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Film is an extremely dynamic art form, and camera motion makes our favorite movies feel alive. The speed and energy found in a great moving shot is part of the reason why our favorite movies can elicit so much emotion from us. But no matter how good your camera is, unintentionally shaky footage is always unpleasant to watch. That’s where camera stabilizers come in.
Attaching your camera to a handheld stabilizer allows you to move it around while maintaining the stability of a tripod (or pretty close to it). One of the most common mechanisms for this is called a gimbal. Technically speaking, a gimbal is a method of support that allows an object to pivot on a single axis. But in filmmaking terms, “gimbal” is used to refer to a handheld stabilizer that contains three axes. A three-axis gimbal, usually working with a motor, allows your camera to pivot in real time as you move, ensuring that it never wobbles.
To help you chose the right gear, we rounded up a list of the best gimbal and handheld camera stabilizers for a range of budgets. All of the equipment featured below is available on Amazon (Prime Members get free two-day shipping on most items). If you’re signed up for Amazon Prime Member, you can join for just $12.99 a month, which gives you a host of other benefits, including access to Amazon’s film and television library. The idea of free shipping on your equipment and streaming access to classic films should appeal to any filmmaker who loves watching movies as much as making them.
This easy-to-use gimbal is compatible with just about any kind of camera, even GoPros and smartphones. It’s light, affordable, and features both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The key word here is “usability,” because this is one of the most flexible and versatile gimbals you will find on the market. And the 12-hour battery life ensures that it can go the distance.
If, for whatever reason, you anticipate doing most of your camera work with one hand, the Pilotfly H2 is the gimbal for you. Sturdy enough to hold the finest cameras, but lightweight enough to be held with one hand, this gimbal features a user-friendly four-way joystick for buttery smooth maneuvering. Documentary filmmakers who find themselves constantly multitasking on the go should love this one.
If you are using heavier, industry standard cameras and do not want to be held hostage by battery life, the FLYCAM HD-3000 is a great option. This stabilizer uses a three-axis gimbal to keep camera rigs of up to eight pounds steady during handheld shots, and does so using only good old fashioned physics. This sturdy piece of film equipment is suitable for professional projects, but comes with an entry-level price.
Busy filmmakers often face a dilemma when selecting equipment, as they are forced to choose between power and portability. You want the best gear you can possibly get, but low-budget filmmaking often requires filming in odd locations, and packing light is always a plus. The Zhiyun WEEBILL S is one of the most powerful gimbals you can buy, with a motor torque that has a leg up on most of the competition. But the two pound instrument is small and light enough to take anywhere, making it a great purchase for any professional who plans on keeping it for a long time.
This premium gimbal is the perfect choice for cinematographers who exclusively work with mirrorless cameras. It is very high tech, going beyond stabilization and allowing you to control things like zooms and shuttering. If you have been using gimbals for a while and want something with a lot of bells and whistles to maximize your creative expression, look no further than the DJI Ronin-SC Pro. You can even control the gimbal with your smartphone, via the Ronin App.
If you were intrigued by the DJI Ronin-SC Pro but your camera isn’t compatible, the Moza AirCross 2 is a great alternative. This gimbal can stabilize both DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and its weight range is a bit larger than the DJI model, which allows you to use heavier cameras. It’s every bit as advanced, though, with automatic rotation and speed adjustment that make it great for filming sports or documentary footage.
Coming in at over nine pounds, the Moza Air 2 is one of the heaviest gimbals on this list. You can’t throw this one in your briefcase or purse, but if you find yourself working on big projects with hefty film cameras and want something you know will be durable, you might want to consider it. It can hold almost any camera, and the 16-hour battery life can get you through the longest days of shooting. Every feature on this gimbal works to justify its premium price tag, as it sports eight follow modes and over 20 different settings for time lapses. Also, the Moza Air 2 is still quite a bit cheaper than other high-end camera stabilizers on the market.
Speaking of higher-priced models, this gimbal is surprisingly portable and user friendly, considering its premium status. Carbon fiber arms make it strong enough to withstand the heaviest of cameras, while still keeping the body lighter than many of the less expensive alternatives on the market. DJI’s RavenEye image transmission allows you to control your camera’s movements from your smartphone, giving cinematographers more flexibility to craft perfect shots. In short, this is the best of the best.