DISCLAIMER: This Gimbal was sent to me at a discounted rate from Zhiyun and I was not paid for this review.
I am excited to show you all Zhiyun Tech's version 2 of their iconic single handled crane gimbal that released in 2016. This gimbal features more cosmetic changes than functional upgrades and if you're already an owner of the original, you wont find much reason to purchase the new version. This gimbal was just released two weeks ago and most retailers have not received stock at the time of this post.
The Zhiyun Crane comes with a fitted hard-case that includes the gimbal, pistol grip, two batteries, battery charger, micro usb charger, 2 x 1/4"-20 screws for mounting and a lens support attachment.
Why am I excited? As a long time Fujifilm shooter, video has not been the strongest selling point. The X-T2 was their first camera to feature 4k recording up to 30p and record F-LOG externally. I have recently began shooting more video for work as well as for my own projects and have been looking for alternatives for the Glidecam HD-2000 (Which I will compare the Zhiyun Crane to later).
Cosmetically, the Zhiyun Crane is gorgeous. Black powder coating throughout with silver accents. Knurling on the pistol grip makes the gimbal comfortable to hold and the roll motor features - what I assume is their logo.
Changes from the version 1 include larger capacity batteries with a reported run time of 12 hours. Previously Zhiyun included two sets of batteries but now we are given one set of large capacity batteries. The controls now feature a dedicated mode button, a joystick, a power button and a zoom feature for cameras capable of micro USB control. The mounting plate is also adjustable forward and back to accommodate larger lenses with the help of an included lens support attachment. The largest upgrade functionally is the native load increase to 1800g. This increase is still available for the original model via firmware release.
Who's this gimbal for? Why do I call this the peoples gimbal? This is dedicated to the small camera shooter. By small camera's I mean anyone not shooting a C100, RED or SONY FS7. The price is affordable by stabilizer standards at $647.97 currently at BH and directly competitive for the more expensive DJI Ronin and Ronin-M ($999 and $1,999 respectively). I personally tested it with my Fujifilm X-T2 and prime lenses as well a D750 and 17-35 without difficulty.
The gimbal is quick to set up and involves tool less balancing and mounting. I personally added a quick release plate that matches my Arca Swiss type tripod plates for easy mounting but the gimbal includes two 1/4"-20 screws that can directly mount your camera to the plate. Balancing involves adjusting the tilt, roll and yaw access via thumb screws which I will demonstrate in the video below. Once the gimbal is balanced you're ready to turn it on.
The gimbal features three modes. Pan-Following mode, Locking mode andfollowing mode. These can also be performed inverted. Inverting the gimbal is as easy as turning the pistol grip opposite the tilt motor quickly. To return, bring the handle back down in the same direction.
Pan-Following mode - The gimbal will pan with twisting the handle but will not tilt without the joystick. This is the default mode once the gimbal turns on.
Locking mode - All motors are locked in position but can be controlled via joystick. Pressing the mode button once from Pan-Following mode will bring the gimbal to Locking mode
Following mode - The gimbal will follow your movements with tilt and pan. Double pressing the mode button from either of the other modes will bring the gimbal into Following mode.
Triple tapping the mode button will bring the gimbal around 180 degrees to an unofficial "selfie" mode.
Personally I use the Pan - Tilt following mode and the Pan - Following mode the most. I haven't personally found a use for the Locking mode.
What I love about the Zhiyun is that it's small, lightweight, easy to balance and feels intuitive to those how have never used one. Following mode is especially intuitive as it follows your natural hand movements. The controls are responsive and can be calibrated to user preference via the free app.
What I dont like about the Zhiyun Crane. I cannot use the X-T2 battery grip on the gimbal due to it becoming too tall which limits both my battery life and recording time. The arm that controls the roll axis extends too far and the gimbal often bumps the tilt motor into the pan motor when packing (Scratches from this seen below). Therefore, you must re balance every time you pack the gimbal into its case. Finally, a minor inconvenience would be that the roll motor does obstruct the LCD sometimes but it does not affect shooting.
Glide cam Vs Zhiyun Crane
Pros of the Glidecam
Less shaking up and down due to pivot handle. - The micro jitter from walking can be noticable on the Zhiyun Crane.
More human response - you're able to quickly react to changes in motion and create human like movements.
Greater Durability due to no electronic parts - Glidecams do not have any electronic motors which can be damaged.
Able to hold larger cameras with external monitor and mic if necessary.
Pros of The Zhiyun Crane
Smaller - The Zhiyun Crane can easily breakdown into a camera bag and even fits in my backpack fully assembled.
Easier to balance - The Zhiyun Crane is able to tolerate slight variations if off balance due to strong motors.
Ultra smooth footage - The ultimate reason to use any gimbal is the buttery smooth motion.
Easier to film lower angles - The Zhiyun Crane is easily inverted for low angles where the Glidecam must invert the camera to perform low angles which is difficult to balance.
Conclusion and Sample Footage
Bottom line - I love this gimbal. I've shot with the gimbal almost every day and have used it on three professional video shoots without hassle. It's easy to handle with one or two hands and I have been able to mount a shotgun mic onto my camera for vlogging. Any complaints I have are minor and include not being able to use the gimbal with my X-T2 battery grip. Anyone looking for a professional gimbal and doesn't want the heft and price of a DJI Ronin-m, this is your gimbal. Below is some personal sample footage. No post stabilization was applied in premiere. All footage shot a 1080p on a Fujifilm X-T2