Shoot35 CINEfocus r3 review
The Shoot35 CINEfocus r3 is the latest incarnation of Shoot35’s follow focus offerings. I reviewed the original (r1) CINEfocus back in 2009 and although that version has worked really well over it’s lifetime the latest incarnation is a totally new design with a host of features that promise to make it more precise, more flexible and easier to use. So lets start by opening the box and seeing what goodies are waiting inside.
Design & Construction
Upon opening the box it becomes immediately obviously that Shoot35 have had a total rethink with this one, the design is a big step away from both the previous model and what the rest of the market is offering. Gone are the L shaped sliding plates and fixed gears, instead we have something that looks a lot more interesting and innovative!
For the purposes of this review I’ve been sent not only the CINEfocus r3 but also a pre-production version of the optional dual sided version. Also in the box are three Shoot35 FLEXIgear Lens Gears which are also an optional extra. There’s also a quick setup guide (not shown).
The CINEfocus r3 is very different from previous incarnations in many ways but most noticeably because it no longer uses a sliding baseplate with fixed gears, instead r3 features a quick release ‘push on’ rod mount along with a swing arm for positioning the drive gear against the lens gear.
The swing arm design combined with the low profile mount is what sets the CINEfocus r3 way above any other follow focus units I’ve used as it makes the device easily adaptable to a wide range of camera and lens combinations. For instance during this review I swapped out the Canon C100 for a Canon 7D without changing any of the setup and even though the camera was sitting really low with lens almost touching the rods I was still able to swing the gear in to place on the lens.
The push on rod mount is an all metal construction and looks like it will stand the test of time. In fact the whole assembly feels extremely solid and it’s obviously well built with quality components. The swing arm locks in to place with no noticeable play or movement by locking down the red lever on the side of the unit.
As stated earlier the CINEfocus r3 can be adapted to run dual sided allowing you or the focus puller to control focus from either side of the camera. The fitting of the additional control knob is done by simply connecting the two parts together and tightening a locking bolt with a supplied allen key (hex wrench).
The focus knob is made of metal with a standard accessory port in the centre. It features a removable magnetic 3D marker disk along with a locking adjustable pointer that rotates continuously through 360 degrees allowing you to easily mark the disk and view your focus points from various angles.
Behind the removable marker disk there are a pair of rotating disks that can be used to set ‘ A/B hard stops’. The hard stops are activated by fitting the locking screws that are stowed inside the focus control knob. With the locking screws fitted the hard stop disks lock in to place and then cause the focus knob to stop rotating when they make contact with the main pointer.
Another very useful feature is that the drive gear can be unscrewed from the swing arm and then placed on the opposite side. This can come in very handy if using the follow focus on a rig that needs the drive gear to be just a bit further in either direction than is achievable just by moving the follow focus itself.
Also notice how low profile the device is under the lens. The swing arm combined with the low profile mount is a brilliant design that makes the CINEfocus r3 extremely versatile.
Fitting & Adjustment
As with most follow focus systems the fitting of the CINEfocus r3 involves using a set of 15mm rods under the lens. For this review I used one of Shoot35’s CINE base plate r2 systems with my C100 along with my Shoot35 CINEbox matte box.
Fitting the CINEfocus r3 is a breeze, it can be slotted in above the rods and snapped down into position without the need to remove anything else on the rods. Once in position it’s locked by tightening the single black locking knob underneath.
The C100 and C300 can be tricky to set up on rods because the lens mount is further from the base of the camera than more traditionally shaped cameras. The result is often that the drive gear on a follow focus won’t reach the lens unless an additional pair of rods are fitted on a riser plate.
As you can see in the photo’s above the CINEfocus r3 doesn’t have any problems at all reaching the lens on my C100, with the swing arm moved in to place and the locking lever locked the CINEfocus is set up and ready to work very quickly indeed.
As well as the adjustments already mentioned the CINEfocus also allows the backlash and dampening to be individually adjusted as required although I found the default settings to be perfect for my needs to I didn’t adjust those myself.
One other very useful feature is the ability to reverse the direction of the drive gear in relation to the direction of the focus control knob. This is done by loosening a single allen key bolt and then turning the main drive shaft of the r3 through 180 degrees which then places the swing arm on the opposite side… very clever!
In use & final thoughts
In terms of feel and accuracy I found the CINEfocus r3 performed really well, it feels very accurate with a solid control over the lens. As stated earlier you can also dial in the dampening and backlash should you want the focus to respond differently.
For me the biggest positive though is how the swing arm and mount work together to make fitting and adjusting the CINEfocus r3 so easy and flexible. The older version much like many competing products required you to slide the device along the rods and then push the fixed drive wheel against the lens gear at the same time as trying to tighten the whole thing down. The r3’s ability to lock to the rails and then position the drive gear on the swing arm is genius and moves the CINEfocus r3 in to a different league.
At £399 + VAT the CINEfocus r3 also offers great value, it’s not the cheapest follow focus solution out there but it’s hard to find anything as good in this price range. Shoot35 have done something very special with this one!