What To Look For In A Gimbal!

Over the last decade or so, the gimbal market has grown exponentially as more and more videographers add a decent gimbal stabilizer to their collection of camera accessories to help improve their image quality. Additionally, gimbals have become a standard camera accessory for many vlogging niches on YouTube helping to further increase their sales.

Now, as you can probably expect, with a dramatic increase of sales usually comes an increase in brands trying to get a piece of the pie too. This has resulted in a large increase in the number of gimbal brands on the market offering their wares to the community. Although there are a fair few low-quality brands out there releasing low-quality products, the brands that are worth your time and money like DJI, Zhiyun, and to some extent Feiyutech have managed to stand apart from the crowd and keep their excellent reputations within the community.

Due to there being so many poor quality gimbals on the market, we have decided to publish this article to go over what we feel are the features our readers should be looking for in their gimbals to ensure that they get the best product possible for their money. We have seen an absolute ton of videographers and vloggers who go out and purchase the latest gimbal that costs hundreds of dollars more than they needed to spend essentially wasting their hard-earned money. Our hope is, after reading this, you will not make this mistake and you will better understand what you should be looking for in a potential gimbal.

Check It Can Support Your Camera Rig

2019 DJI Ronin-S Essentials Kit 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer for Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras, Tripod, Gimbal Hook and Loop Strap, 1 Year Limited Warranty, Black(CP.RN.00000033.01)
In our opinion, this is without a doubt the most overlooked feature when it comes to choosing a gimbal for your camera rig. As we mentioned above, we see so many people go out, look at the latest gimbal, purchase it and get it home only to realize that they have spent much more than they needed to as the gimbal they purchased has a payload of over four or five times what they needed.

Now, that said, there can be an argument made for getting a higher maximum load capacity than your current camera rig due to future-proofing if you know you are going to be upgrading your rig soon. For example, in the vlogging community, we often see people who will start off with something like the Canon G7X. By rights, although it is pretty old now, it is still probably one of the most popular cameras for Vlogging that people upgrade to from their smartphone. The G7X comes in with a weight of 1.4 pounds and due to the lack of an external mic socket and the fixed lens, that’s pretty much all its ever going to weight.

Now, say that you know that you will be upgrading to something like the Canon M50 in the future, probably the most popular intermediate vlogging camera on the market right now. Although the actual camera body of the M50 is lighter than the G7X coming in at around 0.86 pounds, it allows you to change your lenses to meet your needs, mount an external microphone, mount a flash/lighting unit, and a number of other accessories. Due to this, your camera rig can quickly get towards to 4-pound mark.

So say you picked up a gimbal like the Feiyu Tech G6 that has a maximum load capacity of 1.76 pounds. It can easily support the weight of your Canon G7X but when it comes to upgrading to your Canon m50, you are also going to have to upgrade your gimbal and the Feiyu Tech G6 becomes a waste of almost $300! Now, if you had initially gone for something like the Zhiyun Crane Plus, probably our favorite gimbal stabilizer on the market at the time of writing, it can easily support the weight of your Canon G7X and the Canon m50 as its maximum load capacity is around 5.5 pounds.

So as you can see, planning ahead and thinking of the kit you are likely to add to your camera rig before going out and purchasing your gimbal can end up saving you a fair bit of money by not having to upgrade your gimbal when you upgrade your camera. On the flip side of this, and the thing we see happen far too much is people will have a Canon G7X and plan to upgrade to the Canon m50 but will go out and purchase the Zhiyun Crane 3 because at the time of writing, it is the latest gimbal on the market.

Although it has a payload of 10.14 and can probably take the weight of any vlogging or videography camera rig you may ever use, it also has a price tag of around $700 at the time of writing! The Zhiyun Crane Plus recommended above has a price tag of around $340 at the time of writing, coming in at just under half the price of the Crane 3 but will still be able to meet the majority of your needs!

If possible, plan the progression of both your actual camera and the camera accessories that you will be using on it to know what you need out of your gimbal. In the long run, this can end up saving you hundreds of dollars!

Ensure That It Offers The Performance You Need

Zhiyun Crane Plus Zhiyun Crane V2 Upgrade Version in 2018 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer 5.5lb Payload FPV Mode Intelligent Object Tracking Motion Memory Nightlapse
Now, most people will know the type and level of performance that they are going to require out of their gimbal of choice before they even start window shopping. That said, trying to plan ahead and line out exactly what you are going to need out of your gimbal can help to save you money in the future so it is always best to make a little plan where possible.

For example, say you are a YouTube vlogger, depending on your niche, you may not even need a gimbal but we actually see vloggers going out and picking up a gimbal because they see them listed on a list of essential accessories for vloggers. That said though if you are involved in a vlogging niche like travel vlogging where a gimbal can be useful, chances are you will never need a level of performance higher than what the Zhiyun Crane Plus 3 axis gimbal is able to provide you.

If you are an extreme sports vlogger then you may want to go look towards picking up a wearable gimbal like the Evo SS to capture your sport of choice from a first-person perspective. If you are an extreme sports vlogger and you plan to use a wearable gimbal but also want to use it as a handheld gimbal too then something like the Removu S1 could be the gimbal for you. Just keep in mind that gimbals like this that offer handheld and wearable functionality usually go by the adage of “jack of all trades, master of none” so offer both use cases but often perform worse in both than a dedicated gimbal.

If you are a traditional videographer and the majority of your work is based around general videography work and recording high-end wedding videos then something like the Zhiyun Crane 3 would probably be the better for you. It offers a ton of functionality as well as a massive payload to allow you to mount all the accessories you could ever need to it to capture the best image and audio quality possible while working.

Again, the gimbals in this section of the article range from around $200 up to around $700 so planning ahead and knowing what you will need can save you a ton of your hard-earned money. Not only that but ensuring you choose the correct gimbal for the job can also help to improve the image quality that you get.

Is The Build Quality Good Enough?

Zhiyun Crane Plus Zhiyun Crane V2 Upgrade Version in 2018 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer 5.5lb Payload FPV Mode Intelligent Object Tracking Motion Memory Nightlapse
Thankfully, in this day and age, the majority of the gimbals released onto the market have a solid build quality, especially the gimbals from the leading brands like DJI and Zhiyun. This makes our job for this section much easier as modern gimbals tend to be lightweight, robust, and very easy to maintain too.

That said though, specialist features like water resistance and waterproofing in gimbals are drastically lagging behind, even in the “specialist gimbals” that are marketed to meet these needs. If you are planning to have to use your gimbal around water then we would be very wary. Even gimbals like the Feiyu Tech WG2 that are often marketed and reported as being waterproof are actually just splash proof and are nowhere near meeting the IP67 waterproof requirements.

Similarly, some gimbals can also have issues in cold temperatures too with the motors not adjusting as smoothly to rapid movements or the sensors not being able to detect movement as easily. If you are planning to use your gimbal for any kind of winter sports we would highly recommend that you try to stick with the DJI Ronin S or the  Zhiyun Crane Plus> or newer generations from these brands for your 3 axis handheld gimbals needs. The Go Pro Karma Grip is probably the best of the wearable gimbals on the market right now for use in cold temperatures as most other products are lagging behind at the time of writing when it comes to cold temperatures.

Does It Have Enough Battery Life

The battery life of your gimbal is also a major factor that is often overlooked too. Thankfully, outside of the wearable gimbals, the majority of the modern gimbals being released onto the market offer a minimum of 6 hours battery life with some going up to being able to provide 18 hours of battery life depending on what you are doing with it.

We would imagine that the majority of our readers should be able to capture all the footage that they need even with a gimbal with a 6-hour battery life so for the majority of people, this is not really an issue in this day and age. The problem comes when you are working in a niche where you could potentially be away from a power outlet to recharge your gear for days on end.

Say you are a wildlife videographer or a travel vlogger, there is a good chance you may be away from a reliable power outlet for days at a time so it is essential that you choose a gimbal with the juice to get your through. Although it can be hit and miss, some of the modern power banks designed to power laptops can be used to recharge gimbals while out and about but it can be hit and miss.

Quick Release Plate Type

Now, this may seem like a strange thing to bring up when talking about what to look for in your new gimbal but we feel it is a point that is often overlooked! We see so many people go out and purchase a gimbal and its quick release plate is not compatible with the other accessories in their camera collection like their tripod.

Being able to quickly and easily switch your camera rig from your gimbal stabilizer to your tripod of choice can be a massive time saver in many photography and videography niches. Due to this, we would always recommend that you try to ensure that the quick release plate on your new gimbal will be compatible with the quick release plate system your tripods use.

Now, at the time of writing, the Manfrotto design quick release plates are still the most popular when it comes to tripods and gimbals so this may not be an issue for you as you can quickly and easily hot sway between your gimbal and tripod as required. That said, the Arca Swiss quick release plate tends to be more common amongst professional level photographers and videographers and it is increasing in popularity amongst the intermediate crowd too.

At the time of writing, we are unaware of any gimbals that natively support the Arca Swiss quick release plate but thankfully, an owner of the DJI Ronin S has published this quick and easy guide to adapt your gimbal to use the Arca Swiss plate system. This allows you to hot-swap between your gimbal and your tripod that uses the Arca Swiss quick release plate system without issue.

Make Sure It Is Easy To Learn

Now, the majority of modern gimbals are very easy to use and we would imagine that anyone who can use a smartphone will be able to use a modern gimbal without running into much trouble. That said, the video above offers some decent tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your gimbal that we feel may be helpful for some of our readers.

Wrapping It Up

That brings us to an end and we hope that you have found this article helpful. We know that gimbals can represent a very large investment for most people and its best to have a decent idea of what you actually want before going to purchase your gimbal. We hope that the points we have raised in our article will help any of our readers who are looking to add a gimbal to their collection of camera accessories to provide them with the image stabilization that they need.
Image Licensing
Shared under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

MIKI Yoshihito – Knock-off version of peak-design “Capture”. – https://flic.kr/p/2eFCTkn