Pretty much every filmmaker has at some point tried to make equipment do something it wasn’t designed to do. While vintage cinema lenses create beautiful imagery, and the world of still glass offers cost-effective options for building out a lens kit, neither were designed to work with modern cinema follow focus units. To overcome this, you can of course buy individual delrin rings to attach to each lens you acquire, but unless they are custom made and fit, they often slip. Most have at least some form of a mounting gap where the follow focus unit will slip for a gear, which can be disastrous when trying to do precise focus moves in your shot. Broken Anchor might just have a solution with their ZERO universal focus ring, and they shipped us a pre-production model to put through the paces. 

20161026_zero_product_shots_0090_copy_0Credit: Broken Anchor

CNC-machined out of aluminum, and anodized for hardening and durability, this ring is designed to last for a very long time. Through an ingenious combination of ratchets and springs, you twist the ring in order to move the lens-arms in until the ring is locked firmly onto the lens. This system makes installation completely tool-free, as opposed to the allen keys that are usually required to mount lens focus rings. Each lens arm is tipped with silicon rubber, and in our tests no lenses were marked in any way.

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When properly tightened, the ring was surprisingly secure to the lens barrel, holding down with 2.25lbs of force. You can twist the ring around your hand to feel its force, and it feels secure without feeling like it would damage a lens. We did some extreme speed focus racks to see if we could get the ring to skip, and only encountered some very limited slip when reaching the very end of the intended barrel rotation. Since you don’t generally want to be torqueing hard on a lens barrel past it’s focus range, a bit of slip when reaching the end isn’t a problem. While you might worry about the extra force of a focus motor, you calibrate motors so they don’t apply force outside the focus range of the lens, so you won’t have a problem there either. As long as you stay in the focus range of the lens barrel, the ring works perfectly, never slipping, hopping, or drifting.

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The ring can be fitted on any lens with a 60-90mm lens body diameter, which covers a surprisingly large array of lenses, especially still and vintage glass. Even on lenses with a larger front diameter, it was usually possible to slide the lens on from the back and find a secure fit. Moving the ring from lens to lens was surprisingly fast and east, just twisting the ring to tighten, and then pushing the button to release the arms.

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The designer clearly worked hard to ensure that the fewest possible screws and access points are visible, making for an attractive accessory that is sleek and self-contained. There are screws on the lens mounting arms, but these come as something of a relief, since they give the option for repair in the future if for some reason one of the arms has an issue. While the construction is top notch and seems very durable, sometimes objects on a film set break not because they were made poorly but because, for example, the camera gets dropped off the back of a moving truck. Seeing screws, which can then be serviced, instead of internal clips, is a good sign that if the device takes some impact, limited repair and tweaking should be possible.

20161026_zero_product_shots_0109Credit: Broken Anchor

The ZERO even comes in a surprisingly well thought-out box. Overall, if you are a filmmaker with a wide collection of lenses that require rings to work with follow focus devices, and you’ve been planning to buy an individual ring for each set, buying a single Broken Anchor ring could be a cost-effective alternative.

Broken Anchor is running a Kickstarter now with a launch price of $299 for the ZERO.

Tech Specs

  • 60-90mm lens barrel diameter
  • 2.25lbs of force on the lens
  • 30A durometer grip pads
  • Auto centers on lens
  • .8 module gear pitch, industry standard
  • 136g weight
  • 125mm outer diamter
  • 26mm width