Producing great content is more than just the story. How it looks is equally as important. And one of the most challenging aspects of filmmaking is keeping the camera stable while moving. A shake in the wrong moment can easily ruin perfectly good footage, costing time and money.
Whether you’re a current working pro or aspiring videographer, a gimbal stabilizer is ideal for getting professional-looking stable footage immediately. A gimbal is the only way to deliver ultra-stable footage without the artifacts that plague stabilized sensors. As even the best video cameras aren’t perfect and still need support to deliver the highest-quality results. Thus, having the right stabilizer is a must for videographers.
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For years, the stabilizers were often too extensive and out of the reach of most creators. Thankfully, manufacturers have taken the stands and innovated. And they’ve now come down in price, weight, and are mostly within reach. And it’s a great way to improve your footage without taking on too much expense. But, there are many options on the market right now, both used and new. And investing in a stabilizer isn’t as simple as you’d think. There are several main factors to consider outside of price, to make sure its specifications match your requirements. With that, we’ve compiled a list of the best gimbals in today’s market. And we’ve also created a guide on how to assess various options while shopping around.
With the AK2000, Feiyutech is closer to becoming a true challenger to DJI and Zhiyun in this market segment. Released in 2018, it’s the company’s latest upgrade over the earlier A2000 model. And it now supports payloads up to 6.17 lbs, making it the current leader at this price point in weight. But, it manages a remarkable battery life of 12 hours. The gimbal also has the Magic Ring, a control dial that allows you to adjust focus or zoom, for quick precise control. And it also has a touchscreen LCD, which sports full settings navigation in an easy to use interface. Other nice additions include the multi-function USB interface to charge the camera or other devices and Auto Rotation feature to create motion-lapse videos. Overall, the AK2000 offers a good feature set for this price point in an easy to use package. And it’s a good entry-level stabilizer for new users looking to get started.
Moza Lite II
The Moza Lite II looks to match the most expensive stabilizers in this class. Released in 2016, Gudsen targets this release as a direct competitor to DJI’s Ronin-M. Its magnesium alloy frame supports payloads of 11 lbs. But, weighing less and 5 lbs itself, it’s quite small and compact. It delivers a versatile design that provides three shooting modes, Briefcase, Underslung, and the Upright mode. And the gimbal uses low vibration high torque motors, with digital positioning encoders to ensure accurate performance. And, while not industry-leading, the battery life is reasonable at eight hours. And Gudsen does include a helpful thumb controller, which remotely controls pan, tilt, and delivers quick access to video start/stop and focus. Along with a dedicated desktop software that offers enormous customization over the dead angle, acceleration, power settings, and much more.
Overall, the Moza Lite II is a powerful gimbal that delivers a feature set that rivals DJI. And it provides unmistakable results that closely match several of the most expensive stabilizers in this class.
Zhiyun Crane 3
The Crane 3 LAB is the company’s latest release, and their first real attempt to test DJI’s dominance in this arena. Released in 2018, they decided to go in a different direction with this release, focusing specifically on accommodating larger rigs. It comes with the highest torque motors to date, resulting in a maximum payload rating of 10.14 lbs. And it currently stands as the highest load rating in this segment and one that easily supports full cinema rigs. Yet, battery life is reasonable at 7.5 hours. And as the flagship, it obtains all the latest technology from the company. In this case, it delivers their best detection and correction systems for even smoother footage. And a host of added features such as Intelligent Object Tracking, 1080p image streaming, extensive Follow Focus support, and much more.
Overall, the Crane 3 is a substantial update over earlier models, and with its superior payload rating, it’s a future-proofed setup. And with its innovative design, it’s the perfect suit for videographers in multi-camera setups.
Moza Air 2
The Moza Air 2 is the next evolution in the series and a release that gives DJI and Zhiyun a run for their money. Released in 2018, this 3-axis stabilizer offers a wealth of high-end features. And it manages payloads of 9.25 lbs with a superior 16 hours battery life, surprising considering its compact size. It even supports charging via external power for even longer recordings. And it’s built-in display makes navigating the menus to make adjustments easy. Like the Ronin, it also offers a full collection of shooting modes and extras. These include the Sports Mode, Panorama, Tracking, Inception, Auto-Tone, and several Follow Focus and time-lapse modes.
Overall, the Moza Air 2 offers much of the feature set from DJI’s high-end Ronin, without both its price and heft. While it lacks a similar build quality and select features, it’s an excellent alternative for casual users. Nikon partnered with them last year on this product, and it makes sense. With this release, Gudsen earned a solid reputation.
DJI’s Ronin-S is their first single-handle stabilizer and a release they aim to bridge the middle ground in portability and price with their Ronin-M. Released in 2018, it stands as the brand’s most popular release to date. And for a good reason. It uses a modular design that’s detachable for easy storing in a backpack. And the sleek rectangular shape, long handle, and gentle indentations offer the best ergonomics in the class. Yet, it doesn’t comprise in performance by doing so. It still supports payloads of 8 lbs and a long 12 hour battery life, outcompeting rivals in both demand and longevity. The gimbal also uses high-torque motors to compensate even without proper balancing. Perfect for skipping re-balancing when using a zoom lens for run and gun applications. It also offers a healthy selection of added features including, one-button Sport Mode, a weather-resistant construction, Follow Focus, time-lapses, panoramas, and subject-tracking. And it also offers full manual override to customize the physical button to your liking, changing its speed, smoothing, or dead bands.
Overall, as their first attempt to create a single-handle gimbal, DJI’s Ronin-S turned out excellent. While they’re a bit late to the game, the wait was worthwhile. It provides best-in-class capacity along with an excellent build and versatile feature set. And it sets a new benchmark for single handle gimbals.
Zhiyun WEEBILL S
Zhiyun’s Weebill S is their latest release to refresh the earlier Weebill lab. Released in 2018, it’s earned quite a solid reputation since its release. It’s equipped with the newest motors, which are now 3x stronger, resulting in a dramatic improvement in performance and accuracy. This update also now allows the stabilizer to support larger payloads, now maxing out at 6.61 lbs. It also has the 8th generation compensation algorithms, their most accurate and responsive iteration to date. But, even with the updated motors, battery life remains excellent at 14 hours. And combined, it’s the current leader of the class in longevity and motor responsiveness. The gimbal also now supports Bluetooth 5.0, allowing you to sync up to 5 external monitors or devices. And it also offers panorama, timelapse, Auto-Tune, mechanical focus or zoom, and Intelligent Object Tracking.
Overall, the Weebill S is arguably the best gimbal in this class. It breaks the traditional mold and embarks on a new path of its own. And it’s clear why so many creatives make it their stabilizer of choice. It provides excellent flexibility without additional accessories, and its size and form make it the ideal option for traveling creators.
Zhiyun Crane 2
Zhiyun’s Crane 2 is a notable refresh over both the original Crane and Crane V2 models. And it aims to be the perfect bridge between moving from hobbyist to professional. Released in 2017, it departs from the lighter and smaller design. Instead, delivering a heftier package with large mounting platforms, arms, and a thick handle. The updates create a more stable platform that now supports a maximum payload of 7 lbs, nearly doubling its predecessor. Yet, it provides superior battery life of 18 hours, along with USB charging support for compatible cameras. It also has a built-in display to show the current mode and battery life remaining. Plus, the Quick Control Dial makes it easy to control various camera settings. And while not new now, it was the first single-handle gimbal to offer both digital and mechanical Follow Focus.
Overall, the Crane 2 provides enormous improvements and delivers an entirely new experience. It does well to bridge the gap, indeed. And for the price, it’s an excellent option that suits both amateurs and professionals alike.
DJI’s Ronin-M stands as the best option for the money and the ideal investment for budget filmmakers. Released in 2015, it’s the refresh to the original Ronin, and a step-up from the company’s Ronin-S produced for smaller cameras. It obtains a similar design as their flagship MoVI, but reduces the weight to make a more portable option. Sure, it’s simple and low profile, but it’s easy to put together with little hassle. And its carbon fiber and magnesium frame support payloads of 8 lbs for 6 hours of continuous use. DJI also ships the gimbal with a remote controller, for convenient remote operation. And they’ve also installed the SmoothTrack feature for smooth and cinematic subject racking. These combine perfectly with the turning stand to deliver cinematic footage with a full range of 3-axis movements.
Overall, while a bit outdated comparatively in features, DJI’s Ronin provides a lot of value for the money. Its cost hasn’t changed since release and for a good reason. It delivers the performance professionals demand, and it’s the ideal workhorse tool for the most demanding applications.
What is a gimbal? And what to look for in a gimbal?
A gimbal in videography refers to a motorized (or non-motorized) system that stabilizes a camera. And today, three-axis stabilization systems that compensate for pan, tilt, and roll movements are the norm. The gimbals’ entire role is to counteract these changes to ensure the footage remains smooth and stable. And this is done using gyroscopes and software algorithms to separate unwanted and deliberate movements.
Now, let’s cover a few key considerations. Not everyone works with the same cameras, and various setups will change what’s important when picking a gimbal. Let’s cover the most significant aspects now.
Weight and Load Capacity
Most gimbals are relatively light, averaging 3-5 lbs. The larger the camera setup (camera body, lens, adapters, and filters), the higher the physical demand. And a full setup can quickly become over 10 lbs, which will cause enormous physical strain while shooting. If you’re not shooting with cinema cameras, look for portability when shopping. But, the maximum load a gimbal supports will ultimately dictate its versatility between different camera setups. So, outside of portability, consider your camera setup before locking in an option. Not all gimbals on the market support DSLRs—some only support GoPro or cellphones. The last thing you want is to purchase a gimbal that can’t support your setup.
Balancing the gimbal is the most crucial critical aspect, arguably more important than weight. Balancing refers to how it will handle your specific camera and how easy it is to balance overall. This step by step process is something you’ll become familiar with practice. But, it’s an area to consider. If you’re a beginner, balancing will be rather tedious. So choose a stabilizer that has ample tutorials online and helpful guides.
Most gimbals are battery powered to operate their brushless motors, which helps compensate for shake in real-time. On average, expect 6 hours of continuous operation and 3 hours of charging time. Some also support charging via USB, which helps you charge the stabilizer via USB battery bank on location.
The prices of gimbals differ dramatically. Most entry-level models are a few hundred dollars. Higher-priced options typically offer more advanced features and better build qualities. But they can easily exceed $500 or more. In general, expect to pay somewhere around $350 for an entry-level model and $500-700 for the mid-tier models. And how much you’re willing to pay for this piece of gear will be a key separator.
Some gimbals offer remote controls for remote operation. Others provide niche software or automation modes such as subject tracking, time-lapse, panorama, and more. If these bonuses are important to you, it will help narrow your search as well.
Last Updated on September 10, 2023 by Photography PX Published July 24, 2020