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Cartoni FOCUS 12 Red Lock System Review

The Cartoni FOCUS 12 2-St Red Lock ALU System pairs the Focus 12 Fluid Head with the Italian companies newly released Red Lock Tripod. It is being targeted as a lightweight, affordable, professional 100mm tripod system that can carry payloads up to 12 kg (26.5 lb).

We first saw the Red Lock tripod being demonstrated at IBC in September last year.

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I haven’t reviewed a Cartoni tripod on the site before and it has been over 20 years since I last used one. I was interested in taking a closer look at the Focus 12 Red Lock System because it looks like a good solution for shooters using mid sized digital cinema cameras such as a Sony FX9, Canon C500 Mark II, Panasonic EVA 1, etc.

Key features

  • Lightweight design for quick setup and breakdown
  • Supports camera rigs weighing up to 26 lb
  • Continuously adjustable fluid damping system for both pan and tilt
  • SDS Mid-Level Spreader with a dual-extension design for extremely low shots
  • Red lever locks on the tripod are easily located

The Fluid 12 head offers a ±90° tilt range with smooth, continuous counterbalance, a European quick release camera plate, a large pan drag ring, and an illuminated bubble level. The Focus 12 Red Lock System includes a set of hooking rubber tripod feet and a soft carry bag.

What do you get?

  • 1 x HF1200 Focus 12 Fluid Head
  • 1 x Pan Bar
  • 1 x T631/2 2-St ALU RED LOCK Tripod
  • 1 x S731/SL Smart Lock Mid-Level Spreader
  • 1 x C107 Soft Bag

Payload Capacity

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As I have already mentioned, the Cartoni has a payload capacity of 11.79 kg (26 lb) which is on par with other competing systems. Below you can see how it compares to its closest competition.

PAYLOAD CAPACITY
Cartoni Focus 1212 kg (26.5 lb)
Sachtler FSB 1012 kg (26.5 lb)
Miller CX1011.97 kg (26.4 lb)

This payload capacity makes it suitable for a wide range of cameras, but I think the main target audience is users of mid-tier digital cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, Canon, Blackmagic, and Panasonic. Although there is no reason why you couldn’t use this with a RED, Kinefinity or Z Cam.

Copyright@Alexdemilia Cartoni 4356
Image [email protected]_Cartoni

You could also use it with smaller mirrorless and DSLR style cameras. I personally believe you should always buy a tripod that can support cameras that you may not be using yet. It is better to buy a tripod that you can use now and in the future, than buying a lightweight, cheap tripod that you will just end up replacing.

Build Quality

A good tripod should be robustly made and be able to live up to the rigors of field use in a variety of temperatures and environments.

The Cartoni is solidly made and I don’t have any direct concerns with the build quality.

I can’t speak for the tripod systems longevity as that is something that can only be known after years of use. Cartoni does offer a limited 3-year warranty that you can extend to 5-years just by registering.

Weight

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The Cartoni Focus 12 Red Lock System weighs in at 6.35 kg (14 lb) which is pretty good for a 100mm bowl head and aluminum legs. This is very similar to what other competing systems weigh.

Below you can see a competition comparison.

SYSTEM WEIGHT
Cartoni FOCUS 12 2-St Red Lock ALU System6.5 kg (14.33 lb)
Miller CX10 Sprinter II 2-Stage Alloy Tripod System with Mid-Level Spreader6.31 kg (13.9 lb)
Sachtler FSB 10 ENG 2 D Aluminum Tripod System with Sideload Plate6.39 kg 1(4.1 lb)

Focus 12 Head

The Focus 12 Fluid Head is designed to support cameras weighing from 0 to 12 Kg (26 lbs). It is reasonably compact and lightweight for a 100mm fluid head.

It features a continuously variable fluid damping system on both the pan and tilt movements and a patented variable counterbalance.

The 12 Fluid Head comes equipped with a quick release Euro-style sliding camera plate, illuminated spirit level and orientable pan bar. Its tilt angle is +/- 90°.

The Focus 12 interfaces with all 100mm bowl base tripods and supports. It is rated to work in temperatures from -40°/+60°c.

Red Lock Tripod legs

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The Red Lock Tripod is designed for use with camera rigs weighing up to 88 pounds. It features a convertible 75/100mm bowl base that through the use of an adapter ring allows you to use fluid heads such as the Focus 8, 10, or 12 and for mid-size to larger cameras.

I really like that the legs can be used with both 75mm and 100mm bowl heads. this certainly adds to its versatility. I tried the Red Lock legs out with a Sachtler FSB10 fluid head and it also worked well.

The nice aspect about the Red Lock legs is you can use them with any existing 75mm or100mm bowl tripod head you may already have.

The three-section legs feature a minimum height of 66 cm (25.98″), a maximum height of 162 cm (63.78″). The length for transport is 90 cm (35.4″) with the head attached. I would have liked to have seen a shorter minimum height for those times when you needed to get a lower shot. The competing Sachtler and Miller systems both allow you to go considerably lower.

So how does this compare to the competition? Below you can see a table showing you the max and min heights the various tripods can go and their transportation size.

MAX HEIGHTMIN HEIGHTTRANSPORT SIZE (NO HEAD)
Cartoni Red Lock162 cm (63.78″)66cm cm (25.98″)77.4cm cm (35.4″)
With the rubber feet
Sachtler DA-100 ENG 2D149.86 cm (59″)39.624 cm (15.6″)69.088 cm (27.2″)
Miller Sprinter II 153 cm (60.4″)44 cm (17.3″)70 cm (27.6″)

The legs utilize flip locks to secure the sections in place. the flip locks are red in color, hence the name Red Lock. These work well and are easy to use. My only concern is that if you have large fingers or are wearing gloves, the latches can be difficult to use.

There is also a patented Smart Lock Mid-Level Spreader. The Smart Lock features dual extendable sections that allow the tripod legs to spread wide for super low shots and then fold up quickly for transport. The spreader design is really nice and super easy to use. It is probably the best spreader design I have come across.

The Spreader Cord allows you to pull the cord and fold the tripod in an instant. You can even do this when the dual stage spreader is expanded. This is probably my favorite feature of the Red Lock tripod. It is a simple concept, but it works well and saves you a lot of time.

Above you can see how quick it is to use.

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The spiked feet allow you to balance the tripod on rough surfaces, while the removable rubber feet provide grip on slippery surfaces and protection to delicate interior locations. The tripod legs weigh. How does this compare to the competition?

WEIGHT
Cartoni Red Lock4 kg (8.8 lb)
Sachtler DA-100 ENG 2D2.91 kg (6.4 lb)
Miller Sprinter II 3.8 kg (8.3 lb)

What you want to pay close attention to when you are looking at tripod legs is the top section where everything meets. If this isn’t well designed and made you will get a lot of flex. This is where I see a lot of ‘affordable’ tripod legs fall over (no pun intended). If the top section is not sturdy enough you will get significant flex when doing pans or tilts. So how do the Red Lock Tripod legs fare?

This top section is nice and thick and well made so you don’t get any flexing.

Included Bag

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In a nice touch, Cartoni gives you a soft carrying case with the tripod system.

The bag is of ok quality, but it is not quite as robustly made as the one you get with Sachtler systems.

Usability

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This is the most important aspect of any tripod. If it isn’t easy to use and it doesn’t provide good results, it isn’t worth buying.

On any shoot, you may find yourself adjusting the height of your tripod and leveling off the head numerous times. If this isn’t an easy process to do it can be very frustrating and time-consuming. So how easy is it to do this with the Cartoni?

Making height adjustments is relatively quick and easy to do, although you do need to be aware that it is harder to use when wearing gloves.

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If you have large fingers or hands you may find them difficult to use. I personally found the easiest way was to just use my thumb.

It is also important to point out that the bottom stage levers are a lot easier to use than the mid-stage ones, especially if you are wearing gloves.

When I first saw and used the pan and tilt locks I felt that they were a little on the small side. This made them hard to access quickly, especially if you were wearing gloves. I found it a little hard at times finding the levers, but I put this down to muscle memory from using a Sachtler for so many years. The more I used the tripod the more comfortable I became with it.

I actually like that the pan and tilt locks can be accessed by the same hand at the same time. This makes it quick to both lock and unlock the head.

The plate length adjustment lever is also a little small and tricky to use. While it slides nicely I found that it was a little hard to unlock the adjustment lever if you overtightened it. This is probably due to the head being brand new. Usually, everything becomes a little easier to adjust and use over time.

The European quick release plate works well and it makes getting your camera on and off the tripod a quick process.

The plate length adjustment offers a good amount of range and it allows you to balance your camera easily and make adjustments when needed. Having this type of range is important, especially if you are going to be using different sized camera packages.

The Spreader Cord is a great feature and it makes gathering the tripod up a quick process.

Is the head smooth? A good fluid head should have a nice amount of resistance and drag adjustment so you can do pans and tilts at consistent speeds. It should also have enough adjustment that it works with a variety of payloads and camera lengths.

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The head is nice and smooth and I don’t have any concerns with its performance.

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Another aspect of a tripod system that you shouldn’t overlook is how comfortable or easy is it to carry. If you are a solo shooter or working in small crews you will often find yourself having to carry the tripod. The Cartoni system is reasonably easy to carry on your shoulder and you can grab onto the tubes and carry it by your side if need be.

Because of the design of the locks on the tripod legs, you do need to shift the tripod further back when it is on your shoulder and you are carrying it. If you don’t do this, the locking mechanisms dig into your shoulder.

The only slight complaint I have is about the bubble level. It is set back in a position that makes it hard to see from certain angles, especially when the camera is up high.

Three Different Versions

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The Red Lock system is available in three different configurations. All the systems include the same Red Lock Legs, but you can choose between the Focus 8, Focus 10 and the Focus 12 fluid heads.

Price

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The Cartoni Red Lock systems are available in the following configurations and prices:

MODELPRICE
KF08-RLMFOCUS 8 2-St Red Lock ALU System$949 USD
KF10-RLMFOCUS 10 2-St Red Lock ALU System$1699 USD
KF12-RLMFOCUS 12 2-St Red Lock ALU System$2465 USD

The Red Lock systems certainly offer tremendous value for money given their feature set, build quality, and usability.

Competition

The closest competition probably comes in the form of the Sachtler FSB 10 ENG 2 D Aluminum Tripod System with Sideload Plate, and the Miller CX10 Sprinter II 2-Stage Alloy Tripod System with Mid-Level Spreader.

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The Sachtler 2-Stage aluminum tripod legs and a payload capacity of 12 kg (26.5 lb). It costs $3,372.50 USD.

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The Miller CX10 Sprinter II 2-Stage Alloy Tripod System with Mid-Level Spreader has a payload capacity of 11.97 kg (26.4 lb). It retails for $3,903.39 USD.

So let’s look at all of those prices in a table.

PRICE
Cartoni FOCUS 12 2-St Red Lock ALU System$2,465 USD
Miller CX10 Sprinter II 2-Stage Alloy Tripod System with Mid-Level Spreader$3,903.39 USD
Sachtler FSB 10 ENG 2 D Aluminum Tripod System with Sideload Plate$3,372.50 USD

As you can see the Cartoni is considerably more affordable than a Miller or Sachtler.

The Red Lock Tripod legs can be purchased separately for $639 USD.

Conclusion

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The Cartoni Cartoni Focus 12 Red Lock System is a very good alternative to a Sachtler or Miller if you are on a budget. Despite a couple of niggling things I didn’t like, it performs extremely well for a tripod system in this price range.

The Focus 12 head is nice and smooth and offers good performance and the Red Lock tripod provides a solid and easy to use platform.

Tripods should be viewed as a long term investment and I can never quite understand why some shooters buy an expensive camera and then use a bad tripod. You wouldn’t buy a nice new car and then find the cheapest tires available, so why do it with a tripod? I often see horrible shots because the tripod being used was not suitable for the camera and the pan or tilt speed is all over the place and the material being shot is shaky.

The Cartoni system is a solid offering from the Italian tripod company, and despite having a few small quirks it offers a good level of performance for the price. I would be hesitant to say that it is as good as the competing Sachtler and Miller, but it is pretty close. Given it is substantially cheaper It is worth having a hard look at if your budget can only stretch so far.

I don’t like using the term ‘budget’ because there is a perception that ‘budget’ refers to something that is cheaper and of lesser quality. The Cartoni FOCUS 12 2-St Red Lock ALU System, is in my opinion, the best 100mm bowl head tripod you can currently buy for under $1500 USD.

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