This new gadget gives fast, accurate continuous autofocus to the Blackmagic Pocket 4K

Tips & Techniques

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K has been a massive hit ever since its initial announcement. Such a big hit that if you order one today, you still might not actually get it for at least a couple of months. But one of the biggest complaints I hear about it is that it doesn’t have continuous autofocus. Well, Ian at CDA-TEK seems to have figured out a way to give Time of Flight (ToF) continuous autofocus to the Pocket 4K.

Time of Flight cameras essentially use something like LiDAR or other sensors to judge the distance to an object – whatever it is that you want to focus on. It sends out a signal and times how long it takes for it to bounce back off the target and come back to the sensor. From this, it can calculate the distance. Then it sends this distance data to the camera basically telling it “Hey, set your focus distance to this”.

This completely bypasses the camera’s internal autofocus system and allows focus commands to be sent continuously while shooting. It works in conjunction with CDA-TEK’s Pocket Bluetooth Controller (PBC) for the Pocket 4K – which should be coming to a crowdfunding site sometime in the coming months.

It’s a very clever idea, and as 43Rumors reports, there are even rumours that Panasonic may implement it in future cameras. And, in theory, it should put all other on-chip autofocus systems like Sony’s Phase-Detection and Canon’s Dual Pixel AF well into the obsolete category.

But Ian has already figured out a way to do it with the Pocket 4K using a sensor that sits on top of the camera and talks wirelessly with the camera via Bluetooth. Ian is also responsible for the 3C mobile app for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, and he previously unlocked CineLike D on the Panasonic GX80 with a simple WiFi command from a smartphone.

The prototype for his new ToF focusing system for the Pocket 4K is already working, and there is potential there that it can be made to work with other makes and models of cameras in the future. But for now, the focus seems to be on the Pocket 4K.

Personally, it’s rare that I want or need to use autofocus when shooting video. Usually, I’m either locked off on a tripod or slider and manually prefocused on my scene, or I’m using a gimbal with a follow focus. But there are definitely occasions where autofocus can be handy. And if you have a gimbal that doesn’t have a follow focus system that’s compatible with your camera, then it can become an essential feature.

EOS HD says that the ToF module is still in its very early development and testing stages, but it’s looking very promising, from the sample footage shown so far.

You can read more about it over on EOS HD, where Andrew got to sit down and have a chat with Ian all about it.

[via EOS HD]

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