You just captured a great moment on video, only to discover that it looks like you filmed during the middle of an earthquake due to the camera shaking all around. Camera gimbals could have saved the day — or, at least, the footage. Gimbals are a great way to get professional-quality stability out of your camera and are cheaper than you might think.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of video, a good stabilizer like a camera gimbal can help prevent shaky video syndrome, freeing a videographer from the sometimes infuriating task of having to correct wobbly video in post-production.
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Camera Gimbals: What You Need to Know
A camera gimbal can make a world of difference to your footage. But before you go out and buy a camera gimbal, it’s good to know what camera gimbals are, how they work, and most importantly, how to choose one that will meet your particular videography needs.
What are camera gimbals?
A camera gimbal is a piece of videography equipment that helps keep a camera at a constant, steady angle to ensure smooth video footage. Camera gimbals often look like single-handled support for a camera, similar to a “selfie” stick, though some camera gimbal models are augmentable for two-handed operation.
How do camera gimbals work?
Mechanically, a gimbal is a support mechanism that allows an object to move on an axis (or multiple axes). Camera gimbals are a camera accessory that compensates for shaking and other camera movements by using a sophisticated system of motorized gyroscopes on three different axes to keep a camera steady.
What’s the difference between a gimbal and a steadycam?
Camera gimbals are not the only camera accessory that helps you get a nice, steady shot. Steadycams (also commonly spelled Steadicams, which is one of the most popular brands) are another favorite accessory that enables you to keep your camera stable and your shot free of unwanted movement. Unlike motorized camera gimbals, steadycams do not rely on an additional motorized piece to help keep the camera steady.
As for which is the better stabilizer of the two is up for debate. A steadycam requires practice to use well but has the advantage of having no electronics to break down. Meanwhile, though camera gimbals are lighter and somewhat easier to learn, some videographers find the reliance on electronic stabilizing to be off-putting. In the end, it comes down to personal preference.
Where can you buy gimbals?
You can find camera gimbals for purchase at stores that carry camera equipment, including some well-stocked electronics stores. You can also find camera gimbals for sale on popular online retailers like Amazon and online specialty stores like B&H Photo.
What do you need to look for in a gimbal?
One of the most important things you need to look for in a camera gimbal is whether or not it is compatible with your camera, whether you are using a DSLR, mirrorless, or smartphone camera. Due to their smaller size, smartphone gimbals can only support smartphones; likewise, gimbals for DSLR and mirrorless cameras can support both of these types of cameras.
Another caveat about smartphone gimbals is that not all smartphone gimbals support both iOS and Android phones. Always verify that the gimbal you choose is compatible with your smartphone.
Some camera gimbals are Bluetooth compatible and pair with smartphone apps. If you shoot footage like timelapses, for example, a Bluetooth compatible gimbal controlled with a smartphone app can be very helpful.
What are other considerations for choosing a gimbal?
An important consideration is your shooting style and how long you generally shoot as these two factors will help determine what the best camera gimbal is for you. Before making your purchase, think about the total weight of the gimbal plus your camera and battery life, as well as general features.
For example, a wedding videographer who covers ceremonies and receptions may favor camera gimbals that allow for two-handed operation with a 1/4-inch mount for a tripod. Meanwhile, a travel vlogger who is continuously on adventures may prefer a lighter gimbal that includes a battery pack to charge their camera while on the move.
How We Reviewed
When looking for the best camera gimbals available, we took a look at well-reviewed camera gimbals for smartphones as well as for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. We took into consideration what people had to say about each gimbal and its features, including weight and handgrips.
In general, camera gimbals can range in price from $ for budget smartphone models to over $$$ for professional grade gimbals for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The camera gimbals on our list range from $ to $$ online.
The Best Camera Gimbals
These are the gimbals that made our list in no particular order:
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- Type: 3-axis motorized gimbal
- Camera Type: Smartphone (iPhone)
- Price range: $ to $$ online
A consumer offshoot of the Freefly Movi professional camera gimbals, the Freefly Movi Cinema Robot is a smartphone gimbal for iPhone. Unlike most gimbals, which are more stick-like in shape, the Movi Cinema Robot has a different profile with a long handle holding the gimbal at a right angle. The Cinema Robot’s unique shape makes it usable on flat surfaces without a tripod however it also does come with a 1/4-inch connector for tripod use.
Through the Movi app, you have access to a variety of different shooting modes including time and movie lapses, as well as barrel rolls and a proprietary Echo mode.
The Freefly Movi is available online from B&H Photo, Amazon, and Adorama, receiving high ratings on all three store websites. Other reviewers like Digital Trends also like the Freefly Movi, noting that its good for advanced users. YouTube camera channel Moment reviewers also liked the Freefly Movi, saying that its features appealed to their filmmaker sensibilities.
The Digital Trends review does point out that the Movi is plastic but “feels very solid and well made.” The Movi Cinema Robot is that as of September 2018, it is only for the iPhone. However, the official website notes that an Android app is in the works.
DJI Osmo 2
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The DJI Osmo 2 is a smartphone camera gimbal for iPhone. It includes several key programs including timelapse, motion lapse, slow-mo, and zoom control. The battery on the Osmo 2 can last up to 12 hours and can also charge your smartphone, making it ideal for mobile livestreaming applications.
This camera gimbal gets consistently high reviews from various tech outlets including PC Mag where it got a 4 out of 5 star review and TechRadar where it got a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It also got high reviews on Amazon and B&H Photo. Reviews praise the Osmo 2 for its plethora of features at an affordable price point.
YouTube channel Moment noted that while the plastic construction on the Osmo 2 was lighter than its predecessor, it also felt cheaper though it was sturdy. Another potential downside is the Osmo 2’s overall design, where the motor housing can be seen in some shot angles. A critical review on Apple noted that the Osmo 2 does not have support for 60 frames per second in 4k. The analysis points out that this does not allow users to take the fullest advantage of their phone’s camera quality.
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The DJI Ronin-S is a professional grade camera gimbal for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It is a highly portable gimbal with the ability to take high and low to the ground shots. The Ronin's design also allows you to access your camera’s built-in display easily. It includes a variety of creative features for filmmakers including tracking and lapses, controlled by the DJI Ronin app.
The DJI Ronin-S is available on BH Photo where it gets a 4 star out of 5 star rating. On Amazon, it received a 4 out of 5 star rating. YouTuber and professional videographer Parker Walbeck gave the DJI Ronin-S an enthusiastic recommendation when comparing it directly to the Zhiyun Crane 2. Similarly, YouTuber and wedding videographer The Film Poets also recommended the DJI Ronin-S for its affordability and performance.
One potential drawback to the DJI Ronin-S is that it has less weight capacity with less battery life. It is also heavier overall than other comparable gimbals.
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The MOZA AirCross handheld gimbal is a camera gimbal DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It offers four built-in filming modes and can be used inverted. It includes a 1/4-inch mount on the handgrip to use with a tripod. The MOZA AirCross also has an accessory for dual-handled operation.
You can find the MOZA Aircross is available for purchase online at B&H Photo and Amazon. This gimbal receives 4 out of 5 stars on BH Photo and 5 stars on Adorama. Users on these sites also particularly like the MOZA for lighter, mirrorless cameras.
Reviews on Adorama like that the MOZA is affordable. Another plus is the ability to charge its batteries either internally or externally. Chris Winter on Youtube praises the MOZA AirCross as a good gimbal at a budget price. Another common criticism is that its weight capacity makes it unsuitable for heavier cameras.
The Final Shot
For the videographer that wants to take their shots to the next level with a gimbal, we recommend investing in the DJI Ronin-S. It gets consistently high reviews from videographers of all types from travel to wedding to corporate. For smartphone videographers, we recommend the DJI Movi Cinema Robot for its balance of affordability and functionality.
Do you own one of these camera gimbals, or perhaps a different one? Let us know your experience in the comments!