Good Shape; flawed design

When I was shooting in Alaska a few weeks ago, I did a lot of long-lens shooting with a follow focus.

I took a critical piece of equipment with me, without which everything wobbles out of focus at the slightest touch. Here it is:

It’s a Shape Lens Support, and it does a brilliant job of holding long lenses steady while shooting and focusing. One thing I discovered: when using with long glass such as my Nikon 300mm f/4 and with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom, it’s essential to place the support at the every tip of the lens, rather than at midpoint. The follow focus has to be placed in the middle between the two points of contact – between the lens support at the lens mount. Otherwise it doesn’t work at all.

One thing that happens on documentary shoots where you’re dragging gear around all day is that anything that can come loose generally will. This Shape lens support looks well designed – solid metal. But it’s significant flaw is that if the black tightening knob the holds the vertical bar comes loose, there is nothing to prevent the whole thing from unwinding and falling apart. That’s what happened to mine when I was standing on grated deck. I heard the clank and watched the parts drop through the metal grid of the deck and disappear into the Cook Inlet. Bummer.

Luckily it happened toward the end of the shoot. When I got home, I sent an email to the folks at Shape asking if they could sell me the replacement parts. They did one better: they shipping me the part for free.

How’s that for classy?

I’m not a fan of this particular design, but I am a fan of Shape’s customer service. And I look forward to trying more of their gear in the future.

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