This crowdfunded follow focus system is a steal on the competition at just $50, but is it too good to be true? We take a look in our Hondo Garage $50 Follow Focus review
Above: Test footage shot using the Honde Garage $50 Follow Focus
Now in its third incarnation, Hondo Garage’s $50 Follow Focus was launched through Kickstarter back in 2012. They were funded at more than 1000% of their goal and with good reason. With the average cost of a decent follow focus system starting at around £200, the promise of a quality $50 (approximately £30) system gave indie filmmakers and DSLR video shooters reason to be joyous.
For those of you unfamiliar with this piece of kit, a follow focus is mounted on to a rail rig and then attached to the focus ring on your lens. It allows for smoother, more controlled focusing and most systems allow for the marking of focus points on the wheel. What makes the $50 Follow Focus different to other systems is that it uses a pulley and belt system instead of the conventional gear and wheel system.
The $50 Follow Focus is beautifully designed and carefully constructed. When not in use it folds into a neat size that will take up very little room in your kit bag. In fact you could easily slip it into your trouser pocket. Once mounted to the camera it adds very little extra weight (85g) so is perfect for use on a hand held or shoulder rig setup.
One very clever feature is the handle design, which allows you to easily move its position without affecting the focus, by way of simple lock/unlock twist. The bright red design allows you to easily mark the handle so you can repeatedly hit those focus marks on every take. Fitting the follow focus is very straightforward once you’re familiar with the process but with no instructions included it took a bit of fiddling and some Internet searching to get it right. This was the only downside to what is an otherwise a fantastic piece of kit.
The $50 Follow Focus will fit any lens with a manual focus that is under 60mm in diameter. For anything above you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version ($85), which uses a gear system instead of belt and pulley. A silicone band that can be slipped over the lens to allow for better grip of the belt is also included in the kit. If you’re a regular user of Canon’s 50mm f1.8 then you also need to purchase an adaptor to make it compatible with the $50 Follow Focus. Hondo sell 3D printed adaptors for $18.11 and they come in a variety of colours if you feel like sprucing up your rig.
As already mentioned, you do need a rail rig (the $50 Follow Focus works on standard 15mm rails) to mount the follow focus on. If you’ve been shooting video for a while you probably already have one but for those of you new to DSLR video, Hondo also sell the Barely Rig ($79) that is a perfect complement to the $50 Follow Focus. We didn’t review the rig on this occasion but if the Barely Rig is built to even half the standard of the $50 Follow Focus it’s sure to be a good investment. We’ll do a full round up of rail mount systems in the future. Purchasing the follow focus and rig combo from Hondo also comes with a couple of extra benefits. Not only do Hondo ship internationally for free but they offer a full refund on items returned in sellable condition within 10 days.
The $50 Follow Focus is perfect for amateurs and professional videographers alike. It’s outstanding value for money and made by a team of people who care about what the products they make and the people who use them. A must-have piece of kit.