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.
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 thecinecity.com. 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 email@example.com, they will sell them to you.
Today I am starting a feature on this blog called The Frugal DP, in which I will be doing gear reviews specifically aimed at the filmmaker who is trying to obtain great production value on a shoestring budget. I won't necessarily be looking for the best gear available, but the gear that provides the most bang for the buck.
An affordable follow focus has been a dream of mine for a long time. At one point I thought of trying to build one myself for my old Krasnogorsk K-3 windup Russian 16mm camera, but I never had access to the right tools or the mechanical engineering know-how to do it. Frankly, it would have been wasted on that camera anyway, but it would have looked cool. Now that there are finally some affordable follow focus-worthy cameras out there, equipment manufacturers have responded to the demand for them, and there are lots of follow focus options on the market. Most of them, however, remain extremely expensive (maybe not relative to traditional film equipment prices, but at least relative to a camera like the Canon 7D). Zacuto's follow focus units start at $1300. To me it doesn't make any sense to spend almost as much or more on an accessory like a follow focus than on your camera itself.