Filmmakers now have yet another tool to add to their bag of tricks. This one is from DJI, the company behind the iconic Phantom drones. As reported by The Verge, the aptly named Focus is basically a remote control with a large wheel on it that grants camera operators wireless command of both focus and aperture. A separate motor drive attaches to a camera and spins a gear to rotate the lens or aperture rings.
While this isn’t the first wireless follow-focus system, the DJI Focus is unique in how it offers control of both depth of field and focus from the same device. With very little work, operators can easily switch between the two. By opening or closing the aperture, exposure can also be adjusted smoothly mid-shot, opening up new possibilities for flying between areas with different levels of light.
The control wheel can be calibrated to different lenses to keep the motor from turning past the minimum and maximum focus points. Wheel resistance can also be adjusted, providing a stiffer or looser feel depending on user preference. Focus pullers can also mark their start/stop points on the removable marking ring using a standard grease pen or dry erase marker.
By itself, the DJI Focus can control a camera up to 100m away, but the range increases significantly when paired with one of the company’s Xenmuse X5 drone cameras. By seamlessly integrating through the Xenmuse’s existing remote, operational range expands to five kilometers.
Of course, the Focus isn’t just for aerial cinematography. It is equally powerful when attached to cameras on the ground. DJI recognizes that the modern filmmaker is often rigging cameras in such a way as to make hands-on focus control difficult or impossible. This is especially true of hand-held gimbals, such as DJI’s own Ronin series, which require uninhibited movement of the camera within the gimbal.
While DJI may be best known for its consumer-oriented products like the Phantom 4 drone and Osmo smartphone gimbal, the Focus is decidedly aimed at professionals. Priced at $2,000, it isn’t exactly a must-have accessory for the amateur drone enthusiast. For the serious filmmaker who demands the best control over cameras on the ground or in the sky, however, the DJI Focus may be a game changer.