Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Review

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head

The Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head review follows on the heels of the Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Video Head, which directly follwed the Manfrotto 608 Nitrotech Fluid Video Head review. In the Manfrotto review, I shared a quest in progress. One of the easiest methods of improving video quality is to smooth the camera movements with a fluid head, and I was researching the available options.

On this fluid head selection requirements list was the capability to support any camera gear in the kit, including lenses ranging from small and light up to 600mm f/4. In addition, continuous counterbalance was required. This feature facilitates directing the camera up or down, with the head maintaining the selected angle without pressure holding it there (no flopping over, no return to zero).

The fluid head required excellent performance and high quality, but affordability was also on the requirements list. At review time, video heads at B&H range in price from $39.95 to $36,280.50 for the Vinten Vector 750i (and the price for the ARRIHEAD 2 Production Tripod Head is not disclosed). Neither end of that range was realistic for performance and affordability reasons, and selecting a model with a great price-performance ratio, a strong value, was the goal.

Along with performance, a fluid head's size and weight tend to increase with the price. The best fluid head for general-purpose use required reasonable portability — a modest size and weight.

The referenced Manfrotto 608 was the first head selected for an in-depth review. Next up was a higher-end option, the Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Video Head. While the Cartoni Focus 10 costs nearly twice as much as the Manfrotto 608 Nitrotech, that price is still quite affordable relative to the ultra-high-end options.

In this review, we focus on the Cartoni Focus 8. The Focus 10 seemed the perfect support for the Canon RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens I intended to use on it. Then, the incredibly solid ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod arrived for review.

This tripod weighs about the same as the Cartoni L507 Carbon Fiber 2-Stage Tripod Legs that came in the Focus 10 kit, with a similar capacity rating. While the ProMediaGear tripod has a single-leg tube design, it equals the Cartoni's vibration dampening and rotational rigidity. The Cartoni legs have the fast adjustment feature, but ProMediaGear's leg locks are considerably stronger.

I know, you are wondering what all of that has to do with the Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Head review. The ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Tripods arrived with the optional TRB75 Bowl Adapter. As denoted by the "75" part of that name, the bowl measures 75mm. However, the Cartoni Focus 10 sits on a 100mm ball. While the 100mm ball works surprisingly well in the 75mm bowl, sitting slightly higher than designed and having a modestly reduced adjustment angle, I wanted to know if the Focus 8 on a 75mm ball would be adequate for the 600mm f/4 challenge presented.

As the Focus 8 is very similar to the Focus 10, the reviews will also be similar, with some compare and contrast added.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head on Tripod

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Tour

The Cartoni Focus 8 features a typical fluid video head designed over a 75mm bowl adapter and housed in a strong, designed for outdoor use, aluminum case fully containing the working mechanisms. There is a fluid resistance control knob and a drag/friction control knob for each movement, panning and tilt.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Front Angle

Starting this tour at the bottom — the plastic panning fluid resistance control wraps around the head just above the bowl adapter. This ring's resistance is firm but less so than the 10's. The knurled (raised bumps on the plastic ring) design is more comfortable to use than the harsher design of the Cartoni 10.

The 360° panning fluid control rotation (vs. 900° on the 10) adjusts the resistance at a comfortable rate. The range of fluid resistance is adequate, though completely free panning is not provided.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Front

The panning drag control (brake) lever locks the base down quickly, with about 90° of rotation between free and locked very tightly. While this plastic lever has modest play when opened, seems weak, and is small, especially relative to the overall size and build of the head, it works well.

The partially-tightened panning drag is smooth — seemingly good enough to suffice for fluid-controlled movement. The panning controls combine to provide a full range of panning resistance, from relatively free to firm to fully locked.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Side

The mid-sized, plastic tilt fluid resistance control (on the left side) is firm but smooth, and 810° (vs. 450° on the 10) of rotation provides a nice adjustment rate. The range of fluid resistance is good, though completely free tilting is not available.

A mirror reverse version of the panning drag knob provides tilt drag (brake) functionality. Again, this lever locks quickly, with about 90° of rotation between free and locked very tightly.

The partially-tightened tilt drag is smooth, and combined with the fluid pressure, very smooth tilt movements are provided.

Without the drag controls aiding resistance, the Focus 8's max pan and tilt fluid resistance is not as firm as the 10's.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Back

The plastic balance control is located on the rear of the head. The 8's control has click stops vs. none on the 10. Just over 21 (vs. 16 on the 10) complete rotations of counterbalance adjustment allow precise, non-fiddly adjustment — and a tired wrist if swapping drastically different sized lenses.

This feature removes the gravity factor from tilting, permitting the up- or down-angled camera and lens to remain stationary.

On the back of the head are a pair of 1.183" (30mm) rosette mounts (these are not compatible with Manfrotto's Easy Link system). The included telescoping panning bar and other accessories such as monitors and articulating arms attach via these mounts. The rosettes have centered 1/4" ports.

On the back, just above the head's base, is a spirit level (the Focus 10's helpful bubble light is not featured on this head). Note that the head's housing blocks the ideal directly downward view of this level, though tilting the head forward aids in opening the view.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Top

As usual, the mounting system is on top. A long, wide Cartoni Quick Release Mounting Plate (compatible with the Sachtler Ace and Manfrotto video head quick-release system, but not the same as the Focus 10 plate) is included. The plate does not top-load into the clamp as the 10's clamp system permits. The Focus 8 plate slides into the clamp from the back, and a knob tightens the clamp in the balanced position selected. The red safety release button must be depressed for plate removal.

This plate lacks indexing to aid in quick balance adjustment.

Cameras and lenses attach to the plate via flat-slotted camera mounting screws, with a 1/4"-20 screw provided along with a locating pin. The screws require a wide-bladed screwdriver — consider getting a Vello COOLTOOL Camera Plate Combo Tool or ProMediaGear Multi-Tool for each bag. Remember that optional multiple screw attachments prevent twisting on the plate.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head with Really Right Stuff PC-LR Round Panning Clamp

While the Cartoni 10's clamp system is nicer, the Cartoni 8's clamp system is strong and works fine.

For a kit based on the Arca standard, the Really Right Stuff PC-LR Round Panning Clamp mounts to the Cartoni plate, enabling quick 90-degree rotation from camera body to tripod mount ring-equipped lens orientation.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Specifications

Here are some specifications, including differentiations, for the Focus 8 and Focus 10 video heads:

 Focus 8Focus 10
Camera PlateSlidingTop-Load Sliding
Base Mount75 mm Half Ball100 mm Half Ball
Vertical Tilt+/- 90°+/- 90°
MaterialAluminumComposite, Magnesium
Load Capacity0 to 18 lb (8.16 kg)0 to 24 lb (0 to 10.89 kg)
Counter BalanceContinuous (clicked)Continuous (smooth)
Operating Temperature-40 to 140°F (-40 to 60°C)-40 to 140°F (-40 to 60°C)
Height Above Bowl5.25" (13.3 cm)5.675" (14.4 cm)
Width x Depth5.125 x 3.81" (130.18 x 96.77cm)5.375 x 4.50" (113.65 x 11.43 cm)
Weight4.0 lb / 1.81 kg)4.41 lb / 2 kg)
Measured w/o plate4.35 lb (1.97 kg)6.2 lb (2.81 kg)

The lighter weight is a significant Focus 8 advantage over the 10.

In addition to the Focus 8 and 10, Cartoni offers a range of Focus Fluid Head models ranging from the Focus 8 (75mm bowl, 18 lb/8 kg capacity) to the Focus 22 (150mm bowl, 49 lb/22 kg capacity).

In contrast to the skeletal Manfrotto 608 design, the Cartoni Focus heads are aesthetically subdued.

Aside from the plastic drag levers, this otherwise metal head appears ruggedly constructed, well-sealed, and ready to take on the rigors of daily professional use.

Make it Level

As usual for video heads, the Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head is a 2-way model, featuring only pan and tilt movements.

Seldom is a horizontally non-level camera desired for video, and usually, tilted movie footage appears unprofessional. As even a floor may not be perfectly level, equally extended tripod legs may not result in a level tripod apex. Setting the legs to less than their full extension, moving outdoors, or encountering any of the myriad of other reasons for non-levelness challenges tripod setup.

If locking the camera and lens into a fixed position, a simple ball head will permit fast leveling and handle the support job with ease. However, those looking for a fluid head intend to move the camera while recording.

With no roll adjustment available on the head, the tripod becomes responsible for levelness. To make this task easy, select a leveling platform. Leveling platforms sit in a bowl that permits rotation of the base assembly in all directions. Loosen the leveling platform assembly, adjust the platform until level, and tighten the assembly with the large locking knob below. The tripod is then ready for the 2-way head to take over.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head 75mm Ball Mount

This video head mounts directly in a 75mm bowl.

Since ball-mount heads are not suitable for certain uses, such as on a slider, this head's bottom threaded shaft is removable. The base can then be attached to other platforms, though the mounting diameter is considerably smaller.

Balancing the Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head

The Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head requires minor setup when a different camera and lens weight is mounted. Fortunately, the setup is easy.

Ensure the camera is supported in hand, and loosen the tilt drag lever until there is no resistance. Next, slide the mounting plate forward or backward until the rig is balanced, and lock the plate into the selected position.

Then, adjust the counterbalance until matched to the weight of the lens. When properly adjusted, the lens can be tilted front or back without gravity affecting the position upon release of the gear or pan handle. This setup is easy — and not fiddly (though more so than the Focus 10).

Adjust the four fluid and drag controls as desired to finalize the setup.

The Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head In Use

With an exceptional fluid system, this head's pan and tilt movements are very smooth. Skill is required to create the perfect pan and tilt moves, but this head makes acquiring them, even with a large lens and long focal length, rather easy.

After switching between the Focus 8 and 10 with a 600mm f/4 lens mounted, I determined that the Focus 8 can handle this heavy load, providing smooth pan and tilt motions — like the Manfrotto 608. However, the Focus 10 head has less flex for less kickback and slightly smoother motions.

Note that the long pan handle places significant torque on all such heads, requiring strong attachment to a solid support when using tight controls. Any rotational flex in the tripod will produce kickback when releasing the pan handle.

Also, note that this head will replace the utility of a gimbal head.

Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head Alternatives

Alternatives to consider include the similarly-featured, lower-priced, Manfrotto 608 Nitrotech Fluid Video Head is a considerably lower-price option. This skeletal head performs at a level close to the Focus 8 and is a great value.

The heavier-duty Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Video Head compared throughout this review is my current choice. This head is larger, heavier, and more expensive, but it produces better fluid motion with heavy, long focal length lenses.

The Miller CX2 Fluid Head (75mm bowl) offers a 16-step counterbalance and a modestly higher price.

The Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head features a limited 3-year warranty, extendable to 5 years with online registration (in the USA).

The reviewed Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head was online/retail sourced. This combination is available in a significantly discounted kit.

Summary

The 8 is entry-level into the high-performing Cartoni Focus fluid head series. The overall performance of this head falls below that of the Focus 10, but that difference is expected. The 8 fills the smaller size, lighter weight, and lower price niche.

The Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head is a great choice for small and mid-sized support needs.

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Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head
Cartoni Focus 8 Fluid Video Head
Bryan Carnathan
by Bryan Carnathan
Manufacturer ID:
HF0800

Review Date: 2022-05-06
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