My Okii USB follow focus showed up in the mail on Thursday of last week and I was able to spend the entire weekend messing around with it. The first notable thing about the Okii USB follow focus is the packaging. The unit arrived in a small tin with a nice little see-through cover and came adorned with a green Okii banner.  It’s always nice to see a little style in a products packaging. It makes you feel like the manufacture went that extra mile to make a good product.

Once you open up the nice little case you’ll find the follow focus unit and a small bag containing 2 Allen wrenches and a handful of colored replacement buttons. One of these Allen wrenches will remove the focusing knob, the other allows you to remove  the control board inside the unit so that you can change out white buttons with a color of your choice.

The build quality is very nice. The body, back cover plate, and control knob are machined from a solid peace of 6061 aluminum stock and anodized flat black. When you pick the follow focus up it has a weight and feels like it could easily stand up to abuse.  Around the center of the focus control knob you have 9 buttons, a tri-color led, and an on/off switch.  On the back of the follow focus is a 1/4 20 female threaded for mounting and 2 small screws that allow access to the battery compartment. The back cover is also engraved with the okii logo and a usb port indicator.

When you power the unit up, the LED flickers to life, amber indicates no connection and green indicates that the unit has synced with your camera. The buttons on the okii usb follow focus are small and compared to the rest of the unit feel a little bit flimsy. Each button has a long press and short press function. A complete description of what each button does can be found in the user manual and a brief description is included in the video above.

So how does it work? Well it’s a mixed bag. On the positive side this controller provides more camera control options then any controller on the market. You can start/stop recording, use the x5 and x10 zoom, select live view, pre-focus before recording, and set a number of rack focus positions for the camera to return to. There are a wide number of  photography controls as well.  These features alone might be worth at least a 3rd of the total price of this unit but since it has “follow focus” in the title that’s probably what you’d like to hear about.

The follow focus portion works well on some lens and not so good on others. After testing this for several hours I found that prime lenses seemed to preform the best. The real deciding factor is the focus step size. There are 3 built in settings for step size: small, medium, and large. The problem is that each lens seems to move a different amount with each of these step sizes. So on one lens large may be completely useless, but on another lens it could work great. Small might take 6 full turns to accomplish anything on one lens and work perfectly on another.

So what I’ve started to do is take notes on what setting seems to work the best (for my taste) on each of my most used lenses. That way I can set the controller up for each lens I need to use. Unfortunately there is no indication when the focus step size is changed, so if your not sure what step size you were at you’ll have to press the button a few times tell the focus system starts working the way you’d like.  However when you press the focus step size button it makes any rack focus settings inaccurate.

Most of these problems aren’t a big deal and can be traced back to poor design on canon’s part (read more here). What all this really means is that you’ll probably still want to have a real follow focus unit around for some applications.

The okii usb follow focus is a very handy unit with a lot of great features and works well with lenses that have good focus motors. If your lens has a loud focus motor or the auto focus system is poorly implemented then the follow focus portion of this device probably isn’t what you are looking for (Zeiss owners are also out of luck).  If, on the other hand, you have a nice collection of prime lenses and quiet well designed zooms, this could be exactly what you are looking for.

No matter what lens you choose to use with the Okii, you should probably keep your microphones at least 2 or 3 feet away from your camera. I found that even a lens that produces very little operating noise (like the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L), could be heard in audio recordings from microphones mounted on my camera rig. A soon as I placed my microphone a few feet away, the lens operation was no longer heard.

As of right now the Okii USB follow focus is back ordered, but they are taking pre orders for the next batch if your are still interested in ordering one.

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