Hardware store follow focus

Want to do quick and accurate focus change with your DSLR? Here’s a discussion thread covering dirt-cheap solutions. It starts with a broccoli rubber-band and a couple of zip ties. That being a bit chintzy, the more popular build seen above uses a hose clamp, rubber band for padding, a drawer pull, a nut, and some threaded rod. If you build it, be very careful not to over-tighten the clamp and crush your focus ring! After the break we’ve embedded a video of what follow focus looks like through the lens and what is happening with the camera during the shoot.

Follow focus example video

How to build a follow focus handle

[Photo Credit]

[via Gizmodo]


  1. Eloquent says:

    Mike: lern 2 spelchek’

    Every article you have posted in recent memory has had an obvious mistake in it.

  2. Wolf says:

    So… this just adds an arm to the focus ring? Could be useful i guess, but from the name I expecting some kind of crazy focal effect. Pretty underwhelming tbh.

  3. Pete says:

    @wolf Agreed.

  4. Mikey says:

    Still looks kind of chinsey to me, and not being a photography buff I don’t really understand the value-add here, just looks like a way to make your DSLR more fragile (ex, when you drop it (even on a soft surface) extra pressure is applied to the body via the clamp handle…) Why can’t you just use your hand to focus anyway?

  5. Mike Szczys says:

    @Eloquent: Oh come now, there must be ONE that didn’t have an obvious mistake?

    I do spell check every post. The errors you’re complaining about are typos resulting in valid words that don’t get picked up. What you’d like me to do is a better job of proofreading.

    At any rate, thanks for keeping me on my toes.

  6. Ehren says:

    Having experience with cannon camera’s and lens, there’s two problems here.

    1. The biggest problem with modern manual focus rings is not the ring, but the lack of a proper viewfinder. Older cameras had a focusing circle on the view finder. It was split in half and if the picture wasn’t in focus, half of the circle would be blurry. When the picture was in focus the circle was clear. You can get some prism attachments that come close to this, but it’s still lacking compared to the past.

    2. The focus rings on Canon EOS lens are very lose. That much counter weight on the ring will cause the ring to move, period. The picture won’t stay in focus because once you remove your hand the ring will move.

  7. Wocka says:

    We can’t have crusty focus rings now, can we?

  8. engunneer says:

    Spellcheck has no way of knowing if you misspelled a word by replacing it with another valid word.

    It does make me wish I had an edit button in my feed reader, though.

  9. andy says:

    To the commenters: it makes more sense if you know how adjusting the focus is achieved in filmmaking, usually by a second camera operator:


  10. loans says:

    is this specifically to address a lack of autofocus while shooting video?

  11. Jesse says:

    this allows you to better return to specific focus points.

    por ejemplo: so character one is in focus at 10o’clock, char2 @ 7o’clock and char3 @ 3o’clock. it’s easier to quickly switch between these focus points with such a lever. This is useful for filming dialogues and shit.

    A cool project would be to use a stepper motor and micro controller to build a programmable tool for this. Very expensive professional filming stuff is available for this, but could probably be done cheaply.

    cut out a gear set with someone’s homebuilt CNC or print one with a home 3D printer(one gear for the motor and a ring for the focus ring), use your favorite micro controller to record and “play” back positions, perhaps a pot for speed adjustment or something similar.

  12. anon1234 says:

    Anyone doing (too much) these modern “cool” effects like blurring, fast camera moving, flashing lights and so on make my head hurt. I will not be paying for any poop filmed like that and I hope soon everyone hates that style. Call me stupid or whatever, but look older film making books and you will find that any of the above is explicitly forbidden.

    Sad thing is that there are many interesting series and documentaries I simply cannot watch because of this.

  13. loans says:

    at anon1234

    You mean sometimes artistic tastes and techniques change? Shit.

  14. fco_bcn says:

    it’s all about angular movement kids

  15. jim says:

    Am I the only one that thinks the tie-wraps look functional and utilitarian where as the hose clamp looks like an ugly bunch of overly thought out junk bought from Home Depot?

    It’s kind of ironic that the supposed elegant alternative is the antithesis of elegant looks or engineering.

  16. jim says:

    Since my last comment didn’t add too much and was kind of harsh, I’ll give my two cents: you can epoxy a bolt to a wide removable cable tie and use this to mount a (preferably small, plastic) removable handle, giving the best of both worlds (ie, not having a huge cabinet handle semi-permanently mounted to an expensive lens, but fulfilling the same use).

    Plus IMO it will have the chic look of something functional, homemade and understated, rather than homemade, clumsy and huge ;)

  17. Spork says:

    Autofocus is too slow and will only focus on one of the two objects in the picture.

    As for the “photography buff” type comments, this is used more in film making (like with the 7D above) than still photography. Now it is great to achieve depth of field like you see in the first video, but what happens when you’re making a movie and the characters in the back are having a separate conversation than the person in the foreground? You use this type of setup to easily switch the focus. At the same time, you swap the audio feeds (usually done in post) giving the desired effect of being an outside observer.

  18. TuxFan says:

    I guess the point is that the original contributor or Mike forgot to mention that this is mainly a hack for the new DSLR generation which is capable to record HD or Full-HD videos.

    You have now a Video-camera which has a decent depth of view and superior lenses. However, due to the shape of the camera body and lens. It is rather tricky to record a movie and adjusting the focus points correctly. You would have to hold the camera (or use a tripod) look to the live-view picture, try to grep the tiny focus ring on the other side of the camera body, and turn in instantly to the position you like to focus without any visual control rather then this tiny blurry LCD life view picture.

    This hacks helps people recording and switch between different focus points quickly without any hassle.

  19. asdf says:

    Re spellos/typos: Come on, give the guy a break; his name is Szczys for crying out loud!

  20. robomonkey says:

    This is referred to as a “Rack Focus” in film and video. I don’t see an application for still photography.

    I install and repair camera robotics for television, one commenter mentioned that this could be done via a stepper or microcontrolled dc servo. Yep, it’s how it’s done for the broadcast robotics. Some home camcorders (high end) have a remote control with the functionality too, but no location indicator without a hack on those.

  21. manIK says:

    Neat. I did this to my Sony DV cam when I was using it for stopmo – oh about, 11years ago.

    Though I did just super glue the arm to the focus ring (;

  22. jimmys says:

    Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel. An ‘A’ please. There are three A’s. I’d like to solve the puzzle now – “Sazacazys”.

  23. omikun says:

    Follow focus with Lego, even better :)

  24. Jesse says:

    The lego focus is cool but doesn’t look as easy to use. Would be a good thing to use with mindstorms stuff perhaps.

  25. eos5dmii says:

    made mine.its awesome n cheap.. costed abt.. $5.87..
    the hose clap is quite hard, had to go to a welder.. be careful if you are doing it by urself, its very sharp, sharp as a blade… going to test it now..

  26. eos5dmii says:

    hmm its $5.87 for 4. 2.. 2 for 24-70mm, 2 for 70-300mm..

  27. Tammy Bruce says:

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  28. Laura says:

    Did you ever get divorced? Can you tell me about it?

  29. Onigiri says:


    hit up ebay for ‘split focus screen’ + camera model.. about 20$ later you’ll have your focus circle.

  30. Just fashioned together a couple of handcranks per your video above — works very well as you can see in the clip when you doubleclick on my name.

    Doing a short video on a flower garden with my Canon 7D and a variety of lenses and peripherals. Can’t afford a true follow focus just yet, but this little hack will fill the bill for now.

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