Finally! I have had some time to experiment with my latest gadget: the Jag35 Electronic Remote Follow Focus. I have not done any paying gigs with it yet, only tests but here are some of my initial impressions.
It is more precise than what I expected. I never had an issue to get critical focus. All you need is an external monitor and you will be set.
You can use it either to change focus or zoom level which make it quite flexible. Get two and you have total control!
I tested the unit from a distance of a few meters using a standard cable without any issues. And with the upcoming wireless controller, this will only get better.
1) It is noisy. Enough to make you forget about using the camera audio. As you can see in the video, the amount of noise depends of the motor rotation speed but even at the slowest speed, it is too much for the internal mic.
2) Since the motor does not rotate 360 degrees, it will eventually hit its limit and when it does, it will give a small kick to the gear which will create a small bump in the video. This is very easy to manage: never turn the wheel until the very end! To better illustrate this, I marked these spots in the video (near the end). Using a very heavy tripod can minimize this issue.
3) The motor is not rotating in real time. There is a small delay between the moment you start rotating the control and the moment the gear starts to move. From my limited experience, this is not a big issue since it only happens when doing rack focus. But here is a video to show it (I put a mark on the wheel to have a reference point).
It is also worth noting that I installed the rig on top of a piece of foam to exaggerate the motor generated shake. When installed on a tripod, this is much less of an issue.
4) As the battery is wearing out, the motor speed will decrease so make sure to always use fresh batteries.
If you take into account that it is not a pro level gear, you wont be disappointed. All the metal parts are well machined and my only real issue is with the cable connectors. They look like the weakest part of the system and I expect them to fail eventually. I am probable going to fill this spot with putty to protect it.
The other thing that looks like a design flaw is that it is impossible to install a marking disk on the focus wheel without doing some serious DIY. It would have been very easy for Jag35 to tap the hole so we could screw in a disk but they did not.
Oh also the color… Orange is not really pro looking. Please make the next batch black! I know branding is important but I dont want my rig to look like a Christmas tree!
Who needs this?
The Jag35 Electronic Remote Follow Focus has a very limited range of uses. But, as long as you are working within this range, it is the only product able to satisfy your needs at a reasonable cost.
Typical use cases are: installing on a crane or any other impossible to reach spot, … Ehh.. I could not find more uses. The promo video shows it on a shoulder rig but, when I tried, I could not get satisfactory results.
Should you get it?
Unless you have a crane or know exactly what you want to do with it right away, wait. This is not an investment I would do. I got mine and will probably put it on my gear renting list.