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Adrian Wong-Ken
by Adrian Wong-Ken
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Gear Review: the Shoot 35 CINEfocus r3 Follow Focus Unit

12/15/2014
Gear Review: the Shoot 35 CINEfocus r3 Follow Focus Unit

We recently purchased the Shoot 35 CINEfocus r3 Follow Focus system, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised -- especially for the price. After researching the options in our price range, there were a few features I knew I wanted; first and foremost was the reversible gearbox for Nikon's backward focus direction, A/B hard stops and a quick release mounting system. After having used several mid-range follow focuses through my career and not being terribly impressed with any of them, I knew I was taking a risk with the Shoot 35.

 

PROS: CONS:
swing arm heavy
reversible gear box requires backlash fine tuning out of the box
A/B hard stops magnetic marking disc doesn't lock tightly
quick release backlash and dampening ajustment require a 1.5mm hex key, not included
optional dual side doesn't come with a case
adjustable backlash focus gears are proprietary
adjustable dampening import tax (for non UK buyers) 
economical can stick a little, requires "warm up" spin from time to time
good flex gears  

There are already a few reviews of this follow focus online, but none quite as critical as I’d like when researching a purchase. So here we go, from head to toe, everything I liked and disliked about the Shoot 35 CINEfocus r3 Follow Focus:

Focus Knob

Focus Knob:  The focus knob is made from an anodized aluminum; it’s textured for a little extra grip.

Inside The Focus Knob: Inside the grip you’ll find two screw holes where the A/B hard stops are stored, and the standard accessory port for whips and cranks. I personally don’t like how Shoot 35 wrote their web address inside the grip; it cheapens the otherwise professional looking CINEfocus r3.

A/B Hard Stop Pins: The stops are screwed into the inside of the grip, and it’s a nice touch that they can be totally removed and placed out of the way. They do however take a few too many rotations to be unscrewed, that’s precious time on-set that sometimes cannot afford to be wasted. The rubber stops are also a nice touch to avoid unwanted noise and metal-on-metal contact when stopping the focus throw.

Accessory Port: It’s a must have for any serious follow focus. It’s there, and I’m happy with it.

Marking Disc: The marking disc attaches by magnetic contact to the follow focus unit. There's one pin that locks it in place, but it could really use three pins to achieve a better lock. The disc wiggles on the locking pin’s axis a bit more than I would like, but that's not a deal breaker.

A/B Hard Stop Discs: The hard stop discs rotate independently, and are locked by tension-screwing in the hard-stop pins. They work well and stay in place when executing the same pull over and over. Play in the hard stop discs is not noticeable and does not become a hindrance.

Pointer by Adrian Wong-Ken on 500px

Pointer Arm: The pointer arm can rotate around the marking disc 360 degrees allowing a focus-puller to see the pointer from various positions;this will likely make your AC very happy. The pointer thumb screw locks the pointer arm into position firmly with a slight twist.

Swing Arm: Follow focuses with swing arms are usually reserved for the higher-end market, but Shoot 35 put a great swing arm on a sub-$1,000 unit here with the r3. It locks off using a quick release lever and is totally rock-solid. This was easily my biggest concern when buying this product blind, but I can testify that it will not slip during use and maintains a solid connection throughout the day.

Focus Gear by Adrian Wong-Ken on 500px

Focus Gear: The focus gear is acceptable; it’s made from plastic and sits snugly with a single screw. Yes, there is a small amount of backlash, but it’s vastly superior to the likes of its competitors in the sub-$1000 range. Backlash on the focus knob end can be adjusted, which will help increase the longevity of the investment made.

15mm Bridge: Like the rest of the unit, the bridge is solid with no slippage when attached to rods The tightening knob does feel a little looser than the rest of the unit, and doesn’t feel like the quality is up-to-par with the rest of the CINEfocus r3. The knob works fine for now, but I could see after years of abuse this could become a weak point in the unit.

15mm Bridge by Adrian Wong-Ken on 500px

Dual Side Port: The option for a dual side port is fantastic, take it off when you don’t need the bulk and attach it when you do. I can’t comment on how it works as I didn’t pull the trigger on the other side, but I can imagine it works as well as the rest of the follow focus.

Conclusion: The CINEfocus r3 proposes a huge value, lots of features and room for expandability. When one considers the very specific need for reversible focus-throwing, the value is tremendous. There are similarly-priced follow focuses that do a slightly better job at just pulling smooth focus, but lack the versatility of the CINEfocus r3. It will be interesting to see how well the unit holds up over time. As someone who frequently uses multiple camera platforms, and different lens sets the CINEfocus r3 was the choice  that met my needs.

Disclaimer: Dirigo Design & Development, Inc. has no affiliation and was not paid to write this review.

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