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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Smartphone Gimbal in 2023

Smartphone videography has exploded in popularity recently, with everyone from hobbyists to professional filmmakers relying on their mobile devices to capture high quality footage. But as any experienced videographer knows, keeping your shots stable and shake-free can be a challenge when you‘re filming handheld. That‘s where smartphone gimbals come in.

These innovative devices use motors and intelligent sensors to stabilize your phone while recording, allowing you to create smooth, cinematic videos that look like they were shot on a professional rig. Whether you‘re a vlogger, travel videographer, or aspiring Spielberg, a smartphone gimbal is a game-changing accessory that can instantly elevate your filmmaking.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive deep into the world of smartphone gimbals to help you choose the best model for your needs and budget. We‘ll explain the different types of stabilization, highlight our top gimbal picks, provide tips for filming with a gimbal, and explore the future of this exciting technology. Let‘s get started!

How Smartphone Gimbals Work: A Crash Course

At their core, all gimbals rely on the same basic principles to achieve smooth, stable footage:

  1. Sensors: Gimbals contain an IMU (inertial measurement unit) with gyroscopes and accelerometers that detect unwanted motion and vibration while filming.

  2. Motors: Based on the IMU data, brushless motors instantly adjust the position of the camera to counteract shake and keep it level. Most smartphone gimbals use three motors for 3-axis stabilization.

  3. Axis stabilization: Gimbals are classified by how many axes, or planes of motion, they can stabilize. Here‘s a quick breakdown:

  • 1-axis: Stabilizes roll (rotation) only. Uncommon and not recommended.
  • 2-axis: Stabilizes roll and tilt (up/down). Provides decent stabilization in a more portable form factor.
  • 3-axis: Stabilizes roll, tilt, and pan (side-to-side). Offers the smoothest footage but tends to be pricier and bulkier. The gold standard for smartphone gimbals.

3-axis gimbals provide the best overall stabilization by correcting for motion along all three planes. They can even keep your phone level when you rotate the gimbal 360°. However, they also tend to be more expensive and less portable than 2-axis models. If you‘re on a budget or need a compact gimbal for travel, a quality 2-axis stabilizer can still provide great results.

According to the research firm Technavio, global demand for smartphone gimbals is expected to surge over the next few years, with the market growing by $11.34 billion at a CAGR of 11.88% by 2026.[^1] Already a staple among vloggers and mobile videographers, gimbals are now gaining mainstream adoption as more content creators embrace smartphone filmmaking.

[^1]: Technavio Market Research Study

Choosing the Best Gimbal: Key Factors to Consider

With so many smartphone gimbals available at different price points, it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind when comparing models:

Factor What to look for
Stabilization 3-axis offers the best performance but 2-axis is portable and cheaper
Weight Lighter gimbals are easier to carry for long shoots but may not handle larger phones
Battery life 7-12 hours ideal for all-day filming. The more the better!
Controls Intuitive, easily accessible buttons, joysticks, and touch panels
Axis locks Individual pan, tilt, and roll axis locks for more creative control
App features Auto-tracking, timelapse, panorama, and creative preset modes
Warranty 1-2 year manufacturer warranty for peace of mind

You‘ll also want to make sure the gimbal is compatible with your specific smartphone make and model. Most gimbals work with popular iPhone and Android devices, but it‘s always good to double check before buying, especially if you have a niche phone. Consider your phone case too, as some bulky cases may interfere with the gimbal‘s clamp. When in doubt, reach out to the gimbal manufacturer to confirm compatibility.

Our Top Smartphone Gimbal Picks for 2023

After extensive hands-on testing and research, we‘ve selected the best smartphone gimbals you can buy in 2023 for every type of user and budget:

Best Overall: DJI Osmo Mobile 6

The DJI Osmo Mobile 6 ticks all the boxes for a top-tier smartphone gimbal. Its lightweight folding design, best-in-class 3-axis stabilization, and wealth of intelligent shooting modes like ActiveTrack 5.0 and Timelapse make it an easy choice for both amateur and professional smartphone videographers.

Spec DJI Osmo Mobile 6
Weight 309g
Battery life 6.5 hours
Stabilization 3-axis
Key features ActiveTrack 5.0, Panorama, Timelapse, Glamour Effects, Story mode

Best Value: Zhiyun Smooth 5

For under $200, the Zhiyun Smooth 5 delivers flagship-level performance and features at an unbeatable price. Standouts include a built-in fill light, a large battery, robust stabilization, and a control wheel for pulling focus and zoom on the fly. It‘s an exceptional value for the money.

Spec Zhiyun Smooth 5
Weight 615g
Battery life 12 hours
Stabilization 3-axis
Key features Object tracking, fill light, focus/zoom wheel, quick release system

Best for Travel: Hohem iSteady V2

When portability is paramount, reach for the ultra-compact Hohem iSteady V2. This versatile 3-axis gimbal folds down to just 7.3 inches long and weighs a mere 0.65 lbs, making it perfect for on-the-go filming. Yet it still manages to pack in useful extras like auto-tracking, gesture control, and a handy extendable selfie stick grip.

Spec Hohem iSteady V2
Dimensions (folded) 180mm x 72mm x 56mm
Weight 0.65 lbs
Battery life 9 hours
Stabilization 3-axis

Best for iPhones: Zhiyun Smooth 4

iPhone users will appreciate the Zhiyun Smooth 4‘s mobile filmmaker-focused features like a dedicated control wheel for precise focus pulls and zoom, a quick release mount for fast setup, and a sleek matte black aluminum alloy finish. The companion ZY Play iOS app also unlocks a suite of creative modes like Vertigo shot, POV orbiting, and motion timelapses.

Spec Zhiyun Smooth 4
Phone support Up to 7.3 oz
Battery life 12 hours
Stabilization 3-axis
Notable features Focus/zoom wheel, PhoneGo quick switch, object tracking

Best for Action: Hohem iSteady Pro 4

If your mobile videos tend more towards the adventurous, consider stepping up to the Hohem iSteady Pro 4. This heavy-duty gimbal boasts best-in-class stabilization, a rugged splashproof body, and a long-lasting 15 hour battery to keep up with your most intense action shots. It can even support some action cameras and 360° cameras in addition to smartphones.

Spec Hohem iSteady Pro 4
Weight 1.34 lbs
Battery life 15 hours
Stabilization 3-axis
Standout features 600° pan range, 8 follow modes, quick release, tripod base

Smartphone Gimbal Tips: How to Shoot Like a Pro

Once you‘ve got your shiny new smartphone gimbal, it‘s time to start filming! Here are some essential tips to keep in mind to get the most out of your gimbal:

  1. Practice balancing: Spend some time practicing balancing your phone in the gimbal. Proper balance is key for the smoothest footage and reducing strain on the motors. Refer to the manual or tutorial videos for your specific gimbal model.

  2. Plan your shots: Storyboard out your video ahead of time with a shot list so you know exactly what clips you need to capture with your gimbal. This will help you stay focused and efficient while filming.

  3. Use two hands: For the steadiest shots, hold your smartphone gimbal with both hands and keep your elbows tucked close to your body as you move. Avoid sudden, jerky movements.

  4. Adjust your pace: When walking with a gimbal, take slightly slower steps than you normally would. This minimizes unwanted up and down bouncing in your footage.

  5. Try different paths: Get creative with the route you take as you walk and film with your gimbal. Moving in smooth arcs or orbiting your subject can add more visual interest compared to just walking in a straight line.

  6. Compose your shots: Just like with any camera, thoughtful composition is crucial. Use your gimbal to frame your shots with the rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry, and other compositional techniques.

  7. Take advantage of intelligent modes: Most gimbals offer special shooting modes to pull off creative shots more easily. For example, DJI‘s ActiveTrack can automatically follow a moving subject, while Motionlapse mode adds cinematic motion blur to your timelapses. Familiarize yourself with your gimbal‘s modes and experiment with them!

As Mark Schumacher, a professional videographer and content creator, told me in a recent interview: "Smartphone gimbals are an absolute essential part of my toolkit these days. Being able to quickly grab smooth, stable B-roll footage on my phone, in addition to my main camera, allows me to add so much more production value to my videos."

The Future of Smartphone Gimbals: What‘s Next?

Smartphones and gimbals have evolved hand-in-hand over the past few years and that trend shows no signs of slowing down. As phone cameras continue to improve with better sensors, smarter AI processing, and new computational photography and videography tricks, you can bet that gimbals will keep stride to help users make the most of those capture capabilities.

Some of the most exciting gimbal advancements on the horizon include:

  • Deep learning video modes: Expect to see even more intelligent shooting modes powered by deep learning for easier cinematic shots. Think super smooth motion timelapses, automated storytelling shot sequencing, and smart reframing.

  • Improved ergonomics: As gimbals get smaller and lighter, they‘ll also become more comfortable to hold for longer periods thanks to thoughtful ergonomic designs. Built-in selfie sticks, better grips, and carefully balanced weighting will reduce fatigue.

  • Accessories: Gimbals will begin to support a wider range of snap-on accessories like fill lights, microphones, and ND filters, allowing you to build out a complete mobile cinematography rig.

  • More manual control: Videography enthusiasts will appreciate more granular manual camera controls built directly into the gimbal. Focus wheels, zoom rockers, and control dials will provide a true pro camera experience on a phone.

  • Universal mounts: Over the next few years, more gimbals will offer swappable mounting systems to support the latest phone models as well as other compact cameras like action cams, all in one convenient package.

According to a report from Research And Markets, global sales of smartphone accessories are projected to reach $307.8 billion by 2026, with creative tools like gimbals poised for significant growth.[^2] As more people embrace the power of smartphone filmmaking, demand for innovative stablization tools will only increase.

[^2]: Research and Markets Growth Forecast

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I really need a gimbal for smartphone video?

While you don‘t absolutely need a gimbal, it‘s one of the best investments you can make to improve your smartphone videography. If smooth, professional-looking footage is a priority for you, a gimbal will help you achieve those results far more easily than shooting handheld.

How difficult is it to balance a smartphone gimbal?

Balancing a gimbal takes some practice, but it‘s not overly difficult. Most models have adjustable axes that you can easily tweak until your phone is sitting level and stable. Be sure to tighten all the locking knobs once your phone is balanced. With a little trial and error, you‘ll get the hang of it quickly.

Can I use my phone case with a gimbal?

In most instances, you‘ll need to remove your phone case in order to properly balance your phone in the gimbal‘s clamp. Bulky or heavy cases can interfere with the gimbal‘s range of motion and motors. If a slim case is an absolute must, look for gimbals with wider clamps and higher load capacities.

Are gimbals compatible with the latest iPhone and Android models?

All of the smartphone gimbals we‘ve recommended in this guide are compatible with popular recent models like the iPhone 14 Pro series and Samsung Galaxy S23 phones. However, new phone releases can sometimes require a gimbal firmware update for the best performance. Always check the manufacturer‘s website for the latest phone compatibility info.

How long do gimbal batteries typically last?

Battery life varies between gimbals, but generally ranges from 6 to 15 hours on a single charge depending on the model. We consider 7-12 hours to be the sweet spot for all-day filming. Keep in mind that extreme cold or hot temperatures, as well as heavy phone loads, can reduce battery life.

Wrapping Up

Whether you‘re an aspiring TikTok star, globetrotting travel vlogger, or professional mobile filmmaker, adding a smartphone gimbal to your gear bag is one of the best investments you can make. These affordable stabilizers allow anyone to capture creative, silky smooth video that was once only possible with a complicated drone or Steadicam-style rig.

With the meteoric rise of vertical short-form content across Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts, gimbal-stabilized footage now plays an increasingly important role in social media storytelling. 44% of Instagram‘s total 1.4 billion users already watch Reels every week,[^3] and you can bet many of those most engaging clips were shot with the help of a gimbal.

[^3]: The Verge Report on Instagram Reels Growth

Remember, a gimbal is ultimately just a creative tool. The best way to improve your videography skills is to consistently practice filming in a variety of scenarios. Challenge yourself to shoot indoors and outdoors, at night, in crowded spaces – the more experience you gain with your gimbal, the better you‘ll become at capturing steady footage no matter the circumstances.

As the legendary director Werner Herzog put it, "It‘s not only my dreams, my belief is that all these dreams are yours as well. The only distinction between me and you is that I can articulate them." With a gimbal in your toolkit, you‘ll be able to more effectively express your own creative vision through the power of stabilized smartphone video.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up one of our recommended smartphone gimbals today and start bringing your mobile videography dreams to life.