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DIY Follow Focus
  • So after discovering mention of these jar openers that may be a nice way of getting a zero budget follow focus setup I decided to order a bunch of them to play with (the international delivery was slow and expensive, so it made sense to get a few instead of just one).

    It came last week and this weekend i've managed to spend an hour or two fiddling with it and making up a super cheap and nasty looking setup that sort of looks functional for stops that you judge by eye rather than hard stops that stop you. There's a super quick video of its operation here

    There are more details of the construction in the description of the video on vimeo.

    Very much version 1 that looks super cheap, but i think will do for now. I'm looking for improvements on the marker attached to or under the jar opener, as well as the markers themselves, along with the possibility of hard stops.

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  • I did the same thing with two white zip ties, together, over the focus barrel of the lens. I used white to I can write focus marks on it with an erasable pen. I slide the zip ties close to the focus marks on the lens-pull focus, put a mark on the zip tie, then re-pull to the next focus point, put another mark.
    Action-rack focus from dot to dot....easy. And you can get large white plastic zip ties anywhere.
    Mine are loose enough that I can slide it on and off the lens, and, I have two ends sticking out, so I can use it from either hand. I can use the long end to dampen movement, or move my fingers in closer, for more control.

    I should make a video of my 20 cent focus puller ;)
  • Sounds great. You should definitely make a video, or take some photos of it.

    Ultimately i'd like to get hard stops sort of working, and my main motivation was to try and get something that's going to be as gentle as possible on the lens itself, I don't want to strip the rubber of the ring, or scratch a metal focus ring.

    Another nice benefit of this particular jar opener is that the rubber and handle dampens your focus action, i tried to show a closeup of this action at the end, but it feels like you can get a very nice smooth start and finish to your move by letting the rubber absorb some of the motion. To be honest I tried this jar opener on a picked beetroot jar earlier today and found it didn't work very well at all, that same dampening and give that works a charm for this application makes it a pretty lousy jar opener. :)

    How do you stop your zip ties from freely rotating on the lens? Have you tried it on an all metal lens? A tip if this ever becomes a problem is to put some elastic bands on first, and then tie your zip tie or whatever over the top. The rubber friction will stop any slip, which lets face it would be catastrophic if it caused your focus marks to be shifted.
  • I put the zip ties on the rubber focus ring of the lens, with the teeth of the zip ties facing inward so they can "bite" into the rubber. If you pull on it to hard, you can get it to slip. I don't want it on their to tight, as I want to slide it on and off the lens. It has the same dampening effect as your jar opener as I left each end long. The added advantage is, I can mark focus points on it with the erasable marker-that was the most important thing to me.
    You will find that with dampening, the focus is not as precise. And, when your shooting an F2.0 lens, you really need to be extremely precise with your focus pulls, as the DOF is razor thin.

    Also, the GH1 only does magnification in manual focus mode, while it's not recording. So you need to lock everything down, do your focus pulls, and mark everything-then go back and triple check your focus "dots", just to make sure you got it exact, before you start recording.
    You're just not going to be able to accurately pull focus while recording, even with a follow-focus unit, just by sight alone. You need reference marks, and that magnified screen.

    I use this on my Nikon 50mm F2.0. I don't use it on the Panny lenses, because they are "focus by wire", and your reference "dots" may move when you start shooting, depending on how fast you roll into focus. So that's kinda a waste of time.
  • @Retina
    I love that solution. I made a DIY version almost identical to that a while back.
  • I edited the topic title to just DIY follow focus, seeing as we're discussing lots of different types.

    @havasuvideo nice idea having the zip ties on backwards, a nice solution to the gripping problem, though it'll only work ok on rubber focus barrels i guess. I think an elastic band or similar would offer you grip on those though with the zip ties on either way round.

    I'll be trying to use my concoction in earnest this coming weekend so will see how it works out, I'll be using it on the Nokton 25mm f0.95 so I know what you mean about narrow DOF. And already by eye i've noticed that the damping makes it interesting trying to come to a stop on the mark, will see.
  •'re going to find that the "dampening" is not very precise. You will end up grabbing it closer to the lens, so you can have that fine touch.
    Really helps to be able to write reference marks, so you can do a rack focus.
  • My reference marks are the markers stuck onto the velcro disk that the match stick lines up with. They can be placed easily and i've numbered them to have a sequence of focus points easy to move between. Will see how it stands up in use.

    I'll see if that damping does become and issue in practice, it doesn't feel like it should do with quick testing, but when you're actually trying to nail a focus pull it may be a different story. It's first trial by fire will be this coming weekend.

  • Thanks for the post. Looking forward to your dispatches from the front
  • @jimtreats.....I came across a method were you can use a rubber band with a cheep tripod that allows you to get smooth panning.
  • @chrisbroome

    Thanks, I've heard of that type of DIY thing as well, i'm skeptical just how well it could work but its pretty neat. I've already got a fluid tripod head which i'm trying to learn how to perfect my pans with.

    I've also got a proper follow focus system on rails (by shoot35) which looks great but some lenses are too short to be able to be used by it and the entire system is a lot heavier to carry around, and slower to setup. I also need to get some more gears to use across my lenses.

    These are the reasons I was interested in looking into something like this DIY solution. Just hoping to get something that's a bit easier than doing things on the barrel directly, and using marks in pencil written on masking tape.
  • If you shoot with MF lenses, as I do all the time, you'd notice many of these lenses have very short throws. Defeats the purpose of putting the additional weight on the rig, when pulling focus on the lens itself is so much faster
  • I'm still a bit disappointed that most of my lenses aren't compatible with my Shoot35 follow focus. It just can't get close enough to the focus wheel before hitting the camera. Pretty much meaning this cheap DIY solution is the only choice i have!!
  • I had to part in 2 (the long way) my jar opener for it not to rub the focus ring of my 14-140mm, 20mm pana, 14mm pana and 50mm smc takumar and it works !! See there for the marks on the lcd screen :

  • You can now get Varavon lever, cheap and very cool. Better than jar openers.

  • Diy FOLLOW FOCUS by changing the direction of rotation. Most elements are by hard disks,main bearing. I think it's a good idea for a variety of lenses -left or right focus