Tilta Nucleus Nano Wireless Follow Focus Review
The Tilta Nucleus Nano is the best value follow-focus you can buy – it just happens also to be wireless. But even though I heartily recommend it, there are a few tips and tricks to get even more out of this best-in-class follow focus and fix potential intermittent power problems.
WHAT IS IT?
Inexpensive wireless follow focus for video makers and cinematographers.
WHY IT MATTERS:
With a price point competing with non-wireless follow focus solutions, the Tilta Nano makes wireless follow focus is affordable while besting the competition on price, performance and an ecosystem of expansion.
WHO IT’S FOR:
Not just for budge video makers and cinematographers, but everyone who desires manual control of lens focus or zoom.
After using manual follow focus wheels for years, I ordered my Nucleus Nano when it first became available. As a producer of documentaries and commercial videos, it’s become an indispensable tool I use on almost every shoot.
Design and build quality are excellent. The motor is mostly metal and small in size, making it very easy to balance when placed on a gimbal. The only concern I have is the choice of using a micro-USB plug to power the motor. More on this and a simple fix for intermittent power in the video above.
The rosewood accent on the wireless controller looks great, but I find it a bit slick to control. The same week it arrived, I added a rubber band for better tactile control even with one finger. The control wheel mounting plate, while usable, doesn’t have a flat back, making it awkward for mounting in some scenarios.
- Better control without introducing camera shake when compared with my non-wireless follow focus. My theory is that the decoupling of the motor from the wheel allows less pressure to be used on the control wheel to manipulate the motor, thereby causing less jitter for solo camera operators like me. This is most notable on lenses with stiff focus throws.
- Small motor size and weight makes it easy to rig even on gimbals
- Expandable ecosystem: can easily integrate with other Tilta finger controllers and larger Tilta motor systems
- when configured on the same side of the camera, wireless signal can fail. I found placing the motor on the opposite side of the camera to fix most wireless issues I was initially having
- micro-usb port for powering the motor is not the most robust connection choice. After several months of use, I’ve found myself with intermittent power. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix to try on your power cables which only requires a pair of nail clippers (see video above). This doesn’t entirely resolve my issues, but it has helped.
- Wireless signal can introduce noise into nearby audio systems (even my wired livestream mic system)
- The Tilta Nano motor is not as powerful as other follow focus motors like the Ronin-S motor, making it unreliable for zoom ring control on my admittedly stiff Sony 24-70mm G Master lens.
- Control wheel form factor is best for full-handed operation – I would have preferred a grip with finger-wheel control, which would be better for solo operators like myself. But at least Tilta has since released wired handle options with finger wheel control.
- Control wheel battery life – seems to slowly lose charge when the battery is left in the controller. Tip: always store the battery outside the controller for best performance
- Cannot program a portion of the control wheel to cover the range of motor rotation
- Control wheel buttons can be easily pressed in error
Recommended Settings and Accessories
- For camera lenses with a linear response, I find the control wheel more usable when “tricking” the calibration to use only a portion of the wheel throw to control the full range of the lens focus range. This varies from lens to lens, so there is no one-setting I can recommend, but it’s best to go by trial and error and see how much extra range above the focus range of the lens you prefer.
- Replace A & B points with the ability to program a portion of the control wheel for better control
- change power port from micro-USB to something more robust
- create optional wireless fingerwheel grip control. It would have been great to have the option to swap the large control wheel for a wireless grip with fingerwheel. For solo shooters like myself, fingerwheel control is the way to go.
So what’s the bottom line? From the lengthy Cons list, you might think I don’t like the Tilta Nano at all. But that’s far from the truth. Sure it’s not the perfect follow focus, and after months of heavy use, I’ve found some genuine flaws. But there’s no denying the Tilta Nucleus Nano wireless follow focus is a game-changer. Priced lower than many non-wireless options, and with the added benefit of better control without adding camera shake, wireless freedom and Tilta’s growing ecosystem, there’s a lot to love. Thinking back on the past year, the Tilta Nano is one of my best investments as a video maker in the past year. Highly recommended.