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Manfrotto One-Ups the Competition with Focus Controllers for Canon DSLRs

03.11.12 @ 10:12PM Tags : , , , ,

As with any NAB event, new devices and prototypes are always being announced. I’m sure we will be seeing even more DSLR products than we saw last year, and Manfrotto is attempting to get in on this popularity by announcing new rigs specifically designed for small cameras. While it seems that we get a new DSLR rig every single day, Manfrotto is also going to be announcing other devices that are far more useful and necessary for Canon DSLR owners.

I’m a little late, but thanks goes out to planetMitch and Cameratown for reporting on this. You can find the full press release at Cameratown. We’ve already covered a fantastic device, the Okii USB controllers for Canon DSLRs, but these focus controllers that Manfrotto has developed look to be much closer to industry standard, and they are offering two versions. Here’s a brief description of both versions:

  • Clamp version (on the right)
    Small and compact, the Canon-compatible clamp remote control attaches to flat surfaces, or to pipes and tubes (such as standard video head pan bars or a Manfrotto Fig Rig).
    Photo/video switching, Focus knob, Rec/stop or photo shutter release, Live view on/off, Digital zoom, Autofocus, Focus memory, Focus speed limit, USB connection for firmware upgrades.
  • Pro version (on the left)
    The Canon compatible Pro version is designed to be used as one of the hand grips of a SYMPLA shoulder support, where it means that a single camera operator can properly support the weight of the camera and rig to ensure smooth, accurate framing and movement, while also controlling all camera functions, without removing either hand from the rig. The Pro version can also be used hand-held and away from the camera and its support, it can be attached to video head pan bars or set up in any number of alternative configurations.
    Photo/video switching, Focus knob, Selective focus, Rec/stop or photo shutter release, Live view on/off, Digital zoom, Autofocus, Focus memory, Focus speed limit, Camera settings (exposure, ISO, aperture…), LCD screen relays camera information, USB connection for firmware upgrades

To my knowledge, this is the first time that a Canon DSLR compatible device like this has been developed to either be incorporated into a tripod handle, or act as its own hand grip and allow focus to be controlled through the camera’s own focusing mechanism. These look like fantastic implementations and will offer firmware upgrades right on the device, to fix any issues that might arise, or to interface better if Canon makes an update to its own firmware. It’s not clear how these devices actually connect, but looking at the cable in the photo it seems like it might connect via the remote port rather than the USB port like the Okii, but I could certainly be proven wrong.

The Pro version seems to have similar camera control features that the top Okii device has, so the only remaining question on these will be price. If Manfrotto can offer these at similar price points to the Okii devices ($400 and $230), I think we’ll have a winner on our hands. No price was stated in the press release, but I’ll take a stab and say $200 for the Clamp version and $350 for the Pro version – but that’s pure speculation on my part.

I fully expect that you’ll see many more devices like this in the near future, and it’s certainly possible that Manfrotto will not be the only company announcing a focus controller or similar at NAB. It also seems that a version for Nikon’s cameras could be released at some point down the road.

Anyone interested in these? I know if the price is right, these are going to fly off the shelves – but personally most of the lenses I own are manual focus and manual iris only (for maximum compatibility and hard stops), so this is less of a necessary product for me. But for those out there who have mostly Canon autofocus or L lenses, this is going to be right down their alley.

[via planetMitch & Cameratown]


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Description image 20 COMMENTS

  • Rev. Benjamin on 03.11.12 @ 10:33PM

    I think they sound neat. Also Joe – props for your manual lenses, respec’.

    • Thanks, appreciate it. With all of these advancements in follow focus controls, I think I might have to move to autofocus lenses at some point in the future! But for build quality, size, and maintenance, nothing beats simple manual focus prime lenses.

      • Off topic, but what primes do you use because I am looking to buy some good affordable glass but all the new lenses (canon or nikon) don’t have manual iris control

        • All Nikon primes. I’ve got quite a few of them, but these are the ones that I actually use on a daily basis and would recommend: 28mm 2.8 AIS, 50mm 1.2 AIS (I’ve heard good things about the 50mm 1.4), 55mm 2.8 AIS Micro (Macro), 85mm 1.4 AIS. I’ve never had a lot of money to spend on lenses, so I’ve more or less cobbled these together over a number of years. Check out the Nikon lens post if you haven’t already. Stick to AIS lenses if you can for performance (unless the AI version is identical), they are usually newer (which could means less wear and tear – assuming you buy them all used). For wide, I prefer the 28mm 2.8 AIS over the 24mm. The reason I chose the 2.8 version over the f/2 version is because it’s sharper and there’s no distortion. I’ve wanted the 28mm 1.4, but it’s just so expensive it never made sense. It would have cost more than all of my lenses put together. I’ve been looking to add one day to make a complete set, but I really found that on full frame, 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm are what I use most.

  • Used manfrotto 522 lanc pan handle controls on my mdv and hdv cams worked fairly well for zoom, would have preffered a toggle or wheel for focus rather than + & – buttons. As I recall ramping wasn’t great, but hopefully these have addressed these niggles (apart from zoom servo obviously). I still use my fig rig a lot, combined with a is lens it really us the mutts nuts. Much less hassle than a merlin, though requires two hands for best results.
    Still think a lot of these follow focus mounts on dslrs are more about show than go, as with a decent long throw wide focus ring i find it smoother just to touch me camera and focus on the fly. When it gets to the stage of zoom recorders, hdmi recorders, rifle mics and ridiculously huge french flags that some rigs are just plain silly.

  • If only these were released with some kind of quiet servo option similar to that of a wireless follow focus, that way they could appeal to both the manual and digital crowd. In theory, with something like that you could program “hard stops” into the controller and then manually rack between the points…that would be a pretty awesome system

  • Do you know if these will DISPLAY the current FOCUS DISTANCE that the camera is set to? The barrel on the photo lenses only display a few minor meaurements (3ft, 10 ft, infinity) and I’m struggling to find an affordable device that will display the exact setting. This would also be extremeful beneficial when using Zoom lenses. If these devices can do that, I will definitely invest.

  • Manfrotto making these for Canon-OK. Do they plan a version for the new Nikon D800?

  • Want!!!

  • This is the follow focus I’m really curious about…

  • Keep in mind this is for Canon lens that have auto focus motors. If you attach a Zeiss to your Canon camera, will not work. I have the Okii and it works ok. Note these controllers move the focus element in ‘steps’. Also if your lens is telephoto like the 24-70, might need to re-adjust the steps based on your distances. There is another usb controller out there called Impero Mini controller, similar to the Okii. IMO I would stick with a quality mechanical FF rather than USB controlled one. I just prefer the ‘feel’ having that feed-back when adjusting the focus. However the controller is useful when lets say the camera is up on a ladder or in a weird position like in a car trunk – you can tether a 20′ usb cable and have full control over many camera functions.

  • Hi,
    This seems to be fitting my requirements. Any idea if the pro version has been released and if so what is the price point? Has anyone done a hands on review? That would be really helpful.

  • This may sound a bit novice, but when I read “Live View Zoom” are they speaking in regards to the focusing aid by magnifying the image?? or, will the remote actually zoom your lens in mechanically? I presumed this controller would not zoom the lens mechanically (meaning you still have to use one hand to zoom in the desired look) then the Live View Digital Zoom will aid you in your focusing, is this correct??

  • Any idea what happened to the Pro version of this focus controller? I can’t find it anywhere, not even on the Manfrottto site.