For the past few weeks I’ve been enjoying my newly received Axis 1 single channel wireless focus system from Hocus Products. I talked with Peter Hoare at good length at the 2013 Stabilizer Expo and was in the market for a remote focus. After testing out a few different units currently on the market, I decided to scratch my original plans of getting a trusted and loved Digital Bartech and give the Axis 1 a shot.Three weeks later, I’m glad I did!
Most of the Axis 1‘s stats can be found on their website but just a few quick notes: The hand unit is slightly larger than the widely used Bartech with a notably larger focus knob and the Axis 1 receiver is roughly 30% larger than the bartech receiver. Both the hand unit and the receiver feel well constructed, durable and seem like if they were dropped, they’d survive and wouldn’t break into a bunch of pieces. The Axis unit is designed to integrate into existing kits easily. It’s a digital system and will work with any digital motors, 7 pin lemo motor cables and 2 pin power cables (same as bartech). The motor is also constructed very solidly and seems like the toughest piece of equipment in the package.
In all I paid just under $7,200 for the who package.
The entire kit was ordered from Hot Rod Cameras in Hollywood and I ended up with the Hand unit, receiver, motor, all the different gears for the motor, six conical marking rings, 15 and 19mm iris rod adapters for the motor, 2x motor cables, 2x P-tap power cables, 2x Arri run/stop, 2x Epic run/stop cables, 2x antennas and the case with cut foam.
The feel of the hand unit as you turn the focus knob is great. It’s got good resistance to be precise but not feel overly tight. The Bartech has a very light, almost resistance free feel compared to the Axis.
The buttons on the transmitter and receiver and solid, won’t be accidentally pushed and only have one function each; there’s no “push and hold” extra features within the system. It’s very “what you see is what you get” which makes for fast setup and fast changes while working. From calibration to manually setting lens stops, the minimal buttons allow you fly through any set up and get to work fast. Having a calibration button on the transmitter and receiver that you can actually push (unlike the tiny recessed button on the digital Bartech that you have to get at with a pen) is very convenient. The simplicity and ease of use is wonderful!
The motor that Hocus has put together is fast and absolutely silent. Also, when I say that this motor is silent.... I mean COMPLETELY SILENT, even when doing very fast racks. As far as the torque goes, it’s adjusted automatically just before the motor finds the limits of the lens during initial calibration. I haven’t had the motor on notably stiff lenses so I can’t make comment yet about the motor’s heavy duty torque capabilities. I'm a little nervous not having the articulating motor cable port like on the M-One but so far I haven't missed it.
The hand unit runs on Canon style LP-E6 rechargeable batteries. They aren’t supplied by Hocus so I picked up a Wasabi two battery and charger bundle on Amazon for $28 and found that I can get three full days on one battery. The indicator light on the front and the top warns when the battery is getting low. Also, if the hand unit is left untouched for five or ten minutes, it will automatically go into sleep mode to conserve power.
It’s also nice that there is a read out on the top of the hand unit that tells you information like channel, battery level, and signal strength to and from the receiver.
The rosette on the back of the hand unit makes me excited to see a three channel upgrade/ addition whenever Hocus gets around to developing it. Ergo hand grips, TV logic monitors, and a host of other things are just waiting to be screwed into here!
The interchangeable focus marking rings are much better than the Bartech’s annoyingly flimsy focus strips. They quickly and securely pop on and off and feel very durable. You can get them in cylindrical and conical, I chose six conical and love them.
All of the cables I ordered from Hocus (P-tap power, Arri and Red run stop) are all made very well and function without issue.
Finally, Peter at Hocus has been very accessible and open for comments and questions from myself in a very direct manner. He’s been very quick to respond to emails and questions and the reps at Hot Rod Cameras (the US dealer of the Axis) have been the same!
Not sure if this is quite a negative, gut the hand unit is notably heavier than a Bartech. It’s heavier because it’s well built and robust, but an AC that used it a few days ago told me that he kept wanting to set it down a lot just because of the added weight. After the day he said his hand was tired and a little achy. It’s definitely not as heavy as a Preston FIZ. I think this could be combatted with altering and improving the ergonomics of the hand unit itself.
One thing that I really like about the ergonomics of the Bartech hand units are the channels along the long sides of the hand unit. I find that they are the perfect place to rest my palm in and wrap my fingers around the transmitter and get a good grip on it. The Axis is built inside a rectangular housing and lacks these channels to firmly grip the transmitter which makes it not quite as comfortable as the Bartech for long term operating. I imagine some kind of ergo hand grip that screws into the rosette in the back of the hand unit would make holding it more comfortable.
Also, one thing that I think Hocus is lacking for the Axis is a firm iris rod mounting bracket or a 1/4” 20 thread somewhere on it so it can be firmly mounted to a camera. Velcro works fine at the moment because the receiver is fairly light weight, but I am the type of person who wants all accessories firmly screwed down and locked into place. I’m told by Peter that a bracket is in the works.
All in all, when I arrive on set I feel proud to break open the Axis 1 case and show it off to anyone who will listen to me! As both a focus puller and a steadicam op, I love using it and showing others how to use it. I recommend it hand over fist over the Bartech and would definitely recommend anyone in the market or looking to upgrade. I can’t wait to see what all comes out of Hocus next!
There are a couple more pictures of the system on my website here: Axis 1