Gimbal Buyer's Guide October 2019
What are gimbals?
- Gimbals are used to stabalize cameras.
- Since around 2015 or late 2016 gimbals have become a lot more popular and cheaper
- They are primarily used for shooting video, although some people will use them while take photos too
- Most have 3 axis (3 different motors) to help keep your camera steady
- Because they use battery power to move the motors and keep everything in place, a gimbal will use more battery power and struggle more with a heavier camera (+ lenses). Of course there are gimbals designed for heavier cameras though that can support even the bulkiest of DSLR cameras.
The types of gimbals and other stabilizers
There are basically two types when it comes to gimbals and stabilizers
Electronic Gimbals (the commonly seen ones)
- These use motors and electronics to stabalize the camera
- Most have 3 brushless motors (set on 3 different axis) to smoothly rotate the camera in any direction
- Very easy to set up (you should still balance the camera, but if it is not balanced well it'll still work (but use a lot more battery power and wear out the motors quicker)
- Are often quite lightweight and don't get tiring when using them for long periods of time
Other stabilizers (including steady cams etc)
- Can be used to achieve similar results (or better, in some situations) as electronic gimbals
- Take a lot longer to get set up - there are no motors that will help balance it so it must be perfect
- Can be bought for very cheap prices
- Despite their low cost they are becoming less popular nowadays, as the price of electronic gimbals drops.
- Large ones can be heavy and awkward to hold and use for long periods of time - but the same applies to electronic gimbals too!
Important questions to ask yourself before buying a gimbal and important things to consider before buying your gimbal
2 or 3 axis gimbal?
This refers to how many directions the gimbal can move. Most gimbals are 3 axis (so they can rotate in all directions - pan, tilt and roll). This means that you can manually control it in any direction, and it'll be able to stabalize your footage better.
However the extra motors adds more weight, less battery life and higher cost.
Since 2018 almost all gimbals are 3-axis now, so this isn't a very important point anymore!
How much does your camera weigh?
This is a very important thing to consider. You must get a gimbal that is suitable for the weight of your camera.
All gimbals have a minimum and maximum payload (camera weight). Do not go outside of these limits.
If you have a detachable lens, remember to weight it with the lenses that you will use. And don't foget about batteries!
If your camera weighs too little then you can always add some weight by attaching quick release plates or other accessories.
Don't forget about adding the weight of any additional microphones. Also be aware that you might pick up the slight noise of the gimbal motors moving.
How much the gimbals weighs
If you are going to be holding a gimbal for extended periods of time then it can get very draining on your arms if it is a heavy gimbal.
How can you attach cameras to the gimbal
Some gimbals are designed just for GoPros, or just for smartphones, and you will have problems trying to attch anything it isn't designed for.
The best options when it comes to compatibility is to get a gimbal that has the standard 1/4 inch thread (then you can attach any normal camera to it, plus get adapters for smartphones or GoPros/actioncams).
How is the build quality of the gimbal?
Cheaper gimbals are often made of cheap ABS plastic. These are ok if you take care of your gimbal, however it might start to get damaged as you start travelling with it or as you throw it in a bag.
A lot of gimbals nowadays are made out of nylon-reinforced plastic or aircraft-grade aluminium, which is much stronger and will last much longer without damage!
This is an important one if you expect to have long days of shooting content.
A lot of gimbals have very impressive battery lifes (8-20+ hours!). If you can get a gimbal with removable batteries then this is very useful, so you can buy spare batteries and just swap them when one set are empty.
You can roughly compare battery size (measured in mAh), however be aware that each gimbal will have different amounts of battery usage.
If you have an incorrectly balanced gimbal then it'll use far more battery than a correctly balanced gimbal. This is because the motors naturally have a lot more work to do when balancing your camera if it is isn't balanced anyway.
Does it work with your phone?
A lot of gimbals have their own iOS or Android apps (that often connect via bluetooth, sometimes by creating a small private wifi network). These apps can often control the gimbal (moving it, changing settings). Check if your phone is compatible.
Does it come with a carry case?
Although these are often referred to as 'carry cases', most people treat them just as 'storage cases'. The cases that come with most bigger gimbals are often very big, and most people will just put their gimbals in a normal backpack (and hope it doesn't break!)
It is important to consider how important having a case is, and the size of it. Almost all gimbals come with some kind of case. Gimbals designed for smartphones or action cams (GoPros) often have small cases that are very useful and handy.
Some of the cheaper gimbals were developed quickly and sometimes have software issues. You just have to hope that they provide a firmware update so you can update their onboard software.
Do you need it to be waterproof?
Some gimbals for action cameras like Go Pros are waterproof, but the bigger ones generally won't be waterproof or even water resistant. This is an important thing to consider if you were thinking of shooting anywhere near water or if it rains a lot near you!
Our electronic gimbal recommendations
For GoPro or other action cameras/tiny cameras, and smart phones
- Often designed to be worn, or mounted to something (like a bike)
- They are tiny (as you would expect if its main purposes is to be used with a GoPro)
- Small size doesn't mean they're much cheaper than larger gimbals though!
For smart phones
- These are perfect if you want to use them with your smart phone (iPhone, Android, etc) or a light point and shoot
- They often pack away into something that you can easily travel with or stick in a backpack
Recommended Gimbals for Small Cameras (point and shoot, lightweight mirrorless, smart phones)
This is where gimbals start getting more expensive, and start to be packed with more features. If you have a smallish camera (like a point and shoot, a light mirrorless) then you will want to get one in this category.
For larger point-and-shoot, or light mirrorless cameras
- The prices start to increase now - gimbals in this group can support larger weights of bigger point and shoots and even some mirrorless cameras (including their lens).
- The 'minimum' weight starts to become important - you might not be able to attach a camera like a GoPro due to its light weight. You can always just try and make it heavier though (by attaching camera accessories or weights to the camera).
- Can give very professional looking footage when teamed up with a nice mirrorless camera
For full DSLR cameras (up to 2.5kg / 5lbs or even greater)
- This is where the professional range of gimbals come into play
- They can support much larger weights, which bigger DSLR (and their lenses) weigh
- Often are used two handed for additional stability and for ease of use
- Also often can be used with a chest attachment for added support