Quick camera setup is key to field shoots and ENG productions where every minute counts. I recently field-tested Cartoni’s Focus 10 Fluid Head with SDS Carbon Fiber Tripod System and it proved to be a worthy choice for on-the-go video capture.
This 100mm ball tripod system consists of the Focus 10 Fluid Head, the Carbon Fiber 2-Stage Tripod Legs with SmartStop (100mm Bowl), the Mid-Level SDS Smart Spreader, a set of Rubber Tripod Feet and the Soft Bag for 2-Stage Tripods.
The Canon C70 cine camera rig that I used for my review included a Canon 14-35mm zoom lens, an 8Sinn camera cage and top handle, an Atomos Ninja V+ monitor, and a battery, for an approximate weight of 6 lb. Thanks to Jabari Holder from the B&H Video Team for providing the camera rig and for demonstrating the tripod system for some photos.
SDS 100 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Single-Lever SDS Locks
The carbon fiber SDS tripod features a “Smart Deployment System” that enables you to adjust both leg stages using a single lever lock. I found this feature definitely sped up setting up the tripod and collapsing it or adjusting the height. This SDS design places its lever locks at the top of main leg stage; this means that when you extend the legs, the locks are placed at a middle height. This is not the case with some other tripods where the locks are placed just below the bowl. When closed, the setup of both tripod styles may look similar, but when the locks are at bowl level, they can be hard to reach when using that style at an extended height. I found the SDS system’s locks more convenient and safer to use since they’re more easily accessible for users of varying statures and I wasn’t standing on tiptoe or an apple box to unlock them.
Carbon Fiber Construction
Why go with a carbon fiber tripod? The lighter weight of carbon fiber tripods like the SDS 100 is an important feature when you’re toting your gear over hill and dale, especially as the day goes on… and on. But the carbon fiber build also provides greater torsional rigidity against twisting motions (a.k.a. torque). This means that when you’re panning the tripod head, the legs are better at resisting that twisting motion. This is more of a potential issue with heavier rigs and heads, but greater stability is always a plus, no matter what your camera rig weighs. The Cartoni carbon fiber tripods are made with a triple thickness of cross-layered carbon fiber material for optimal strength.
Should you decide to switch to a beefier video head like the Focus 22 Fluid Head (100mm Ball), the SDS 100 tripod more than covers that head’s 48.5 payload capacity with its ability to support up to 132 lb.
Ratcheting Mid-Level Spreader
Another noteworthy feature of the SDS Carbon 100 system is its mid-level spreader that features a ratcheting extension mechanism. This design means you don't need to lock the spreader while it’s in use and then, when you want to close the tripod, the MLS extension collapses as you fold the tripod―you won't be forcing it closed and possibly warping the legs, as can happen with a locked MLS.
The Focus 10 Fluid Head
Some Focus 10 head details: I found the Focus 10 Fluid Head to be a compact, sturdy option for subtle moves and easy balancing. This sturdy head supports rigs up to 24 lb while weighing only 4.4 lb itself. The variable pan and tilt drag felt both smooth and solidly constructed, and the continuous counterbalance easily compensated for the rig load. At first, I wondered a bit about the plastic lever locks but, as Cartoni explained, unlike metal levers, these won't transmit shock through to the brake system or the head itself in case of a drop (avoiding damage) and are easier to replace if necessary. The side-loading quick-release plate with a safety catch was a snap to use (no pun intended).
The counterbalance and fluid drag dials are generously sized, making them easy to adjust by feel without fumbling to find them. I found the pan drag dial easy to use, but wished there were a numbered scale in addition to the graphic indicators for the drag settings.
Lefties will be happy to note that the extendable pan handle mounts on either side of the head via a 3/8"-16 rosette; Cartoni will be releasing a 3/8"-16 rosette extension with both 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 threads, which will be handy for mounting a monitor.
All in all, I think you’ll find that the Focus 10 SDS Carbon Fiber Tripod system is a solid, reliable choice for quick, stable setups for your documentary, ENG, or indie feature/web series video capture use.
For more information about the Cartoni Focus 10 Tripod System, including additional features, specs, and highlights, be sure to check out the detailed product page for the Cartoni Focus 10 Tripod System. Or drop us a line below, and we’ll do our best to answer all of your comments and questions.