Although the gimbal stabilizers have pretty much cemented its position as the superior source of image stabilization for modern videographers, the Glidecam range can still have its uses and we still see a number of people reaching out on a regular basis about the differences between a Glidecam and a gimbal and the advantages and disadvantages of both.
To try and keep this as fair as possible, we have tried to select a Glidecam and a handheld gimbal stabilizer that are around the same price point at the time of writing. We decided to go with the Glidecam HD-4000 and the Zhiyun Crane Plus in the end as we feel as far as a Glidecam v gimbal comparison can go, they are probably the most evenly matched.
Just like all of our comparison article that we publish, we will go over a quick comparison table below and go over the results on paper before going over some actual performances based results below the table. We do it in this format as the majority of the time, as you will see, the results on paper are often misleading whereas when it comes to performance-based results, it is much easier to see who the clear winner is.
Last update on 2020-02-28 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
As you can see from the comparison table above, the gimbal has a slight advantage in price over the Glidecam but the Glidecam has an advantage of being able to support almost double the load capacity of the gimbal while not having to rely on battery life for its performance. As we mentioned, on paper, it would seem as if the Glidecam has it in the bag but thankfully, before you go off and drop almost $400 at the time of writing on a new glide cam, we would highly recommend you read the rest of the article!
A Video Performance Comparison
Even though the Glidecam can provide almost double the payload of the gimbal on paper, we don’t really rate this as an advantage over the gimbal. The main purpose of using a stabilizer in videography is to provide image stabilization for your video footage and improve your image quality as best as possible.
If you use a camera rig of around 5 pounds on the gimbal that is almost bang on its maximum load capacity and use the same camera rig on the Glidecam that is around half of its maximum load capacity, the image stabilization provided by the gimbal still blows the image stabilization of the Glidecam out the water.
If you really do need the support those super heavy DSLR camera rigs then you can look to pick up something like the Moza Air 2 that really is not that much more expensive than the Glidecam HD-4000. The Air 2 offers a similar maximum payload capacity while also providing you with superior image stabilization for your video footage during use too.
When it comes to panning the Glidecam definatley has an easy, more natural feel to it and allows you to get that natural panning feel to your footage with minimal effort required on your part. That said though, any videographer worth their sale will quickly work out how to manually control their gimbal to get the exact same natural panning effect out of their gimbal while still getting that superior image stabilization at the same time.
Now, this is a fair bit harder than it sounds and if you are an entry-level videographer, you have more important things to be learning like basic to intermediate gimbal movements and such. That said though, if you are an intermediate or professional level videographer then you will probably have already mastered how to manually control your gimbal during pans for the natural look to your footage.
Additionally, most of the modern 3 axis gimbal stabilizers on the market these days also have various modes that you are able to use to help you get the same natural panning that a Glidecam can provide you right out of the box.
Performance With Longer Lenses
As you probably know, some situations in videography are going to need you to use longer lenses to accurately record the video footage that you require with the best image quality possible. This is another area where the gimbal has the advantage over the Glidecam right out the box. Now only does the gimbal allow you to quickly and easily rebalance your camera rig when you change your lens if required but using a longer or heavier lens on it does not change the basic fundamentals of how you use your device.
Moving over to the Glidecam, depending on the model, it can be a pain to recenter the Glidecam around the new lense that you have had to mount on your camera that can result in a waste of time. Additionally, with some Glidecam models, you also have to end up tweaking how you would hold the handheld stabilizer to get the best possible performance out of it for your situation.
Although a Glidecam can perform with a longer or heavier lens, when it comes to image stabilization, ease of use, and downtime after the lens swap to adjust your stabilizer, the gimbal blows it out the water. Additionally, the performance of the Glidecam with heavier rigs can also become a little more unpredictable as shown in the video at the start of the article too.
For example, the bobbling effect of the image stabilization provided by the Glidecam can sometimes get a little worse whereas the image stabilization of the gimbal is as silky smooth as ever. The lead of the image quality provided by the gimbal over the Glidecam only becomes even more obvious when you get up to using 50mm lenses and over and the Glidecam is simply left for dust at 70mm and over.
Like we said at the start of the article, both of these handheld stabilizers do have their place and the Glidecam is excellent for having an easier time of avoiding the robotic feel to some gimbal footage. That said, as we mentioned earlier though, any intermediate to professional level videographer will be able to get this effect out of their gimbal anyway when using it in manual control. Additionally, as the technology in the basic gimbal modes becomes more and more advanced, it is becoming easier and easier to get the natural image feel out of a gimbal.
When it comes to flat our image stabilization, the gimbal is the obvious choice. As seen in the video at the start of the article and mentioned earlier in the article, the difference becomes obvious when using a lens around the 50mm focal length. Depending on what you are using your setup for, if you end up getting to the 70mm to 80mm and above focal length on your lenses then the gimbals image stabilization leaves the Glidecam for dust.
Additionally, the Crane Plus is from the globally renowned Zhiyun brand that offers firmware updated to their customers for their gimbals for free. As time goes on and Zhiyun develops the technology behind the modes they offer on their gimbals, you can then download it for free. This means that by the time you read this article, the main advantage of the Glidecam, it’s natural looking footage may be available to even a novice gimbal user at the push of a button.
In our opinion its a no brainer to go with the gimbal stabilizer over the Glidecam stabilizer as we feel the future is only going to get better and better for gimbals and as they become more advanced, the Glidecam will become more and more obsolete.