Review: Zacuto Gorilla Baseplate & ProAim X2 Follow Focus
I recently purchased a Zacuto Gorilla Baseplate for Canon EOS Cinema Cameras and a ProAim X2 Follow Focus to build a mini rig for my Canon EOS C100.
Zacuto Gorilla Baseplate:
The Gorilla Plate is a mini baseplate designed to be the centre piece of a rod system for your camera. Its the smaller sibling of the Zacuto Studio Baseplate. It is light and allows me to fit a follow focus, my Ninja 2 external recorder, and a matte box should I need one.
The baseplate is made of aluminium and comes with 3/8” 16 and ¼” 20 screws to match the EOS Cinema Series cameras as well as a different configuration for the Red cameras. It is compatible with 15mm rods at 60mm spacing. The front rods have to be the screw-in type. You can also clamp standard untreaded rods in to the sides, horizontally on the left side, and vertically on the right side. The vertical rod clamp is designed to fit Zacuto’s Target Shooter and Striker rigs.
I’ve found the baseplate to be very well made, solid but light, and it fits the C100 like a glove, so much so it is a permanent fixture. The 2 screws combined with the 6 gripper pads on top hold it very tight and I’ve experienced no loosening or twisting in the 2 months I’ve had it. Attaching the rods to the front is very simple. Screw them in until hand tight. There is a bolt to clamp the left hand rod to add security but none on the right. I was concerned that the cantilevering effect by weight placed on rods that are inserted less than 20mm in to the baseplate would be a problem, but so far its been fine.
One thing I would have liked is for the vertical rod hole to be slightly further forward so that a rod would pass in front of the camera body, as I think this would be an ideal way to mount a handle or a monitor above the camera. Zacuto if you are reading this, maybe the mark 2 version?
I’m currently working on an assembly to mount my Ninja 2 using the left hand side hole.
The ProAim X2 Follow Focus:
I’d borrowed follow focus’s in the past and found some to be better than others, but none worked well with the C100 due to its height and ended up in strange configurations. Currently most are designed to work with DSLRs which are lower. I spotted the X2 on The Cine City website, which is a budget camera equipment supplier based in India that sells through eBay and from its website.
The Good: Its design meant that it was ideal for my camera. It is based on a single clamp design that fixes to only one rod. It has adjustable angle and reach. The whole package cost less than £100 and came with everything needed to get up and running – a 15″ whip, a crank handle, a pencil to mark focus, 6 different sized lens gears, and 3 allen keys for adjustments. Incredible value!
The follow focus feels very well made, and is constructed mainly of metal, with a plastic marker ring. Its on the heavy side but it will take a lot of abuse. The gears are smooth and quiet and there is approximately 0.5mm play or backlash. The 6 gears are very sturdy and fit my lenses very well with good adjustability. The white plastic ring can be marked with the supplied pencil to set focus stops. It is fixed using magnets and is therefore removable and washable. The red marker post can be rotated to any position – it can face the camera operator should that be required. All adjustments on the follow focus require 3 different sizes of allen key, so you need to have these with you in the field.
The not so good: Firstly adjusting the angle of the follow focus hasn’t been very well thought out as the adjustment bolts located behind the focus wheel are hard to access with the provided allen keys. I have a set with ball ends that can be used at an angle, otherwise the supplied allen keys are useless. I think that a standard hex head bolt that could be tightened with a small spanner would work better, so I might look in to it. At present in order to tighten the bolt, the follow focus must be slightly angled at about 85˚ – it can’t be positioned at true vertical not that it causes a problem to its operation.
Lens changes are quick and efficient. Just loosen the red ratchet screw, lower the cog away from the lens gears and slide the follow focus on the rod. It doesn’t need to be removed completely.
Secondly I’ve had to flip the follow focus support leg to the other side of the gear box as when using short lenses it hit the camera body and the red thumb screw was impeded meaning it couldn’t be fully tightened.
The flipped support leg has helped a lot, but the angle adjustment is at the limit as mentioned above – as you can see the bolt is almost touching the focus wheel.
Also you can not flip the cog on this model. So no pancake lenses or short primes can be used. I’m sure this would be a problem on a lot of cameras, not just the C100. I’d recommend a follow focus were you can swap the cog to the other side of the gear box.
The really bad: After less than 2 weeks of use the red thumb ratchet screw stopped working. It would no longer close the clamp which meant I could not tighten it to the rod. This happened during a lens change in the middle of a shot so I was slightly annoyed. Thankfully after some head scratching I realised I could replace the broken screw with the ratchet screw from my Zacuto Gorilla Baseplate. Not ideal, but easily solved.
I love this setup. I call it my mini-rig. Its light and versatile. It complements the C100s ergonomics. I use this setup on a tripod, monopod and handheld. Mono pod and handheld use is a breeze – I hold the C100 by the pistol grip in my right hand and focus using the X2 with my left hand, also taking some of the weight.
The Zacuto Gorilla Baseplate has been flawless, and I feel its been worth the purchase cost. Its the basis of many different configurations, including shoulder mount like the Zacuto Recoil. The ProAim X2 follow focus is a case of “you get what you pay for”. After some early teething problems its been working adequately. It clamps in place well, with no movement or flex. For me all that’s missing are focus hard stops.
I hope you have found this review helpful. If you have any questions, please comment below.