GEAR REVIEW: FOTGA DP500IIS Quick Release Follow Focus

Fotga DP500IIS Follow Focus
(< $175 @ Amazon)

Inexpensive, light, solid construction, no backlash
Can’t be used for remote control

Among low (or no) budget filmmakers, there is something of a mystique surrounding geared lenses and follow-focuses. For many years, I read about them, understood them in principle, but never tried them.

This was partly because I repurposed still lenses that aren’t geared. But still lenses can be easily adapted to use gears. The real reason I never tried a follow focus was the outrageous cost of a “quality” unit. It’s common for a follow focus to start around $500 and not hard to find them listing over $1,000.

This always seemed outrageous to me. A follow focus is a just a knob attached to a gear that needs to mesh with another gear. Beyond that, common niceties are ability attach a whip, one or more hard stops and a way to temporarily mark any number of “soft” focus points. None of these features need add up to the price of a decent camera. Besides, how much of a difference would it really make?

Follow Focus (Silo)Then I got the chance to work with cinema lenses and a follow focus. From the very first shot I was aware of what I had been missing. I could never go back. Silky smooth, repeatable manual focus with the control right where I needed it. But how could I afford to shoot this way all of the time? On the lens side of the equation, the Rokinon Cine-styles allowed me to acquire geared cinema primes at prices mortals can afford. Now to find a reasonably priced follow focus.

I first dabbled with the Hondo $50 follow focus. While I appreciate their effort to create such an inexpensive piece of gear, and the good folks at Hondo obviously care about their craft, it really didn’t work for me. I found myself constantly fiddling with it to keep it tight against my lens (they have a new version which is supposed to be better at this), and the handle (which will eventually bump against your rig) just isn’t comparable to handling a nice big knob that can turn 360º. I found myself missing shots because I was fiddling with the follow focus. Still, if $50 is all you can afford, it’s worth a look.

Then I stumbled upon a review of the inexpensive FOTGA DP500IIS. The claim that it had no backlash (the delay between turning the knob, and the lens actually turning) made me decide to give it a shot. I’m so glad I did because I couldn’t be more impressed with this piece of kit.

The whole thing is made of strong*, light weight aluminum except for the magnetized focus ring. It has two hard stops. It has an awesome quick-release snap mechanism for mounting to your 15mm rails. (No need to remove matte box, etc. in order to slide it off.) It stays exactly where you leave it, snug against lens. You can reverse it for left or right hand use. You can switch gear sizes. In short, it does everything you need a manual follow focus to do, and it does so very well. And as others have said, there is zero backlash. The finest turn of the knob will immediately translate to action at the lens.

Put simply: Unless you have need of some esoteric feature missing from the FOTGA, there is absolutely no reason to spend any more money on any follow focus.

* A couple of weeks ago, I dropped my rig in a parking lot. Hard onto concrete. The DP500IIS took the brunt of the fall, and surely saved my camera. The arm that attaches the knob/gear assembly to the base was severely bent, but beyond that the follow focus was completely fine. I contacted FOTGA to get a replacement part. In the meantime, I disassembled it, bent the arm back in a vice, and it amazingly it works good as new.

UPDATE: We have a winner! “Anna” from I don’t know where is lucky number 118. (Drawn from a collection of golden lens caps stored in an underground vault protected by the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock.) Congrats to Anna, may she never miss focus again!

Not only did FOTGA send me a new arm, but they sent me a whole new follow focus. Since I already have two, I’ve decided to give this one away. If you’d like a chance to win it, leave a comment below. (Make sure you register so that I have some way to contact you.) In two weeks, I’ll pick a winner at random from one of the comments.


130 Replies to "GEAR REVIEW: FOTGA DP500IIS Quick Release Follow Focus"

  • Max Brandhorst
    September 21, 2014 (2:56 pm)
    Reply

    A great follow focus is literally (not figuratively) the last piece missing from my new custom built shoulder rig. I’m easily entering this raffle.
    Max.brandhorst@gmail.com

  • Lucas Hubbard
    September 21, 2014 (3:06 pm)
    Reply

    Wow wouldn’t it just be great if I won!

  • Al
    September 21, 2014 (3:08 pm)
    Reply

    This would be great help for the web series I’m shooting! Good luck!

  • jimmy
    September 21, 2014 (3:09 pm)
    Reply

    gimme

  • Mark
    September 21, 2014 (3:14 pm)
    Reply

    Was looking long and hard a ikan, but this appears just as nice, at half the cost.

  • Jeremy F
    September 21, 2014 (3:15 pm)
    Reply

    The follow focus looks great. Would love to be able to add it to my equipment!

  • Chris
    September 21, 2014 (3:20 pm)
    Reply

    Dat focus!

    Thanks for the opportunity, I’ll check out more of your reviews!

    I actually dropped my old follow focus (cheap brand) and it bent so I could definitely use it!

  • Kieran
    September 21, 2014 (3:55 pm)
    Reply

    Cool review, entering contest

  • Marcel H
    September 21, 2014 (4:01 pm)
    Reply

    I assembled my rig from separate parts, some from Fotga, and those are the best parts of my rig! Only thing still missing is a Follow Focus 😉

  • Simon Kemp
    September 21, 2014 (4:04 pm)
    Reply

    Would be good to upgrade my silicon jar opener ff!

  • Jerek Postuk
    September 21, 2014 (4:15 pm)
    Reply

    Good review!

  • quinnbrabender
    September 21, 2014 (4:25 pm)
    Reply

    Only got to use a follow focus a few times, and it was back in film school. Still paying off school and also trying to raise my lens arsenal…I’d love to have a follow focus to help out with that!

    Regardless, I’ll be looking into Fotga if/when I do eventually pay off my loans because I need something solid!

  • Jonathan Garcia
    September 21, 2014 (4:32 pm)
    Reply

    Ive been wanting one so bad. Unfortunately my work hasnt had the budget to get me one. I cant wait to win this 🙂

  • Phil Conlee
    September 21, 2014 (4:43 pm)
    Reply

    Superb review. This seems like a great alternative to the Redrock Micro system I’ve had my eyes on.

  • Ryan N
    September 21, 2014 (4:48 pm)
    Reply

    Nice review, the new S version seems much nicer with the quick release than the old version.
    Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Ian
    September 21, 2014 (4:56 pm)
    Reply

    Thanks for the review! This is my giveaway entry.

  • Peter
    September 21, 2014 (5:21 pm)
    Reply

    I really like this ff. I’ve never seen one like that for the price. Looking forward to more reviews!

  • Dennis K
    September 21, 2014 (5:21 pm)
    Reply

    You’ve got me spinning! 🙂

  • Marc-Alexandre Drapeau
    September 21, 2014 (5:33 pm)
    Reply

    Nice review! Looks like a solid entry level follow focus! Would be a nice addition to my gear! 😉

  • Jordan
    September 21, 2014 (6:14 pm)
    Reply

    would love to give this a try!

  • Madeline Hoyle
    September 21, 2014 (6:57 pm)
    Reply

    Thanks for the review, and for the giveaway! Would love to have a quality FF unit for my rig. madeline@mhoyledesign.com

  • Brett
    September 21, 2014 (7:23 pm)
    Reply

    Nice review mate
    One of these would make my life and videos 400x better

  • Danny
    September 21, 2014 (7:23 pm)
    Reply

    Would like to win this!

  • Tucker
    September 21, 2014 (9:14 pm)
    Reply

    This is my comment: give me the product and I promise to become famous and dedicate my fame to your company and make you feel good about yourself. Please let me win. I never win anything. I love you.

  • willk
    September 21, 2014 (9:26 pm)
    Reply

    Looks awesome! could really do with one of these

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