The Gimbal Game – Smooth As Silk

It’s always been time for smoother, tracking shots. Handheld with image stabilization is cool, although not for most things.
I have been on the hunt for a right solution for a one-man operation for years.

I’ve bought them, and sold them.

Back when I started Photoinduced in 2005, it was a Steadicam as first choice. Incredibly expensive. Then GlideCam came out with an alternative, with vest. Only about $1800. The HD cameras were big and heavy so you needed a bigger rig. Then the Steadicam JR for smaller vid cameras. Glidecam also has the smaller, non vest version as well, which is big, and a huge pain to balance. For me, anyway.

Slowly the market came around to the advance of smaller 4K cameras, with high end pro capabilities.
Balancing nightmares, to forearm strength gaining, to back issues.
Gimbals were coming, but not all the way there. Worked great with my GoPro, but a real camera?
Finally, we are now in a place where you can get that smooth tracking shot you want! The combinations of the 3 axis gimbal, and 4K camera combo has advanced to a place where that smooth move can be achieved with much less aggravation.
Now, to be sure, using that tool for a shot has to be dealt with judiciously. Like a drone shot, you need to use sparingly. Unless you are doing a Blair Witch reboot.
Before I jumped into any system now, I do a ton of research, and hands on checking.
The current viable tools for me to consider were the DJI Ronin-S, just released, and the Zhiyun Crane 2.
Similar on payloads (7-8 lbs), features, both limited on camera systems to take full advantage of features, tripod base to ease balancing, well built, solid units.

After all of the vids, posts, and discussions I went with the Zhiyun Crane 2 (please note, before you buy, new news at the end of this post)
product shot”

my rig ( Fuji X-H1, 18-55 zoom lens, Dual Mini Grip, Atomos Blade):

Simplest reasons? Weight (lighter than the DJI by more than 1 lb.), focus motor to uses all lenses, and thinner grip.
Cost was comparable, Zhiyun a little less expensive.
When you figure out how much time and how nimble you want to be while operating, weight is huge.
2.76 LB for Crane 2, 4.1 LBs for Ronin-S. % wise, that is a big diff.
Also it uses a Manfrotto quick release base plate, which moves it into my gear eco system perfectly. Go from gimbal to tripod easily.
There is a follow focus motor that allows me to not only do follow focus, but rack the zoom, without rebalancing!

This was a $130 add-on, now included. They had to include, so non-Canon cameras could be used for follow focus or zoom.
Not there on the Ronin.
Now, the Ronin-S has moved the roll motor so it sits below the LCD, so you get a clear view. Nice touch. Although I use a side monitor.

For right now, the Zhiyun Crane 2 is the clear winner for me. I did add a grip handle for some more balance, and adding a monitor/mic.
Actually, re-purposed an older Atomos monitor that was sitting in its case and it has been a huge help.
My current video cameras of choice are the Fuji X-H1, and a Canon video camera, XF-15.
When the Nikon Z7 comes in for full review, I’ll be using the Crane 2 for that cameras video.

And the cost.
Figure that either of the gimbals mentioned will be about $650-$700.
The truth for me is a piece of gear that you will use.
The Zhiyun case is good, although not a hard enough case. That will be changed to something like a Pelican or a ThinkTank Video case
The DJI has their signature dense foam, which is good for packing , but not for real world use.

*OK, here is the new news: Zhiyun is introducing a few new gimbals in the coming weeks!

New form factor, follow focus built-in, and a bunch more.
No details on avail or cost.
Sooooooo… if you are not in a hurry, you can wait. Although, the Crane 2 is a solid choice and prices will come down. And it’s here now!

Yes, I did buy this crane. When I spend my dough, I want to make sure it’s the right thing. Your mileage may vary.

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