The Zhiyun Smooth-C smartphone gimbal is the first smartphone gimbal I’ve used so this review is based solely on it and it alone. Smartphone gimbals have been around for a few years now and they’ve been priced pretty steep but the Zhiyun Smooth-C is actually affordable. Gimbals are great because they help stabilize your video footage. While phones like the iPhone 6s Plus and others have OIS (optical image stabilization) built into them, that doesn’t always stop the shaking of your hand and walking movements. This is where the Zhiyun Smooth-C comes into play.
Made from high quality aluminum the design is straight forward and simple. No flashy looks, nothing but function and stability. The Smooth-C is comfortable to use and not heavy at all, so prolonged use wasn’t an issue for me at all. I do wish the grip was a little thicker as my hands are a bit larger or perhaps including a foam grip to give the handle a bit more girth would have been good.
Ease of Use
The Smooth-C was ready to use out of the box in my case but you may have to go through an initialization phase before first use. Initialization is a simple 2 minute process but if the gimbal is still not acting properly you will have to calibrate it before using. The calibration process is clearly spelled out in the included instructions and is pretty simple, consisting of placing the gimbal on a flat surface and having it learn positions.
Once you have the gimbal either initialized or calibrated you can place your smartphone in the holder, power it up and you’re ready to go. The Smooth-C will fit an iPhone 6s Plus with some effort and without a case. Phones such as the Nexus 6 (Motorola) may not work, the Nexus 6P does work as well.
The Smooth-C has four different modes at your disposal and if you’ve never used a gimbal before it will take you a few tries to understand how they work, but it’s dead simple once you get it.
- Pan mode (default) – Pan axis, left and right rotation follows the movement of the gimbal keeping the phone locked in pitch (up and down) and roll (level). While in pan mode you use the joystick to move the phone up and down as needed. This mode should be the first you use to practice with, as you move the gimbal left and right the phone will follow depending on the speed you move.
- Locking mode – All three axes (pan, pitch and roll) are locked and the gimbal faces one direction only. You use the joystick up and down to adjust the phone’s pitch and the left and right to adjust the phone’s pan angle.
- Pan/pitch following mode – The roll axis is locked in this mode and the pitch and pan axis rotate to follow the movement of the gimbal. The joystick is used left and right to adjust the roll angle.
- Upside down mode – 1) Make roll axis rotation 180 degrees and then put phone in holder. 2) Power on and start the gimbal, double press the joystick to enter pan and pitch follow mode. 3) Rotate the handle 180 degrees and the gimbal enters into upside down mode.
Using the Smooth-C will take some practice and time but it will help smooth out your family videos and save you the headache of shaky footage. The first three modes aren’t hard to use and have a small learning curve. The fourth mode is a bit of a challenge and I’m still working on making that one work well for me. Overall though, the Smooth-C is really simple to use, check out the test footage I shot of my kids.
The Smooth-C performed great, keep in mind this is my first smartphone gimbal experience but overall I felt it stabilized my video far better than holding the phone by hand. I’m sure there are other gimbals that are three times the price that may do a better job but the Smooth-C really makes your video better.
Battery life is decent but not stellar. Using the Smooth-C intensely for a few hours will drain it but then your smartphone won’t last very long either shooting 1080p or 2K video so it might not be a huge issue. I do wish you could charge the battery using the microUSB port but the company does include an external battery charger. I did notice that when the battery got low, the Smooth-C had a bit of trouble holding up the heft of the iPhone 6s Plus.
For the $250 price point this is a great value. Other gimbals are easily twice or three times as much.
If you’re looking for great stabilization at a great price, the Smooth-C is one to check out. This is perfect for the smartphone video shooter who just wants a bit more stabilization to their videos. Great for family shooting and capturing those candid and special moments.