A 3-axis gimbal is one of the most versatile tools available to filmmakers on a low budget. In this article let’s look at 5 budget gimbals for you to pick for your video work.
What is a 3-axis gimbal?
As a filmmaker, there are many things that will help make your video look a lot more professional. One of those things is having stable images.
There about three million ways you can stabilize your videos.
You can balance your camera on a stack of books, although I only recommend this if you’re a complete beginner and all you have is a camera and nothing else.
You can use a tripod or monopod.
You can use a dolly or crane or any other massive, Hollywood-grade piece of equipment.
These are all viable options, but not necessarily if you’re a smaller filmmaker that’s decided to go pro. Enter 3-axis gimbals, or just gimbals.
In the filmmaking world, a 3-axis gimbal is a device that helps you capture smooth, stable videos with your camera. Most gimbals control three axes; the pitch, row, and yaw.
Gimbals can be either motorized gimbals or counterweight gimbals. A few years ago, counterweight gimbals were all the rage for freelance filmmakers. We’re talking devices like the Steadicam and its competitors.
While counterweight gimbals were revolutionary, the trouble with them is they have a really steep learning curve. If you did master them, however, they were and still are a great piece of equipment to own. But they’re not for most people looking for maximum versatility on a small budget.
That’s where motorized gimbals have really taken over.
Motorized gimbals first made their appearance on the filmmaking scene quite a few years ago, and every year they see to only be getting better and better.
Naturally, with so many options for gimbals available to us these days, it may be a bit difficult to choose which gimbal to add to your equipment arsenal without completely blowing your budget, so here are 5 options that you can look at.
A quick note before we get into that. I’m going to be focusing only on gimbals that work well with DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The cheapest gimbals will naturally be those that are designed to work with cell phones and action cams, which can be as cheap as $50. I’m not going to cover those kinds of gimbals, so keep that in mind.
Alright, let’s get into it, in no particular order:
Moza Air 2
First up, let’s look at the Moza Air 2. Coming in at $599, this gimbal is packed with some pretty awesome features. It can carry a payload of up to 9.25lbs, meaning you can carry different weights of cameras from smaller mirrorless cameras like the Sony a7III to heavier setups like the Canon c200.
It’s got a very solid build quality that feels amazing to hold. It is, however, quite heavy even on its own, weighing in at 3.5lbs. So if you are using this gimbal for heavier camera setups, be ready for one hell of an arm workout.
The Moza air also has 12 physical buttons that can be used to adjust settings such as shutter speed and aperture, a tactile joystick, a smart wheel and smart trigger controls that can be customized to suit your needs. Coupled with a clear OLED screen, the Moza Air 2 is pretty easy to use without needing to be connected to your smart phone.
It’s much easier to balance than most gimbals due to its clearly marked balancing points on the axis and the lock mechanism on the roll axis. It would probably be even easier to balance if there were more locking points, but just the one is sufficient.
When it comes to power, the Moza Air 2 uses four Li-ion 18650 replaceable batteries which will give you up to 16hrs of use. In addition, the Moza Air 2 has an input port that provides an alternate way of powering the gimbal, and three output ports for powering the camera and accessories using optional Moza adapter cables. These outlet ports can power items such as an electronic follow focus, LED light, or a monitor.
One really unique feature about the Moza Air 2 is it comes with a built-in follow focus system. Now this doesn’t necessarily work with all cameras, but it does work with a decent selection of cameras. In addition, you can purchase any of the Moza Air 2 iFocus wireless follow focus accessories which opens up a wide range of possibilities for shooting.
The FeiyuTech 3-axis gimbal is another great option when it comes to single-hold gimbals. Also coming in at $599, it offers great video stabilization for most filmmakers. It has a weight limit of 8.8lbs, meaning you can carry heavier camera setups easily with this gimbal, which is pretty comparable to the Moza Air 2.
However, also like the Moza Air 2, the FeiyuTech AK4000 is pretty heavy on its own, so shooting nonstop for long periods of time with this setup could be taxing.
Unlike many gimbls, however, the FeiyuTech AK4000 doesn’t have a ton of buttons, and instead replaces the need for the buttons with a sophisticated, very intuitive OLED touch screen. Coupled with the very smooth and responsive control wheel, changing settings on this gimbal is pretty easy and straight forward.
The FeiyuTech AK4000 has also upgraded the joystick from its predecessor, the AK2000, to one that has a much larger surface area, making it very comfortable and easy to use. The joystick is also very tactile and responsive, which makes it pretty easy to dial in specific movements as you shoot.
The back motor on this gimbal doesn’t block your camera screen, so you can easily mount cameras without a flip-out screen like the Canon 5D Mark IV and still have a clear view of what you’re shooting.
One downside to the FeiyuTech AK4000 is it doesn’t have any lock mechanisms for the different axes, which makes it a little more cumbersome when it comes to balancing your camera. It takes quite a bit of time an effort to dial in the slightest adjustments you need to balance the gimbal, so you might not want to consider this especially if you prefer to shoot in run-and-gun situations.
When it comes to power, it’s pretty decent as it comes with four included 18650 lithium-polymer batteries (2200mAh each) which are installed into the handle. These provide up to 12 hours of battery life.
Now here’s a brand you’ve probably never heard of before. Retailing at only $499, this gimbal is the ultimate choice for super run-and-gun shooting styles, and is also the cheapest on this list of gimbals.
It literally has only two buttons and a joy stick. One button is your power button, the other is your mode button, which allows you to move between four specific modes.
Tilt-lock mode locks your camera so it won’t tilt up and down, but will move in other direction. Follow mode allows your camera to follow all your movements. Lock mode completely locks your camera in place no matter how you move the gimbal, and roll mode allows for a smooth left-right rolling motion which can create some interesting effects on your footage.
Another neat feature with the Accsoon A1-S is it can rotate completely through 360°, which means your not limited in your movements as you shoot, which can really come in handy when you have lots of action in your scene.
The Accsoon A1-S is also very light on its own, weighing only about 2.8lbs on its own, but with a payload of up to 7.7lbs. That’s a pretty weighty payload for a gimbal so light.
When it comes to power, the Accsoon comes with a pair of 26500Li-ion batteries that can last anywhere from 8-15hrs of straight use, which is comparable to its competitors.
For some people, a downside to this gimbal may be the fact that it doesn’t have a built-in screen that you can use to monitor your settings. The gimbal however does come with a phone app that you can use to really dial in specific settings you need, and it also has a unique feature called auto-tune that helps with this.
However, if run-and-gun shooting is your style, then this gimbal is for you. With its simple, no-fuss setup, small and easy-to-carry form factor, and very lightweight, it’s a great option to consider.
Zhiyun Weebill Lab
We’ve all probably heard about Zhiyun and their innovative gimbals, and the Weebill Lab is no exception to their innovativeness. Retailing at $599, the Weebill changes the gimbal landscape with it new and interesting design.
The name Weebill is actually gotten from Australia’s smallest bird, so by calling this gimbal the Weebill, Zhiyun are actually making a claim that this is the smallest gimbal on the market for DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.
With this bold claim, the Weebill actually holds up when it comes to weight capacity. Zhiyun claims the gimbal can hold up to 6.6lbs of camera weight, which is pretty impressive when you consider how tiny it actually is. This does limit the camera to smaller camera setups, but that’s perfect for travel filmmakers or if you’re simply interested in having a smaller camera setup on your shoots.
When it comes to the design of the Weebill, unlike most single hold gimbals we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, the Zhiyun Weebill essentially “breaks” the single shaft into an inverted L-bracket shape, which ultimately makes the design much more compact that previous gimbal designs.
They’ve moved the positioning of the batteries to the underside of the vertical grip, which makes it a lot easier to swap out the batteries while still maintaining the usability of the gimbal.
This new L-bracket design also allows the Weebill to be used in a more versatile way by including two mounting points for the tripod handle, allowing you to easily shift from shooting in an over-sling mode to an under-sling mode, which makes getting different shots really easy to do.
Setup of this gimbal is very easy because you can actually look each individual axis as you balance the gimbal, and balance the gimbal one axis at a time. Another added bonus to this locking feature is the fact that it makes the gimbal really stable and compact, making it a lot easier to travel with without worrying about damaging any of the motors on the gimbal.
The gimbal also has quite a few button options that allow you to shift between different modes including a button that toggles pan-follow mode and lock mode, a trigger that when held down activates pan and tilt follow mode, and when double tapped resets the position of the camera, and when triple tapped activates selfie mode.
The gimbal also has a “Go” button which when you press down activates the phone-go mode, which basically makes the gimbal have faster, jerkier movements, and there’s a POV button that enables POV mode and vortex mode when double tapped.
The Weebill Lab (Amazon | B&H) however does suffer a bit on the power side of things. It take two 18650Li-ion batteries which only give you 6-10hrs of battery time, so it’s not ideal if you have really long shooting days. You may consider buying extra batteries for this one.
A unique feature on this gimbal is the quick release plate system it uses to attach the camera to the gimbal. This plate is compatible with standard Manfrotto plates, so you can easily move your camera back and forth between a tripod and the gimbal. And as a bonus to this feature, you don’t have to re-balance the gimbal each time you take it off. You just snap it back in place and you’re off to the races.
Moza Aircross 2
Now this gimbal is more of an honorable mention. At the time of this article, the Moza Aircross 2 has just been announced at NAB 2019, and so far, it looks pretty interesting.
Right off the bat, it looks like this gimbal is aimed more at social media creators and vloggers. You can set it up to shoot regular horizontal video, or flip it vertically to shoot IGTV-style videos. It does have a lower payload of 5.5lbs, so this is definitely meant for lighter setups with cameras like the Sony mirrorless cameras.
It comes in two colors, black and what they’re calling Storm Trooper white, and it also has some funky looking lights and some leatherwork built into it, so aesthetics are clearly a big deal with this gimbal.
Looks aside, the gimbal has kept many of the features from their previous designs like the Moza Air 2 such as the focus wheel, the OLED screen, the ability to lock all three axes, up to 12hrs of and a sturdy tripod base.
Moza also say the Aircross 2 will have multiple shooting modes including timelapse mode, different follow modes, inception mode, and sport gear mode.
At the moment, the Moza Aircross 2 (Amazon | B&H) doesn’t have a release date or price attached to it, however they do say that it will probably be cheaper than the Moza Air 2, which costs about $600. All in all, it looks like an interesting piece of gear to look forward to.
And that’s it for this quick overview on gimbals. I hope it gives you a start into deciding what gimbal to buy for yourself.
Naturally, do as much research as you possibly can before you make your final decision, and remember, the gear itself won’t make you a better filmmaker. It’s what you do with it.
If you have any suggestions for low budget gimbals please let me know in the comments below.