Taking smooth video by hand holding your camera can be an arduous task and often the footage comes out shaky, out of focus and hard to watch. Some smartphones, DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras have some sort of optical stabilization assist built into the device, but it’s not always reliable. Previously, we took a look at the Zhiyun Smooth-C for smartphones and this time we’re upgrading and reviewing the Zhiyun Crane for mirrorless cameras. Read on for our full review and find out why the Zhiyun Crane earned a Techaeris Top Pick Award alongside its little brother, the Smooth-C.
Zhiyun Crane Specifications
- Built-in compact slip rings enable the gimbal to have all 3 axis 360 degrees unlimited rotation.
- With the automotive grade magnetic encoders attached to each motor, the gimbal can sense every 0.02-degree change intervals.
- The first handheld gimbal with CCI (Camera Control Interface). With CCI, the camera’s shutter and focus can be controlled by the buttons on gimbal’s handle.
- Quick, simple and tool-less camera mounting system saves time and effort.
- The built-in wireless control module can be connected with Zhiyun’s gimbal remote controller or smartphone APP which can also be used for wireless control and firmware upgrade.
- Innovative battery tray design supports both 18650 or 26650 batteries, provides 6 hours and 12 hours operating time respectively. The 26650 batteries are sold separately.
- The industry’s first to achieve 32-bit×3 MCUs (Microcontroller Units) running in parallel at 4k hertz. The number is far beyond the reach of any other gimbals.
- Powerful MCUs （Microcontroller Unit）which support floating point calculation, combined with Zhiyun’s efficient attitude control algorithm and advanced servo control algorithm, the
- Gimbal is able to sense, compute then control the camera to a 0.01-degree accuracy, within 0.25 millisecond.
- 3 operation modes.
What’s In The Box
- Zhiyun Crane gimbal
- Camera lens Support
- Camera lens support Screw
- Camera Mounting Screw
- Micro USB cable
- 2,000mAh Batteries x4
- Battery Charger
- Battery box x2
- Hard shell carrying case
- User Manual
Made from solid aluminum, the Zhiyun Crane feels premium through and through. The handle houses two 2,000mAh rechargeable batteries (you get four total) and it also has the joystick, on/off button and toggle switch. There is also a Micro-USB port and LED indicator for various functions. The rest of the build is all mechanical with solid aluminum all around. You can manually adjust the knobs at each axis to balance the camera, and with some practice it gets easier.
The design is very much a blown up Smooth-C gimbal but five times as heavy as the smartphone gimbal. This is a very solid build, making you feel like you’ve spent your money well for such high quality materials. Overall the design isn’t mind blowing, but it is simple, sleek and functional…not to mention solid. Zhiyun did a fantastic job here and is right on par with some of the more expensive competitors on the market. This gimbal even comes with a very well made hard shell case you’ll usually only find with high end products. The case is padded with foam for superior shock protection and is really a great addition to the value. I’m impressed with the quality of craftsmanship at a much lower price than name brand gimbals.
Ease Of Use
If you’ve used a smartphone gimbal like the Zhiyun Smooth-C then this should be easy to grasp. If you’ve never used a gimbal before you might have a small learning curve to deal with. The most important thing is to familiarize yourself with the three axis terms, roll, pitch and yaw.
- Roll – The movement the camera makes left and right while on the gimbal platform, or the rotation around the front-to-back axis.
- Pitch – The movement the camera makes front to back while on the gimbal platform, or the rotation around the side-to-side axis.
- Yaw – The movement the camera makes side to side while on the gimbal platform, or the rotation around the vertical axis.
That can be a bit difficult to grasp but try and picture an airplane flying and the airplane is the camera. The movements the plane makes in roll, pitch and yaw are a lot like what the camera will do on the gimbal. Check out the video below for a visual reference of how this works on an airplane and you’ll start getting the idea.
Calibrating the Zhiyun Crane can be done using the app which has you put the Crane on a flat surface in the roll, pitch and yaw positions to key in best performance. Alternatively you can balance the crane using the axis adjustments to physically move things to balance it out.
The hardest part is calibration. It will take you a bit to figure out and get right but it’s to be expected with this level of precision movement. The second hardest part is operating it and moving with it. Even though you are now stabilizing the camera’s roll, pitch and yaw axis you now have to worry about your own Z-axis. The Z-axis is the movement your body makes when walking, kind of like a bounce. So don’t expect your first videos to come out super smooth, there will be some bounce in them unless you practice walking smoothly beforehand.
In order to eliminate the bounce from your Z-axis, it’s important to walk with your knees bent when using the Zhiyun Crane. This will stablize your Z-axis and eliminate most of the bounce in your videos, or at least make it far more subtle. Once you’ve mastered calibrating the gimbal and walking with the gimbal you’re nearly ready to go. All that’s left is mastering the joystick and button controls. These will allow you to pan left and right, up and down and also roll the camera for smooth pan shots. You have several operating modes like flashlight, follow and lock.
The Zhiyun app also gives you control of the gimbal through a touch interface. You can make movements using the touch screen but I found I never used the app much, I preferred simply using the joystick and buttons.
Overall it’s easy to get the hang of using the Zhiyun Crane but this product is really intended for those who want the most absolutely smooth shots you can get without spending a fortune on a real stedi-cam. For the average user, smartphones with OIS or EIS are going to be just fine using their smartphone. The Zhiyun Crane is focused on those mirrorless camera owners who want to bring their film making up a few notches. The bottom line is, this thing is not hard to use, but be prepared to put some thought, effort and work into learning a few things at least. The folks over at Gimbal Guru have a real in-depth video of how to balance the Zhiyun Crane, and it’s worth watching if you’re considering a purchase.
Performance is solid and everything feels premium here. The app is fine but as mentioned before, I preferred using the joystick.
Zhiyun supplies you with four 2,000mAh batteries, the Crane takes two at a time. Battery life will vary and depend on what size the camera is and how big of lens you put on it. The heavier the equipment the more work the Crane has to do. Overall battery life is really good here. I mounted my Sony A6000 with a 50mm Sony f1.8 prime lens and was able to get around 2-3 hours of battery on one set. The nice thing is Zhiyun gives you two sets of batteries so you could potentially use this thing up to 6 hours of shooting time.
$599 USD is a rock solid price for what you get here. There are other “name brand” gimbals on the market that cost much more than that, and while I’ve not used the name brand, I feel the Zhiyun Crane is priced perfectly and is a very premium product.
This is a specialized product that isn’t for everyone. But for those who are interested and in the market, this is a smashing deal and it can be an awesome tool in your bag of videography tricks.
Zhiyun Crane Video Sample
Gear used for this shoot.
- Sony A6000 Mirrorless Camera – http://amzn.to/2ao7TMg
- Sony 50mm f1.8 prime lens – http://amzn.to/2a9VcpD
- Adobe Premiere Pro – http://www.adobe.com/products/premier…
- Zhiyun Crane Gimbal – http://amzn.to/2alNw2b
*We were sent a review sample of the Zhiyun Crane for the purposes of this review.
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