I am lucky enough to have my C5D office at Birns and Sawyer, Hollywood and recently grabbed the follow focus units that they had for this little side-by-side comparison video. I must warn you that this is by no means a “Review” of any kind. They happened to be there so we thought that we would show them to you next to each other. There may be some features that we have not described here. I would suggest doing your own research before purchasing any of this equipment. C5D Top Man Chris Collins shot and edited the video. We nabbed the music from our pal Tidwell.
A follow focus is absolutely a great tool for HDSLR work. Still lenses are not designed to “follow focus”, they are designed to quickly capture focus. In most cases this means a very short focus throw from infinity to close focus. This makes pulling focus very difficult.
A geared follow focus will increase the focus throw and give you a fighting chance to keep the subject in focus throughout the scene. I would like to also point out that most camera accessories are very subjective. Whatever works for you, is the best tool for the job.
In the shop there were five follow focus units to be had for this comparison. I wanted to show the Arri FF-5 HD to illustrate a common professional style follow focus that has been used for years in the motion picture industry. The Arri FF-5 HD is quite expensive at around $3500 complete. It is almost twice the price of the Arri MFF-1 shown here at around $1700.
The Arri MFF-1 is one of the best follow focuses you can get for HDSLR work. The adjustable rotation of the follow focus is a great feature when using Canon lenses. The entire gearbox flips over to reverse the rotation of the gear, which works well for Nikon lenses. It is the most expensive at around $1700 US.
The Chrosziel DV Studio Rig follow focus is very sturdy and the gear can be positioned in either the front or back of the gear drive. This is helpful when you must get close to the camera body with smaller prime lenses. The knob is large which will add more rotation to a short throw lens, like a Canon Zoom. They also make a “Varilock” knob with adjustable rotation. (See Link) The Chrosziel DV Studio Rig shown here costs around $1500.
Zacuto’s mid level Z-Focus follow focus was very smooth right out of the box. Most follow focus units are fairly stiff new and will loosen up a bit over time. The gear can also be positioned in the front or rear of the drive. The gear was a little small on the unit we had but that is an easy fix. The Z-Focus is $1350 US. They also make a “Flippable Reversible” version for $1675 US.
The Red Rock Micro Follow Focus V2 was the least expensive of the bunch at less than half the price of some of the other units. The prime gear cannot be flipped from front to back and the indicator marker is flimsy, but this is a great follow focus for the price. I have used one for over a year without problem. The Red Rock Micro V2 costs $545 US.
There are many other types of follow focus units on the market ranging from the $150 D-Focus, to well over 1K by companies like Vocas, Cinevate, and Genus. The five shown were just some of the popular follow focus units on the market readily available to us at the time.
I spent many years as a First A.C. and have used a lot of different types of follow focus units. I have even used cloth tape and pulled focus off the barrel in a pinch. It really does not matter how you get to the party as long as you get there.