Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Redrock M2 Cine-lens adapter report Part 2 - Review

As previously blogged HERE, we recently took delivery of a Redrock M2 Cinema Adapter, a Redrock Micro Follow Focus and a Redrock Powerpack to use with our Sony Z1 camera. This article will be broken down into separate sections detailing our experiences with both the product and with Redrock customer service.

Prior to delivery

Redrock sent us an e-mail after we had made the purchase telling us that we had 3 things to do to complete our order with them. The 3 things were:

Register for the customer support forums so that we could watch the video tutorials.

Get a free copy of Scopebox Lite (Mac software to monitor the M2 and flip the image).

Get a list of contact information for Redrock.

Now, for us to complete item one (and Redrock encouraged us to watch the videos prior to delivery of the M2), you have to provide the obligatory user name and password information typical of any forum software. But, in order to complete the registration, we had to supply the serial number of the M2.

And we would have been glad to do so except that we had not received the unit yet. So we had no way to pre-watch the setup videos prior to the arrival of the M2 as Redrock advised. We e-mailed Redrock about this issue and they said that they would correct it for future customers.
Once the M2 arrived, we completed the sign-up process to gain access to the videos. However, since each application for access to this section of the Redrock site is manually reviewed and enabled, we were still unable to get to the videos. There is a 24 hour period for enabling access to the videos.

I e-mailed Brian Valente at Redrock (having seen his name on their boards as an administrator) asking him to expedite access to the training videos. In the mean time, Nancy and I decided to forge ahead with the M2 using the printed installation guide.

The Package

We received the package via FedEx about 5 days after we placed the order. Inside of this package was two smaller boxes. The larger of the two boxes contained:

The M2 adapter
1 72mm Achromatic lens
1 pre-assembled rail set/support system
1 set of mounting shims
1 set of hex wrenches
1 set of adapter rings
1 82-72mm step down ring
1 rail mount long lens support
1 M2 adapter installation and use manual
1 hat

The smaller of the two boxes contained:

The Micro Follow Focus
3 lens gears (of varying sizes)
3 long hex bolts to extend gear ring radius
3 Follow Focus Whips (3", 12", 18")
1 Micro powerpod and rail set / support system
1 accessory adapter for powerpod
1 set of hex wrenches

Each box contained pre-cut foam inserts designed to be inserted into an equipment case for future storage needs. Very nicely done. The whole system was very nicely packed and arrived in perfect condition.


We prepped the Z1 by removing the built in lens hood / lens cover and the Skylight filter that we leave on it. Installation was fairly straight forward. The rail mounting unit has what appeared to be a typical video camera quick release plate mount. Since out camera already had a base plate installed, I attempted to just take the supplied baseplate and mount it on the bottom of the rail support rig but it turns out that the M2 uses a special larger version of it.

So we mounted the M2’s supplied baseplate onto the M2 and put our baseplate on the bottom of the rail mount assembly. Once that was done we slid the M2 unit on the rails up to the lens of the Z1. The documentation stated that the Z1 would not need to be shimmed for vertical alignment but we had to shim it anyway. Once we had good vertical alignment, we set the horizontal using adjustment screws on the bottom of the rail mount.

Once that was completed, we then installed the achromatic lens onto the front of the Z1, removed the hood/filter assembly from the back of the M2 and again checked the alignment. A small tweak to the horizontal alignment and we were good to go.

NOTE: The documentation tells you to put the rubber hood at the back of the M2 over the lip of the front of the achromatic lens. This lip does not exist on the 72mm achromatic lens. Only on the smaller version that is shipped for use with smaller lenses such as that used on the DVX100.

Once we had the M2 aligned and set, we were ready to set the zoom and backfocus on the Z1. This was a very simple process. We zoomed the lens to it’s widest position, focused on the ground glass grain in the M2 and then zoomed the lens back in to the point that the ground glass now filled the frame. Once that was completed, we used a bit of gaffer tape to lock the focus and zoom rings on the Z1 into place.

We decided to do our initial testing with the Nikkor 300 EDIF lens. Part of the reason is that since it has internal focusing and the lens barrel does not move in and out as you focus. This type of lens works well with follow focus as the lens gear is not moving away from the follow focus drive gear.

Installation of the lens Follow Focus gear is VERY easy. Simply slide the ring over the lens and tighten the thumbscrew. One of the nice things about the Redrock follow focus is that the gears are fairly wide. So in the instance of a lens where the barrel moves, you have some leeway for the gear to travel laterally and still stay synched with the drive gear. Here are some detail pics of the M2 mounted on the Z1:


Following this, we mounted the unit onto our tripod and installed the lens. The follow focus drive assembly slid onto the rods easily and we aligned it with the lens gear. The adjustment for doing this is simple to manage. You will want to make sure that the drive gear is not meshed in too hard with the lens gear as it will tend to bind.

While initially testing the Micro Follow focus, we noticed that it made a pronounced squeal as you rotated the control knob. Loud enough that it would be picked up by any mics within about 100 feet of the unit. I posted on the Redrock web site forums about this issue and Brian Valente instructed me to make a simple adjustment to the unit. I performed the adjustment and the follow focus became silent.

At this point, we checked the overall functionality of the unit and it worked flawlessly. The M2 came with a battery already installed and ready to go. Nice touch! A lot of folks ask about noise and vibration with the M2 since it is running a motor and spinning a ground glass plate internally. The unit is VERY quiet. You MIGHT pick up some hum if you use a camera mounted mic. Other than that, there is zero issues with noise or vibration with the unit.

We then set up a Mac laptop so that we could monitor the output of the Z1 on the laptop and invert the image (the image produced by the M2 is inverted. See part one of this review for an explanation). The software that we used was a very nice little OS X application called FlipFlop.
Redrock supplies a free application for OS X that does the same thing as FlipFlop called Scopebox Lite. However, since we had not gotten access to the suppport area of the Redrock web site by this time, we elected to use FlipFlop instead.

To use FlipFlop, we set the Z1 into downconvert mode and set FlipFlop’s input format to NTSC DV. We then selected the image invert option and we were all set. We shot a number of tests with various lenses and lighting conditions.

The M2 introduces light loss. Redrock claims that it is about 1 stop, but Nance calculated that it was closer to 2 stops. We found that our 750w tungsten lights were generally plenty of light for shooting indoors.


Here is a link to the quicktime test footage movie. I was going to upload this to Youtube but when I looked at the quality degradation I decided to just host the QT file myself and provide a link to it. The file is 20MB in size.


(Excuse the shake in a few of the shots - nance and I are not adept at good follow focus yet).

The last 2 shots in the movie were taken outside. I shot the first one with the M2 turned off and the last shot with it turned on to illustrate what effect the spinning ground glass has in the M2. As you can see in the footage, there is a pronounced grain effect when the M2 is turned off.


Next up was the accessory rail set and the powerpod. We do not have an AB battery to test the powerpod with so I will not be covering it’s use here. The accessory rails provide a platform behind the camera to mount various accessories with standard mount holes as well as a vertical hanging rack that can be used to put items such as a wireless receiver.

We decided to install a gooseneck mount for our external Marshall monitor. This way we would be able to easily flip the monitor over and invert it’s view. As you can see in the picture, this worked out very well. We used an SLR quick release to mount to gooseneck to ease in it’s installation and removal. The accessory mount is very sturdy and well built. It provided an excellent solution for mounting the gooseneck.


The M2 and it’s ancillary components along with the Micro Follow Focus are extremely well built. In terms of overall value, this package is very hard to beat. Everything is made with a high degree of precision and finish. We are extremely pleased with this product and we are very pleased with the overall customer service provided by Redrock.

If I had to come up with a rating on a scale of one to ten, the Redrock M2 HD package would score a very solid 9.


Anonymous said...

With the lens pictured the Z1 takes on the persona of a weapon more so than a camera!

Great Review.

Anonymous said...

nice and thorough review! Thanks for taking the time out to do it. I'm still debating on which 35 adapter system to get. Why did you choose Redrock over Letus, Brevis and PS Teknik? Just curious.

modifoo said...

Quite a convincing video (and friendly people, too). Some lens breathing. But this looks like a much bigger video chip then it really is. Amazing!

What is your experience in using the adapter in hand-held mode?