If you’ve ever messed up a shot by reaching for the focus wheel on your lens and bumping the camera or turned the zoom wheel instead by mistake, then you’ve probably wished you had your very own Hollywood style focus puller. Or maybe you’ve grown tired of screwing filters on and off the front of your lenses and have wished you could find a better way. Well, wish no longer because the folks at Sachtler have read your thoughts and have brought you the Sachtler Ace Accessories Set to make those wishes come true.
The Sachtler Ace Accessories Set consists of the Ace Base Plate, the Ace Follow Focus and the Ace Matte Box. The Base Plate, which is height-adjustable, accepts two industry-standard 15mm diameter rods and may be attached directly to the camera with its very own adapter plate. The follow focus is a fully-assembled unit that simply needs to be slid onto the rods and adjusted to the camera it’s being paired with. Similarly, the matte box comes ready to slide into place. Make a few adjustments, attach and adjust the flags and you’re ready for some shootin’.
Setup of the Sachtler Ace Accessories Set is pretty simple and straightforward. And just in case you’re unsure of anything, Sachtler has provided some nice little videos on their website describing everything in pretty decent detail. Mount the Ace Base Plate to the tripod adapter plate and secure it to the tripod. Slide the 15mm diameter rods into their receiver slots integrated into the Base Plate and tighten the two side levers. Attach the camera adapter plate, which comes with the Base Plate, to your camera — in our case, a Canon 70D with a 24-105mm lens — slide it onto the Base Plate and lock it down. If the need should arise to adjust the height of the camera, simply release the two side levers and pull the platform straight up or push it down to raise or lower the camera.
The Sachtler Ace Accessories Set will make a wonderful addition to any serious video producer’s arsenal.
Slide the Follow Focus mounting bracket onto the rods and gently push the unit into place alongside the lens. Slide the upper portion of the mounting bracket forward until the toothed gear of the Follow Focus engages the teeth on the lens focus wheel, if so equipped. Turning the large wheel under the bracket tightens the bridge clamp and locks the Follow Focus onto the rods and snugly against the lens focus wheel. Turning the large hand wheel on the Follow Focus turns the focus wheel on the lens without having to handle the camera directly. It’s okay if your lens does not come with a toothed focus wheel as Sachtler supplies a toothed band and clamp that wraps around the focus wheel to engage the unit.
Slide the Matte Box mounting bracket onto the rods and push it into place. The front of the lens should just enter the rear of the Box but not so far as to interfere with the rear filter stage. Tighten the rod clamp and locking lever to secure the Box to the rig. Just ahead of the lens are two filter stages. The first is equipped with a 4×4 holder for mounting neutral density, polarizing and other filters and is capable of being rotated up to 90 degrees – useful for adjusting the intensity of two circular polarizing filters for example. The forward stage is fixed and accepts 4×5.65 size filters. A set of four threaded holes at the top of the box provide mounting points for accessories such as lights, monitors, etc. Two side flags and one overhead prevent unwanted light from falling onto the lens and creating unwelcome lens flares. They attach and detach quickly and easily by turning their lock knob and by popping them into and out of a spring loaded clamp.
The Follow Focus is well constructed and highly versatile. Some lenses focus by turning the focus wheel to the left and others to the right; the Follow Focus drive mechanism may be reversed to accommodate the workings of your particular lens. First unscrew and remove the toothed gear, use an allen wrench to loosen the clamp and rotate the entire drive mechanism 180 degrees. Tighten the clamp, replace the gear and you’re ready to focus.
Some lenses have hard stops that limit their travel when turning the focus wheel to the left or right. Others (such as our Canon) just keep turning and turning and turning. The Sachtler Follow Focus is equipped with user settable hard stops that set limits for lenses that have none. With the slider button on the large hand wheel of the Follow Focus disengaged, turn until the focus meter on the lens reads Macro. Line up one of the two hard stop indicators with the slider button and engage the slider. Find the infinity focus point on the lens and line up the other hard stop indicator. Now you have hard limits to how far the wheel can travel in either direction.
A replaceable marking disc allows you to find the beginning and end points of a focus pull, and using a non-permanent marker, make reference points on the disc for easy focus pulls. Finally, the hand wheel has a standard square socket for accessories such as a focus whip for pulling focus from a distance.
The Sachtler Ace Accessories Set will make a wonderful addition to any serious video producer’s arsenal. Set up is easy, focus pulls are smooth and predictable and controlling light with flags and filters via the Matte Box are a breeze. Plus it’s one seriously cool looking setup.
To provide support for the follow focus and matte box system Sachtler kindly sent along their Ace L fluid tripod head attached to a TT 75/2 carbon fiber tripod. The head has a load capacity of 13.2 lbs, 7 counterbalance steps (+0), three grades of both horizontal and vertical drag (+0) and an illuminated level. The tripod legs are made of carbon fiber with broad locking levers, spiked, retractable feet and a height range of 16.9 to 73.2 inches.
Setup is easy. Set both the vertical drag and counterbalance dials to zero, then mount the camera, taking care to support it since there is no resistance to prevent it from pitching to the front or back. Adjust the counterbalance dial and, if necessary, slide the adapter plate forward or back until the camera remains level without support. Now set the horizontal and vertical drag according to the speed of the pan or tilt you wish to perform.
At a combined weight of 9 lbs, this is a very portable, highly accurate tripod system. The two come packaged together as the System Ace L TT 75/2 CF with a camera adapter plate in a padded, zippered case with carrying handles, shoulder strap and a current street price of $1480.
$1500 – Follow Focus, Base Plate, Matte Box set
15mm rod system
Weight: 1 lb
Gear wheel: mod 0.8
Diameter friction wheel: 1.4 in
Includes one gear wheel and one friction drive
Weight: 1.3 lbs
Payload: 15.4 lbs
Height Adjustment: 48 – 72mm
Weight: 2 lbs
Max Lens Diameter: 143 mm
2 Filter stages: 4 x 4 in. (rotating) and 4 x 5.65 in. filter frames
- Easy setup and use
- Quality build
- Smooth, predictable focus pulls
- Easy glare and light control
- Slight vertical movement of the lens as the focus puller's gears engage in both directions
Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.