving part. Smoothness, movement slack, ease of use, and solidity are as important as its ability to turn the focus wheel.
The high end follow focus units mentioned above are both smooth, have very little slack, but more importantly have feel. That is to say you can feel the stiffness of the lens barrel, or whether there is an issue with the lens like any binding or grinding. Also another big factor is the response to small adjustments. The CINEfocus scored high marks from me in this feel category. There is almost no play whatsoever between the movements of the focus knob, and the transmission of that moment to the lens barrel. I don’t know what kind of gears it has inside whether metal, or plastic, but they provide a very positive, active feel to the user.
The unit itself is well engineered, the marking discs are easily removable and held in place with magnets. A very clever solution to the occasional problem of the marking disc coming unseated, and the user not noticing. The Chroziel Follow Focus does this occasionally. If the marking disc is unseated on a CINEfocus, you will know because it will hang loose and swinging off the knob. It’s either on, or off. No almost. The marking disc is a nice hybrid of the flat, and cone shaped marking discs. You can mark on either the frontal cone shaped surface or the top flat edge for off angles. The derlin is perfectly smooth, and cleans easily with standard dry erase markers. The .8 pitch gear is removable and you can reattach it to the other side of the post. The small steel pin you see in the photo below. This gives you some nice flexibility when allocating precious real estate on the 15mm mini rods. The only knock i have against the CINEfocus is that this operation requires tools. The tools are included with the follow focus, but still, a tool-less method would be welcome. Perhaps this is why the operational feel is so good, less wiggle room in the drive chain. If it came down to good feel, or tool-less gear adjustment, i would leave it as is, and retain the good feel. Another welcome addition could potentially be a reversal gear for Nikon lenses. I personally use mostly PL lenses so its not an issue for me personally, but i can see some AC’s not used to Nikon lenses wishing for the option.
The marking point is 360 degree adjustable, you see it above in red. This is pretty standard, but shockingly useful, when the camera is up high.
As far as features go, the CINEfocus is a straight forward no nonsense tool. The simple basics, executed well. Some follow focus units look cool, some can do many things and have a lot of customization, but they often lack feel, and performance. The CINEfocus is thoughtfully designed, efficient, and robustly built.
I received the unit in an excellent locking flight case, in precut foam, with an extra marking disc and a few extra accessories to sample. The speed crank and accessory port on the Focus handle itself is industry standard. Its nice to know that parts are interchange able. The Arri whip that i have functions perfectly in the CINEfocus, the fit is snug with no play, but still isn’t overly tight as can be the case with some other manufacturers components. This means the tolerances to the standard are very high. Thats a very good thing. Below you can see the close ups on the Arri whip and Shoot35 speed crank.
The Shoot35 Flex gears, the cine pitch removable gears for still lenses, are quite nice. The design is simple, flexible, and robust, and surprisingly, VERY affordable. Each ring costing around 50$ a piece. If you buy in bulk, more than 5 at a time the price drop significantly to around $30 a piece. This makes gearing all your still glass a possibility without breaking the bank. As you can see the clasps are milled out of aluminum, and they provide a tight grip on the lenses. I had used them on a Canon 24-105 F4L lens with great success. It takes seconds to attach, and once attached there is little reason to remove them. Similar to Zacuto Zip gears, they have a low profile and don’t impede hand focusing, but at a fraction of the cost.
Over all, based on my time with the Shoot35 CINEfocus, i have to say i would definitely buy this product. It performs like a more expensive unit, and is actually one of the cheaper options on the market. I’m impressed.