A few days ago I’ve had the opportunity to work with a JAG35 wireless follow focus. I was working a music video shoot, shot on RED ONE with Zeiss CP.2 Primes. Nice kit to say the least. I knew about the JAG35 wireless FF for quite some time now and I was really happy to finally get my hands on one for a whole day.
I wouldn’t call this post a Review, but rather I want to share my thoughts and reflect on my experience using this FF.
To start with, I want to make it clear that I’ve never used a wireless FF before, but I use a manual (without motor) Follow Focus almost on every shoot, so it didn’t feel to unusual. Actually it felt quite exciting and fun using the remote, which loosely resembles the controller for the high-powered remote controlled cars.
On the front, this remote has a nice large focusing wheel and2 adjustment wheels below which determine the motor hard stops, useful for both cine lenses and photo lenses without hard stops like Canon EF. These wheels also adjust the speed of motor, so let’s say if you lens has a very short focusing through you can adjust the remote to give the focusing wheel a long through by making the motor attached to the lens spin much slower than the focusing wheel on the remote (hope you understand what I mean). I didn’t really have to use this feature at all with the Zeiss primes because they have such a long through, but a lot of photo lenses, like my Canon 100mm Micro, have a very short focusing through and focusing with these lenses is an absolute nightmare, even with a follow focus. Using something like this remote focus unit can give new life to such lenses, letting you adjust the focus in much smoother way. For me this is a big advantage over a common, manual FF. I never knew such feature existed before I got my hands on this FF and for me this is one of the top features. Obviously if you film and focus yourself at the same time , this unit is not a good option, but if you are pulling focus for someone, this is just great.
I don’t usually pull focus for other people, but using this cool unit actually made the whole experience quite exciting. I was using it for all the jib shots where focusing otherwise was not possible anyway. Rather than standing next to the camera and guessing the distance, I chose a more fun way of standing next to massive 17” screenand focusing by looking at the image feed running directly from the camera via SDI cable. It was almost like playing a computer game, except it was much more pressure to perform well.
Coming back to remote; it also has a sliding adjustment knob on the side which would let you adjust the aperture if we had 2 motors, but we didn’t have 2 and since we were in controlled lighting environment, the aperture didn’t need constant adjustment.
The remote is powered by a Canon battery, same that is used in 5D/7D cameras, so it is a convenient choice for people using these DSLRs. Same battery goes on the actual motor. Unfortunately the motor bracket didn’t hold the battery that well, so it had to be secured by additional gaffer tape to make sure it doesn’t fall out. I’ve heard of this problem before, I think from another review, so this is something that JAG35 should definitely address.
One more thing I wanted to mention is that the JAG35 wireless FF can only be mounted only on 15mm rods. RED has 19mm rods,so there was no way to mount it directly on the rods. The FF had to be attached to a short 15mm rod (which might have been the part of the kit) which was then attached to a flexible arm and positioned upside down on the top of the rig. This meant that the motor was now spinning the opposite direction, making things a bit confusing for me. The ability to reverse the spinning direction would have been great in such situation, but there wasn’t one. Fortunately for people like myself, it looks like the upcoming V2 version of this follow focus will have reversible motor function on both focus wheel and aperture slider.
I actually can’t wait to see what other improvements the new version will have, as the first one was already pretty good for the price.
As mentioned above, in a few days time I’m working on a new music video, this time using a Preston wireless FF which I think costs many times more, so I will see if it is also many times better and really worth the extra money, not to say I could afford one. No matter how got it would be, as far as I can tell the JAG35 unit is the only one that fits into a “budget filmmaker” bracket, which is what this site is all about.
So my conclusion to this post is that if you want to buy your own wireless FF for what ever needs you have and you are on a tight budget, the JAG35 FF is certainly worth looking at and the upcoming improved V2 version will probably be even better value for money. If had I had more money and I was doing more focus pulling I would certainly buy one of these cool toys.
The motor itself is pretty nice. It’s fast and responsive, although it seems to have a slight delay, which I guess is something that should be expected for such price, after all this unit costs many times less than any other wireless FF. Another thing that can be a downside in some situations is that the motor is quite noisy. If you are recording sound on onboard mic, you can forget about using such sound, but in reality you wouldn’t really use such device with onboard mic as the only souse of sound. It is certainly the best for jib, dolly and steadicam shots. In our case, shooting a music video, the motor noise didn’t make any difference whatsoever. I will be using another wireless FF in a few days time, so I will be able to compare the noise levels and see if it is something standard or a downside of Jag35 FF.