Struck By Smooth Video: Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizers Decoded

Smartphones have come a long way in the past decade. Now, Apple, Samsung, Google and OnePlus battle over who has the best camera. You can only push the performance metrics so far before it’s all parity. It falls to the smartphone camera. And consumers demand the best camera on their devices.

Gotta have those latte pictures…

2019 will be the year of the triple lens camera systems. Yes, some manufacturers have added more, but the main players are honing in on three lenses. More megapixels. Better image quality. Better low light performance and better video.

And video is everywhere. Instagram has morphed into a hybrid video/image sharing app, and the perfectly curated feed demands the best videos.

zhiyun smooth 4 smartphone gimbal

Upcoming vloggers on YouTube demand the best quality, so you smash, click, punch, or whatever on the subscribe button.

Enter the smartphone gimbal. While flagship devices have optical image stabilization, the best quality comes from mechanical stabilization. Three-axis of the smoothest footage you could ever ask for, and with most phones, it’s color gradable and in 4K.

2019 Smartphone Gimbal Buying Guide

Want our pick without having to do a deep dive into all things smartphone gimbals? We got you covered.

01

DJI OSMO MOBILE 2

It’s the perfect marriage of value and features. DJI is king of the camera drones, and its skill with gimbals shows with Osmo Mobile 2.

Ready for that deep dive? Let’s get into all things gimbals.

Your Smartphone Gimbal Questions Answered


What is a Smartphone Gimbal?


Think a smaller, stripped down version of the Steadicam and you’re on the right track. It allows you to shoot handheld footage without worrying about camera vibration of shake due to your movements. The gimbal uses an inertial measurement unit (IMU) to respond to movement with motors keeping everything stabilized on the plane you are filming.


Should I Buy a Two or Three-Axis Gimbal?


Three. If you’re debating a two-axis smartphone gimbal, you’re better off with a smaller tripod and using the onboard optical image stabilization. Three allows for incredibly smooth footage. On some smartphone gimbals, the stabilization is so good; you can even use it for long exposure photography.


Why Do I Need a Smartphone Gimbal?


No more shaky cam. We all loved the Bourne movies, but is that how you want to film your kid’s birthday party? Probably not. A smartphone gimbal smooths out the footage, making it perfect for sharing with friends and family.


How Do I Use a Smartphone Gimbal?


Luckily, the list we have below are all intuitive. Once you have it balanced, you’re good. Most have a variety of controls including joysticks, triggers, and zoom sliders. The triggers are set to lock on a subject and include a variety of quick selections. Three clicks center the camera, etc. The joystick performs as you would assume. Move it, and your smartphone moves to frame the shot. Zoom functionality works off the multiple lenses in flagship smartphones. It will automatically switch between the wide angle and telephoto lens.

Ranking the Smartphone Gimbals

1. DJI Osmo Mobile 2

dji osmo mobile gimbal
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
News Ledge’s 2019 Editor’s Choice

DJI’s dominance in the sky with camera drones extends to the ground with smartphone gimbals. The first Osmo Mobile was ok, but the company quickly learned what they got wrong and listened to community feedback. The result was the Osmo Mobile 2, and for the price, it’s damn hard to beat.

The company filled it with features which would justify a higher price tag but manages to keep it at $139. That flirts with impulse buy territory, and it’s more than worth the price.

The Spec Sheet

DJI claims the number one spot for a reason. The Osmo Mobile 2 does nearly everything and does it with flair. Every smartphone gimbal on the list has three-axis stabilization, so consider that a given moving forward. Here’s the quick hit spec sheet:

  • 15-hour Battery Life
  • Lightweight at 485 grams
  • Panoramas
  • Livestream Capable (Instagram/Facebook/YouTube)
  • Timelapse
  • Motionlapse
  • Hyperlapse
  • Slow-motion

2. Freefly Movi

Movi smatphone gimbal
MOvi Cinema Robot Stabilizer

Want more cinematic flare in your smartphone gimbal? Meet the Freefly Movi. Yes, Freefly tends to name all their stabilizers some variation of Movi, so be careful on the buying trigger. You want the $299 version made for smartphones.

Its design is unique. Instead of the traditional handle, the Movi opts to push the control joystick to the side of your smartphone. The design decisions aren’t just for looks. It forms a base without the need of a tripod. Granted, Freefly added the necessary mounting brackets in case you need one.

If DJI didn’t have a generational leap in features from the first Osmo Mobile to the Osmo Mobile 2, the Movi would own the top spot. It’s that feature-rich. Those planning on more b-roll / filmmaking may want to take a look at the Movi over the Osmo Mobile 2.  

3. Zhiyun Smooth 4

zhiyun smooth 4 smartphone gimbal
Zhiyun smooth 4

Zhiyun is known for its full-size gimbals like the Crane. The Smooth 4 is the company’s answer to the Osmo Mobile 2. And Zhiyun came to play. The feature list is just as impressive as the Osmo Mobile 2 and can easily fall into the category of user preference.

Everything is there from the shot selections to the hyperlapse and timelapse mode. One area the Zhiyun impresses is battery life. It doesn’t outclass the Osmo Mobile 2, but it has an ace up its sleeve.

Two-way charging. My gripe with the Osmo Mobile is the charging port. The Smooth 4’s 12-hour battery life can share the juice with your smartphone, and you can plug in an external battery pack via USB-C. All while filming. It’s one hell of a feature.

The Spec Sheet

  • Battery life checks in at 12 hours
  • Two-way charging
  • Lightweight
  • Active Tracking
  • Timelapse/Hyperlapse/Motionlapse Shot Modes
  • Easy switching between gimbal modes

4. Moza Mini-MI

moza mini-mi

If there were awards for names alone, Moza would win. The company’s foray into smartphone gimbals is the Mini-MI. At around $99, it’s the deal on the list. Don’t let the bargain price lull you into thinking it can’t hang with the more established crowd. It can with a lengthy feature set.

One of the more intriguing features is the wireless charging baked into the gimbal. Place your smartphone on the Mini-MI, and the inductive charging coils keep you filming. Similar to the Smooth 4, the Moza Mini-MI can be charged with an external battery bank allowing for near unlimited runtimes.

Shot modes are what you expect out of a smartphone gimbal. You have your timelapse, hyperlapse, and motionlapses. Add in the panorama shooting, and you have a solid platform. The Moza Mini MI also has multiple quarter inch accessor mounts for microphones, lights and more.

Extending Your Smartphone Gimbal

Mic. A microphone is the easiest way to turn your smartphone into a mobile filmmaking rig. The two primary options are the Rode VideoMicro or the Shure MV88+. Both are stellar quality with the Shure system being designed around smartphones, while the VideoMicro can also fit perfectly on a camera.

Lights. Next, to a solid microphone, lighting is everything when it comes to mobile filmmaking, especially if you plan on vlogging with your smartphone. There are more than a few options here including the Manfrotto Lumimuse and the Lume Cube lighting kit.

Lenses. I know what you’re thinking. Lenses for a smartphone? Oh yeah. Companies like Moment have been killing the game when it comes to quality glass for your smartphone — everything from wide-angle to telephoto to anamorphic lenses. The company even makes counterweights for smartphone gimbals to keep everything balanced.

Wrapping the Best Smartphone Gimbals

The sky’s the limit when it comes to turning your smartphone into a filmmaking rig. Getting the right gimbal is where you start and then let your imagination take over. Who knows, you might be the next prominent vlogger on YouTube or Instagram.

Our pick is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2. Features, value, and experience all give it the edge between the four listed above. The great news is outside the Movi; all can be had for under $150.

Be sure to check out our other buying guides on the best drones for sale, mirrorless cameras, and vlogging cameras.

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