Whether you’re making a feature film, short film, YouTube video or Instagram video, you need your footage to look professional. Shaky footage can ruin your film if you’re not aiming for a handheld, shaky look. If you’ll be moving with your camera or smartphone, consider using a DSLR stabilizer, also called a gimbal stabilizer or camera stabilizer, to improve the quality of your footage.
A gimbal stabilizer is essentially a handheld tripod. With the gimbal support, your camera can move and pivot on an axis. This enables you to walk with the camera and follow a moving subject but still achieve the kind of look you’d have with a stationery tripod. Think about the scenes in your script – will you be following an actor who is running? Will you need to walk up or down stairs?
You might think that you can’t afford a DSLR stabilizer, but if you end up having to waste time and money re-shooting parts of all of your film, working without one could actually cost you more in the long run. Many gimbal stabilizers are also sold with other pieces of equipment, such as tripods, so you could also save money with a package of camera accessories.
The Best Gimbal Stabilizers
The Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer, one of Amazon’s most popular choices, lets you pull focus and zoom. It also supports advanced shooting techniques such as timelapse, moving time lapse, freestyle time lapse, hyperlapse, motion lapse and slow motion.
Another popular option is the Flycam HD-3000 24″/60cm Micro Balancing Handheld Steadycam Stabilizer for DV HDV DSLR Video Cameras up to 8 pounds. This camera stabilizer comes with a table platform, release plate and storage case. With a micro-balancing technique and a foam cushioned handle grip, it claims to allow you to even run up and down stairs while you film!
If cost is less of a consideration, you might splurge on the Zhiyun Crane 2 Follow Focus 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal, which can support a camera weighing up to 7 pounds. It promises quick, direct camera control with handgrip buttons, an LED screen settings display, two-way charging, an 18-hour runtime, a quick release plate and even a “slow-fall” feature that helps protect your camera from a sudden drop.
If you’re looking for a more inexpensive camera stabilizer, consider the Ivation Pro Steady DSLR Rig System with Shoulder Mount For Video Stabilization For DV Cameras/Camcorders, which costs less than $50. One of its best features is that you can fold it down into a compact package that is easy to carry around. It also contains rotatable, adjustable hand grips and non-slip rest pads.
If you’re willing to spend just a bit more, you might like the Official Roxant Pro video camera stabilizer for GoPro, Smartphone, Canon, Nikon or any other camera that weighs up to 2.1 pounds. A well-reviewed DSLR stabilizer that only weighs 1.83 pounds, it comes with a comfort grip handle, 3 separate counter-weights, lifetime customer support and free video training tutorials.
When shopping for a camera stabilizer, make sure you choose one that is compatible with your phone or camera (check product specs carefully), both in terms of technology and camera weight. Also consider battery life and charging requirements. Most stabilizers use lithium-ion batteries, while others use regular alkaline ones. You might also be interested in a DSLR stabilizer that allows for two-way charging, meaning that you can charge the stabilizer from a power source while the stabilizer itself will charge your phone or camera.
The weight of the DSLR stabilizer itself is also an important consideration. Stabilizers can weigh up to ten pounds – and you also need to add the weight of your camera and other accessories to that. A more expensive stabilizer may do a better job or have more features, but it will likely also weigh a lot more. Think about the length of time you or your camera person will be able to carry the entire apparatus.
Finally, make sure you know how the gimbal stabilizer can be adjusted – will you need a screwdriver? Also note that you may have to purchase items such as carrying cases separately. You may also be interested in accessories such as extension arms, depending on the exact cinematic look you desire.