December 7, 2016
Review

Review: Broken Anchor Focus Gear Could Be the Last You Ever Buy

With the Zero, Broken Anchor has devised a universal lens focus gear ring that truly feels like it could work on any lens that needs it.

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. 

Credit: 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.

Credit: Broken Anchor

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.

Credit: Broken Anchor

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.

 photo Scissor Animation_1.gif

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.

Credit: 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

Your Comment

15 Comments

Cool concept, but $299?! It's like 1/3 of avg. monthly salary here in Poland

December 7, 2016 at 3:12PM, Edited December 7, 3:16PM

16
Reply

My man, that's about a grand less than most reputable follow focus systems.

December 8, 2016 at 3:10AM

0
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Steve Yager
Filmmaker
379

Sadly, this is NOT a follow focus system. This is JUST the gear ring. You will still need that 1.5k FF system. I pay 10-20 bucks for custom made lens specific gear rings. 300 bucks for a gearring is insane and will most likely kill the product before its even launched.

December 8, 2016 at 6:13AM

5
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Jeroen Rommelaars
Animator - Videographer - Motion Tracking
921

Follow focus system? This is a single gear to attach to a lens. You can get great ones for $12. I'd love what you're smoking though.

December 8, 2016 at 12:05PM

9
Reply

You're overpaying for your follow focus.

December 11, 2016 at 6:22AM

0
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David Gurney
DP
1773

As I saw the headline and began reading the article, I said to myself, "this looks great, but knowing the video industry it'll end up costing like two hundred dollars".
It's actually three hundred dollars.
...
It looks like a great product, though! :-P

December 7, 2016 at 11:38PM, Edited December 7, 11:39PM

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Wow, this looks really great, but as others have said, $300 is a LOT for this type of product. I think its a brilliant idea, but needs to be a quarter of the cost, otherwise I fear people will tough it out and just grab a $20 adjustable plastic ring. I hope they can figure out a way to bring cost down significantly as I'd be a supporter of this project in a second. Great innovation.

December 8, 2016 at 2:04AM

2
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Hey everyone. I wanted to introduce myself and take the opportunity to address concerns that you may have.
The largest concern that many of you have is with the pricing. While we know that there is a certain sticker shock associated with it, we are very confident that the long-term advantage is well worth it.
The first thing that I want to mention is that are pricing is not arbitrarily set at $300. We have worked very hard to get it to this price point, as precision machining can be quite expensive. We have worked through multiple revisions to eliminate as many operations and unnecessary manufacturing details as possible. The product is made up of 13 individual machine components and various springs and pieces of custom manufactured hardware. Going the extra mile on these little details is what ensures it will be a product that you will have for years. While we wish we could offer Zero at a lower price, it unfortunately isn’t possible.
Many alternatives out there are anywhere from $30-60 for each ring and if you purchase 3-10 that costing begins to become comparable to our product, except that you are paying shipping costs and waiting for a lens ring every time you purchase a new lens. While 3d printing is cost effective it is not precise. Many companies go to great lengths to remove backlash from a FF but then people match them up with lens gears that don’t have the precision needed to ensure that backlash isn’t introduced between the FF and lens gear. The only real comparable products to ours are the lens gear that Zeiss released this year, which cost $200 each. The downside is that you still need 4 different sizes to accomplish what ours does, which would run you over $800. We don’t want to go too far and look like we are bashing other products, but we feel it’s important to clarify the difference. We would like to compare apples to apples and help people understand that a well-built product has inherent costs, and that we are not trying to gouge anyone.
We built Zero to be the last lens gear you will ever need. That means when you purchase a new lens you’re not waiting for a lens gear before you can use it. If you borrow a lens, you have a gear to make it work with your FF. And we designed it to be very quick to use, so that you can spend less time in between various shots and increase your production efficiency. If you haven’t seen the Kickstarter, please be sure to check it out. We feel the video helps to demonstrate the efficiency and quality build of the product. If you have other questions, please feel free to reach out. Thanks

December 8, 2016 at 3:12PM, Edited December 8, 3:12PM

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Josh Turner
Owner of Broken Anchor Design
166

Man, it's clear you have great intentions and you have clearly figured out that in the world of filmmaking you can get away with any pricing in the name of convenience. Where I live, no one would buy a lens gear for the price of a fantastic new 50mm 1.4, or 3 new 50mm 1.8 lenses or a new lumix gm1, or an osmo mobile stabilizer ... But we are clearly not your target audience.
It always strikes me when small indie enterpreneurs price their stuff out of reach for a big part of the population because most established filmmakers are numbed to this things to care too much. Either in the name of convenience or disposable income. But times they're changing, technology and globalisation are thankfully eliminating the space for this kind of business model.
Or maybe the RND did indeed break your back/bank; if that's the case I wish you well.

December 9, 2016 at 1:57AM

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Jeff Waweru
Photographer / Filmmaker / Designer
160

Jeff thanks for your comments, but it is important to note that the pricing is completely driven by the cost of manufacturing. We are not attempting to "get away" with anything. While globalization, benefits large outfits operating at very high volumes, it is out of reach for smaller outfits. We manufacture in Canada which has inherent costs, but allows us to very closely monitor the quality control throughout the process and deliver on the promises we are making. We are working to set the bar, as the best focus ring in the industry and our quality and manufacturing standards must represent that. Unfortunately quality comes with a certain cost, and while we hope to make the product more accessible in the years to come, it is a ways off, as large scale overseas manufacturing requires a lot of operational personnel to pull off and maintain the quality we require from the parts. It's not as easy as making a phone call unfortunately. But thank you for your comments. If nothing else, we hope it helps you understand our manufacturing process a little better.

December 9, 2016 at 1:35PM, Edited December 9, 1:37PM

7
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Josh Turner
Owner of Broken Anchor Design
166

Fair nuff

December 18, 2016 at 6:05AM

0
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Jeff Waweru
Photographer / Filmmaker / Designer
160

I love when people compare themself with the leader in lenses to justify their price.
This item is well designed but overpriced (as the Zeiss is) no question here
Also your calculation is wrong, i don't want to swap lens on set and swap ring as well.
I want each lens to be ready when i switch. So i need one or 2 rings per lens.
I also prefers the Zeiss style when i put quickly the lens in a bag.
Your public is a filmmaker without money to pay for real cine lens and expensive Zeiss, don't play both sides.

I strongly think a quick and cheaper Zeiss based copy will surface and be a huge success, this is what people are ready to pay for upgrading their 3d printed one.

December 10, 2016 at 3:50AM

4
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www.visionrouge.com
Managing director, DOP, Photographer, nothing
269

I read you, man, but we, the readers, represent the people who buy filmmaking gear. So far, not a lot of us are likely to buy your gear. I get that it looks well engineered and well made, but most of us will buy multiple unit of the cheap, almost disposable, yet "working" lens gears before we "invest" in your incredibly expensive product.

At $50 bucks, I wouldn't think twice about buying it. At $300... nope.

December 10, 2016 at 9:47AM

0
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Revise the title, Charles:

Review: Broken Anchor Focus Gear Could Be the Last You'll Never Buy

December 10, 2016 at 9:53AM

0
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It's clever, but expensive. I would probably buy a bunch of cheap plastic rings, cut them exactly, and permanently affix them to each of my lenses at under $100 total.

However, anyone considering buying a Rokinon/Samyang lens should buy one of these and a good still lens instead. Then at least you'll have decent images.

December 11, 2016 at 6:27AM, Edited December 11, 6:28AM

20
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David Gurney
DP
1773