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Old January 4th, 2011, 03:59 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Bozeman, MT
Posts: 2
Cinevate Follow Focus and Rail System Review

Nikon D7000, Rigged with Cinevate Gear.

Disclaimer: I am not a reviewer. Aside from the occasional quick forum post here and there, I donít write reviews. Iím an end-user, the guy who spends months poring over the details of a product to figure out which one will be the best use of my money. After putting in the time I figured others might benefit from my findings. Here you go!

The Durus Follow Focus:

Single Clamp Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nice Large Knob and Marking Disc

The Durus is a solid and burly chunk of equipment. Everything from the knob to the gearbox is aluminum, the only plastic being the marking ring and interface gear. While it makes the unit a hefty sucker, this is a good thing. Cinevate has succeeded in designing a single-clamp follow focus, and this is due to the completely ground-up design and choice of materials. That video youíve seen of Dennis holding an entire rig by the Durus is no joke: this thing clamps on solidly, and I havenít yet encountered a situation where the design has failed me. The lack of a second rail-clamp also makes the FF more versatile. You can slide the unit in closer to your tripod head without interference from a bridge, you can quickly flip it over to the cameraís dumb side, and you can easily rotate it out of the way for lens changes, and re-engage with a single action. Pretty neat.

Solid Gear Interface . . . . . . . . . . . . . Plastic Drive Gear

Functionally, the Durus is spot-on. It is verrrry smooth, and the heaviness of the knob feels right when pulling. My unit has absolutely zero lash (havenít heard of any that do), and the 0.8 pitch drive gear connects perfectly with the matching Cinevate rings. As far as I can tell, both are a reinforced plastic, which makes for silent operation. Many other follow focus units on the market utilize metal drive gears, but I see no shortfalls of Cinevateís design. Additionally, this gear is easily replaceable with a larger one for extra reach, allowing the unit to sit further from the lens and camera body if your setup requires additional clearance.

Entire Unit Angle, Gearbox/Knob Angle, and Marking Point All Fully Adjustable.

This FF is quite versatile. The single clamp design allows a variety of mounting options, which are further multiplied by the ability to flip the focus unit within the clamp. This design allows the operator to maintain proper focus direction no matter where the unit is mounted. This also allows for proper focusing regardless of focus-throw direction. The angle of the knob and drive gear is also adjustable, as the entire gearbox and functioning end of the Durus sits in a rotating base at the top of the clamping piece. To further increase versatility, the Durus has a full 360-degree rotating marking point, allowing you to reposition your marks to wherever is most visible around the marking disc. This point also functions as the hard-stop point, enabling you to add hard-stops to your infinity-throw SLR lenses. However in order to use the optional hard stops you must remove the marking ring, making multiple-mark pulls difficult with stops.

The Durus comes with three standard-size lens gears and spoke sets. They allow full rotation of the focus ring. The gears themselves are solid, but have some issues. First, the spokes are a less than perfect design. Gear rings require perfect alignment around the lens, with even spacing from the barrel at every point. Imperfections in barrel to gear distance result in the ring either applying excess pressure on the FF (and often pushing the lens and of course the frame), or pulling away from the FF and disengaging gear teeth. Designs like Zacuto or Red Rock rings overcome this easily: the Zacuto sits directly on the lens, and the Red Rock has a standardized width all the way around. However because the Cinevate has six adjustment points, a ton of tinkering is required. For my setup Iíve had trouble getting proper alignment at all, which I suspect may be the result of a non-circular ring. This is only a conjecture as I do not have accurate enough tools to measure the outer diameter of these rings, but I have yet to achieve perfect alignment. And unfortunately unless tightened down to an extreme degree (which ends up locking the lens ring), the spokes like to walk themselves around the lens and leave the ring loose and off-kilter. I have since purchased Red Rock gears for some of my lenses and the simpler design will likely replace the remainder of my Cinevate gears.

Itís got a few small flaws. The marking ring is made out of a fairly cheap plastic, and mine seems to have a warp that prevents it from sitting fully flat against the base. It is attached to the unit with two small magnets, one of which pulled out of the ring when I first removed it. Itís nice to have the angle of the knob adjustable, but itís fairly time consuming to do so due to the positioning of the allen bolts. In order to adjust them you need to poke an allen key through the holes in the knob. This means youíre limited by the angle of your allen key, as when you adjust the knob by more than a few degrees the bolts are inaccessible. Iím not sure why they didnít reverse the design to put the bolts on the lens-side of the unit, as access would be very straightforward.

Rugged Aluminum Body

All-in-all Iím very happy with the Durus. Operation is precise and comfortable, and build quality is very good. Backed by a lifetime warranty Iím confident this will be in my kit for many years to come.

The Proteus Rail System:

Angle, Height, and Position all Customizable

The Proteus is entirely metal as well, and the solid carbon rods are very lightweight and incredibly strong. I opted to replace the standard 30cm (~12Ē) rods with 45cm ones (~18Ē), and even with the extended length I canít get them to flex one bit. The Proteus itself, once positioned and tightened is very very solid. Cinevate made a good call in utilizing standard Manfrotto plates, rather than a proprietary one. The slide-or-lift removal design works very well once your rig is built up. Itís very adjustable (as is Cinevateís style), so with a little bolt loosening and tightening, you can rig up almost any camera, lens, mattebox, and follow-focus combo.

The plastic knobs on the clamps are not the best. Iíd have preferred aluminum for more confidence when cranking-down hard.

The Handheld kit:

Thumb Screws a Bit Too Weak . . . . . . . . . . . . Comfy, Large, Grippy Should Pad

The shoulder mount is quite comfortable, but seems to lack the grip strength to maintain a desired angle between the mount and the rails, a problem that results in the mount slowly pitching up and over the front of your shoulder. I imagine this would be resolved by using the optional counterweight ($195), but Iíd expect a more sturdy design from a $395 part.

Good Reach and Position Adjustability . . . . .Solid Rail Connection, Weak Plastic Ball Joint

The hand grip seems to be the lowest-quality part of the whole kit. Itís mostly plastic, and the joints and connections canít take much weight before they give. The connection between the grip and the arm is a plastic threaded bolt, which Iím very worried will strip the next time I tighten it. It also loosens with little effort, which is scary when the rig is on your shoulder. It works, but I donít think itís worth $150.

I canít give Cinevate a blanket glowing endorsement due to a few design issues including the spoked gear ring, the plastic hand grip, and the loose shoulder mount. But among a couple of lemons, Cinevate clearly is capable of making some top-notch equipment. As far as indie-class cinema gear goes itís on the higher price range, but for the most part is worth the money. Their warranty policies and great support make investing in their stuff worthwhile, despite the additional hurdle of Canadian import/export hassle.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 08:45 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Bozeman, MT
Posts: 2
Re: Cinevate Follow Focus and Rail System Review

Quick video of the Cinevate setup on an AF100: MobileMe Gallery
Ian B. Johnson is offline   Reply

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