Whether its a monopod, tripod, steadicam, shoulder rig, easy rig or a gimbal-a filmmaker needs to have some kind of stabilization. There’s no doubting that 3-axis gimbals are all the rage nowadays, and they’re selling like hotcakes.
It’s easy to see why. The creativity of Vloggers, amateur filmmakers and videography hobbyists was always limited by their gear. Steadicams or easyrigs were simply out of the question. Too expensive, and not to mention the attention you’d attract walking around with a harness.
Gimbals changed that. Smooth and cinematic in-motion shots that look completely professional are now possible. You no longer have to pass on those moving shots that would simply be too jittery without one.
From smartphone gimbals like the DJI Osmo Mobile to professional gimbals like the MoVi Pro or DJI Ronin 2 which cost thousands of dollars, there’s a gimbal for every kind of filmmaker.
In this buyer’s guide I’ll be running you through the best DSLR gimbals for the consumer market. I’ll be comparing them on things like stabilization quality, maximum payloads, build quality, price and more.
Best DSLR Gimbals At A Glance
Here are my top 3 recommendations for the year:
- Best overall: DJI Ronin-S
- Runner-up: Moza Air 2
- Best for heavier setups: Zhiyun Crane 3 LAB
…and here are some other options worth considering:
- Zhiyun Crane 2
- Tilta Gravity G2X
- DJI Ronin-M
- Beholder DS1
- FLYCAM Redking Mechanical Gimbal Stabilizer
Now let’s take a look at each of these gimbals in more detail…
Despite starting out as a drone manufacturer, there is no doubting that DJI are the most prolific gimbal manufacturer of today. While they dominated the mobile and professional gimbal market, they didn’t have an under $1000 handheld gimbal for DSLR and mirrorless camera owners.
That was until the release of the Ronin-S in 2018, which was so highly anticipated it sold out during pre-orders.
It didn’t disappoint. The DJI Ronin-S is probably the closest thing to a perfect DSLR gimbal you can get right now. Granted, it has a few small issues and is a bit heavy, but it just does so many things better than its competition.
The build quality is a cut above the rest. It feels more robust than the plasticky gimbals produced by Zhiyun, Moza and other brands. The software and companion app are more polished. The stabilization quality is top notch. The list just goes on.
The maximum payload of 8 lbs (3.6 kg) means the Ronin-S is capable of mounting DSLR setups with heavier cine lenses and other accessories.
The weight of the Ronin-S is definitely the biggest complaint I see on the internet, but it’s something you will adapt to. That being said, mirrorless camera owners would do better by going for the newer and lighter Ronin-SC (with the ‘C’ standing for compact).
Despite being a heavy gimbal, it packs down smaller than almost all the other gimbals thanks to its removable base. This actually makes it a an excellent handheld gimbal for travel.
Before the Moza Air 2 came out, the DJI Ronin-S was the best DSLR gimbal around. Period. However, following the release of Gudsen’s Moza Air 2, we have a solid, cheaper alternative.
Costing $599 at release, the Moza Air 2 is $150 cheaper than the DJI Ronin-S. What you might not expect from a gimbal of its price is the sheer number of features it boasts.
The Moza Air 2 features some of the best controls I’ve seen from any gimbal. You can adjust focus, roll and make changes to the settings just by using the controls on the gimbal itself along with the OLED to navigate menus. The DJI Ronin-S doesn’t have as many direct controls and you’ll often find yourself needing to make adjustments from the smartphone companion app.
This gimbal also bundles a quick-release plate that makes it possible to take your camera off and put it straight back on without needing to rebalance the gimbal. This makes switching between a tripod and gimbal incredible quick-which is all the more important when filming for things like wedding gigs where time is of the essence.
The Moza Air 2 also impresses in other departments. It can carry a payload of 9 lb (4.2 kg) and its four removable Li-ion 18650 batteries can last up to 16 hours on a single charge.
I think the Moza Air 2 is a terrific gimbal and it actually presents more value for money than the Ronin-S. However, the gimbal doesn’t feel quite as solid as the Ronin-S. The software from Gudsen is inferior and the accessory ecosystem isn’t quite as developed as DJI’s. Furthermore, I’ve also heard some bad stories about their customer support, so be aware of that too.
Before the DJI Ronin-S was around, Zhiyun dominated the under $1000 DSLR/mirrorless camera gimbal market with the Crane 2. It’s no wonder that people were incredibly excited for the Crane 3’s release.
Zhiyun ended up releasing two gimbals to succeed the Crane 2: the Crane 3 LAB and the Weebill LAB. The Weebill LAB was designed with mirrorless cameras in mind, while the Crane 3 LAB was aimed towards those with bigger setups.
With a base price of $899, the Crane 3 is one of the more expensive DSLR gimbals around. However, it does have a few big advantages up its sleeve.
First of all, it has two independent grips which means there are a variety of ways in which the gimbal can be held. It also makes it the easiest gimbal to put into underslung or briefcase mode.
Out of all the single-handed gimbals, this one has the highest maximum payload of 10 lb (4.5kg). This gives the user incredible flexibility in lens and camera packages without straining the gimbal motors.
And lastly, it features wireless image transmission, meaning it is possible to stream the image to your smartphone over WiFi. This enables real-time monitoring, framing and camera control (provided your camera is fully compatible).
Overall the Crane 3 LAB is a great gimbal for DSLR owners. It costs more than the Ronin-S and doesn’t feel quite as robust, but comes with a number of compelling features that makes it a worthy consideration.
The Crane 2 might not be the newest gimbal in town but it is still an incredibly capable one. Now being sold at a discounted price and also commonly available second-hand, this is a great budget option.
It has a maximum payload of ~7lbs (3200g) meaning it can support a good range of camera setups. The 18-hour battery life is also quite impressive, and being removable batteries there’s always the option for purchasing spares.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to it which you don’t see in the latest generation of DSLR and mirrorless camera gimbal stabilizers. The rear motor is not offset, meaning it obscures the view of your camera’s LCD display. Secondly, the hand grip is basically just a metal cylinder which isn’t ergonomic at all.
Tilta are better known for their expensive camera cages than their 3 axis handheld gimbals, but their Gravity G2X impressed many with its superb build quality. Even compared to the Ronin-S, the G2X feels more robust. And who doesn’t like the aesthetically pleasing pistol grip with brazillian rosewood covering either side?
With a maximum payload of 8 lb and weighing over 4 lb with batteries in place, the G2X is very comparable to the Ronin-S in terms of size and payload capacity. It also costs $790, placing it just above the DJI in terms of price. So why don’t I consider it to be as good, or at least as good as the Ronin-S?
Unfortunately, as good as the hardware is, the software is very buggy. Furthermore, many consumer reviews reported various issues including calibration errors, motors mysteriously shutting off and poor localization. Unlike the hugely popular Ronin-S, the Tilta Gravity G2X is a bit of a gamble that hasn’t been tried and tested as extensively.
The Ronin-M has been around since 2015 and for a long time it was DJI’s flagship consumer gimbal stabilizer. Costing $1199 at release, the Ronin-M was not cheap.
Unlike all the popular single-handed DSLR gimbals you see these days, the Ronin-M is a two-handed gimbal. The camera sits in the middle while you grip the gimbal by the handles on either side. This design makes it easier to keep your gimbal as stable as possible.
However, the Ronin-M’s biggest problem is its size. It’s heavy, you can’t easily throw it in your backpack and you’ll attract a lot of attention as you walk around filming. It’s also fairly old tech meaning calibration is slow and it doesn’t offer newer in-app tools like keyframing which comes with the newer Ronin-S.
While there is a good argument to go with the Ronin-M if you have a large digital cinema camera like the Canon C300, it’s not a practical choice for those using DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. If you really want a dual handle setup, you can always get a dual handgrip accessory for your single-handed gimbal like this one from SmallRig (compatible with Ronin-S and the Zhiyun Crane series).
If you hate technology but want to reap the stabilization benefits of a 3-axis brushless gimbal stabilizer, the Beholder DS1 might be for you. It’s a first-generation DSLR gimbal meaning it’s pretty old and doesn’t have the advanced feature set we’ve begun to expect from gimbals nowadays.
The stabilization performance is decent, although it has noticeable micro jitter compared to the likes of the Crane 2. That’s quite important, because the DS1 doesn’t do much else. Simply mount your camera on it, calibrate and start filming.
Still costing $439, years after release-I wouldn’t purchase it new. Spending a few extra dollars will net you the latest Moza or Zhiyun gimbal which are far superior overall. However, I’ve seen used DS1s go for around $200 or less, at which point it becomes good value for money gear.
Ah, the good ol’ glidecam. Before 3-axis gimbal stabilizers were a thing, Glidecams were the go-to accessory for video stabilization at a reasonable price.
Even in this era of electronic gimbals, glidecams serve a purpose. Amounting to little more than a stick with some weights on it, they stabilize footage using the basic laws of motion.
The resulting footage has a floatier and organic feel which can, at times, be desirable.
However, there is no doubting that it is difficult to achieve the same level of stabilization using a glidecam or rip-off glidecam. They require a high level of operator skill and even then the footage might not be satisfactory.
More Buying Tips
How do gimbals compare to other video stabilization methods?
The gimbal is relatively new technology, only made possible by intelligent software that reacts to motion detecting sensors. It’s only recently that they’ve dropped to a price that is not only cheaper than traditional stabilizing gear, but now there are consumer-grade gimbals that are affordable for YouTubers, amateur filmmakers and those who simply pursue videography as a hobby.
Not only are they accessible to non-professionals, they are also easier to use, much lighter and potentially provide superior stabilization overall. There is no doubt that to achieve the smoothest video on a budget and relative ease, gimbals are currently the way to go.
What are pan-follow, follow, locked and tracking modes?
A gimbal is able to make adjustments in three axes using its three brushless motors: pan, roll and tilt.
Pan-following keeps the horizon straight by locking the roll and tilt but following any movements you make in the pan axis. Follow mode will not lock any axis, but eliminate jitter by making micro adjustments which smooth out each and every movement. Finally, locked mode locks the camera’s orientation, meaning your camera lens will stay pointed at the same target.
Some gimbals feature tracking, which uses AI to keep the camera pointed at an object you specify.
I purchased a gimbal but the footage isn’t perfectly smooth. Should I return it?
DSLR gimbals should be perfectly balanced before operating the gimbal. Afterwards, you’ll need to go into the settings and do some fine-tuning. I’ve used many gimbals in the past and it typically takes a few days of recording to get to a point where I’m happy. Last but not least, there is some skill in using a gimbal, so don’t expect your new fancy gadget to do everything for you.
As DSLR cameras become less popular and mirrorless camera adoption grows, companies are beginning to shift focus towards smaller gimbals which are easier to carry around. Unfortunately, despite technically being compatible, many of these don’t play well with the weight of many DSLR and lens combinations.
I would therefore first and foremost recommend getting a gimbal that can handle heavier payloads. This is the main reason I put the DJI Ronin-S, Moza Air 2 and Zhiyun Crane 3 LAB as my top 3. If I was using a mirrorless camera, the Zhiyun Weebill LAB and all-new Ronin-SC make more sense.
I hope you enjoyed reading through this buyer’s guide. Please leave a comment if you have any feedback or would like to put forward your own best gimbal for DSLR recommendations.