Planning to buy a gimbal? You’d be surprised how much you didn’t know about them!
Looking to buy a gimbal for your outdoor adventures? Getting confused about all the types, axes and specifics is quite easy, so let’s clear things up to make it easier for you to choose a well-stabilized and controllable camera mount that’s fit for your personal purpose!
First and foremost, we must state the fact that a 3-axis gimbal is NOT necessarily better than a 2-axis one. If you’re wondering why, this complete gimbal buyer’s guide is perfect for you to read!
WHAT IS A GIMBAL AND HOW DOES IT WORK EXACTLY?
You must have heard about, or even used, a gimbal before. Still, you may ask yourself what it’s exactly good for. Even though it can be used even for scientific purposes, most people use it as a camera accessory that keeps the device level and prevents it from shaking and vibrating. But what’s the process behind the function?
To answer your question, we need to start with the fundamentals of gimbals. It’s an adjustable support that can pivot around an axis and it consists of concentric rings, which have motors located on them. When the gimbal’s sensors detect motion, the motors eliminate them immediately. Gimbals are able to react to any sudden and unwanted motion - this way the camera sits motionless in the gimbal in case of any kind of actions. What you can expect is the triumph of technology: the age of shaky videos has ended - anyone can enjoy completely smooth footage!
BASIC MOVEMENTS WITH GIMBALS
Before rushing into the different types of gimbals, it’s worth taking a look at some camera movements. Some say that panning and tilting are the most fundamental camera movements. Panning is a horizontal, while tilting is a vertical motion from a fixed position. You can imagine these easily if you think of your head as it moves from left to right (pan) or up to down (tilt).
These basic movements are essential if you’re eager to make your videos more interesting for your audience.
A little more advanced movement is to roll, or in other words to yaw or pitch. Rolling means that the camera moves diagonally, which makes the footage wonky or unstable. It’s a rotation around the Z axis, which results in the camera being constantly pointed at the same subject. This movement is less common in everyday usage, but it should be mentioned in this section.
Before you start to record your footage, it’s worth planning what kind of camera movements you want to use and when. Practising the exact movements before you hit the record button also helps a lot, especially, if you don’t want to make tons of unnecessary videos.
SERVO VS. BRUSHLESS GIMBALS
There are numerous types of gimbals out there on the market. This can be quite confusing, but we are going to help you with the basics, don’t worry!
First of all, we must differentiate between servo and brushless gimbals. It’s really simple - their names stem from the name of their motors. Servo gimbals have servo motors built in, which are lighter and cheaper than the other. However, these gimbals provide less professional results. Using a servo gimbal can be the right choice if you want to make a relatively smooth video, but the weight of your gimbal is limited - for example, if you want to use a drone for a long time without charging. But be prepared! This type of gimbal won’t make your footage perfectly smooth! On the other hand, if you’d like to use the gimbal for taking photos, especially motion time-lapse photos, a servo gimbal can be a perfect fit for you.
As you might have guessed, brushless gimbals have brushless motors inside. This kind of gimbal provides a much smoother video but it’s heavier, which shortens your flight time if you use a drone, and also more expensive to buy. In most cases, it’s generally recommended to use a brushless gimbal, especially, in the long run.
WHAT IS A 3-AXIS GIMBAL? WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A 2-AXIS AND A 3-AXIS GIMBAL?
Gimbals can also be sorted based on the number of their axes: there are 2-axis and 3-axis gimbals. The 2-axis gimbals have 2 rings with 2 motors. This gimbal enables roll and tilt movements, and stabilization too, but the whole camera mount will pan as it moves. If the gimbal pans to the left, the camera will move with it. As a result, the camera will appear to be stable in tilt and roll but will move with the gimbal in pan.
So what is a 3 axis gimbal good for? It enables roll and tilt movements with a stabilization system just like a 2-axis mount but it also provides stabilization when the user would like to pan the camera. The third axis smooths the panning motion from left to right. We’d like to note that you don’t need this function in all cases - it depends on what you’re planning to use your gimbal for.
To sum up, the main factor to keep in mind when comparing 2-axis and 3-axis mounts is the fact that a 2-axis mount is much easier to monitor and control for a single operator than a 3-axis mount.
Some say the 2-axis types keep the feeling snappy while the 3-axis types takes the intensity out of the movement. However, you can argue against both of these statements, saying that a 2-axis gimbal simply enables a more controlled movement as opposed to a 3-axis one, which gives you perfect smoothness.
However, we’d like to note that if you have a 3-axis gimbal, it can also be used as a 2-axis gimbal. If you’d like to use it for multiple purposes and you’re not sure which one to buy, you might want to stick to a 3-axis gimbal. This basically provides you with a 2-axis gimbal too - just lock the third axis! This is also a handy option if you’re not confident with a 3-axis gimbal just yet but want to make a long-time investment. You can easily use it as a 2-axis device: it’s a two in one solution!
DO I NEED A GIMBAL FOR MY GOPRO AT ALL?
GoPros, like most action cameras, are rarely used in calm, steady situations. Imagine that you have to shoot still videos during hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach or riding a bike. Hard to visualize? Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to produce professional quality video footage with GoPro without a gimbal in these situations, as there’s way too much movement involved. All the shakes and vibrations accompanying the recording of a high motion video would most probably destroy your content. However, using a gimbal will make sure this won’t happen - it’ll make your footage smoother as it can reduce these shaking effects.
SOME OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE PURCHASING A CAMERA STABILIZER
A gimbal requires power, so you might want to buy and pack some extra batteries
It takes some time to rebalance the set when changing lenses / camera
The gimbal’s complex electronics are configured via software, so you’ll need to learn a little bit to be able to fine-tune it
Camera stabilizers can be pretty bulky, apart from size factors, so holding these can be a little bit tiring
The heavier your camera is, the heavier your rig will be as it needs to be able to support it
On the other hand,
A gimbal can lift an everyday GoPro user to the level of a Hollywood professional as it makes the footage perfectly smooth
Gimbals are easy to use and have a shorter learning curve than traditional counterweighted stabilizers
Gimbals are more affordable for everyday users than counterweighted stabilizers
Thank you for reading this article! We hope you’ll make good use of it when it comes down to the final decision!
What are your thoughts on the topic? Are you feeling a little bit more familiar with camera stabilizers overall? Most importantly, have you gotten closer to the decision on which gimbal to buy - a 2-axis or a 3-axis one? Let us know and leave your comments here!