Zhiyun Smooth X Smartphone Gimbal: Buttah Smooth
One of the really cool things about the LG wing is that it has a sort of built-in gimbal in the camera when it locks its S-foils into attack position. Gimbals in phones are slowly becoming a thing, but the vast majority of phones do not have gimbals built into them. Instead, you can use a smartphone gimbal, and this mini-review comes to you from one such gimbal maker. The company is Zhiyun. I’ve used a few of their gimbals in the past for my DSLR camera and now for my smartphone.
Cameras on phones are amazing these days, and that’s very much the case for cameras like the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the iPhone 12 Pro, but those phones can have bouncy footage, like any other phone. Electronic stabilization like what you’d get from Vidhance can only do so much, and honestly, how many other show references can I put into this one review? A gimbal allows you to shoot steady smooth footage regardless of your situation.
If you want to get a great pan shot, or even a time-lapse pan shot, or if you want to just shoot a walk on the beach, or even in a rough terrain environment like rock climbing, the Zhiyun Smooth X Gimbal is a good choice to carry with you. You get a carrying case with a pouch for the charging connection cable. You get the gimbal itself. Plus, the case has room in it for a mini tripod as well. It’s all very compact and easily portable.
The gimbal itself is made of plastic, but i wouldn’t say it feels cheap in any way. There are two buttons and a joystick on the handle which we will get to. Plus, the gimbal extends out about 26 centimeters (or just under a foot) and turns the gimbal into basically a selfie stick. Of course, you can use the gimbal to lift your camera up and get a higher shot you might be looking for, or you can use it as a selfie stick. I went with the former far more often.
As I mentioned the gimbal can come with a mini tripod which gives you an extra 6 inches or so to grip the gimbal. Plus, and I didn’t mention this before, the gimbal handle has a standard ⅜” tripod mount on the bottom, so you can even set the gimbal on a full sized tripod for extra smooth shots, or pans, whatever you need. I particularly like the mini tripod because I can set it on a table, and use the joystick to get some good pan shots.
Before we get too much further, I should point out that this is a 2-axis gimbal only. There’s roll and pan motors, but no tilt. You can only stabilize left and right and side to side. Gimbals like the DJI osmo mobile can move on all three axes, this one only moves on two. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you’ve had 3 axis gimbals in the past.
The gimbal connects to your phone via Bluetooth and an app that’s available for iOS and
Android. I did most of my testing on Android, but iOS works quite well. I’ve read that the Zy Cami app isn’t available on all Android devices, but i have yet to come across one that didn’t work. On previous gimbals that I’ve used, I’ve run into connectivity problems when using the gimbal in a crowded place, but we’re not allowed to go to crowded places now, so i can’t speak to whether or not that’s the case here or not.
The app has a camera function built in that allows you to activate other modes like follow mode. You can draw a box around an object on the screen, and the gimbal locks to that object. Then regardless of where you move the gimbal, that object stays in the frame. It can also do the same thing for faces, which again kinda drives home the selfie stick portion of this device.
The buttons on the handle are well placed and easy to use. The mode button allows you to switch between roll pan follow, roll follow, and lock. Honestly, I’m not a cinematographer so the difference those modes make are completely lost on me. But I have been assured that they’re really, really cool.
The record button is handy as well. You can start a video recording or take a photo. Plus multiple presses allow you to cycle through video and photo mode and switch between front facing and rear facing cameras which is pretty cool. You can also use the side button for zooming in and out, so all of the controls you need are right there.
The app enables you to do other stuff like edit videos and post to social media. I didn’t dig into those features too much. I have a workflow in that regard that I’m pretty happy with but if that floats your boat, go for it!
There are some downsides here though. First and foremost is the fact that this is only a 2-axis gimbal. Not that tilt is all that valuable, but in some situations it can be. The gimbal does tilt with the selfie stick extended, manually, which helps, but it’d be nice to see that part motorized as well.
Shooting in the iOS app is limited to 1080p, for some damn reason. 4k shows up in the options but i just can’t select it. I admit, that could be a me being stupid thing. What’s nice is, the gimbal doesn’t actually require you to use the Zy Cami app. You can use the stock camera app on the phone, and shoot in whatever mode you want. The record button still works to take photos and start video recording, and you can still use the joy stick to pan. Other functionality, like switching between cameras are not there.
Battery life on the gimbal is pretty awesome. You will get about three and a half to four hours of shooting on a single charge which will get you through a pretty busy day, but obviously not a full either hours.
Overall, this is a nicely compact gimbal with a tripod in a small case that weighs under 246 grams so there’s not much added weight or bulk to the experience. This device lies somewhere in between a full gimbal and a glorified selfie stick. It’s a powerful tool for a creator on a budget. The gimbal by itself goes for under $60 on Amazon and the case and tripod add another $10. The pricing is the same over at the Zhiyun store directly. If you’re interested in creating, or just want to shoot some really steady family vacations, go pick one up today.