Shootin' The Shot

The Frugal DP: PROAIM Lens Gear Rings

In my last post, I reviewed the amazingly inexpensive DFocus follow focus. When I first heard about the DFocus, my excitement about the price was somewhat tempered by the daunting prospect of outfitting all my lenses with expensive gear rings. After all, what good is a follow focus if the lenses you are pulling focus on are not geared to use one? I looked into many available lens gear options -- the $165 Chrosziel Flexi Gear ring, the $65 Zacuto ZipGear, the $45 Redrock microLensGear (which I believe is actually a reduction in price from the time I was looking at them) -- but on cost alone, none of them lived up to the standards of a truly frugal DP. The least expensive gears I could find were those sold by Jag35 and made by the maker of the DFocus itself, the $30, one size fits all DGear. These prices may not seem all that outrageous if you have one zoom lens that needs a gear ring, but if you have a whole bunch of prime lenses (the subject of a future post, I'm sure) and a couple zooms to outfit, you can see how the cost could escalate quite quickly to potentially many times that of the follow focus, or in some cases, even the lenses themselves. Just as the frugal DP doesn't believe in paying more for a follow focus than on the camera it is to be used with, he also doesn't believe in paying more for gear rings than a follow focus. Or, to put it another way, let me quote The Frugal DP's First Rule of Frugality: "A Good Camera Package is a Proportionate Camera Package." Actually I made that up just now, but it sounds good, and I'm sure I will be coming back to it again and again.

The gear rings are available in six sizes to fit lenses with diameters of 55-65mm, 65-75mm, 75-85mm, 85-95mm, 90-100mm, and 100-110mm

I was just about resigned to the fact that I was going to have to spend several hundred dollars on gear rings for my ten or so lenses, when I came across a post on the Cinema5D forum mentioning cheap lens gears. They turned out to be the lens gears included with the "PROAIM" follow focuses from India that you've no doubt seen for sale on eBay. They are also sold through the website I wasn't interested in the follow focus, but it turns out you can order just the gear rings, if you are so inclined, for a mere $12 each. You will probably not see just a set of the gear rings for sale on eBay, nor on The CineCity website, but if you contact the seller of the follow focus on eBay, or email The CineCity at, they will sell them to you.

The rings are available in six different sizes, meant to fit around lenses with diameters of 55mm to 110mm. I paid $84 for seven gear rings (5 of the 55-65mm size and 2 of the 65-75mm size), plus $14 for shipping. That comes out to just $14 per ring, including shipping. I was able to pay with PayPal, and the rings were shipped promptly and arrived quickly.

A thumbscrew at the top tightens the ring onto the lens barrel

The gear rings are very similar in appearance to the Redrock microLensGears, the design of which I'm sure they were based on. They are made of plastic, and have plastic feet which grip the barrel of the lens. At the top, the gear is split, which allows you to stretch it out to get it around the lens, and then closed with a thumbscrew to tighten it down. In terms of their functionality, there's really not that much to say about them. They work. What else do you need from a lens gear? They seem pretty sturdy, and I haven't had any problems with them. I've looked closely at the Redrock gears a few times and couldn't tell any discernible difference in quality or function.

One of the PROAIM gears on a lens, connected to the DFocus follow focus

The screw closure at the top is pretty big and can be more obtrusive than the closure systems of some of the other manufacturer's lens gear options, but if you tighten it onto the lens in the right position to work with your follow focus configuration, this shouldn't be an issue. It could become an issue if you have to switch your follow focus from the smart side to the dumb side of the camera or vice versa, but this will be the case with any gear that is not permanently mounted to the lens in a continuous circle. At least loosening the thumbscrew and rotating the gear into whatever position is needed is quick and easy -- more so than with some of the other gears out there that require tools.

The only thing that's really notable about the PROAIM gears is the price.  They do their job, and the next closest competitor I've seen costs more than twice as much. If I only had one lens that I used with my camera, I might consider spending more on one of the name brand gears, since one gear probably isn't going to break the bank, and it might buy me a little more peace of mind. However, considering I had a whole bunch of lenses to outfit with gears, the cost really added up fast, and at $12 each, the PROAIM gears were the only option out there that made sense. I give them five out of five bangs for the buck.

Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hi Josh,

    I’ve enjoyed both your reviews of follow focus and the gears. Stumbled upon your blog when I tried searching for D|Focus review as I’m actually looking around for affordable follow focus system. In fact, I don’t even know if I need follow focus as I’m planning on doing mostly weddings in the future. But I’m very curious :D

    Anyway came across two options, D|Focus and Indifocus mini. After your review, the former is a convincing buy. However, while on the topic of gears, I really dig the Indisystem’s Snap! Gears. Take a look at it:

    $100 for a set of 5 gears, $20 each.

    Some reviews have touted it as high quality. Now I’m not sure if this will work with D|focus v3. But would be interested to know what you think of it or if there’s a chance ever for you to do a review of it.

    By the way, my current set up is handheld with Zacuto Rapid fire and a red rock handle (story for another time). So left hand is free for follow focus. And I figure the D|Mount is gonna be really useful without having to buy a rail to mount the FF.

    Thanks, and I’ll be sure to check back here often.

  2. J,
    The Snap! gears do look very intriguing, and $100 for 5 is definitely a good price (not quite as low as $12 each, but pretty close). My only hesitation with those is that I would be worried that they might not fit tightly enough around all my various sized lenses, since they are not adjustable. The more typical gear rings, like the PROAIM ones or the Redrock Micro ones they are based on, are tightened onto the lens with a screw, and can therefore accommodate a range of diameters. The Snap! gears seem to use some kind of pad to hold the gear in place, and I would worry that this would work well for lenses of certain diameters, but may be too loose for others. Also, the set seems to come with one gear each of five different diameters, so if you have several lenses of the same diameter, you’re out of luck. (Unless, that is, all your lenses are 70mm since the 70mm gear is the only size sold individually.)
    They are certainly affordable, and they look so quick and easy to snap on and off that I am definitely intrigued, but I am still hesitant to spend $100 on a set of gears that I’m not even sure will work well with my lenses.

  3. I’ve used both RedRockMicro screw-on gears and the snap gears. The modularity of the snap gears is great, but, as you suspect, they don’t necessarily fit onto every lens. In fact I found that only two lenses in a package I was using were really well suited to the snap gears. While they were conceptually cooler than the screw-tightened gears, I had to concede that the screw-tightened gears were ultimately more functional.

  4. Hey Josh, I was wondering if the frugal DP had any DSLR tripod suggestions. I’ve heard a couple good things about this thing: Davis & Sanford Provista 7518 Tripod w/FM18 Head. Most of the usual suspects of Manfrotto or Sachtler seem to break the proportionate camera package rule. It’s also very hard for me to step back from the standards I have for rented feature gear versus stuff I could own personally for a camera 1/10 or 1/100 (depending on whether we’re talking RED or film) the cost.


    • Hey Che,

      That’s a good question. It’s a question I’ve thankfully managed to avoid, since I own a Manfrotto 503HDV tripod setup. If buying a $650 tripod for a camera like the 7D seems out of character for a Frugal DP like myself, don’t worry — it is. The tripod was actually part of my compensation for a low-budget documentary I shot a couple years ago, and this was before the 7D even existed. If I was shopping now for a tripod myself, specifically for use with a DSLR, I would absolutely be looking for something cheaper. That’s not to say that the Manfrotto isn’t a good tripod for a DSLR — in fact I think it’s a pretty good companion for a DSLR. It’s lightweight and portable, and while I wasn’t always crazy about the quality of the fluid head when using bigger prosumer or ENG type cameras, with a DSLR I find it to be very smooth. Nor is the price really as disproportionate as you suggest. When you consider that if you were buying a RED ONE camera body for $25,000, and you could spend $10,000 or more for a complementary tripod head alone, spending $650 on a tripod for a $1600 camera body doesn’t seem so ridiculous.

      But you’re right. Traditionally one would spend much more on a camera relative to a tripod, and anyway I’m always on the lookout for the least expensive option that works the way I need it to, so I would definitely be looking for something cheaper than the Manfrotto. I did once use the specific Davis & Sanford tripod you mentioned. I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the tripod, but I did take note at the time that for the price it seemed like a great deal. It’s also important to note the context that I was using it in. I was shooting a short film for a student of a very fly-by-night seeming “film school”, and this tripod was part of the equipment package provided by the school to the students. Needless to say, this tripod saw a fair amount of use, and way more than its share of misuse/abuse, so it may just not have been in the best shape anymore by the time I was using it. The fluid head did seem smoother than one would expect for a tripod in this price range, but something bothered me about the construction of the legs. Not sure quite what it was, but they just seemed kind of cheap and awkward to use. Nevertheless, for a low price, this tripod does offer pretty much all the features you’re going to be looking for in a decent video tripod — fluid head, leveling ball, sliding quick-release baseplate, decent maximum height. It even comes with a bunch of extras thrown in — 2nd pan handle, carrying case, and a “tripod dolly” with rubber wheels. I don’t know how useful that dolly is, but I guess it’s nice to have. It doesn’t seem to have much in the way of adjustments for the pan and tilt fluid, but with such a light camera, that may be ok. All in all, I think it’s a very feature-rich tripod for the price ($190), but I would recommend taking a look at it in person to make sure you like it, before you buy it.

      I came across a few other tripods in that price range that also looked like they may be worth taking a look at, such as these from Matthews and Varizoom — both around $170. It’s also worth noting that the least expensive Manfrotto fluid head tripod system with a leveling ball head costs a maybe-not-so-far-out-of-reach $275 (after mail-in rebate). This one looks like the legs could be a little flimsy, but who knows? Maybe they’re sturdy enough for a DSLR. Anyway, since they all have similar features, the real differences between all these tripods will be how robustly they are built, and how smooth the heads are, neither of which can be determined from a picture. I would recommend taking your camera to a store where you can see and test all these tripods in person, and determine for yourself which is ultimately going to give you the most bang for the buck. And when you do, let me know what you end up deciding on. Maybe you can write a guest post on the blog about your experience shopping for the perfect tripod for a proportionate DSLR camera package.


  5. Hi Josh,

    Like many others, I stumbled on your website while searching for some camera part (I don’t even remember what now) and have now taken a thorough look at your work and posts. Great stuff! Especially the debate on the 7D and 5D depth of field… very informative and clearly written. I have both the 5D Mark II and a T2i so your info is all very relevant to what I’m trying to accomplish as a fairly new DP with a lot to learn.

    Anyhow, just wanted to let you and your readers know about the tripod that I got. It one of those knockoff ebay ones made in China, but after using it on 2 shoots now, I have to say it’s build quality and usability is quite good! And it’s under $200 with a full fluid head. It’s basically like a smaller ENG tripod, perfectly sized for DSLR users, even with a full rig.

    Here’s a similar ebay link:

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