Video / Buying Guide

Cartoni Focus Heads: A Definitive New Lineup of Sleek Italian Tripod Design


If you shoot with up to 50 lb of weight, including with entry-level weights, you might find the new video-head lineup from Cartoni a very realistic match for your needs and investment considerations. 

While the 80-year old Italian brand is most famed for its high-end tripod systems, over the past decade Cartoni has also been supporting reduced camera sizes with several entry- and mid-level heads. These options are distinguished for their counterbalance and smooth drag, light weight and solid builds, and long-term consistency.  

And now, in a beautiful new move from the company, the decade’s worth of contribution is being rebranded into a definitive lineup of four heads: the Focus 8, 12, 18, and 22, the number representing the counterbalance capacity in kilos, which is about double in pounds. All four are mostly identical in look and function, with one just larger than the other. The lineup is an evolution of the original Focus head, introduced in 2005. Fine-tuned to the realities of the user, it’s upgraded with universal plate systems and with a new, more stress-enduring composite material that allows for a solid build while keeping the weight down, and for high-precision mechanisms to be maintained. The aesthetics have also been upgraded to a classy combination of trendy and elegant. To top off the transformation, the lineup is offered with the security of a five-year warranty from the very customer-friendly Cartoni.

The Focus 8 is the entry-level model and features a 75mm ball base, while the others have a 100mm ball base. The Focus 8 weighs only 4 lb and can be a very easy companion to the mirrorless and DSLR shooter. The Focus 12 provides counterbalance for loads up to 26 lb down to 0 lb, thereby offering the flexibility to work with a very wide variety of cameras. It can be an ideal choice for the growing user. The Focus 22 is the largest one and, supporting up to about 50 lb while still being relatively lightweight, is intended for the user who normally shoots with light loads but who at any time might need to attach a very heavy lens or accessory. 

Each head consists of 127 parts, in contrast to about 25 parts that make up some competing favorites. All the parts are designed, manufactured, and hand-assembled and adjusted to perfection by one engineer at a time at the Cartoni factory, in Rome. They’re machined or cast to micro-metric precision to allow for smooth and durable functionality in the face of rigorous shooting schedules and rough environmental and weather conditions. From the very first step to the last, everything is done in-house by a tight-knit team of about 60. Only six Focus 8 heads are assembled in one day, and the larger ones take up to a day and a half each to be completed. 

While the Cartoni name is associated with high-end costs, the truth is, if you compare these to the available options out there, you’ll find that to get the Focus 8 or 12 you may just have to up your budget by about a couple of hundred dollars, but you’ll be getting an advanced head and a secure investment with a high resale value. With the Focus 18 or 22, you may even save a bit.   

Universal Plate System

The Focus 8 incorporates a quick-release plate system that’s compatible with the Sachtler Ace head and Manfrotto video heads, while the Focus 12, 18, and 22 feature Euro-style plate systems compatible with the Sachtler Touch-and-Go 16 plates found on the company’s FSB and Video series heads. If you shoot in a studio or other setting where you’re required to move from one tripod to another, you’ll save a lot of time and energy. If you currently don’t have such needs, you still get the security of a future-proof product.  

The Focus 8 quick-release plate system The Focus 12, 18, and 22 Euro-style plate systems

New, Sophisticated Composite Material

Metal parts are heavy. The new material that accommodated the transformation to this lineup is a sophisticated new composite that’s much stronger than aluminum yet more lightweight. It also has high resistance to the stress of weight, bending, rubbing, and high and low temperatures. As the outline below shows, the new composite is used in various parts across the four heads, according to the needs of each head. In some, it’s used in the counterbalance system, where it replaces brass parts, saving weight and providing for better stress endurance; in some it’s used in the body, saving substantial weight and providing for better ergonomics. This composite is the result of a research collaboration between Cartoni and the Department of Physics and Engineering at the Sapienza University of Rome.

Focus 8

  • Ball Diameter: 75mm  
  • Counterbalance Capacity: 0 - 17.7 lb 
  • Weight: 4 lb
  • Counterbalance/Drag: Continuous
  • Tilt: +/-90°
  • New composite used in counterbalance, body, and bushings
  • Sliding plate system compatible with Sachtler Ace and all Manfrotto video heads

Focus 12

  • Ball Diameter: 100mm
  • Counterbalance Capacity: 0 - 26 lb
  • Weight: 5.5 lb
  • Counterbalance/Drag: Continuous
  • Tilt: +/-90°
  • New composite used in counterbalance, body, and bushings
  • Euro-style plate system compatible with Sachtler Touch-and-Go 16

Focus 18

  • Ball Diameter: 100mm  
  • Counterbalance Capacity: 13.2 - 40 lb
  • Weight: 7.7 lb
  • Counterbalance/Drag: Continuous
  • Tilt: +/-90°
  • Delta silicon wedge counterbalance
  • New composite used in body, ball bearings, and screws
  • Euro-style plate system compatible with Sachtler Touch-and-Go 16 

Focus 22

  • Ball Diameter: 100mm   
  • Counterbalance Capacity: 6.6 - 49 lb
  • Weight: 8.6 lb
  • Counterbalance/Drag: Continuous
  • Tilt: +/-90°
  • New composite used in counterbalance and body
  • Euro-style plate system compatible with Sachtler Touch-and-Go 16

“Perfect Balance”

All four heads offer +/-90 degrees of tilt, and you’ll get “perfect balance” at any angle throughout the entire range (complemented by infinitely variable “true” fluid drag). Moreover, the counterbalance adjustment is continuous, allowing for easier, more precise handling. The Focus 8, 12, and 22 have retained the spring-loaded patented counterbalance system of the original Focus head, and the Focus 18 integrates the patented Delta silicon wedge counterbalance system, which contributed to the success of Cartoni’s Delta head in 1998.  

Labyrinth Fluid Drag

The heart of the movement of a video head is its fluid drag system. All four heads feature the same modular labyrinth fluid system, just different in size. There’s an individual pan module and individual tilt module, and each contains two main components that house thin concentric rings. The components and rings interact with one another with an aerospace industry silicon paste fluid between them that provides resistance. The rings are never completely loose from one another but always at least a little engaged, so the head is always moving smoothly, and with no play. With separate modules for pan and tilt, pan and tilt drag are independent, but they work together, so movement is smooth in any direction. To ensure this, Cartoni performs a diagonal movement test on every head in which a laser is attached to the head and the head is moved from the very top left to the extreme bottom right corner and the movement is closely monitored for any bumps in the line.  

Focus 12 Tilt Fluid Module

The Little Things

Then there are the little things that sometimes make all the difference. The pan drag control is a big ring in the center, which is easy to adjust without even looking. All the controls are designed with ergonomic grips that will feel more secure between your fingers. Those controls that incorporate the new composite material won’t get cold in outdoor winter conditions because the composite is not a metal. The Focus 12, 18, and 22 have an illuminated bubble level, which is not to be discounted, since—especially in dark settings—it could save the day. All the heads come with a pan bar that can be attached to a rosette on either side.  

B&H offers the Focus 8 paired in kits with various Cartoni tripod legs and accessories, for different needs, and the Focus 12, 18, and 22 are available individually or in kits. Cartoni tripod legs are highly notable as well, built with a focus on torsional rigidity, made of quality carbon fiber or aluminum, and featuring effective leg locks that ensure there won’t be any slipping of the legs. Carbon fiber is good as long as it’s made well, with the number of layers and length of the fibers determining the quality. Cartoni tripods are made with at least three layers, with long fibers overlapping one another. The quality of aluminum tripods is dependent in large part on the thickness of the aluminum, and Cartoni ensures to achieve the proper thickness for each different set.  

Please enjoy looking over the different kits, and feel free to contact us with any questions. And as they would say at Cartoni—Ciao!