- 1 Zhiyun Smooth-II 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Camera Mount for Smartphones up to 7-inch screens
- 2 Zhiyun Z1-Smooth-C Multi-function 3 Axis Handheld Steady Gimbal PTZ Camera Mount for all Smart Phones within 7″ Screen
- 3 Lightwish – JJ-1 Black Handheld 2-Axis Smartphone Brushless Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone Apple iPhone Samsung Galaxy S7 S6 edge IOS Android
- 4 DJI OSMO M Mobile Handheld Stabilized Gimbal for Smartphones Essentials Bundle
- 5 Pros and Cons
- 6 Recommendation
- 7 Conclusion
Do you love to take photos and video with the camera on your phone? Many of us rarely use anything else for photography these days. It’s only natural that you can now buy a handheld gimbal stabilizer for your smartphone and not just your DSLR.
Why use a stabilizer for video you take with your phone? Anyone who’s used a Steadicam or a Glidecam with a regular camera can tell you that it makes all the difference. A stabilizer takes the shake out of your video.
With a gimbal, you can pan, tilt, and zoom and your film looks smooth and professional. You can shoot action scenes without the jerkiness you would normally see when you’re walking or running with a camera.
With that said, let’s review four of the best smartphone stabilizers. We’ll start with two popular models from Zhiyun, then check out one from Lightwish, and wrap up with one from DJI.
Zhiyun Smooth-II 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Camera Mount for Smartphones up to 7-inch screens
Zhiyun’s Smooth-II Handheld Gimbal Camera Mount works on both Android and Apple iPhones. In fact, it works on most phones with screens up to 7-inches in size and between 2.2 and 3.2 inches in width. That list includes best-sellers like the iPhone 5s, 6 Plus, and 7 as well as the Samsung S3, S4, S5, S6 and Note 3 and Note 4.
The Smooth 2 is made from aviation-grade aluminum alloy so it’s lightweight, resistant to rusting, and durable. The grip surface is textured so it’s comfortable to hold in your hand. Without the battery or your phone, it weighs less than 14 ounces. That’s impressive when you consider the gimbal motors and electronics packed inside.
At the bottom of the grip, you’ll see a ¼-inch screw thread. That’s because the Smooth-II is made to be used with other accessories like a tripod if you like.
How to use the Zhiyun Smooth-II:
To use the Smooth-II, all you need to do is turn it on once you’ve secured your phone on it. Then use the joystick in the handle to select a mode. Double-pressing and single-pressing the 5-way joystick switches from Pan Following to Pan and Tilt Following to Locking Mode.
- Pan mode rotates the phone left and right in a full 360-degree circle. Use the joystick to adjust the tilt angle.
- Pan and tilt mode lets you phone tilt freely up and down, side to side. The roll axis is locked, but you can use the joystick to adjust it.
- Locking mode keeps the phone in place so it moves with the stabilizer just as if it were on a tripod. You can use the joystick to adjust pan and tilt angles.
If you have the Zhiyun app on your smartphone, you can control the Smooth-II wirelessly with Bluetooth. This is handy if you have it mounted on a tripod. Watch this video review of the Zhiyun Smooth-II to see this smartphone stabilizer in action.
More features of the Smooth-II
The stabilizer comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts about 5 hours. You can charge your phone with it, a fact that is very handy indeed. Zhiyun says they built-in protection against circuit discharge to protect the gimbal if the motors are working too hard.
If you prefer to use a Bluetooth remote control, Zhiyun sells one separately. But if you use the app on your phone, it lets you manage several functions like setting focus, switching between front and back cameras, and changing between taking photos and videos.
Zhiyun offers a 1-year warranty on the Smooth-II.
Zhiyun Z1-Smooth-C Multi-function 3 Axis Handheld Steady Gimbal PTZ Camera Mount for all Smart Phones within 7″ Screen
The Zhiyun Z1-Smooth-C also fits smartphones with large screens up to 7-inches in size. They include a counterweight for balancing heavy phones.
The Z1-Smooth-C is the forerunner to the Smooth-II. It’s been discontinued but you can still buy it and get a good deal on it.
Its joystick is a 4-way, not a 5-way, but you can adjust tilt and roll with it. This 3-axis stabilizer features the following modes:
- Heading follow, or Pan mode
- Pitch follow, or Tilt
Although many owners have said they love the Smooth-C, many of them comment on the fact that the initial setup with firmware upgrade and calibration can be confusing for inexperienced users. Zhiyun (at the time of writing) still has software downloads and instructions for the Z1-Smooth-C on their website.
Lightwish – JJ-1 Black Handheld 2-Axis Smartphone Brushless Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone Apple iPhone Samsung Galaxy S7 S6 edge IOS Android
The Lightwish JJ-1 2-Axis Smartphone Stabilizer fits iPhone 5 and up as well as Android models made by Samsung as long as your screen isn’t larger than 6.8-inches.
Similar to the Zhiyun Smooth-II, you can control the gimbal wirelessly with Bluetooth. But be aware that this stabilizer is only 2-axis. You can adjust it for tilt and roll but not pan.
Lightwish recommends balancing your camera before you turn on the JJ-1. Roll angle gives you up to 300 degrees of movement and pitch up to 330-degrees for following the action when you’re filming. The gimbal makes your video zoom-ins look like the camera floated smoothly toward the target. Locking the stabilizer lets you use it like a monopod for still shots.
The Lightwish stabilizer is a little lighter than the Smooth-II. It runs off a rechargeable battery and comes with a charger and micro USB cable as well as a user manual.
DJI OSMO M Mobile Handheld Stabilized Gimbal for Smartphones Essentials Bundle
Our last smartphone stabilizer review is the OSMO M from DJI. It has several features that photography enthusiasts and indie filmmakers love. Here are some highlights:
- 360-degree Panoramas made super-easy—hold up the OSMO M with your camera onboard and press the shutter button. The OSMO M keeps your camera level and rotates to take 9 photos. The app blends them together into one perfect panorama.
- Take time-lapse and hyper-lapse shots
- Capture long exposures without a tripod
- 3-axis stabilization lets you film with your camera floating smoothly along as you walk or ride in a vehicle
Because of the Bluetooth connection the OSMO M has with your smartphone, you can control your camera with it. Just install the app, pair the two devices, and get started. You can customize the joystick’s sensitivity, set push mode so you can adjust the gimbal by pushing on your phone, or invert the controls for pan and tilt.
The OSMO Mobile app gives your phone’s camera advanced features like manual ISO and white balance settings. Want to see it in action? See this brief video.
The DJI OSMO M stabilizer comes with a wrist strap, rechargeable battery, protective cover, charger and cable, plus a carrying pouch and cleaning cloth. You can use other small lenses with your camera and the OSMO M as long as they don’t affect the balance. At 7.09 ounces with the battery, it’s the lightest of these four stabilizers.
One note: if you don’t have an iPhone, check back soon to see if DJI has released the app for Android phones. They haven’t given a release date, but they do say “coming soon.”
Pros and Cons
Now that you’ve had a look at the best smartphone camera stabilizing gimbals, let’s go over the pros and cons of each one.
We’re excited that handheld stabilizers are now available for smartphone cameras. If you’ve used one before for your regular camera, you can adjust quickly to using a gimbal for your cell phone.
If you’re serious about using your phone for photography and videos, we recommend either the Zhiyun Smooth-II or the DJI OSMO M. They have the most features. The OSMO M is especially nice because it’s very customizable.
If you’re just beginning to try filming with a stabilizer, you may find that the Lightwish JJ-1 is easy to use since you only need to think about pitch and roll.
The Zhiyun Z1 Smooth-C may save you some money, but it has a reputation for being a bit challenging to upgrade and calibrate.
Come back again to see more reviews of gadgets that make your life easier and much more fun.