Whether you’re a novice videographer looking to take breathtaking vacation shots or a professional photographer shooting production video, image stabilization is an essential tool for getting that great shot. We spent over 37 hours researching the best DSLR Camera Stabilizers to find the best in the business. After testing and toiling and taking hundreds of videos, we found the Zhiyun Crane V2 Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer to be the Best Overall.
Table of Contents
Difference Between Gimbals and Steadicams
Gimbals and Steadicams are two distinct types of image stabilization accessories that can help the user capture sharp, stable, video images.The way these accessories work is by moving the center of gravity down from the middle of your DSLR Camera to the accessory itself – to better control movement and therefore stabilize the video. Depending on the make and model of your camera, image stabilization can even help you to capture sharp pictures at slower shutter speeds than was ever before possible.But that’s another topic…
Gimbals are a motorized (usually battery powered) type of stabilizer that automatically adjusts and stabilizes by using thenow-popular and affordable 3-axis system which keepsthe camera level with the horizon. With this technology, no matter how you move, the camera will stay pointing straight forward. The effect is amazing, and its purpose serves to simulate the way your eyes would view images in real life.
Gimbals are very easy to use because the mechanics adjust the stabilization without any (or minimal) input from the user. They can also easily adjust to small changes in weight such as adding or taking off a lens filter, whereas a manual Steadicam will need to have these minor adjustments made by the user.
As you might expect, because of the technology involved, Gimbals are more expensive option than Steadicams and could set you back a pretty penny.
A Steadicam is not a motorizeddevice. Alternatively, it usesgravity and weights to balance the shot and keep the camera steady. They require a bit of setup to get the balance just right for the camera you’re using and only need minor adjustments from there.
From what we experienced, the windcan effectSteadicams quite a bit. Unfortunately, we (more than once) found ourselves in a position where we didn’t realize the effects of the wind until after getting home and looking at the video. On the other hand, the automated adjustments made by the Gimbals we tested were much better at stabilizing our video in windy conditions.
Another thing to note about using a Steadicam is that if you want to adda filter to your lens, you will need to rebalance the Steadicam and adjust for the weight change, both when putting on and taking off the filter whereas the Gimbal will automatically adjust.
Despite it all, Steadicams are a fantastic and affordable next-step-up from using a tripod. If you are a beginner, start by using aSteadicam then move up to a Gimbal. Progressingalong in this way will give you the experience you need tolearn about stabilization, and you’ll also learn when you will and when you won’t need it.
Although we came across some users who handbuilt their ownSteadicams, we would encourage you to purchase an affordable model and learn about the process before you build one on your own.
Important Features to Note
Capacity Range (camera weight limits) – Capacity Rage refers to the maximum camera weight that the stabilizer can handle and still find a proper balance. Sometimes a stabilizer will even list a minimum weight range that it can handle.
Stabilizer Dimensions– It’s important to note the size of the stabilizer you’re looking at and be sure to consider the fact that you’ll be carrying it around quite a bit and even packing it up for travel. Many frequent users and professionals invest in a vest that can help hold the weight.
Stabilizer Weight– Remember that you’ll be lugging both the weight of the stabilizer as well as your camera around with you. Be sure to add these weights together, so you know what you’ll be needing to carry around as far as total weight.
|ProAm USA Stabilizer||Neewer Stabilizer||PULUZ Stabilizer||ZhiyunCrane Stabilizer||FLYCAM Stabilizer|
|Capacity Range||Up to 6 pounds||Up to 6 pounds||Select Cameras Only||0.77 lbs – 3.95 lbs||Up to 8 pounds|
|Dimensions||18 x 4 x 10 inches||4.8 x 9.2 x 16.3 inches||10.4 x 6.7 x 2.4 inches||5.5 x 15.8 x 14.2 inches||21 x 7.5 x 6.5 inches|
|Weight||5.3 pounds||4.6 pounds||1.7 pounds||6 pounds||11 pounds|
How We Selected
We started our search with over 900 DSLR Stabilizers that we needed to weed through. Obviously, we needed to look thoroughly at these to determine which five models we would test.
To start with, we knew we wanted only to test models that have a 4-or-more star rating (out of 5) regarding customer satisfaction.
Also, we wanted to test one higher-end model, but we wanted our choices to be more in a range that would be affordable for most users. Additionally, we wanted to be sure to thoroughly test a combination of both Gimbal and Manual-style of stabilizers.
Once we weeded out many of our options by using the above criteria, we were left with 23 choices ranging in price from $995.00 to $69.95. With such a wide price range, we surmised that the best choices would lie somewhere in the middle and we also felt that a decent stabilizer could be found without having to spend an exorbitant amount of money.
How We Tested
We took each of these five models through a range of tests – each test was performed five times – one time with each stabilizer.
Walking up a set of stairs – The wooded background of this test helped each stabilizer to give acceptable results. It seems that the background plays an important role and that you don’t notice stabilization (or not) as strongly with a busy background. There’s just too much to look at to notice much wobbling.
Running towards a picnic shelter–We chose this test because we felt the vertical post lines at each of the 4 corners of the shelter would help give perspective. Interestingly, at first glance, the video seemed stable, yet once you compared themovement to the 4 vertices, you could see how much better the Gimbals performed.
Walking along a railing above a river–Same idea here as using the vertical test, only this test was to determine the stability of horizontal lines. Just as we suspected, we experienced much the same outcome as the vertical test. The image was acceptably stable with the Steadicam, but you could definitely notice a difference when comparing themovement to the horizontal lines of the railing.
What We Liked
- The Zhiyun Crane V2 Gimbal Stabilizer worked wonders for us. It could easily handle anything we threw at it. There is no question as to why this unit is the go-to stabilizer for so many videographers.
- We were happy to notice that the ProAm USA Autopilot Gimbal was both designed and assembled in the USA. It’s hard to find any type of electronic accessory made outside of China these days,so this was a welcome bonus.
- The Neewer 24” Steadicam Stabilizer performed well for an extremely affordable price. After getting the hang of getting balances, you’ll be well on your way to taking incredible video.
What We Didn’t Like
- The FLYCAM 24” Steadicam Stabilizer was the heaviest of the five we tested. It definitely gave us a workout, and our arms started to become tired holding this unit.
- The PULUZ Camera Cage Steadicam was a bit tricky to use and didn’t fully accommodate the cameras we tried in it. Some cameras even had the battery slot blocked which meant that we had to take the camera out of the cage to replace or recharge the battery.
- The Neewer 24” Steadicam is the most basic of all the stabilizers we tested. This makes it a great starter stabilizer but also means that it is the simplest design and therefore it might take a bit of time to work out the balance on this unit.
While looking for a great DSLR Stabilizer, you’ll find that there is a slew of choices from which to pick. You’ll likely find yourself wondering where in the world to start.
Our goal with this guide is to provide you with all the information you’ll need to make the choice that’s best for you. We’ve researched the difference between Manual and Gimbal Stabilizers and tested both to see which came out on top.
In the end, we determined that the best decision for you will be based on how you plan to use your stabilizer and how much money you want to spend on it. Be sure to read our above suggestions as we review five of the Best Stabilizers out there. We’re confident that our research will lead you to the purchase that’s best for you.