Anyone who is shooting handheld video has a need for a camera stabilizer. The movement of the camera without one is just too shaky and unstable to use in a professional environment.
With video stabilizers becoming much more common, even for small cameras and phones, it is starting to become unacceptable for people to even have cell phone footage that is bouncing all over the place. We, as the public, have started to become video “snobs” and demand higher quality video, even from simple home videos.
Is Video Important?
The reality is that everyone is bombarded with many videos every single day. No matter what social media platform you use, video takes a front and center place. Look at Facebook and Instagram, two of the largest social networks. You can hardly scroll through your feed without seeing videos. And with the new “Live” feature on these apps, so much more video is being generated each day.
Then there is SnapChat. Tons of short clips are being sent on this platform every day. While the quality of these videos are typically lower, people with higher follower counts are definitely making higher quality videos for their followers.
We haven’t even touched YouTube yet. YouTube is the third most visited website in the world and it is 100% all video. Does that tell you something?
YouTube has over 30 million visitors a day. The amount of video stored on YouTube is staggering. According to Statisticbrain over 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Almost 5 billion videos are watched on the website every single day!
Now, you tell me, is video important?
Absolutely it is!!
What about mobile video, is it important too?
Absolutely! Mobile YouTube users spend approximately 40 minutes per watching session. Mobile users also make up more than half of all YouTube views. Yes, all video is important.
Ok, so I gave you a bunch of statistics about videos. What does all that mean and what does it have to do with camera stabilizers? With people being shown so much video on a daily basis, they are beginning to demand higher quality videos. Why would someone watch a shaky video that is thrown together by someone on an old cellphone when they can watch a smooth video that is easy to watch shot on that same cellphone?
The fact is, people are drawn to well-made videos. The way to increase a video’s worth is to increase the production value, which means to shoot it with a stabilizer.
How Do Camera Stabilizers Work?
There are a wide variety of stabilizers on the market, but they all serve the same purpose. They are designed to remove camera shake or any movement of the camera that the shooter does not want, or do on purpose.
Stabilizers are very valuable since most of these unwanted movements cannot be removed in post-production. Even if the problems can be removed in post-production editing, it is usually time consuming and rarely comes out perfectly.
The only tried and true way to remove all camera shake would be to use a tripod. But tripods are extremely limited when it comes to shooting video. Stabilizers are a must.
Different Types of Stabilizers
There are many different types of stabilizers and it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. A big part of your decision may actually lie in the cost of each system. As a system becomes lighter weight, or easier to use, the price tends to go up. Stabilizers range from tiny iPhone and GoPro stabilizers to DSLR stabilizers, all the way up to stabilization systems for full blown cinema camera systems.
One of the original types of stabilizing rigs is a mechanical balance system. This system is typically a handheld stabilizer where you mount the camera on top of the arm and have counter-balance weights on the bottom of the arm. This allows the camera to float since the person shooting the video isn’t actually holding directly onto the camera.
Mechanical balance systems are quite simplistic in their design and work quite well. After all, they were the main form of stabilization for quite some time. Typically they are also more affordable than the electronic stabilizers that I will talk about in a minute. Since there are no moving parts, there is no worry over dead batteries or burned out electronics. The mechanical systems just work, every single time.
One difficulty with a mechanical balanced system is that there can be a steep learning curve on how to use it. It definitely isn’t something you are going to buy and immediately have perfect results with. This type of system will still show camera shake due to walking. If you just walk like normal the video will tend to bob up and down with each step taken. If running while filming, the bouncing is much more pronounced.
The “ninja walk” is typically used to prevent the bounce when using one of these mechanical systems for stabilization. It is a little awkward to do, and if others are around, the person filming will definitely get some funny looks and stares.
All in all, the mechanical systems work. And they are less expensive.
Electronic Gimbal Stabilizers
Electronic stabilizers, or gimbals, are those with electrical motors which spin to counteract any movement. An electronic stabilizer is typically powered by batteries and has a joystick somewhere on the handle to help control camera movement.
The weight of an electronic stabilizer is going to be lighter than its mechanical balance counterpart. The reason for this is the lack of counter weights that the mechanical system requires. While some mechanical systems are large enough to require a vest to help support the load of the system, electronic stabilizers are usually handheld with one or two hands, depending on the size of the rig.
Electronic stabilizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are small and hold something like a cell phone, while others can support a RED camera with accessories and require two hands to hold. An electric stabilizer is also what can be found on most stabilized drone systems. With the motors already spinning on the gimbal, it is easy to use a joystick controller to pan or tilt the camera with incredibly smooth movements and with no bounce at all.
A disadvantage to any stabilization system is that they are typically sized based on camera size. This means that a stabilizer made for an iPhone is not going to work for a full DSLR rig and vice versa.
The reason that these systems aren’t a one size fits all is due to the various weights of each system. While a mechanical stabilizer can add or remove balance weights for a different camera weight, each system is only designed to hold a certain amount of weight. Once you go beyond that amount, it is time to upgrade to a new system.
In the same sense, if you have a stabilizer system that is made for heavy cameras, it won’t be able to effectively stabilize a small camera where the weight is almost negligible with respect to the stabilizer.
Electronic handheld gimbal stabilizers are much more sensitive to weight since the electric motors they use are only so powerful. If the weight is too substantial the motors can burn up quickly.
Gimbal Stabilizers with Cameras
A third option for a stabilizer is actually an all-in-one system. DJI makes a gimbal stabilizer system that comes with its own camera, called the DJI Osmo.
The Osmo has a number of different varieties when it comes to the camera that can be used on the system. Since DJI makes all of the components, they are always balanced properly and work pretty much all the time. There is no rebalancing required, nor do you need to buy another camera. This complete handheld system works very well and the cameras are much more impressive than many other cameras.
What Stabilizer is Right for You?
This is a really personal decision. While many videographers are flocking to the new gimbal electronic systems, there are still many who are sticking to the mechanical solutions.
One example is Devin Supertramp from YouTube who uses a Glidecam for almost all of his motion shots. He is a huge supporter of their products and even has a model named after him.
I, on the other hand, prefer electronic video stabilizers, such as those made by Zhiyun-Tech because they are lighter and are much easier for me to travel with. Travel photography and videography is huge for me, and I can easily put my handheld stabilizer in my checked luggage and use it when I get to my destination. With a mechanical stabilizer I not only have to pack the device, but also the counterbalance weights that go with it. That certainly will make luggage heavier, and might cause a second bag to be needed for traveling. This is why I prefer to go electronic.
Stabilizers are vital to any video production unless you always plan on using a tripod. If any shots require the video camera to be handheld then a stabilizer is a must. In our reviews we go through all the details on each stabilizer and put them through our own testing to see just how well they work. We are very thorough in our evaluation and do our best to provide non-biased reviews.
Just to get this out in the open, we are not sponsored by any stabilizer manufacturer. Our opinions are unbiased and honest. If you have any questions about any of our reviews, just comment on the review and we will get in on the discussion.