Best Smartphone Gimbal of 2021
The DJI OM 4 is an excellent, hard-to-beat choice in the smartphone gimbal market. This model's magnetic phone clamp makes balance easy to achieve. The OM 4 offers a wide range of capabilities, including features we've come to love like active tracking, excellent motion lapse capabilities, and controls on both the phone's touchscreen and the device itself. The OM 4 captured exceptionally smooth video in our many hands-on tests. The zoom and pan rates on this model are perfect, and for the true tech nerds, you'll enjoy the many settings that can be adjusted to personalize your format and get you shooting the best shots possible.
We found a few downsides with the DJI OM 4. The biggest drawback is its limited panning range. If you know you want 360-degree panoramas, this model will not work for you. Also, we found other models were better at low follow-cam angles, like those you'd use in a sport like skateboarding. Finally, with its many functions and settings, there is a bit of a learning curve that makes programming and operation take some getting used to. Even with these shortcomings, the OM 4 remains an outstanding option for those looking for a high-performance smartphone gimbal.
The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus is another one of our favorite smartphone gimbals. It is capable of panning horizontally 600 degrees while the second and third axis can pivot up to 320 degrees. Combining the range of all three axes allows the user to pan, tilt, and roll in any number of combinations that both photographers and videographers can genuinely appreciate. This model also offers a ton of customizable settings to personalize your shots to the max. One feature we really love is that you can adjust and customize the mechanical action in ways such as adjusting zoom speed, panning speed, and even reversing the joystick's action. The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus comes with a great case that houses the cord, tripod, and gimbal so that you can rest assured that your investment will be protected from impacts and elements while traveling.
There are a few ways that the Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus falls behind some of the competitors. When switching between portrait and landscape mode, you are required to rebalance your phone — not ideal. It also doesn't include the best tripod. The feet are made of soft rubber, allowing the whole gimbal to sway a bit in the wind. This can completely ruin an otherwise great panorama or time-lapse but can easily be remedied with a stiffer tripod which can be an inexpensive solution. Despite these flaws, we think the Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus is a fantastic choice if you're in the market for a smartphone gimbal with phenomenal mechanical abilities that offers custom settings beyond what much of the competition has considered.
If you're in the market for a smartphone gimbal but don't want to break the bank to purchase one, we recommend the Hohem iSteady X. One of our favorite features of the X is that you can switch between landscape and portrait modes by merely touching a button. Few other gimbals provide this feature which is a considerable step up from having to rebalance your phone. Though it's not quite pocket or purse size, it is relatively small and light for a device that offers so many capabilities, and it comes with a handy storage bag. Hohem boasts an improved anti-shake algorithm for the X that provides ultra-smooth footage even while driving over rugged terrain or following a friend down the ski slope.
The Hohem iSteady X has a limited mechanical range. While other handheld gimbals provide 360 degrees and even infinite panoramic panning, the X is limited to 320 degrees. We've found that the tripod included with this device is a bit flimsy, which may lead to some shakiness while shooting motion lapses and time lapses in windy conditions. Despite these minor drawbacks, this is still our recommended smartphone gimbal for those shopping on a budget.
DJI has come to be known as one of the leading brands in consumer and professional drones, cameras, and accessories around the world. The DJI Pocket 2 takes some of their best advancements in the technology they've developed over the years and packed it into a device that most definitely fits in your pocket. Our favorite feature of the Pocket 2 is that you can shoot with it standalone, or you can physically link it to your phone to use your phone as a larger screen or change settings. The quality of shots this model produces is ridiculous — it shoots 4K video and up to 64MP photos even when it is not attached to your phone. Some people may really enjoy the fact that it shoots to a memory card, allowing you to get footage straight from the device to your computer. Though some may prefer to edit using phone software, inserting the memory card directly into your computer allows you to make your edits using professional-grade editing programs.
We really couldn't find much to complain about while testing the DJI Pocket 2. However, our team agreed that while using it without your phone attached, the screen is really small compared to a smartphone. Also, if you decide to go with the Pocket 2, be prepared to spend a substantially higher dollar amount than other gimbals—but remember you're paying for a camera as well. Although there are many accessories available for this model, they are all sold separately. Drawbacks aside, if you want a standalone camera with all of the stabilization of a gimbal that also mounts to your phone, this is the one.
There are aspects to the Zhiyun Smooth Q2 that some people may find attractive. The quick-release phone clamp can be useful for instances in which you want to pull your phone off the gimbal arm for a quick text or call. Once you're ready to reattach it, there's no need to balance your phone on the gimbal again. We love that moving the gimbal's main arm wakes the whole system up from standby, allowing you to get straight to shooting without having to mess with controls when you're ready to get the shot. Our favorite function of this model is that its panoramic axis rotation is infinite. This feature can make for some pretty phenomenal shots if you're the creative type.
Sadly, aside from the elements mentioned above, we found a fairly long list of flaws during our assessment of the Zhiyun Smooth Q2. It weighs a pound and a half, which is shocking considering its compact size. We've tested many models that weigh less than a pound that offers far more capabilities. The testing team noticed that this model is significantly slower to react to your wrist movements compared to our favorite models. This lag can ruin a shot, especially when it comes to action sports. Unfortunately, even though we like that the clip is a quick release, it doesn't securely attach to the phone very well. Your phone can slip off of the device if you bump the release lever with even the tiniest bit of pressure. Even with these flaws, we still think it's a good purchase if you have a concept in mind that requires unlimited panoramic axis rotation.
The design of the Movi Freefly Cinema Robot is totally unique, and this version offers some elements that many may find to be alluring. The two-handed design of the Movi feels similar to a DSLR or bigger camera rather than the one-handed models in our review. If you're into motion lapses but don't feel like learning the complicated programming that can be required by many smartphone gimbals, the Cinema Robot may be the right choice for you — this device has preset paths. If you want to set your own motion lapse paths, you only need to adjust the gimbal by hand and pull the trigger at the various points of your choice, which is much faster and easier than using a joystick and the touchscreen on your phone. We also love that the Movi has a single button for locking exposure and focus, which, again, eliminates the headache caused by learning complicated in-app settings.
We found the initial phone balancing process to be relatively challenging compared to other models. There is no way to automatically switch between portrait and landscape angles — you'll need to start the process over if you want to switch it up. The peculiar design of the Movi Freefly Cinema Robot is challenging to use with one hand, making it a pain to get selfies and certain types of action shots. Also, it would be very difficult to use one-handed if you're a leftie. With your left hand holding the main handle and controls, your knuckles can get in the way of the gimbal arm's movements. If you're looking for a gimbal that shoots both photo and video, you're simply out of luck as this model is for video only. Although it has a strange design and is lacking many features, we'd still recommend the Cinema Robot to people who want a two-handed version that has motion lapse capabilities that are a no-brainer to use.
For those that are looking for a simpler device and aren't so concerned with all of the bells & whistles of higher-end models, the FeiyuTech VLOG Pocket may be the way to go. This relatively small device folds down into a size that would easily fit into a small day pack or purse, and it's light. We love that the VLOG Pocket balances automatically — all you have to do is attach the clip somewhere near the middle of your device, and the motor does the rest. One of the most appealing elements of the VLOG Pocket is the price. If you want an auto-balancing smartphone gimbal that will fit in a small space, but you don't want to empty your bank account to get one, this model is a great choice.
The tiny design of the FeiyuTech VLOG Pocket brings a few shortcomings. With this model, you will be operating it without a mechanical joystick. FeiyuTech integrated the joystick into the controls on the touchscreen of your phone, but it stops the video preview, so you'll be aiming blindly. We found that the motion of the gimbal was a lot different to operate than higher-end models, but once you get the hang of it, we must admit, it's as smooth as butter. In the manufacturer's claims, they say that it has a 360-degree panoramic panning range, but we measured it to be closer to 240 degrees. Although it's definitely small, we sure wouldn't say that it would be comfortable in very many types of pockets. Despite our short list of criticisms, we think the VLOG Pocket is a fantastic choice for a simple smartphone gimbal that is offered at a very reasonable price.
Why You Should Trust Us
To spearhead this review, we used a team composed of our In-House Senior Review Editor Ross Patton and In-House Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer. During adolescence, Ross and his friends were constantly creating skateboard and snowboard edits and films using old technology dating back to the days of 3CCD digital video cameras and capturing footage with Firewires. To this day, he still spends time both in front and behind the camera in the snowboard industry and has worked on projects such as X Games Real Snow and independent films that were promoted by Snowboarder Magazine. His hands-on experience, coupled with his formal education from the University of Nevada, Reno, where he majored in Environmental Science, made him an obvious choice for this review team. Austin has been with the GearLab team for more than five years and has tested hundreds of tech-related categories ranging from VR Headsets to 3D printers to electric skateboards to travel tripods. With these two on the job, you can rest assured that we have studied and tested these products inside and out to provide the best buying advice to our readers that we possibly can.
We began in the lab by analyzing the physical traits and setup time of each model. We judged the panning speeds, controls, and motion for them. We then measured their mechanical ranges to hold the manufacturers accountable for their claims. Finally, we took the devices outside to gather content in order to analyze footage.
Analysis and Test Results
For this review, we broke our data down into three subcategories, which are shown in the following paragraphs. We conducted side-by-side tests for stability, judged the ease of use, and considered anything that set each model apart from one another when it comes to functionality.
Capabilities & Features
Before you decide which smartphone gimbal you're going to purchase, it's a good idea to determine the application for which you will use the device. Each gimbal has its different strengths and weaknesses. If you are primarily vlogging, you probably aren't going to need a model with much panoramic range, while someone shooting motion lapses would want as much range as possible. Somebody filming action sports may want a different gimbal than somebody shooting lifestyle shots. A certain model may have great video settings but lack on the photo side of things and vice versa.
It would be hard to beat the variety of features and settings the DJI OM 4 has to offer. The magnetic clip that connects to the gimbal arm is an innovative feature that we immediately fell in love with. You can choose between the spring-loaded clip that grabs onto your phone or use the magnetic sticker that you can mount on your case or your phone itself. Both of them work great. This model also works as a power bank by including a hidden USB port to ensure that your phone has power (so long as the gimbal does) to give you extra juice while shooting something such as an extra-length motion lapse.
In addition to the normal video and photo modes, it can shoot in sport mode, Dyna-zoom, active track, burst shots, auto-stitched panoramas, motion time-lapses, and hyper lapses. A function that we were very impressed with is the auto-stitched photos. While positioned on the tripod, with the push of one button, the camera automatically takes a 3x3 grid of photos and blends them together, allowing you to get more of what you can see with the naked eye into your photo than your phone normally can.
The OM 4 has a few more features than the Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus, but the latter model offers 600 degrees of panoramic rotation, allowing for all kinds of ways to get creative.
The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus and Hohem iSteady X each have their own versions of fast-tracking, Hitchcock mode (similar to the OM 4's Dyna-zoom), sport mode, and face tracking. Both of these models have a roll and tilt range of 320 degrees, which is great for shooting underneath or above your subject with minimal strain on your wrist.
The main thing that separates the Hohem iSteady X from the others is that it is using Hohem's new algorithm they've titled "iFlow," which uses a new mechanical control system and an advanced stabilizing chip for ultimate stabilization.
The size of the DJI Pocket 2 may throw some people off, but don't be fooled — this device has an extensive list of capabilities. There's no need to link it to your phone at all, and it includes many of the features that we've come to expect from a high-end smartphone gimbal, including slow motion, hyper lapses, motion lapses, and time-lapses. It also shoots the same nine photo auto-stitch panoramas as the DJI OM 4. If you desire, you can physically attach it to your phone to use the larger screen for better viewing, video editing, or to change settings. This new version now shoots 64MP photos, and DJI has added a joystick to control the microsized gimbal arm.
Ease of Use
One very important element to consider while shopping for a smartphone gimbal is how easy the device is to use. Hardcore enthusiasts who don't mind adjusting the many intricate settings that go into fine-tuning a shot likely won't mind purchasing a model that takes a little bit longer to learn how to use. On the flip side, if you just want to get smoother shots or shoot more stable panoramas than you can with your hands, you may want a simpler model.
If you want a gimbal that you can essentially take out of the box and start shooting with, it'd be hard to top the DJI Pocket 2. You don't need to unfold or balance your phone at all while using this model, just turn the device on and start shooting. Even linking it to your phone is a breeze because you just use the included Lightning or USB Type C adapter to physically plug your phone into the gimbal. Even when it comes time to review or edit your footage, you can pop the MicroSD card out and plug it into your computer to use whatever program you desire or edit on your phone.
The Hohem iSteady X is very easy to use. All you need to do is attach your phone to the spring-loaded clamp on the gimbal and balance it. Our testing team found this process to be very easy compared to most models, and it requires minimal fine-tuning. The iSteady X has an innovative feature that few models offer — you can switch from portrait to landscape mode with the simple push of a button rather than having to disconnect and reattach your phone to switch it up.
The DJI OM 4 is fairly easy to operate. With the magnetic clip, you hardly have to worry about initially balancing your phone. You can either use the included template to permanently mount a magnetic sticker to your phone or use the spring-loaded clamp — both are included in the package. This model fits well in your hand, and the zoom buttons and joystick are placed in ideal locations on the handle body. It unfolds easily, and it's one of the only other models we've seen that will switch between portrait and landscape modes with the push of a button. The only other steps to get the OM 4 shooting are to download the app, connect your phone using Bluetooth, and use the on-screen tutorials to learn the various controls and settings.
The DJI OM 4 is not the easiest to learn how to use. It took us a while to learn the controls and settings. That said, once you learn the intricacies of things like adjusting camera settings and nailing down the motion lapse paths, it is one of our favorites.
When it comes to user-friendliness, the Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus has its strengths and weaknesses. The balancing is a bit of a pain with this device. It takes some fine-tuning, and if you want to switch between landscape and portrait modes, you have to start the process over again. Similar to the DJI app, the Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus app takes some time to learn. However, if you're the type of person that's into a lot of tricky effects and manual settings, the iSteady Mobile Plus is a solid choice.
Capturing smooth footage is one of the primary purposes of smartphone gimbals. For the first part of the stability section of our review, we walked around the lab with each model and analyzed the footage using our expert media team. We noted any strange movements or jerks while using each model. We then created an obstacle course using road cones and ran through the course with each model on an electric skateboard. Next, we used the electric skateboard to ride around on some dirt trails while both following and being chased by our resident hound dog Broadus. We analyzed all of the footage side-by-side and had the GearLab team vote on which models produced the best results. Lastly, we analyzed the sturdiness and rigidity of the tripods for people who are concerned with stability while shooting static video shots, lapses, and panoramas.
It came as no shock that the DJI OM 4 did phenomenally well in all of our various tests. We found that the stout tripod and low build are the perfect combination to keep your phone steady while shooting time-lapses, panoramas, and motion lapses even in adverse weather conditions.
We also found the all-new "iFlow" algorithm programmed into the Hohem iSteady X to produce exceptionally smooth and stable footage. However, it is fairly low to the ground while on the tripod. The tripod has a small footprint and isn't that stiff, which could potentially lead to some swaying or even tipping in strong winds.
The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus is nearly as stable as the Hohem iSteady X, but we learned that it doesn't react as quickly in sport mode as the models mentioned above. It has a similar tripod to the iSteady X, but with the longer handle, your phone is much higher off the ground. The combination of the long handle with the small tripod can make for some shaky shots and may even act as a sail and blow your setup over.
The DJI Pocket 2 scored very well in our obstacle course assessment. This model likes to film straighter than the others, and with the all-new joystick, which improved upon the last model, you have full control over your angles. If you want a tripod for the Pocket 2, you're going to have to drop a few extra dollars because it is sold separately. However, we found it was pretty easy to figure out a way to prop it up in most situations.
Smartphone gimbals are an affordable and relatively easy way to use a device you already own to make production-quality photos and videos. Whether you're a time-lapse fanatic, want to create movies of your travels or a friend's wedding, or want to film your son ripping it up at the snowboard park, these innovative devices will help you step your content creation game up. We had an absolutely great time testing these products, and we hope that you now have the knowledge to purchase the perfect model for your budget and needs.
— Ross Patton and Austin Palmer
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