SmallRig MagicFIZ Wireless Follow Focus Review SmallRig is going wireless

Today we are taking a look at the new SmallRig MagicFIZ wireless follow focus the first for the company which includes some interesting features and a full eco-system.

Smallrig

The MagicFIZ was announced only a few days ago, however, SmallRig was kind enough to send us an early unit several weeks ago after we first saw a prototype in IBC 2022 and we have been using it and testing it ever since.

SmallRig continues to surprise us with new products and after lights, batteries, and almost an endless line of cages and other mechanical accessories we now have a new wireless follow focus system (the company already had a manual one announced several months ago which we also have and might review at a later stage.

Our SmallRig MagicFIZ rig with the motor on the top 

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Concept

In our last wireless follow-focus review I kind of ranted about a common problem that all of these systems run into, which is the cage. Since then, we’ve actually talked to SmallRig when we met at IBC about some of our ideas of how to fix this problem. This product still relies on the regular cage, so it is still limited. But the innovations and the design of these components show a considerable improvement.

SmallRig’s wireless follow-focus system minimizes the setup by integrating the controller into the side handle for solo operation. Additionally, the controller can be replaced with the optional control wheel, adding multi-motor control functions for a focus puller.

In the box

SmallRig ships the kit in a semi-hard pouch that holds the motor, controller, handle with a NATO rail grip, rod and rod holder, battery plate, and gear rings.

A closer look at the motor unit of the MagicFIZ 

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Design and build

The motor is pretty lightweight but feels really sturdy thanks to its aluminum housing. The rail clamp is integrated into the body, giving it an extra-firm grip.

The motor features menu navigation buttons on the right side. On the left, there are two USB-c ports to power the unit and for camera control.  On the top of the unit, there is a small screen and a quick-release battery plate connector.

The included battery plate is made of plastic and features a small release lever. We’re not sure if this is the best design choice. We would opt for an internal battery. Of course, that would make the motor a lot bigger, but that could actually help with providing a more solid hold on the rail.

The handle feels pretty solid, even though the front grip is made of plastic. It features a metal lanyard slot on the back and metal ¼’’ mounting holes with locating pins that allow you to position the handle on either side of the camera or to mount a monitor on the side.

Also integrated into the handle is a dial to control the follow-focus motor. When in combination with the control wheel, this dial can control a second motor to change the iris or even a variable ND filter.

Next to the dial, the handle features a USB-c port to power the motor in wired mode and a battery indicator with a check button.

The controller is integrated into the handle and can be released with a metal latch to be replaced by the control wheel (sold separately). The controller is powered by an LPE-6 battery housed in the bottom of the handle, so it cannot function separately.

There is a big record button on the front of the controller. It also functions as the on/off button and a confirmation button during menu operation. On the top, the controller features a small screen with follow-focus information and two small buttons for menu navigation.

The handle and motor of the MagicFIZ 

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Setup

The setup is really simple. The controller and motor connect automatically. Just make sure they are both set to the same channel and motor number. To change the channel, double-click on the up/down buttons. When connected, the icon in the middle of the screen will change. To change the motor number, long press the “up” button.

Before using it, we recommend calibrating the control dial in the menu. Long press the two navigation buttons. Choose “calibrate” and press the “record” button to confirm. Press “record again to perform calibration. The motor will return to its “0” position.

We need to address rigging the system onto a cage. As we mentioned earlier, the whole setup depends on how sturdy it sits on the cage. First of all, make sure you use a cage with a second point of contact. This SmallRig cage comes with a small lock for select Sony cameras.

While the rail holder in this kit is substantially better designed than some of the other systems we’ve worked with, we had to make some adjustments to the rig, which involved additional components. Thankfully, SmallRig has plenty of options, and after trying out a few, we came up with a pretty solid setup. (still some wiggle, but pretty minimal, compared to other systems we’ve used)

We found that the best positioning for the rail is on top of the cage, but then the monitor setup on the top handle would interfere with putting the battery plate on the motor. The wired option wasn’t great, since the USB port is on the side of the handle, and the cable would get in the way of turning the control dial.

Also, because of the positioning of the ¼’’ mount on the handle, it would stick out and interfere with setting the camera down on the table. To fix this, we opted for this double-wide extra long NATO rail and monitor holder to support our NinjaV in a SmallRig cage.

Because it’s extra long, we were able to position the monitor high enough to clear the battery and also position the handle high enough for the camera to sit flat on the table.

There’s another setup option that’s worth mentioning. The controller’s Bluetooth needs to be paired with the camera in order to use the wireless “record” button.  We initially had trouble with triggering recording remotely on the A7Siii because there’s an extra menu permission that we didn’t activate. [Go to green menu option 1, last menu item- “Bluetooth remote control” – set to “on”.]

Another look at our A7S III setup from the back with the MagicFIZ 

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Features

The BT record button is a great addition to the controller. It makes this system truly wireless. Another important feature of the Magic FIZ is A/B points. To set it up, press both the navigation buttons on the controller. Turn the dial to point a and press the “record” button to confirm. Turn to point B and confirm. To exit, press both navigation buttons again.

In use

In working with the Magic FIZ, we were pleasantly surprised at how intuitive, responsive, and solid (with the right setup) it feels. There is some annoying scrolling when the dial loses calibration, but it’s an easy fix in the menu.

The only other feature that we thought SmallRig should add is an automatic scroll (between A/B points or end-to-end). As for now, the dial is very responsive to minor adjustments, and if you want to go to the lens’ focus limit, turn the dial quickly a few times (depending on the lens throw). The screen also shows the motor’s position between the lens’ hard stops, which is a really nice touch.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this wireless follow focus system by SmallRig is a quality product, both in the design and build, as well as the software and connectivity. There are multiple power options (USB-c for the motor and the controller handle); the battery gives plenty of runtime, and the software is smart enough to remember the lens’ hard stops after turning off.

Also, the system’s modular design allows to expand it with multiple motors and controller options depending on the size of the rig and production needs.

The only downside is needing multiple extra rigging parts, but SmallRig has a solution for that too.

Pricing

As for pricing, the handgrip controller kit sells for $400 and the full two-motor kit with the extra control wheel is $700. The is even a $300 basic controller/motor version – you can find all of the different variants on B&H.

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Art Podolski is a photographer and video editor with an interest in marketing, technology and all things cinema. After shooting wedding photography for 5 years, he transitioned into creating video content for online projects and collaborating with various production companies.

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