Clever and affordable FocusMaker aims to make manual-focus movies easier


posted Monday, November 19, 2012 at 5:06 PM EDT

If you've bought a new SLR or mirrorless camera in the last few years, chances are that you've got more than just a great still imaging tool on your hands. Most interchangeable-lens cameras sold recently are also capable of capturing video, and with their relatively large sensors, their output can be much more appealing than what you'd get from a small-sensor camcorder. Many also provide better manual controls than you'll find even on fairly expensive consumer camcorders.

Better still, there's the opportunity to take advantage of the shallow depth of field of a large sensor camera by playing with manual focus. If you take charge of focus yourself rather than leaving it in the camera's hands, you have another tool to bring your viewer's attention precisely where you want it. Shooting with lenses designed first and foremost for stills, though, makes manually focusing your video a pretty tricky task. Even if you take the time to carefully plan your shooting first, focusing smoothly and accurately during capture takes a lot of practice. There are tools that aim to make it easier, but they're typically fairly expensive and cumbersome.

That's where the new FocusMaker from Denmark-based ID/FX ApS comes in. With a pricetag of just US$89, it's definitely affordable, and its patent-pending design seems pretty clever, as well.

The FocusMaker system, demonstrated by its creator.

Invented by company owner Nikolaj Bestle, the FocusMaker consists of a ruler and sight that attach to your lens barrel via adjustable straps, plus some related accessories. Thanks to the adjustable straps, ID/FX says that the FocusMaker will work with most DSLR lenses. (You will, of course, need a deep enough focus ring on which to mount the ruler, which will mean that pancake lenses likely can't be used.)

The FocusMaker clips onto most lenses with adjustable rubber straps.

As for the other accessories, there's a clip-on handle which attaches to the ruler that places your hand further from the central axis of the lens and, in the process, makes it easier to smoothly and accurately turn the focus ring. Also included are six colored plastic clips that let you mark the ruler in specific positions, corresponding to the correct focus distance for the subjects in your scene. You can also turn two of the clips around to act as stops that catch on the sight and prevent you from turning the focus ring beyond a chosen point.

An official sample video shot with the FocusMaker and a Canon EOS digital SLR, showing what's possible with accurate manual focus control. The Koenigsegg Agera sportscar is, sadly, not included in the purchase price.

Available immediately, the FocusMaker can be purchased from, with shipping costs for most markets set at US$5, and within Europe at €3. Customers in Europe will also pay 25% Danish VAT; those in other markets may need to cover the cost of local taxes or import duties on receipt of the FocusMaker. Credit cards are accepted, processed through Paypal.