Tilta lures you in with a sleek matte-black finish and innovate single-rail rod clamp. Then they hook you with hard stops, a marking disk, and that $99 price tag. By the time you see the gear belt, the bonus rail rod, and the hard shell case, you are already long out of the cooler and in for the fry, the confirmation email from B&H sitting in your inbox.
Tilta’s newest product is the Tiltaing FF-T06 Mini Follow Focus, and it promises so much at such a slender price that is comes out the Yes Man — saying yes to everything, yet accomplishing little well. And this might be part of its design.
To start, the single arm aluminum rod clamp of the FF-T06 is significant. There is growing demand for micro camera rigs, and that demand favors single rail systems for lighter weight and smaller sizes. That demand has yet to be satisfied by a follow focus at a budget and level of design competence that tip the scales toward mass consumer adoption in the same vein as a Zoom H4N or set of Rokinon primes.
Tilta’s choice to make their follow focus a single arm system aims at that growing demand, putting the FF-T06 out into a market of just five single rail follow focus systems in the $100+ range. Sevenoak makes one for $99. Edelkrone makes one that is as Edelkrone as Edelkrone can be for an Edelkrone price of $299. And then there is Shape’s hard-to-find-potentially-discontinued design and then the $999 Cambo.
But does the single arm design work? Does it flex? Come loose? No, it does not flex or loosen at all. The arm is rock solid on the rail with zero flex thanks to the rigidity of machined aluminum and the thumb screws that will sooner bend the rail than let the focus slip.
Tilta’s targeting of that growing market is also apparent in the weight of the follow focus. At 210 grams, it is feather light. My LanParte follow focus comes in at 510 grams.
For a micro camera rig to be micro, it must be lightweight, and as bikers seek for ever more aero, and aero wallets, here too camera operators look for lighter and lighter gear. Wedding photographers getting PT after lugging heavy lenses find themselves with a Fujifilm in their hands or with some strange sense of schadenfreude at football photogs lugging 500mm tanks while they dab their Lumix lenses with Kimtek wipes.
To have a follow focus that almost vanishes once attached to the rig is a blessing and one of the smartest decisions from Tilta.
And while we are at it, yes, you get a lens gear belt for photo lenses, an extra 15mm rod, and a hard shell case to tuck everything in. Will you be using the case? The corner of my Pelican is where the focus currently sits, so I will not. And the rods? I have too many already.
These bonuses sweeten the $99 deal for sure, especially if you are just starting out (though I will get into this later). Yet, I wish they had skipped on these things and put the extra headroom into fixing the inevitable flaws of a follow focus made on a production budget stretched too thin.
Namely, slop. This follow focus has enough slop to hinder the confidence of the focus puller and potentially ruin the shot. Take a look at the comparison videos below.
The LanParte has almost no discernible slop. See how the lens shifts in position as soon as the wheel is nudged. The FF-T06’s wheel has a few millimeters of looseness before the drive gear kicks in to the turn.
This looseness must be compensated for during a focus pull action by priming the wheel with a slight turn in the direction of the focus to prevent a focus “pop” in the recorded shot. After some practice priming the focus wheel, the slop is manageable. However, the need to practice how to remove the slop puts you in the position of telling an AC or videographer that they need to take particular care over this follow focus because you skimped on your budget.
A follow focus should just work. This is not much of a limb to climb on here. Gear should just work. The worry that a monitor might show too many blue tones or that a lens has a loose mount, or that a follow focus requires careful attention to eliminate the jostling effect of a loose wheel lowers confidence and in the end inhibits creativity. A follow focus has one job, and if it cannot do it well, then why buy it?
The included white marking disk prompts a similar question. This disk, if you are unfamiliar with marking disks, functions as a dry erase board ring around the focus wheel for situations when focusing marks need to be recorded for repeatability in a shot. The disk attaches by magnets. Those magnets allow easy removal for cleaning or swapping (say if you have multiple shots that you are shuttling between).
The addition of this removable disk for a follow focus at this price range was a big pro. I say was, not is, because the magnets inside the marking disk fell out after a first use. I found myself asking why even the marking disk could not accomplish its singular job of being a piece of plastic attached to a wheel, asking why Tilta put more glue on the stickers of the useless hard shell case than on these here very necessary magnets. The answer came easily.
Tilta does not expect you to use this follow focus forever. The plastic 0.8 MOD drive gear is one indicator. The BYOG (bring your own glue) white marking disk is another. This follow focus fills that awkward teen phase of video equipment acquisition when you have some gear, some budget, and some need for a follow focus but not enough budget or need to buy the one that will last you a decade. The planned obsolescence of the FF-T06 is informed by the work requirements in this awkward phase, which are a few solo gigs, some travel, and rarely if any large productions.
And so they lure in the videographer looking to get their first follow focus at a steal and they hook them with the bonus goodies that they likely do not yet have. Over the next few months, the videographer will end up using the follow focus so often they decide it necessary to get a more expensive one or using it so little it ends up in the cardboard box in the closet with the Neweer rig. In both cases, this focus finds itself sitting somewhere on a shelf.
What I really want out of Tilta is a more robust version. Say, make a $249 FF-T06 Mini Follow Focus “PRO” with all metal parts, a DIY-free marking disk, that same single arm clamp system and sub-250 gram weight, and none of the slop of this $99 model.
Who’s it for?
The budget videographer and the micro rig enthusiast.
Does it get used?
No. With a micro rig setup, I have more confidence pulling focus with the focus ring on my lenses than using this follow focus. With a full size setup, I use LanParte’s sturdy follow focus.
Does it increase your production value?
Yes. With glue to fix the magnets on the marker disk, this follow focus can be used to record repeatable shots. A whip can also be attached for more accurate pulling, specifically in compensating for the slop.
Would I buy it again?
No. I would either use my fingers until I have enough money saved up to buy a nice follow focus, borrow a friend’s follow focus to see if I need one, or rely on a hired camera operator to bring their own follow focus.