Superproducer Ted Hope on...

February 1, 2011

An Innovative Approach to a Follow Focus: Okii's USB-Based Canon DSLR Controller

I've still not written the long-missing follow focus section of the DSLR Cinematography Guide, mainly because I don't own a follow focus. I've had my eye on the forthcoming Redrock microRemote for a while, but since that unit has yet to see the light of day -- and since I haven't been in production on anything necessitating a follow focus in the meantime -- the section has remained neglected. Here's word of an innovative approach to a follow focus, however, one that uses the USB port on your DSLR to control your lenses (note that you must have the right electronic Canon lenses for this to function). Check out Okii's new Follow Focus in action:

And the view through the lens:

While this looks interesting, personally I'm interested in a follow focus unit that I will be able to use with whatever camera I shoot on after my current 5D Mark II -- one of the latest cameras from RED, maybe? Because the Okii is limited to Canon DSLRs using Canon lenses (as opposed to manual adapted lenses from another manufacturer), it's unlikely I'd spring for this. But that's just me -- what do you think of this USB-based approach?

Finally, there's a feature list for Okii unit below.

Link: Okii USB Follow Focus Controller

Okii USB Follow Focus Features

  • Turn Live View mode On/Off
  • Start/Stop Video recording
  • Take pictures
  • Change/Pull focus using the knob or 2 dedicated buttons (Near/Far smooth focus buttons) even whilst recording video
  • Capability to save 4 focus points (2 “hard stop” points + 2 focus points) and do a Rack Focus by just pressing any of those buttons
  • Toggle Zoom level x1, x5 and x10
  • Change camera settings
  • and much more… (full details will be available after the official release)

Compatibility

  • Canon 1D Mark IV
  • Canon 5D Mark II
  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 60D
  • Canon T2i

[via Robin Schmidt, DSLR Video Shooter]

Your Comment

24 Comments

Im very interesting in seeing what people think of this. Can't find any reviews so far. I really want a follow focus for my crane. The fact that this would be able to do that AND start and stop recording along with the other features makes this an unbeatable value...if it works well. Judging from that video there is a little latency.

February 1, 2011

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Nate

Hi,

No, there is no latency between the controller and the camera/lens AT ALL.

Please check the full and very detailed description at VIMEO.

Cheers.

February 1, 2011

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we need something like this for gh2 users!

February 1, 2011

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stevep

Hi there,

It is important to note that this is not accurate: "the Okii is limited to Canon DSLRs using Canon lenses".

All AF lenses with Canon mount can be used, even 3rd party ones. Canon lenses with a good USM motor build/design quality may deliver the best performance, depending on what lens, but all AF lenses made for Canon will work.

What is necessary to use the Okii USB Follow Focus controller to change focus is that the lens has a focus motor (in other words, it must be Autofocus, and obviously made for Canon mount) because this is a USB Follow Focus controller, meaning that the focus control is achieved via USB (using the lens' focus motor).

All the additional features not related to focus change (*) can be used without any problem, no matter the kind or brand of lens mounted on the camera.

(*): Like Toggle Live View mode On/Off, Start/Stop video recording, Take pictures, Change Exposure Settings (ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and Exposure Compensation), Trigger light metering system, Focus Zone (white square) adjustment and Zoom level x5 and x10.

There is also a very short video demonstration showing the main features and a rack focus operation (of course you don't need to do all the actions we did on the video, we just made it to show features in action):
http://5dmark2.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/usb-follow-focus-controller/

Regards,

-5D2Team

February 1, 2011

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Thanks very much for the clarifications!

February 2, 2011

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avatar
Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

It would be cool if it works with the GH2 and its lenses/

February 2, 2011

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tttulio

personally i prefer a mechanicall follow focus (manual or motor powered) VS digital.
There's always possibilities of USB data errors, firmware problems, electronic problems etc...
When something goes wrong, you don't have an answer nor can you really trouble shoot.
If a mechanical device goes wrong, twist a couple screws, creative and your back in business!!!

btw Thanks KOO!!! Your site convinced me to switch from an EX1 to an SLR and i never looked back!!

February 2, 2011

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I purchased the RedRock Micro (manual) follow focus from BHPhoto back in December. Not sure I'm the one to review it, but it really did make sense once I got it all set up and working. It's pretty straight forward, my only complaints are that most SLR lenses have a pretty short range in terms of close focus and far focus. Most manual follow focus units I checked out come with some sort of marking capability so you can mark for each scene or adjustment and quickly hit that spot.

With SLR lenses, shooting ice hockey, I found that sitting at center ice, both nets are pretty close to the same mark, perhaps 1-2mm off. Center ice would be another 1-2mm off of that mark. It makes it difficult to get really sharp focus on something that's moving so quickly. And technically, that's not a fault of follow focus units. Most manual follow focus units are dependent on gearing rings which makes it a pain since I have all Canon L lenses and need some odd sizes.

Moving away from action and sports, the follow focus unit is actually pretty cool. I've added a 7" lcd monitor (not HD) to make it easier to see the scene and with both units, focusing a scene is actually easier. The canon lenses tend to hunt way too much with auto focus and this really has helped me a lot.

Now I just want a crane :)

February 2, 2011

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If you can control focus like this using the USB port, would it be possible to write a program and control focus with your laptop? Or possibly smartphone if you had the right cable? Does somehting like this exist already?

February 3, 2011

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Ben

You can use Canon own software to remotely control the camera, BUT it's impossible to do any smooth focus pulls or rack focus in Real Time (you have to make mouse clicks instead of using a knob). It also has latency (really annoying) and turns OFF the camera LCD screen (say goodbye to external monitor), besides you have to carry a laptop/netbook all around (not very comfortable mounted on a rig...)

The Okii USB Follow Focus controller does not have such limitations. That's why it's innovative and powerful.

By the way, since we have tested it for over 2 months, we know for a fact the huge work behind it. There was even a reverse engineering hard work to solve some Canon drawbacks, and to include some very nice features (that Canon doesn't give "how-to" documentation). The controller was thoroughly tested on all current Canon HDSLR cameras.

We even found that some cameras can shoot at some intermediate ISO not available through the camera menu!
(Check: http://5dmark2.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/non-official-iso-on-canon-dslrs/ )

Indeed this is a HUGE work by the manufacturer, despite the size of the controller :)

Cheers.

February 3, 2011

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There's no marking ring!

February 3, 2011

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For us who are dedicated to Canon equipment this Okii tools looks very interesting. For us using sliding zoom lenses like 28-300 mm and 100-400 mm it might be a big improvment, since I can't figure out who to use the mecanical follow focus equipment avaliable.
Question: how long USB cable can one use?
If you hide a camera close to (or inside) a beaver hut and can work with a long USB cable (5meters?) this Okki equipm. would be great since you can controll alla other parameters (speed, iris .. ).
Cheers

February 4, 2011

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Rolf Eriksson

With USB 2.0 Active Extension Cables you can reach more than 10 meters.

There are also "standard" USB 2.0 cables (without built-in amplifier) that are 4.5 meters long. I have one, very handy indeed.

Cheers!

February 4, 2011

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We are testing some cables, so I just wanted to let you know that not all "Active USB extension" cables may work.

The camera is self powered, so it might be possible to use a normal 6+ meter USB cable and have it work fine. We'll get more detailed information soon after some tests, and then we'll post about it.

Probably there will be some options as accessories at the manufacturer site soon.

I personally like to be as precise and accurate as possible, so I did remember this previous post and wanted to make it more clear.

If there is any question, feel free to contact us or post it at the Blog.

Best regards,

-Pablo (5D2Team Admin)

February 6, 2011

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UPDATE:

We were notified by the manufacturer about USB cables. Now the product page tells:

"● Compatible with non-powered USB extension cables - currently tested up to 10 meters"

So no need to go for more expensive "Active" USB extension cables :-)

I guess the manufacturer will offer some USB extensions as accessories soon.

Cheers!

February 13, 2011

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At $400 ($350 with the discount), I think it's a bit much for a piece of kit not usable with manual focus lenses. I do, however think it's a nice technology you have developed. I guess I'm just one of the many poor filmmakers.

February 4, 2011

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Tony U.

Personally this is a really great deal especially compared to the other follow focus solutions out there right now. Even the low end stuff like the Jag35 units are around 350$ the fact that i can use this on my Camera Crane and i only have to run ONE cable from the camera to the control box is AMAZING~! The ability to start and stop recording as well as pull focus from 15 feet away makes this one of the most amazing new DSLR tools ive ever seen. I am going to buy one of these next week. Thanks KO and 5D markII team.

February 5, 2011

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Nate

Hi,

We also honestly think this controller is GREAT and gives lot of benefits that no other solution (at this price point) can offer, by far.

We have been testing it as follow focus unit mounted on a rig with many Canon lenses and the performance is very good or even excellent. Not all lenses perform the same way, but Canon USM ones use to do the job VERY well indeed. Of course you can also use 3rd party lenses made for Canon mount and the performance as "follow focus" will depend on the AF motor design/built quality.

Additionally, as you have said, there are MANY extra features (not only "Follow Focus") that makes this device VERY handy and versatile, and even essential for some kind of shots. So we honestly think it is a great controller at a very reasonable price

There is no other device that can give you such kind of features for $350 (using the Coupon Code for the $50 discount).

From our experience working with the manufacturer (Okii Systems LLC) as beta-testers for more than 2 months giving them feedback, reports and suggestions, we can completely assure that they are VERY honest and serious professionals on how they work, how they do business, and also have very high working ethic (not easy to find nowadays indeed). We really enjoyed working with Okii Systems, very professional and good people there.

Best regards,

-5D2Team

February 6, 2011

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It looks interesting despite my reservations with using a digital FF (I prefer the mechanical like KAZU above) and I naively thought that a cheap USB based one might be worth a bash. Then I saw the price. Maybe if someone took the technology and started making them a lot cheaper it would be worth a look, but I think it is too limited at this price, style and compatibility.

February 6, 2011

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This is an amazingly CHEAP device for all the functionality it offers - not to mention ability to change lenses and be ready to use it in seconds (try that with mechanical FF)

Consider that mechanical solutions are $200-800 and are little more than extruded plastic with some aluminum bits. This device is a BARGAIN at only $400. It also offers aperture/shutter/iso control, as well as ability to remote trigger. None of the mechanical devices offer this.

October 2, 2011

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This really does look amazing.. but honestly, a bit surprised there's nowhere to mark focus points on this thing.. That would have been a cheap and extremely useful addition.

February 7, 2011

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Make it open source!

February 15, 2011

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alexander miller

i am very interested in this okii , this makes me convince, i do need that kinda one. i would be most grateful if someone help me to know the vendors' address in asia. thz, okii and 5dm2 team.

March 25, 2011

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Can the unit mount to a rail on the mate box?
Did a new version come out at NAB
Where can I purchase?

Thanks!

April 18, 2011

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