If you've ever tried changing focus between subjects while shooting a video with your DSLR, you'll know that auto-focus will often leave you with a stuttering and noisy clip, while using your hand on the lens in manual focus can be tricky. Follow focus systems try to make this easier and better by adding a handle to change focus smoothly, and marker points to move between. The newly-launched FocusMaker is the latest example, which promises the fastest and most accurate focusing of any affordable rack focus system.
While traditional follow focus systems are big expensive affairs which can cost several hundred dollars, making them only really suitable for professionals, we've already seen several options for more budget-minded videographers including the DSLR follow focus and the Lens/Focus Shifter which attach to a DSLR lens. The FocusMaker does the same, but aims to bring a more professional look and feel, while retaining an affordable price.
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The FocusMaker primarily consists of a sight, which attaches to a non-moving part of your DSLR lean, and a ruler which straps around the focus ring of your lens. Because these parts strap around the lens, they can fit pretty much any DSLR lens out there.
Users then clip multiple markers onto the ruler at the points they'll want to focus, before adding the handle. Looking through the sight, they can then move the handle to smoothly change the focus between the predetermined points. This makes transitioning between shallow depth of field shots, and accurately hitting them, a lot easier.
While the FocusMaker is slightly more expensive than other follow focus systems which also bill themselves as "affordable", it does have a considerably more professional look (you probably wouldn't want to turn up on a paid shoot with some of the other budget options).
It also boasts a number of features which add to its usability. Holes in the ruler mean users can see through it without have to peer over the top, and there's the nifty ability to position the markers in active or passive mode. In active mode the end of the marker protrudes enough to act as a stop when it makes contact with the sight, for far and near focus end stops, while in passive it allows free movement, making it ideal for lining up intermediate focus points.
ID/FX, the Danish company behind the FocusMaker, says it tried to keep the device compact and lightweight so that it could be carried around in a kit bag, while retaining precise focus capability. The FocusMaker is available online for US$90.
Here's a quick video introducing the FocusMaker.