Let’s be honest, handheld video can look downright awful. While there’s a time and place for the “look”, there’s a time and place for buttery smooth video as well. That’s where a gimbal comes in.
In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the best gimbal for DSLR footage. We will discuss many different aspects of what makes a great gimbal and compare those aspects to the 6 best gimbals in 2020.
By the end of this article you’ll have a much better understanding of what makes a gimbal great. Most importantly, you’ll have a much better idea of which gimbal will be the best for you!
Let’s start by discussing aspects of a DSLR gimbal that can make them great (or not so great)
Features of a gimbal covered in every model
I thought it would be fitting to explain the different features that will be covered within every recommendation. This will give you a better understanding of what to look for and how each of these functions differ from one another.
The aspects of every DSLR recommended in this article will include (but not limited to):
- Weight of gimbal
- Smoothness of motors
- Locking Axis
- Functionality (bluetooth, app, etc)
With this information you’ll be able to make an educated, well informed decision yourself.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the gimbals themselves!
Feiyu is a relatively new company, releasing a couple gimbals prior to the AK4500. What that allowed them to do was perfect (or attempt to) their previous models. Well, let me tell you, they’ve been able to accomplish a few features that other major companies haven’t. Let’s dive into the features.
- The payload is 10lbs (4.6kg). While it may not seem like a lot, you have to think that a standard 5Dmark IV with a 16-35mm F/2.8 weighs +/-3.5 lbs (1.6kg). 10lbs is substantial.
- Batteries consist of 4 18650 rechargeable.
- The weight of the actual gimbal is 3.5 lbs (1.6kg)
- Runtime: 8-10 hours
- Locking Axis: Yes (all)
- Modes: inception, portrait, selfie, route setting
- Functionality: Touchscreen on the gimbal controls everything (see below). App works well.
- Value: 9/10
There are a few functions (and accessories) worth mentioning. The first being the touch screen. You can control literally everything in this gimbal through the touch screen. You can also adjust settings on the fly. You’re able to switch between different modes, profiles, even motor strength while actually using the gimbal. This is a huge advantage of current and previous gimbals of all manufacturers.
The motors themselves are incredibly smooth (check the video below for smoothness and jitter). The motors also don’t “break” like most other gimbals. If you overload an axis on other gimbals, generally the motors go crazy, grind, vibrate, and make weird noises. This gimbal does not. It stays silent and gives up when it should. But takes over again when it’s able.
The ring accessory
The “ring” accessory is where it’s at. This attachment is incredible in so many ways. It’s created by attaching a few pieces (along with the handle), while the gimbal attaches in the center. It resembles a Ronin 2 when it’s complete.
This ring allows you to attach monitors, batteries, microphones, (etc) to the ring itself with the provided show mounts. Not only that, the ring has built in feet that makes it easy to put down. In my opinion, it makes the gimbal that much more fluid to use. It’s easier to use for extended periods of time as well.
Another small touch that they added is the ability to use a remote to control the gimbal. You can use actual motion to control it panning left and right (or up and down). It’s something that many people know exist but don’t seem to mention. I think it’s pretty cool.
Removable rechargeable batteries
There are only a couple negatives. I’m not a fan of removable rechargeable batteries. This is a personal opinion, but it would have been nice to have seen a large built in battery (like the Ronin-S). Price is also an issue for some. This is quite an investment. Even more so when you add the ring (which I highly recommend getting).
The overall verdict for this gimbal is a solid 9/10. You get so much with it - and it’s not that widely known. Everyone talks about DJI and Moza (which we will later) - but you don’t get half the features (or payload sometimes) of this gimbal. They’re also close to the same price.
From the payload amount, touchscreen (improved workflow), ring accessory, the shape of the standard handles (dual handles)... you really can’t get more than this. Watch the video below where they balance and use a RED with this gimbal (along with the ring).
Aside from the rechargeable batteries, you won’t go wrong or regret getting this fine piece of equipment.
Moza released their first version, the Moza Air, years ago. Since then, they’ve released the Moza Air 2 and have made improvements over the first version. It has some great things going for it, with of course, some things that could use some improvement. Here are some of the features of the Moza Air 2.
- Payload is 9 lbs (4.1kg)
- Batteries are 4 external rechargeable 18650’s
- Weight of Gimbal 3.5lbs (1.6kg)
- Modes include: inception, selfie
- Locking Axis (pan only)
- Built in autofocus wheel
- Functionality: App is good. Compatibility issues worth mentioning (see below)
- Runtime: 8 hours
- Value: 7.5/10
After reading the different aspects of the gimbal - what do you think about it? Sound good? I’ll say, personally, it’s a pretty solid gimbal.
You get a locking axis to help you balance the gimbal. This helps a lot, let me tell you. Although, it doesn’t lock on all three axis, just the panning one. You can get timelapse and other modes from within the app. It’s a nice touch that all gimbals should support.
The motors themselves are very smooth. And honestly, this is the most important part of a gimbal. Even if you have every bell and whistle, if it isn’t smooth you aren’t going to use it. You won’t notice much micro jitter at all. This is the strongest aspect of the gimbal - and it’s the one that counts the most.
There are a few aspects that need to be mentioned, that need to be worked on. The focus wheel is great and a lot of manufacturers are putting them on their DSLR gimbals. The issue is compatibility. You will need to check the compatibility list against the camera you currently own.
If you don’t own one that isn’t compatible, you won’t be able to use a lot of the features built into the gimbal for your camera. This includes changing iso, shutter speed, etc. This also includes the focus wheel. As of writing this (and they’re continuing to add) - the GH5 and a few of their lenses are compatible. The manufacturer is waiting for other camera manufacturers for firmware updates to make them compatible.
From a consumer's standpoint - this isn’t a bad gimbal by any means. It has great features, and does it’s job very well - which is stabilizing. I wish it had an internal battery, better compatibility, and all locking axis’.
If you can get past the negatives and want rock solid stability, keep the Moza Air 2 on your horizon.
You knew it. You knew I had to put the Ronin S on the list. If you’ve even briefly looked up DSLR gimbals, then you’ve heard of the Ronin S. Rightfully so, it’s an incredibly solid gimbal, and one of very few that I’ve owned and stuck with. But much like everything else on this list, there are areas that need improving as well.
Here are the capabilities of the Ronin S
- Payload: 8lbs
- Weight of the gimbal: 4.1lbs
- Battery: internal rechargeable
- Modes: setup completely in the app
- Locking Axis: None
- Runtime: 12 hours
- Motors are very smooth and practically silent
- Value: 8.5/10
There’s a reason this gimbal is talked and praised by so many. It’s that solid.
The motors themselves are strong and smooth. This allows the gimbal to get smooth shots with hardly any micro-jitters.
One thing that has been the deciding factor for some, is the app. DJI’s app is by far the best on the market. It will allow you to auto-tune the gimbal and set the strength of all the motors within just a few seconds (through the app). It does this very well and leaves no guess-work on your part. You’ll also be able to lock off axis within both the app and the front trigger button. Other nice perks are timelapse and programmable tracking. The battery also lasts a whopping 12 hours (on average).
Areas of improvement
A few things that may make you reconsider purchasing this gimbal are no locking axis and compatibility issues.
No locking axis was one of the worst things about the gimbal in my opinion. It allows you to balance the gimbal in a matter of seconds as well as being able to lock the positions in travel. Not having it makes it a bit more difficult to balance and a bit more nerve-wracking while traveling.
Much like the Moza Air 2, you may run into compatibility issues when plugging your camera into the gimbal. At the time of this article, the GH5 and a few of its lenses were compatible. I have no doubt DJI will get good traction with the camera manufacturers to make other cameras compatible.
One other thing worth mentioning is about the motors. If you balance the gimbal along with a heavier setup, you may notice heavy grinding and shaking. This comes from either balancing it wrong or throwing it past the point of “breaking” Unlike the Feiyu AK4500 (whose motors just “release the camera), this gimbal motors will try everything it can to keep your camera level. The result is grinding and shaking of the gimbal.
I’ll be honest, I loved the Ronin S while I had it. I used an 80D along with sigma lenses and it balanced and worked great. The reason I gave it up was because of compatibility (when I upgraded to Sony) and no locking of the axis. I also wanted a second bent handle for very low angle shots (the Ronin’s handle hadn’t been released yet).
Regardless, you get an amazing app, strong smooth motors, long battery life (12 hours), and DJI’s reliability… you can’t go wrong with picking up the Ronin S.
Much like Feiyu, Zhiyun isn’t as well known as DJI or Moza. But, this can be a good thing. They’re the underdog. They have something to prove. They need to put themselves on the market with something unique, something that will stand out… Well, with the Weebill, that’s exactly what they did…
Here is what the Weebill S is going to give you.
- Payload: Not officially released (although a Nikon Z6 with the 24-70 f/2.8 balanced just fine)
- Weight of gimbal (2.05lbs)(without batteries)
- Battery: 2 18650’s
- Runtime: 14 hours
- Locking Axis: Yes (all)
- Modes: POV, Votex, Go mode, PF mode
- The smoothness of the motors are on par with the Ronin S (very smooth)
- Functionality: Very robust app, wireless transmission and remote (sold seperately), tracking modes
- Value: 9.5/10
This is one of the gimbals that I currently own. I couldn’t be happier, honestly. For me, it came down to the size of the gimbal itself. With the fold out feet off of the gimbal (and screwed in a second handle) - the gimbal becomes incredibly small. This makes it great for me to throw in a bag while traveling. The locking axis is a great touch as well.
The motors themselves are incredibly quiet and smooth. They’re strong as well. With a Sony A7III and the 28-75mm Tamron lens, I wasn’t able to make the gimbal “break” through any of the three axis. This is incredible considering the size and weight of the gimbal. You can balance pretty much any DSLR on this gimbal and not have a problem (I have not witnessed or heard anyone attempting the 1DX cameras yet, though).
Wireless video transmission & remote
Another very impressive (yet an accessory), is the wireless transmitter. No this isn’t something built into the gimbal and app. This is a legit transmitter that attaches to the gimbal and transmits your video feed to you phone or tablet (like a wireless monitor). The range is very respectable and there’s hardly any lag (esp compared to “built in transmitters” like the GH5). This will allow you to transmit up to three devices at once.
You can purchase the wireless motion sensored remote. You can pan left right up and down (at varying speeds), remotely, and see it on your tablet or phone. Incredible. I have used this feature, many times, while filming running shots in the woods. I normally get a buddy to run with the gimbal and I’ll keep the subject framed nicely from a distance.
Small improvement needed
The only con I can really give is the size of the grip (and the external batteries). If you take the feet off (which is basically a grip extender), the grip now becomes pretty small. Regardless of weight, you’ll want to use two hands when using it for an extended period. So, the solution to this problem (for me) was to purchase another set of screw on feet. This allows me to use them both on the bottom of the grip and the rear of the body (as a second handle).
If you want a compact, strong, long lasting DSLR gimbal, you should look no further than the Weebill S. Oh, before I forget, the Weebill S comes in at only $430 brand new (compared to the $900 Crane 3 Lab). That’s still $100 cheaper than the Ronin S essentials kit (without all the bells and whistles)... Do yourself the favor and purchase this damn DSLR gimbal.
The Crane 3 Lab is an upgraded version of the Crane 2 which competed directly with the Ronin S. And while it does a great job at being unique, it falls short with some of their design decisions.
Here are some of the specs and functions of the DSLR gimbal
- Payload: 10lbs
- Weight of gimbal: 4.2 lbs
- Batteries: 3 18650’s
- Runtime: 7 hours
- Modes: programmable through the app
- Motors are very smooth with hardly no micro-jitter
- Locking Axis: Yes (all)
- Value: 8/10
The one thing that I’m sure stands out the most, in most eyes, is the shape of the gimbal. It’s different. You have a squatty basic with a long bent handle that jets out toward the rear. This design makes it very ideal for those who enjoy underslung (or low) shots. It’s never been easier to get low to the ground and take upward angled shots and movements. This adds a great deal of a unique look to your footage.
You’ll get about 7 hours out of the batteries and a 10lb payload (one of the highest on the market). You can also attach your camera to the gimbal through a special cable. This is where you’ll be able to control different aspects of your camera (like ISO), through the gimbal itself.
The design is its downfall
Along with the design, is the design of the handle itself. You have all of your controls (ISO, different modes, axis locking, etc) all from the handle itself. This is placed pretty conveniently for those who use the handle for its intended purpose (underslung or at extra support).
To be able to control these aspects through the gimbal, your camera needs to be compatible. This is one of the flaws, again, in my opinion. If your camera isn’t compatible, you’re losing out on those features provided within the gimbal.
The other major con is within the design itself. I understand they’re trying to innovate, and I salute them for that. But the shape makes it hard to get comfortable in the upright position. It’s great for underslung and carrying around (much better than a straight gimbal like the Ronin S).
But when you need to film with the gimbal straight up and down - you’re going to find yourself in an awkward position. The fact that the handle jets towards your body means you have to extend the gimbal further out, adding more strain to an already awkward position. And while the second handle adds a bit more of control in this position, it adds nothing in terms of support across both arms, equally (one arm is going to be supporting most of the weight).
I know I threw out a bunch of negatives there. But I really do solute them on coming up with a different design in a market that does nothing but follow. As you can see, other companies have adopted this type of design (mostly in accessories).
But if you find yourself needing underslung, along with a high payload capacity and smooth motors, you should highly consider the Crane 3 Lab!
Don’t confuse yourself with the Moza Air 2. These are two different gimbals. The main difference is the payload capacity, but we will discuss other aspects that are a bit different as well. Let’s discuss what makes this gimbal a contender.
- Payload: 7lbs
- Weight of gimbal: 2.2 lbs (with battery)
- Battery: Internal rechargeable
- Locking Axis: Yes (all)
- Runtime: 12 hours
- Modes: Inception (spin), POV, selfie, follow modes
- Motors are very smooth with little to no micro-jitters (if balanced correctly)
- Value: 9/10
Like stated previously, the major difference between the two is load capacity. You aren’t going to be able to put as large of a camera on this gimbal as you would the Air 2. It also feels a bit more “plasicy” compared to the Air 2 as well.
What you will get is an internal battery that has an average runtime of 12 hours. A very nice touch. You’ll also receive a slew of modes such as inception and POV (to name a few).
Limited by payload
The major con of this gimbal (and why I have never done an in-depth review of one) is because you can’t balance a DSLR on this with a 3rd party cage or battery grip. That’s right, the verticle l-bracket that the camera attaches to does no extend down low enough to allow for a camera that tall.
It has nothing to do with weight either. It’s shape. You can’t meet the center of gravity with the battery grip or cage on it. The result is a camera that sits too high, pulling the camera backwards. You just can’t do it.
Needless to say, this is a DSLR gimbal made for smaller cameras - or at least ones without a battery grip. 7 lbs is a decent payload (5D markIV and 24-70mm f/2.8 only weighs ~4 lbs). You can stick a pretty hefty camera on here. And the motors do a great job of keeping the camera steady without micro-jitters…
But it’s the fact that you can’t have a battery grip (which I always use) on the camera that steered me away. Solid DSLR gimbal, otherwise.
If you find yourself needing a lighter gimbal made for lighter setups - give the Moza Aircross 2 a shot. It’s a solid freakin gimbal.
The overall winner…
...In our opinion, goes to…
I don't think we can praise this gimbal anymore than we already do. From the size, portability, locking axis, video transmission, and even the app… there really isn’t anything we will need for years to come when it comes to a gimbal.
For our workflow (action/real estate/event shots), there isn’t anything else we could ask for.
This could be the best gimbal for you as well. You just have to weigh your options and decide which features and size would best work in your situation.
That’s all for now!
I will continue to update this article as new gimbals are released. I will also update as firmware becomes available and new cameras are compatible with these DSLR gimbals.
I hope you got some knowledge out of this article. You should have a better understanding of what kind of gimbal would work best for you (payload and features). You should also have a better understanding of what to steer clear of depending on your workflow.
If you would like to see some of my work, feel free to visit my website JnRPhotoVideo - where I have examples of both photography and video!
As always, I really do thank you all for reading my articles. It means the world to me that I’m able to help those who are willing to learn.
Keep shooting and creating!