If you’re new to photography or cinematography, then you’ve probably just learned that a gimbal is essential if you want to get the smoothest footage or the clearest actions shots, but how do you choose the right model? The best DSLR gimbal can totally change the way you shoot. Whether you’re an action photographer or filmmaker, the right gimbal can take your photography or filmmaking to the next level.
There are many factors to take into consideration when you’re shopping for a new gimbal. This can include weight, max payload capacity, shooting style versatility, ease of use, and much more.
Gimbals have quickly become one of the hottest new tools in action photography, ever since they were introduced way back in 2013. These devices allow you to capture mesmerizing smooth shots.
How a Gimbal Can Change It All
A gimbal can’t do everything, and they definitely have limitations. Dollies, jibs, and sliders are still the go-to tools used in the field of cinematic photography, so the gimbal isn’t designed as a type of replacement tool. Instead, they’re perfect for free motion. A Steadicam allowed the camera user to move around freely before this type of device came along. However, thanks to their lightweight design, the gimbal allows the photographer and filmmaker to take their cameras with them anywhere they want to go.
Many Steadicams feature a wide variety of motions, but setting up shots can be very time-consuming, especially if each of the shots requires a different camera movement tool. The gimbal will allow the user to get a comparable shot in a fraction of the time, making them the perfect alternative if you’re short on time and space.
The three-axis gimbal will give the user control over roll, tilt, and pan, however, they’re not able to control vertical movement. This means that any type of vertical movement you do can affect the image. Often beginners forget this, and it results in a swimming motion or bobbing movement.
Later on, we’ll go in depth regarding the importance of properly balancing your gimbal in order to avoid issues such as these. Aside from bobbing and swimming issues, it can also cause the gimbal’s motor to work overtime, causing it to drain the batteries. There are many dos and don’t you’ll need to get the hang of when you buy your first gimbal.
Leading Gimbals on the Market
But aside from learning newborn photography tips, how to balance a gimbal, and how a gimbal works, you’ll also need to know what features to look for and how to tell a good gimbal from a bad one.
We reviewed several of the leading models of gimbals on the market, narrowing down our choices to the top five. Each model has something special to offer ranging from ease of use, a lightweight design, to pro-quality models that come complete with a five-axis design. We’ve got it all.
But before we delve into the must-have features to look for, we’re going to give you a little recap of each of our leading models, starting off with the model that stole the show, the Varavon Birdycam 2 gimbal.
Last update on 2019-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best DSLR Gimbal-Varavon Birdycam 2 Gimbal Steady Cam
This top-selling model by Varavon, the Birdycam 2 features the classic three-axis design and offers a solid performance that allows photographers and filmmakers to take advantage of what this gimbal has to offer and really challenge their work.
While many models can be a hassle to balance, this model can be balanced within minutes.
However, aside from the fact that balancing the gimbal is a breeze, it can be challenging to use for beginners.
Top Choice for Beginners-Zhiyun Crane 2 Gimbal Stabilizer for DSLR Camera
The Crane 2 features an impressive payload, a beginner friendly, durable design, and is considered one of the most versatile models on the market.
The gimbal itself weighs in at eight pounds, which is pretty decent considering the higher than average payload.
Balancing this model is simple, thanks to the included fold-up stand. Additionally, you can easily adjust your camera without having to shut the gimbal off and it won’t affect the balance in any way.
Beginner-Friendly-DJI Ronin-M 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer
The Ronin M by DJI is budget-friendly, equipped with some great features, and offers a durable design that makes it perfect for outdoor action shots. It also has a high payload for a camera in this price range. Because it’s so simple to use, it’s the perfect choice for beginners. It also offers a low-profile design that makes the Ronin M easy to use, assemble, and operate.
Best 5-Axis Gimbal-Nicama NC-ST Dual Handheld Stabilizer 5-Axis Brushless Gimbal
This dual handheld gimbal features a five-axis design and comes equipped with the popular slip-ring technology that is what gives the gimbal the ability to move a full three hundred and sixty degrees.
The gimbal’s lightweight design makes this model perfect for a wide range of applications indoors and outdoors.
In fact, the gimbal’s versatility and ease of use is what makes it a big seller.
Budget-Buy-Beholder DS1 Handheld Three-Axis Stabilizer
Beholder has a reputation for producing some of the most durable, powerful gimbals on the market. The DS1 features a rugged design that allows the photographer or filmmaker to haul heavier cameras. It also comes equipped with some great features that make this model perfect for time-lapse photography and a wide range of applications.
Additionally, the built-in quick release plate allows the user to easily and efficiently swap out cameras or make adjustments.
This model is designed with convenience in mind and is a great choice for both newbies and seasoned photographers
Gimbal Buying Guide
The best DSLR gimbal will depend on the type of video you’re filming, your shooting style, and the type of conditions you’ll be using the gimbal in.
The right gimbal will also heavily depend on the camera you’re using. You should buy a gimbal that’s able to support your camera, and some can require the use of a two-handed gimbal. On film sets, the Steadicam used to be the standard, but these days, many photographers will choose a three-axis gimbal.
If you’re not even really sure what a gimbal is and you don’t know your pan from your pitch, or why you’d even need a gimbal, our buyer’s guide will go in-depth and explain how these devices work and why you need one.
What Are Gimbals?
The main function of a gimbal is to isolate movement of the person holding the camera. This will eliminate any shaking. Different styles of gimbals can achieve this in a variety of ways. Some models are motorized, while others are not. There are many differences between gimbal styles, cost is one of them. However, the amount of control they provide is also different.
When you use a manual model, they do offer an advantage over motorized gimbals, which is a wider level of control. Manual gimbals allow you to adjust the angle of the camera, deviating from a set angle without the risk of losing a shot. Motorized models aren’t able to deviate in this area.
When you use a motorized model, all you have to do is set it where you want it, then begin shooting. This is a perfect choice if you want to get some fast-moving shots. With motorized models, you’ll be able set it in the position you want and take your shots.
Both manual and motorized have their own advantages and disadvantages. Before you choose, consider what type of shots you’re trying to get before you buy.
Gimbals can be a great choice if you’re trying to film sports because they feature plenty of fast moving action. Keeping a camera still during fast action will ensure that you get great shots at any angle. Without a gimbal, holding a camera completely still during a sporting event in order to capture those types of action movements would be nearly impossible. Basically, a gimbal will allow you to get a steady, clear shot that you’ll be proud of.
How DSLR Gimbals are Different
There are many different types of gimbals on the market, with each style and type based on the type of cameras they’re designed for.
Gimbals designed for DSLR use often weigh about five pounds and are usually categorized for pro use. These gimbals are able to support a higher weight and often come in a two-handed design for improved ease of use and stability. Some can even be used with a type of chest attachment for added support during a longer shooting session.
These top of the line gimbals are perfect for amateur or pro quality action photography. So, if you’re interested in trying your hand at action shooting with your DSLR, then this type of gimbal is essential for top-notch image quality.
Obviously, lower priced models won’t come with any bells and whistles, but many of the leading models will offer increased adjustability and one or two cool features, such as a remote.
A remote control can significantly improve your control when you’re at a longer distance from the target shot. You might be standing fifty feet away and you’ll still be able to easily control the shots using a gimbal.
A remote can either be attached via a wire to the gimbal or wireless.
An extension pole is another accessory that you’ll probably need. These poles can easily be attached to your gimbal. So, if you have a group picture but you need more distance, just attach the gimbal to the pole for the perfect shot.
Some models of gimbals are only compatible with specific types of cameras. Make sure you determine if a specific gimbal you’re interested in will work with your camera. This can often be a major slip up for beginners.
As manufacturers continue to produce cameras that are lighter and smaller, the need for gimbals continues to grow. Most lenses on cameras come equipped with some type of image stabilization feature. While that may be enough for some shots, for handheld shots you’ll need more support. With so many models of gimbals to choose from, finding the right gimbal can be confusing.
When gimbals came out a few years ago, the biggest issue people had was balancing the camera on a three-axis model. Each time the user shifted the LCD screen or slightly zoomed in they had to stop and rebalance.
Additionally, at that time you would also have to carry around an expensive gimbal stand in order to balance. Basically, older gimbals are unwieldy.
These days, gimbals are much stronger and can easily handle cameras that are slightly off balance. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to forgo balancing altogether, and every model is different.
Additionally, depending on the type of camera you’re using, you may need to add some counterweights in order to counterbalance the left or right weight of the camera, or if you need to shift the camera from right or left. You’ll know if the roll axis is balanced correctly when you’re able to tilt the camera on both sides and it remains in place.
You’ll still need to balance the yaw or pan. This will be different on most gimbals, but basically, this part will adjust the overall balance of the cameras within the frame of the handle you’re using. During the balance stage, you’ll want to be careful picking up the camera and gimbal.
If you want to use a compact DSLR gimbal, you can find a model that can be placed on any type of flat surface for balance. This is one of the main reasons people buy gimbals.
Gimbal and Camera Weight
Some models can be very top heavy by the time you add your camera. But if the gimbal has a flat base it can be difficult to set them down on a flat surface, without them falling over. So many models come equipped with a mount on the bottom or a tripod. So, you’ll be able to place a gimbal on a tripod and lock the fluid head for perfect balance.
The weight of a camera is an important spec that can also determine whether or not a gimbal will be compatible with your camera. Every gimbal features a minimum and max payload. Don’t go over these limits, or you’ll risk damaging your camera and the gimbal.
If your camera has a detachable lens, remember to weigh the camera with the lens on.
Two or Three Axis?
This spec will refer to how many directions the gimbal is able to move in. These days, most models are three axis, which means they can rotate in all directions, allowing you to manually control it in any direction. A three-axis model can stabilize your footage better.
Low priced gimbals are usually made out of a cheap ABS plastic. This option is fine if you’re careful with the gimbal, but if you do a lot of traveling it can easily become damaged since it’s not designed to withstand heavy use.
Many models of gimbals these days are made out of a type of aircraft-grade aluminum or plastic that’s nylon reinforced, both of which are stronger than gimbals made out of ABS plastic, and they’re designed for heavy-duty use.
Battery life is an important spec for those who often have long days of shooting ahead of them. Many modern models of gimbals have impressive battery life that ranges from eight to twenty hours. If you purchase a model with removable batteries, you can also bring along a spare and swap it out once the battery life starts running low.
If your gimbal is not balanced correctly, then it will often drain the battery at a faster rate compared to a gimbal that’s balanced. But why?
This is because the motors in the gimbal will have to work much harder when a gimbal isn’t balanced.
Higher priced gimbals designed for action cameras will feature a waterproof design, but bigger gimbals usually aren’t water resistant or waterproof. If you’re considering shooting anywhere near water or if you live in an area that experiences heavy rainfall throughout the year, this is something you’ll want to take into consideration before you buy.
A top gimbal will feature a variety of stabilization modes which will help the camera to attain the perfect steady position when you’re shooting. These different modes will stabilize a camera while you’re in motion.
Most models will provide wide angle rotation. Three-axis models allow users to easily rotate their cameras up to three hundred and sixty degrees for stunning shots.