August 19, 2013

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Adjustable Focusing Handle Review

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle on Canon EF 70-200 L IS USM
In the process of preparing my macro rig setup, I was looking for versatile and inexpensive solution for precise manual focusing.
One prerequisite was that the mechanism would act as an extension of the lens focusing ring permitting my fingers to find it easily; and another was to be easily attached and removed in order to avoid interference with other parts of my macro rig as the flash bracket for example.
A focusing handle seemed quite appropriate and started looking into various solutions.

Well, I came across a lot of items and ideas, from jar openers to flexrings and larger follow focus devices. However, none seemed to suit my purpose either because of their flexible nature, or because of difficulty in mounting/dismounting or because of their bulk.

Then I remembered that Sunwayfoto had had released something versatile in the past, which would be more appropriate for what I had in mind. For the record, Sunwayfoto line of DRH focusing handles is not so new, as it was introduced in late 2010, but I don't think it is broadly known.
What do you expect? As usual, I ordered one and tried it out, quite successfully, in my macro rig solution, which I intend to present in detail in a different post.
Meanwhile, I decided to do a "short" review as this Focusing Handle may be adopted in many still and video applications for focusing but also for zooming.

The Package & Contents

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle box top
The handle arrived in older type Sunwayfoto display box, originally shrink wrapped which ensures that the product has not been opened after it left the factory, but as usual I tear the wrapping off before I remember to take photos. The focusing handle is visible through a transparent plastic window on the top side...
Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle box bottom
While on the bottom side a card with product specification, a short description and a bar-code, is visible through another transparent window.
Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle in box foam
The DRH-77 Focusing Ring together with its handle are nested separately in a precut foam piece that keeps them safely in place for transportation. The usual feeling when opening the box is that you deal with a high quality fitting and finishing product.

The Focusing Handle
Manufacturer Specification:
Model:DRH-77
Inner Size:75 - 83 mm
Handle Size:46 mm
Material:6061T651 Aluminium
Colour:Black
Weight:53 gr

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle components unboxed
DRH-77 parts are CNC machined from aluminium with stainless steel screws in the hings. The focusing handle is finely finished without any hard edges and is hard coat anodized in a satin black color. There are none plastic or rubber parts.
Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle assembled
Assembly is straight forward, as it only needs the handle to be screwed into the ring arm relevant threaded hole. The Sunwayfoto Logo and model number are laser engraved in white, as is the serial number at the back side.

The Innovative Concept
Sunwayfoto's patented design concept differs from all other focusing handles which use elastic or hard plastic bands to embrace a lens focusing ring. The concept relies on two hinged arms that embrace and hold the lens focusing ring. The larger arm is hinged in the middle while the smaller one is hinged on one side. The whole structure is rigid without any flex or loose joints, offering a stable grip on the lens rings. I say rings because DRH-77 strength and lack of flex make it ideal not only as a Focusing but also as a Zooming handle. In most cases lens zooming rings are stiffer and more difficult to drive with a focusing handle that has flex.

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle regulating arm detail
The handle in combination with the smaller of two arms which is hinged on one side acts as the regulator for different diameters as well as the constricting element that secures the focusing handle on the focusing ring. The more the handle is screwed (turned clockwise) the more it pushes the smaller arm against the lens focus/zoom ring. Unscrewing (turning counter-clockwise) results in loosening the focusing handle assembly for relocation or removal.

Another benefit of the DRH-77 focusing handle that derives from its open structure design, is the ability of its mounting or dismounting without the need to remove the lens from the camera or a hood from the lens front as with closed circle designs. I found this feature very handy resulting in its inclusion in my macro rig setup.

Using the Focusing Handle...
Before entering into the use of the Focusing Handle with my Macro Rig, I will illustrate its use with a telephoto lens as the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM both for focusing and Zooming. The diameter of the lens focus and zoom rings is identical at 86 mm which is by 3 mm wider than the maximum range designated by the manufacturer but somehow it seems that there was no problem, as we can see below.
Both hinged arms opened enough to mount the Focusing Handle on the rings, while they embraced evenly around them.

Focusing a Telephoto Lens

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle on Canon EF 70-200 L IS USM focus ring
Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Adjustable Focusing Handle fits perfectly on the lens's focusing ring. The extended handle runs a greater distance from end to end, as the grip circle has a larger diameter, thus enabling a more precise manual focusing.

Zooming a Telephoto Lens

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle on Canon EF 70-200 L IS USM zoom ring
Fitting the Focusing Handle on the Zoom ring is just the same. The handle extreme positions are less than 90° apart but gripping the handle from the tip may give you precise slow zooming for video or fast zooming spiral effects for stills.
Needless to mention, that one can utilize two Focusing Handles simultaneously, one for the Focus and one for the Zoom ring.



Let's come back to my original intention of using the DRH-77 focusing handle with my Macro Rig. In this setup, the Focusing Handle is fitted on the focusing ring of the Canon EF-S 17-85 IS USM lens. The lens ring diameter is 75 mm exactly at the lower limit of the range designated by the manufacturer. Somehow, this fitting was marginal in my opinion, as only a small part of the Focusing Handle arms comes in contact with the lens ring. The Focusing Ring still mounts securely and functions perfectly but I would prefer a larger contact area instead. The minimal contact between the Focusing Handle small arm and the lens focus ring is illustrated in the bottom right photo. I think one size smaller DRH-70 would be perfect for this diameter.

Focusing a Macro Lens

Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle on Canon EF-S 17-85 IS USM focus ring
My setup requires the reverse mounting of the lens on a macro bellows which will result at approximately 7.5 X magnification, but this means a very-very shallow depth of field. In this case a focusing handle is a must in order to enable precise manual focusing and here is where the DRH-77 came in very handy for many reasons.
For the record, the bellows is equipped with an Arca-Swiss® compatible rail, clamped on a Hejnar Photo MS-3 Macro stage with lead screws, which permits very precise fore-aft movement for multiple exposures and photo stacking. Then the rig is clamped on a Benro HD-38 3-way head mounted on a Benro A-298 EX Versatile Transformer Tripod. (More on these in the upcoming Create a Transportable Super Macro Rig article).
SCV Transportable Macro Rig with Sunwayfoto DRH-77 focusing handle
Here is a glimpse of my complete Transportable super Macro Rig which incorporates the Sunwayfoto DRH-77 Focusing Handle as a means of focus ring extension and mostly accessibility. Just imaging trying to access the lens focusing ring between the extraterrestrial beings that surround it, without a handle. :)

Available Sizes
The Sunwayfoto line of DRH focusing handles has 5 models. As each handle has a variable inner diameter, the line can cover a large scope of  lenses with focusing/zoom ring diameters from 58mm to 92mm. In the following table you can compare the different models inner size range.

Model:DRH-60DRH-65DRH-70DRH-77DRH-88
Inner Size Range:58 - 66 mm63 - 71 mm68 - 76 mm75 - 83 mm86 - 92 mm
Sunwayfoto DRH Focusing Handles Lineup
Sunwayfoto complete range of DRH Focusing Handles lineup. Starting from DRH-60 on the right up to DRH-88 back left. (Photo by courtesy of Sunwayfoto.com)

Pros
Excellent machining, finishing, fitting and build quality.
Very low weight.
Very smooth operation with no play or flex whatsoever.
Strong jaw embracing ability.
Excellent value for money ratio.

Cons
Minimal contact of regulating arms at minimum diameter range designated by the manufacturer which would require more attention in handling.

Conclusion
Although the nature of the DRH Focusing Handles requires attention regarding the choice of the correct model for the lens to be used, I find it more rigid than universal plastic or rubber based equivalents and far less bulky than rigid follow focus designs. What I favor the most is its ability to mount securely exercising very little pressure on the lens rings, while it can mount and dismount easily, since my setup will require that.
Further, its fine finishing without any protruding parts will guaranty the well being of a lens without scratches and nicks.

I hope you found the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2013 S.C.Vlachos

Price and Availability:
The current retail prices for DRH Focusing Handles range from US$ 32.00 to US$ 44.00 according to size (+Shipping where applicable) and are available from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk
Please consider using above link(s) to make a purchase and help support this site.

Referenced Articles:
Create a Transportable Super Macro Rig
Hejnar PHOTO MS-3_8 Linear Motion Macro Focusing Stage Review
Benro HD-38 3-way head Review
Benro A-298 EX (A2980F) Versatile Transformer Tripod Review
Canon EF-S 17-85 mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM Lens Reference
Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens Reference

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