New USB follow focus under development / OKii mini-review

A new USB follow focus is under development. The OKii USB follow focus made a good impression with me when I saw it at Converge on Sam Morgan Moore’s HalfInchRails rig – smoother than I thought it would be, but not perfect. Now it has a competitor. The LinkyFocus.

It is compatible with all the current Canon video DSLRs and operates a nice smooth focus rack using the AF motors of the EF / EFS lens, silently and without the need to attach any mechanical parts to your rig. It also makes for faster lens swaps, so good for video-journalists and run & gun filmmakers.

Apparently there are plans to make a wireless version too.

Compatibility with Nikon cameras is planned but I’d prefer to see it work with the GH2 that overall is currently the best ‘DSLR’ for video in terms of image quality.

Check out the development log of the LinkyFocus

Meanwhile we have the OKii USB follow focus. Sam Morgan Moore of HalfInchRails.com has just got one, let’s hear his views:

I am of the firm belief that if you are handholding a shot any movement of the hands on the rig will upset your shot – therefore I am always looking for focus solutions that disconnect hand control from the position of the lens.

The Okii meets this basic requirement.

Coming from more than a decade of shooting stills with Nikons the Okii provides a second ‘boon’ in that the direction (of focus) can be reversed to the direction of the muscle memory I have developed.

This (simple feature) basically sold the Okii to me.

Another boon is the speed of lens changes, I use a 24-105 and 70-200 F4L, now I will be able to change one to the next in seconds.

In one evening you start to develop a memory for the unlabeled buttons – choose which way up you are going to use an Okii and stick with it I have got mine with the USB at 1700 hours.

Before you roll the 5 and 10X zoom functions can be toggled through to check critical focus.

Having roll, and pre-roll focus check at the finger tips just leaps using a Canon into a different league of convenience.

Even disengaging / engaging (via remote button press on follow focus) live view will save on critical battery life.

This set of functionality alone make the Okii worth a try.

Ideally the Okii would have a screen to tell you what was occurring in its huge brain, but I guess this would move it up in terms of development time, price point and battery consumption

Now…

The meat and bones – the ability to pull focus.

Frankly this is limited by how the EOS Utility (USB software) talks to the lenses.

You cannot make a large move quickly and there are some quirks that focus speed on my 24-105 changes at different zoom positions.

Of course if you are reframing from one macro shot to an infinity shot you can just grab the lens and turn the wheel although this will mess up any ‘marks’ you have set.

So ‘crash racks’ between characters are not going to be happening, tight telephoto pulls as the talent comes (running) towards you are not going to be happening.

But these focus moves are complex and challenging to pull off even with a top end focus system, of any kind at all, most people cannot pull them off with any focus assist gear currently available at any cost.

The reality of most of my focus pulling is not really focus pulling but focus correction.

An interviewee readjusts his position during an interview requiring a refocus.

A pan up from a chef chopping a steak to his concentrating face.

Such focus corrections I believe will be fully possible with the Okii.

And that is not even mentioning the options this device opens with using the camera in ‘remote’ locations, be that in a car glove box or up a crane.

And of course just pressing the record button while on sticks can cause a bump in your shot – not with the Okii.

I wont be sending mine back.

OKii FF seen on HIR Handlebars wich are available now to fit 15mm or 1/2 camera support systems.

More information on the OKii USB follow focus at OKii’s site here
For the HalfInchRails rigging click here