Buying a new gimbal is exciting, whether it’s your first one or you’re a bonafide collector. But, like most camera tech, there are a ton of factors to consider when choosing a new gimbal.
While researching and fantasizing about the many possibilities is all part of the fun, it can also get overwhelming when it comes down to actually making a decision — there are just so many gimbals out there!
Well, in this article, we’ll help you out on your gimbal-buying journey. Check out these 11 tips to help you choose the right gimbal!
1. Consider Your Gimbal Needs
It can be tempting to jump right into the gimbal research process. After all, there are so many gimbal options to choose from, each with its own set of features.
However, stopping to consider your needs will help you get the best gimbal for you at the best price.
Here’s what I mean…
Gimbals can be broken down into three categories: Consumer, Prosumer, and Professional.
By picking the right category, you can avoid picking a gimbal that is below or above your particular needs.
Consumer gimbals are typically gimbals designed to be used with smartphones and action cameras or may include a built-in camera.
While it is totally possible to buy a high-quality smartphone or action camera gimbal, they are considered consumer-level as these devices aren’t usually used in professional productions.
The good news is if you plan to use a smartphone or action camera gimbal, you’ll be able to save some money.
These gimbals are typically cheaper than other gimbals.
The DJI OM 5 is one of the most popular consumer-level gimbals available.
Prosumer gimbals are a step up from their consumer counterparts.
These gimbals are typically designed to hold DSLR cameras.
They allow hobbyists and aspiring pros to step up their production level at a reasonable cost.
These gimbals usually operate in a similar way to professional models, just with cheaper parts, lighter payloads, and smaller sizes.
The Zhiyun Weebil S kicks things up a notch from the average consumer-level gimbal.
Professional gimbals are designed to be used in a professional capacity.
These gimbals usually have much higher payloads and support heavy, high-end video cameras.
These gimbals are also typically bigger and sturdier — again to compensate for heavier payloads.
Because of these features, professional gimbals can have hefty price tags.
The DJI RS 2 Pro takes things to another level with a super-high payload and carbon fibre design.
2. Decide On Smartphone Or Camera
As previously mentioned, gimbals typically support one of two options: smartphones or cameras.
Decide which you plan to shoot with before doing any more gimbal research.
For many, shooting video with a smartphone will be good enough.
While smartphones have had historically poor reputations when it comes to video quality, that is all changing.
Modern smartphones like the iPhone 13 Pro feature multiple lenses and support high-quality 4K video.
Those with DSLR or video cameras may choose to purchase a heavier-duty gimbal that supports these methods of filming.
Just make sure to account for payload capacity, which we will touch on later.
3. Check For Compatibility
Whether you plan to shoot with a smartphone, action camera, DSLR, or video camera, it is very important to make sure that the gimbal you buy is compatible.
Compatibility means a lot of things.
A gimbal’s payload refers to the maximum amount of weight that can be added to a gimbal without causing malfunction or damage to the gimbal (or camera).
The payload may also be referred to as “maximum weight capacity” or “weight limit.”
The average weight limit of a smartphone gimbal is 278 grams and the average weight limit of a camera gimbal is 4 kilograms.
That said, gimbal payloads and camera weights vary wildly, so make sure to conduct the appropriate research before attaching a camera or smartphone to your gimbal.
Camera Or Smartphone Model
Most gimbals are designed to use with most devices.
As long as you aren’t trying to attach a DSLR camera to a smartphone gimbal, you should be fine.
However, when it comes to the software side of things, compatibility issues are much more common.
For example, while physically compatible, the Zhiyun Weebill S will be missing some features when paired with some Sony cameras.
Furthermore, some smartphones won’t be compatible with all gimbal apps. We will touch on this later.
4. Don’t Ignore Battery Life
Thinking about the battery life of a gimbal isn’t particularly exciting, but it is important.
There is nothing worse than running out of power on a shoot — especially considering how long it can take to fully charge gimbal batteries (6 plus hours in some cases!).
Gimbal battery life can vary wildly! Don’t believe me?
The Zhiyun Smooth Q2 lasts up to 17 hours!
The Zhiyun Smooth X on the other hand only lasts 4 hours…
If you purchase a gimbal with removable batteries, then the good news is that you can always buy backups.
5. Choose How Many Axis You Need
Most gimbals come in in two varieties: two-axis or three-axis.
Each option will significantly affect your shooting options.
Two-axis gimbals use two axes to stabilize a camera or smartphone. These two axes are the tilt and roll.
What you miss with two-axis gimbals is the pan function. This means there is no left or right movement.
Two axes are more common in consumer-level, smartphone gimbals.
Three-axis gimbals include tilt and roll functions as well as a pan function.
Thanks to the three access, there are few limitations when operating a three-axis gimbal.
Because of the extra axis, these gimbals are typically more expensive than their two-axis counterparts.
6. Research Special Features And Modes
Some gimbals include special features and modes that are unique to their model or brand.
You may find that some of these features and modes are well suited to your filming style and needs.
Here are a few examples…
The Zhiyun Weebil S includes a “Selfie Mode.” By triple tapping, the gimbal’s trigger button, the gimbal’s entire upper section will flip around to face the operator. This could be handy for vloggers.
Gimbals like the MOZA Mini-MI allow you to capture moving timelapse shots on your smartphone.
7. Check Out The Gimbal’s App
Most gimbals these days are accompanied by smartphone apps.
Apps for gimbals often include a wide range of features, so it may be worth checking out the app prior to purchasing a gimbal.
The most useful is the ability to remotely control and program your gimbal’s movements.
This ability allows gimbal users to achieve perfectly smooth pans and tilts — something that can be very difficult to execute by hand.
Another handy feature of gimbal apps is how they allow for more customized gimbal settings.
Some gimbal apps allow you to fine-tune your gimbal motors for smoother footage or to better compensate for camera weight.
Smartphone gimbals and gimbals with built-in cameras become especially useful when paired with an app.
For example, the ZY Play app by Zhiyun allows users to connect their smartphones to access features like in-app 4K video, panorama photos, long exposure photos, timelapse photos, and more.
While camera users can improve their footage with the use of gimbal apps, smartphone users can enjoy a seamless shooting experience by syncing their gimbal with their in-phone apps.
Read More: Check out our full article on gimbal apps!
8. Look For Quality
One of the most important factors when choosing a gimbal to invest in is build quality.
While two gimbals may operate in a similar manner and achieve the same results, one may be built with subpar materials.
While some gimbals are made with plastic, others are built with metal and carbon fibre.
Build quality is often reflected in a gimbal’s price — meaning you really get what you pay for.
Unfortunately, because of expensive components like motors that gimbals rely on to function, the “less important” outer sections are sometimes made from cheaper materials.
It really is important to invest in something of decent quality. Gimbals aren’t cheap and solidly built one is likely to last a lot longer than a cheaper alternative.
9. Consider Buying Used
A good quality gimbal is expensive.
You can easily drop anywhere from $200 to $1200 buying a quality product.
However, it is possible to find good gimbals at reasonable prices using online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
Of course, buying a used gimbal is risky because they have many fragile parts and are often used heavily by its previous owner.
However, with these risks acknowledged, it is still possible to safely buy a used gimbal if the proper steps and precautions are taken by the buyer.
10. Test The Gimbal
Whether you plan to buy a new or used gimbal, it is important to test for purchase.
For new gimbals, this can simply give you an idea of whether you like the feel of the product or not. It may not always be possible to test a new gimbal before purchase, but if a store has floor models on display, be sure to give them a spin!
Testing a used gimbal is crucial.
If you are purchasing a gimbal for the first time or are unfamiliar with using a gimbal, consider bringing along a friend who understands how to operate a gimbal. This way, they can help you test the gimbal and may spot issues with the product you would otherwise overlook.
When viewing a used gimbal, be sure to test it with your own camera equipment, including the longest lens you expect to use with the gimbal. This is important as different gimbals feel and operate differently depending on the camera and lens being used.
Just because a camera and lens are under the gimbal’s weight and size capacity, doesn’t mean the setup is a good match for the gimbal.
GImbals have a lot of small, moving parts — meaning there is a lot that can break or malfunction on a gimbal. When testing a gimbal, be sure to look closely at the following:
- Motors: Make sure the motors are operating smoothly. Motors should operate quietly, without any grinding sounds.
- Locking mechanism: Make sure any locking mechanisms on the gimbal are sturdy. Is the gimbal rigid when locked? Or does it still rattle?
- Joystick and buttons: Some gimbal models use cheap plastic for their joystick and buttons. Make sure the joystick works smoothly and the buttons are easily pressable.
- Body: Due to the nature of gimbals, it’s not uncommon for them to be scratched. However, large scratches or dents could be a sign of heavy usage or a dropped gimbal.
11. Find A Gimbal That Inspires You
While everything discussed in this article is important, the most important factor in buying a gimbal is making sure you find one that excites you.
There is nothing worse than dropping hundreds of dollars on a piece of tech, only to let it collect dust on a shelf.
Picking a gimbal that ticks all the boxes is important, but find one that makes you excited to get out there and actually use it!