The level of video recording quality of the best camera means that more and more users, both personal and professional, use this device as the main element of video recording. If you are thinking about using your camera to record video more seriously, you may want to buy a video gimbal or stabilizer. We tell you how these accessories work and what you should look at before buying one.
What is and how a mobile video gimbal works?
Although our smartphone, DSLR camera, compact camera or travel camera has optical stabilization (OIS), getting a fluid image without sudden movements in certain scenes or for more serious tasks is not possible. Also, this system does not allow you to always aim at a fixed point. To reduce this limitation when it comes to recording video, there are gimbals, which are increasingly popular with users that are suitable for your device.
A video stabilizer or gimbals is an electro-mechanical system whose main objective is to counteract the vibrations and the unwanted movement that occurs in the camera when moving with the camera while recording and also to soften the general movement of the camera.
Depending on what we pay for it, a gimbal will only keep the fixed plane even if we move or allow a motorized movement while physically doing another, with spectacular and very professional results
The simplest and most economical ones work exclusively mechanically using sensors like the gyroscope and sudden absorbing movements. They are not the ones we are looking for.
Our goal is to achieve much more at a creative level and with a cinematographic touch. The most complete are those that incorporate electronic part, usually based on three stabilization axes, each controlled by a motor.
The different sensors of the system (IMU, accelerometers, gyroscopes …) generate a signal with the slightest movement of each of these axes. The information is analyzed by the stabilizer processor, which sends the corresponding order to the corresponding motors and are necessary to keep the system stabilized or reduce vibrations and unwanted movements. Even with unfavorable outdoor conditions.
The gimbal that has electronics and motors admit more uses that are not limited to keeping the smartphone recording in a fixed position even if we move. In a programmed or manual way, with the physical controls, we can perform independent or complementary rotation movements to those that we are physically doing, and that gives us amazing creative possibilities.
What to look for when buying a gimbal for a camera (smartphone, DSLR camera, compact camera or travel camera)
Under a fairly similar appearance, there are some sections that we must keep in mind and evaluate before launching to choose a gimbal for our camera.
Size and weight of the camera
There are some things you are required to start filming using a gimbal. First is to choose a gimbal, based on the camera you have. Gimbals come in various sizes, and each has a size and weight limit for the camera it supports.
Although most gimbals adapt easily to different camera sizes, it is advisable to ensure the diagonal or maximum dimensions, especially when using smartphones in those cases where we have a phablet type telephone. And we cannot forget that the stabilization systems are designed to use a certain maximum weight.
Some gimbals are made for pocket cameras, some are made for lighter mirrorless cameras, and some are made to support DSLR cameras or film cameras with large lenses. There are also extremely small gimbals that have cameras on the equipment itself and are used for shooting that require very compact equipment.
Since it is a considerable investment, it would be best to opt for a model that we can use both with a smartphone and with our action camera or even compact.
In the technical section and figures, we must observe the limit angles of each type of stabilized movement: panoramic, inclination and roll. These angles can refer to the controllable margin robotically or simply to the mechanical and movement section that can stabilize. They can come with the indication of the total angles or its working margin, and how much higher they are.
It is also important to know the maximum movement speed (at an angle per second) that our gimbal supports.
Number of stabilization axes and engine types
In the range of consumption, we should not demand less than 3-axis stabilization systems. As for the motors, the best thing is that they are brushless and that the processor does not go lower than 32 bit.
Having the controls integrated into the stabilizer will allow, once the camera is connected, the shot or even the zoom if it has it, can be controlled without touching the camera. Also there we will have the joystick that will allow robotic movements in the best models, while still stabilizing what we do.
If the manufacturer also has an application, this can be used to configure the options of the gimbal more intuitively as well as add extra functions such as tracking of faces or objects. And even add manual controls to the video and photo functions accessible from the gimbal itself.
There are models whose main joystick can be configured and even some with a remote control to perform movements once placed on a tripod.
That it can be disassembled and transported comfortably and compactly is another point to consider. Also the construction material, which has a transport cover, the coating material of the handle and of course the weight. If you have a standard tripod connection, much better because it extends your possibilities. And if they are more than one, perfect to add different accessories and elements.
An important step in the use of the gimbal is the calibration after changing the device. Most gimbals are ready to be used immediately after placing your camera in it, with auto-calibration, or with the help of software.
Weight of camera
More importantly, you want to choose a gimbal – which has dimensional and weight capability – that supports your camera and lens. If you have multiple lenses, start with the most open, weigh it with everything you need to use next to it (like a microphone, for example) and then find a gimbal that works for your situation.
Stabilization does not mean that we always want to keep the camera fixed. Maintaining natural movements and without vibrations, the methods of work allow us to have more creativity.
The usual thing is that the gimbal has at least vertical and horizontal use modes (ideal to automatically switch between them), as well as the blocking mode that makes the camera always point to a fixed point even if we move the gimbal, or the tracking mode, in which the camera will follow the movement of our hand and will correct the turns.
There are also models that add specific ways to invert the camera and take floor plans comfortably or plan panoramas up to 360 degrees at the touch of a button.
Like any other electronic device, a gimbal needs power so that the engine and the different electronic systems can operate. We must pay attention to the autonomy offered by each model.
The usual thing is to find gimbals with integrated battery and rechargeable directly, and in the best models, we can also add batteries for situations where it is not possible to recharge the battery (or that it is removable and interchangeable) and we need autonomy for long recording sessions. In many cases, the gimbal is capable of feeding the smartphone or camera while we are using it.
Accessories can be of great help, but they can also add extra weight and complexity to your structure. For example, an external monitor can help you better see what you’re shooting than when you use the camera’s LCD screen, but the added weight can kill the pleasurable, reliable experience of filming with a gimbal. This also applies to a remote accessory, which can help you move the camera, but it is often more complicated than simply using the “follow mode” of the gimbal to make pan and tilt movements.
If you plan to take the video recording far beyond the creative level, check out the available accessories (such as tripods or extenders) from both the brand itself and from third parties that are compatible. There are models that allow you to add adapters.
With these above tips and explanations, you can comfortably choose the best camera gimbal for your camera and enjoy filming to the highest level. Another hand, reading our advice to know how to use the camera gimbals?