FocusMaker DSLR Focusing Tool Review

The FocusMaker is a relatively inexpensive, universal tool that aids in accurately and repeatedly pulling focus when shooting video with your DSLR. Overall, the product is well-designed and certainly worthy of consideration if more expensive, fuller-featured follow-focus systems are simply unnecessary or not economically feasible.

The FocusMaker I received was a demo unit. Truth be told, I jumped at the opportunity to test the device as I had already considered purchasing the FocusMaker on several occasions.

Features

The FocusMaker I received arrived in a logo carrying bag with the following components:

  • (1) Ruler
  • (1) Sight
  • (2) Handles (red & blue)
  • (6) Clip-on markers (3 red, 3 blue)
  • (2) Elastic straps
  • (1) Instruction booklet

The instruction booklet was very clear on how to set up and use the FocusMaker. That said, here's a quick rundown:

  1. Attach the Sight to a section of the lens just behind the focus ring using one of the elastic straps.
  2. Position your focus ring about halfway through its full focus travel. Mount the ruler on the focus ring with the graphics facing the camera with the second elastic strap.
  3. Attach the clips to the ruler at your desired focus points for focus pulling reference.
  4. Attach a handle on the Ruler to aid in comfortable focus pulling.

(Please read the full user's manual that comes with device for a full set of instructions and tips.)

One nice feature about the clip-on markers is that they can be attached to the ruler in two different ways – in active mode or passive mode. In active mode, you attach the clip-on marker so that the long end actually hits the Sight when focus pulling. This creates a "hard stop." One benefit of this form of clip-on marker use is that you don't actually have to be looking at the Sight when completing your focus pull. This means you can watch the action in front of your camera whenever timing is critical.

In passive mode, the long end of the clip-on marker points downward behind the ruler while the short end wraps over the top. In this setup, you use the site window in the Sight to line up your focus pulls. You know you've hit your focus when the clip-on marker shows up in the Sight window. The benefit of using passive mode is that your focus pulls can be near-silent (aside from the sound your lens may make when rotating the focus ring). The downside is that you must be looking at the Sight on your lens in order to line everything up during your focus pull; it does take more concentration when focus is critical (like when shooting with an ultra-shallow depth-of-field). You can see the difference in the active and passive modes below.

FocusMaker Marker Active / Passive Modes

With the FocusMaker attached to your lens and the markers in place, you're ready for easy and accurate focus pulls.

Build Quality

To be frank, I wasn't expecting the FocusMaker to have an overwhelmingly good build quality. The marketing pictures make the device look a bit flimsy, in my opinion. And while the FocusMaker is completely plastic, it's much more rigid than I anticipated. With reasonable care I believe this device will survive much longer than I had expected. As of the review date, I have had the FocusMaker for about three months and have used it many times. If not for a barely-noticeable hint of fading in the top half of the ruler guide lines (caused by sliding the clip-on markers left and right to finely tune focus position), the unit would still be indistinguishable from new.

Focusmaker Back View

Ease of Use

The directions that come with the device are very straight-forward and simple to follow. One point that I didn't pay close enough attention to, though, led to some unnecessary difficulty. The Manual clearly says, "Position the elastic strap over the hooks, and do not over-tighten. If in doubt, always choose the hook that gives the lesser tension."

Unfortunately, I had overlooked that part in the manual and chose the tension hook that was a bit too tight in my initial setups. This made removing the Sight and and Ruler difficult. I even had to use my Swiss Army Knife's screwdriver tool to unhook the elastic straps. When following the all of the setup instructions, removal is substantially easier.

FocusMaker Side View

While the device is designed to be a universal tool, placement of the Sight can be somewhat challenging depending on the lens you are using. For example, the FocusMaker was very easy to set up on my EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM (seen above). However, the control hump and overall design of the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM made setting up the Sight a bit more complicated. In order to be able to utilize active stops, I actually had to tilt the top part of the Sight toward the Ruler a bit (so that the elastic strap at the bottom was closer to the lens mount). It was not a huge inconvenience, but it's just something to know.

Results

Explaining how the FocusMaker works is helpful... but seeing it in action paints a much clearer picture of what this tool can do for you. In order to test out the FocusMaker, I decided to make a promotional video for a friend (Wade) who occasionally hosts a "game night" in his loft apartment. The short video was intended to be published on the Facebook event page that gets distributed to his friends.

Keep in mind, however, that I am not deeply experienced when it comes to creating high-quality video content. I have only tried creating a handful of videos in my life. With that out of the way, you'll want to pay close attention to the 0:08 second mark and the 0:21 second mark for examples of the FocusMaker in action. Be sure to watch the video full screen and in HD quality for the best viewing experience.

Disclaimer: Please note that The-Digital-Picture.com does not endorse or promote gambling for monetary gain. In Wade's "game nights," the guests do not play for money – they only play for the pride of having the largest stack of chips at the end of the night.

Tools used to create the video included an EOS 5D Mark III, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM, the FocusMaker and an iFootage Shark Slider S1.

Texas Hold'em aficionados may have noticed that Wade forgot to burn a card before the flop. If the term "flop" means nothing to you, the error likely went unnoticed. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the mistake until the editing room. We decided not to reshoot the scene as most of his friends would not have noticed the improper deal (though, admittedly, it still bothers me just a little bit).

Summary

In the end, the FocusMaker does exactly what I need it to do – it simplifies focus pulls to aid in creative video capture while remaining relatively low in cost. For stationary focus pulls, the FocusMaker is a more-than-adequate solution for helping you produce impressive results giving your DSLR video a more professional and polished look.

Bringing you this site is my full time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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My Recommended FocusMaker DSLR Focusing Tool Retailers
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B&H Photo
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