Smartphone cameras have improved by leaps and bounds over the years. Many phones now utilize electronic or optical image stabilization to help reduce the shakiness produced by your hands for still images and videos. However, if you're after super smooth, cinematic footage, you may want to start looking at smartphone gimbals.
Gimbals are fantastic for eliminating blurry footage and producing something that looks far more professional. If you're trying to travel light, but still want excellent quality video, these compact smartphone gimbals are the videography accessory you've been looking for.
Tip: make sure you protect your eyes if you use your smartphone quite often.
1. Best Overall: DJI Osmo Mobile SE
Over the past few years, DJI has become virtually synonymous with quality videography products, and the Osmo Mobile SE continues this trend. It is a smaller version of the company's well-received Osmo Mobile 6, only with a longer battery life and cheaper price tag.
Measuring 6.57 x 4.28 x 1.83 inches, this portable smartphone gimbal utilizes brushless motors. The silky smooth rotation and higher torque-to-weight ratio enable the gimbal to maintain stabilization with even the largest and heaviest phones.
The Osmo Mobile SE also features DJI's proprietary tracking algorithm, ActiveTrack 6.0. This technology is designed to track a subject and keep it in the frame. This newest rendition of the technology improved the ability to track distant and highly mobile objects, like children and pets.
- 8-hour battery life
- 3-axis stabilization
- Compatible with DJI Osmo Mobile 6 accessories
- Caters to iPhone users
- No built-in extension rod
2. Best Fill Light: Zhiyun Smooth Q4
If you're a vlogger or shoot many self-facing videos, you know the importance of good lighting. While there are a few gimbals that have optional fill light attachments, the Zhiyun Smooth Q4 includes a small fill light that cranks out over 140 lux of light. This can be a game-changer if you're filming in areas with low light or capturing self-facing footage.
The fill light's brightness can be toggled from a multipurpose button on the gimbal's handle, making it easy to switch lighting profiles on the fly with only one hand. As a result, the Zhiyun Smooth Q4 can quickly adapt to various environments, ensuring the best video quality.
In terms of performance, the Zhiyun Smooth Q4 is comparable to other leaders in the gimbal space, such as DJI. The proprietary ZY CaMi app allows for one-handed operation of essential functions, such as zooming in and out. In addition, the app boasts several more advanced features, such as target tracking and gesture controls.
- Built-in fill light
- Built-in telescopic rod
- Tripod included
- Good AI subject tracking
- 10-hour battery life
- Larger phones may get in the way of the motors
- Time-lapse footage has noticeable artifacts
Good to know: charge your gimbal and smartphone at the same time with some of these top chargers for multiple devices.
3. Most Compact: PowerVision S1
PowerVision claims that its S1 3-axis gimbal is the world's smallest. Savvy consumers may peg this statement as marketing hyperbole; however, breaking out the tape measure proves this lofty claim to be valid. When folded, the PowerVision S1 measures a mere 5.5 x 2.3 x 1.1 inches, making it small enough to slip into a pocket.
The S1 achieves this diminutive size by folding all of the moving parts in so that they hug the rectangular handle. In doing so, there may be concerns with wear and tear on those parts, as the gimbal is made mostly from plastic.
Unfortunately, the design comes with some downsides. The clamp that holds your phone is an entirely separate piece. It attaches to the S1 via a powerful, convenient magnet. However, if you absentmindedly forget to pack the clamp, the S1 becomes a paperweight.
- Folds up to fit in your pocket
- Doubles as a power bank for your phone with wireless charging
- Built-in tripod
- AI subject tracking
- Hands-free gesture control
- The magnetic clamp that holds the phone is a separate piece
- Compact size may not work with larger phones
4. Best 3-Axis Gimbal: Hohem iSteady XE
If you are packing your smartphone gimbal for a trip, the weight matters just as much as the physical size. Thankfully, the Hohem iSteady XE is one of the lightest 3-axis gimbals available today, weighing in at a little over 0.5 pounds. Furthermore, the iSteady XE folds to 7 x 3.1 x 1.54 inches. The overall weight, combined with the small form factor, makes the iSteady XE very travel-friendly.
The Hohem iSteady XE doesn't have the most robust companion app. However, it provides the basic functionality you'd expect from a gimbal, along with an intelligent subject-tracking mode that utilizes facial recognition to keep subjects in the frame.
Finally, the Hohem iSteady XE 3-axis gimbal boasts eight hours of battery life on a single charge. This should be enough to last without worrying about a top-up in even the most demanding shooting scenarios, such as engaging in the auto-tracking mode.
- Lightweight, compact design
- Automatic phone calibration
- 8-hour battery life
- Magnetic accessories are available
- Can double as wireless charging bank
- Supports hands-free gestures
- Subject tracking uses facial recognition technology, which could make it difficult to focus on non-human subjects
- No smartphone app
- More than two hours to recharge the battery to 100%
Also helpful: you can turn your smartphone into a security camera if you know the right steps.
5. Best 2-Axis Gimbal: Zhiyun Smooth X2
At first glance, 2-axis gimbals may seem inferior to 3-axis gimbals. Depending on the footage you want to capture, though, a 2-axis gimbal may be exactly what you're looking for. If that's the case, you'll definitely want to consider the Zhiyun Smooth X2.
A 2-axis gimbal stabilizes the smartphone along two axes: pitch (aka tilt) and roll. In layman's terms, this refers to up and down movement and bobbing left and right, respectively. A 3-axis gimbal stabilizes along those axes and yaw (horizontal panning). If you don't need sweeping panning shots, a 2-axis gimbal is worth consideration.
The main advantage that a 2-axis gimbal has over a 3-axis gimbal is its physical size. The Zhiyun Smooth X2 folds down to a minuscule 2.79 x 2.2 x 6.29 inches. Furthermore, the Smooth X2 only weighs 0.6 pounds, making it incredibly portable.
- App is feature-rich, including face tracking and gesture controls
- Built-in 10-inch extension rod
- Tripod included
- May experience difficulty stabilizing heavier phones
- Magnetic fill light not included (must purchase separately)
6. Best Battery Life: MOZA Mini MX
There's nothing worse than being out on a shoot, your phone attached to your gimbal, only to have it slump over due to a dead battery. Fortunately, with the MOZA Mini MX, you only have to worry about getting the shot, thanks to a reported 20-hour battery.
The MOZA Mini MX is a 3-axis gimbal, but you may not realize it at first glance. Measuring only 6.69 x 2.95 x 1.96 inches when folded and weighing a little less than a pound, it's pretty compact. Granted, it is not the smallest 3-axis gimbal on the market, but it's certainly very portable.
Furthermore, the MOZA Genie companion app boasts a number of features, including a time-lapse mode and built-in editing tools. But you can always opt to use your phone's native camera app if you prefer.
- Supports gesture controls
- "Smart" trigger button allows users to quickly switch between different shooting modes
- Tripod attachment included
- Larger phones may capture the motors in the periphery
- No extension rod for self-facing videos or high angle shots
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to use a gimbal with the smartphone's default camera app?
All of the gimbals listed above have a companion app. Some of the gimbals on the market can be used independently of the app. Most are designed to be used with an app, due to the advanced features and single-hand functionality, but there are also several gimbals that can be used with your phone's stock camera app. You'll have to control them, though, by interfacing with your phone's touchscreen.
Are all gimbals compatible with all phones?
Generally, yes. Virtually every gimbal is compatible with iPhone and Android devices, and their respective companion apps are available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. That said, if you have a larger phone, you will want to make sure that your chosen gimbal can handle the weight (also known as payload). Typically, smaller, more portable gimbals (like the ones listed above) have lower payload compatibilities.
Image credit: Pexels
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