So you had your heart set on that beautifully geared Zeiss cinema lens set, then life got in the way and you had to settle for some cheaper stills glass instead. Its a familiar story and I suspect that the majority of large sensor factual or news footage seen on TV or online is actually shot with photo lenses.
A small cottage industry has grown up adapting still lenses for easier video use. Commonly users take manual photo lenses and have their click stops removed and 0.8 mod pitch lens gears added to allow the use of a follow focus.
There are plenty of add-on follow focus gears from companies like Redrockmicro, Cinevate and more. These are non permanent but take a bit of time to install onto the lens and can be a little large in diameter. Specialist lens shops can add custom delrin or metal gears to most lenses that look and feel more permanent – the downside is that these are quite expensive and cannot be easily removed. There are even 3D printable versions if you are tempted to try your hand at it. Half-inch rails and Zacuto have nice solutions that simply tie around the lens but keep a low profile, the downside being that these don’t rotate 360 degrees.
All these solutions work reasonably well but I recently started using a very nice alternative that has the advantage of looking good as well as being simple to slide on and off your lens. The Cool-Lux lens gears came out earlier this year and are precision moulded. There are no screws, buckles, ties or other bits and bobs required to mount them to a lens. They are made of a strong but flexible rubber material (actually they are made of a high-durometer silicone) and can be installed on a lens in moments. The gears have a great form factor, quite low profile like a delrin gear, but easy to remove in seconds. They have a full 360 degree rotation which makes them useful for autofocus lenses which don’t have end stops on their focus rings.
They come in various different sizes to match your lens and you need to measure your lens diameter first to make sure you order the correct size – Cool Lux provide a printable ruler that you can use to measure it. There is also a handy chart which details the diameters of popular lenses, but I would measure anyway just to be on the safe side.
There are 16 sizes of ring in total and each steps up 2mm in size from the previous one. They can cope with lens barrels of between 60 and 92mm diameter.
Get too large a ring and it will simply fall off the lens, too small and it will be near impossible to fit on. Just right and it will be easy enough to install and yet still stay firmly fixed to the lens barrel. Check out the video below to see how easy they are to fit.
I’ve used them with both regular and electronic follow focus and they seem to work well. There is enough friction between the lens and the ring to stop it slipping.
When fitted I think the lenses and gears together look very professional. The rings don’t look out of place at all and it is relatively economical and easy to equip a complete set of lenses.
Another thing is that the gears are still useful even if you aren’t using a follow focus. The larger diameter and the rubber grip mean that manual focussing by hand without a follow focus is also made easier when you have a gear attached. I used the gears this way on a couple of recents shooting including my FS5 night time demonstration shots.
So far I am really enjoying having these on my stills lenses. Sure, they don’t rival that Zeiss cine lens, but then neither does the price. Currently they sell for a very reasonable price of $28.75 each. I am happy to recommended them.
For more details visit the Cool-Lux webstore.