welcome to my first ever review. I've been using the zhiyun gimbal with a canon 5d mk iv and various lenses for a year now. when i was shopping for a handheld gimbal i found there were a ton of options out there but Most people were using these gimbals with smaller and lighter sony mirrorless cameras. there wasn't a ton of info on this combo so I wasn't sure how well it would handle the canon 5d mk iv. after some research i decided to go with the Crane BECAUSE of the gimbals claimed payload, small form factor, AFFORDABLE price point, and the fact that i already owned a rokinon 14mm cine t3.1 prime lens. this review contains everything i learned about the gimbal in the last year. there's also some info on the 5d mk iv in here because that is my main camera.
the Zhiyun Crane is a 3-axis handheld gimbal DESIGNED for mirrorless and dslr cameras. the gimbal itself weighs 950 grams. It feels like a solid piece of equipment when your'e handling it. the bottom of the gimbal has a 1/4" screw thread which you can attach a tripod quick release plate or some kind of FOLDABLE legs to. i learned very quickly that its rather difficult to balance this gimbal without putting it on a tripod or having a quick release plate on the bottom for it to rest on. i happen to use a plate from my induro ballhead attached to the bottom. if you've never balanced a gimbal before it will take you some time and a couple of youtube TUTORIALS to get it just right. i practiced a lot, trying to get my setup balanced perfectly. EVERY TIME i got faster and more accurate with it. i know i mentioned the payload of this gimbal being a big deciding factor because my 5d and rokinon setup came in at 1420 grams and the gimbal could handle 1500 grams. Which was cutting it close but not long after my purchase zhiyun released firmware which changed the payload to 1800 grams(3.9 lbs). when you get your gimbal make sure that the firmware is up to date! One thing that has always been a concern for me is that the gimbal is not weather sealed. there have been times where i got more water on it then i felt COMFORTABLE with. but overall the crane is very durable. i've kept mine out of the case it came in since i bought it. this is what is included in the box:
What's in the box?
-Zhiyun Crane Gimbal
-hardshell carrying case
-4x 18650 Li-ion Battery
-2x battery box
-1x micro usb cable
-1x battery charger
-camera mounting screw
-camera lens support
-camera lens support screw
my initial tests showed that the gimbal was pretty smooth when i was just pointing the camera in one direction, but sometimes i noticed that pans and tilts had a little jitter to them. I continued to try to perfect balancing the gimbal. luckily a 14mm lens is so wide that it hides some imperfections of the gimbal and operator. the 5d mk iv produces BEAUTIFUL 4k footage with some drawbacks. there is no 4k 60p which is DISAPPOINTING, the file sizes with the motion jpeg codec are really big (32gb card = 8 minutes of footage). when shooting in 4k the camera crops in 1.74x making my 14mm Rokinon look more like a 24mm lens. this makes getting really wide shots more difficult. there are a couple lens options out there to get wider shots like the Canon 11-24, Sigma 18-35, or Tokina 11-16. None of which i have tried yet. the 5d mk iv also doesn't have c-log which i didn't mind because technicolor has a nice free flat profile picture available called "Cinestyle". (Update: As of April 20th Canon has released a C-Log which is AVAILABLE as a $99 upgrade that requires the camera to be sent in to Canon) overall the 5d has been an ABSOLUTE workhorse for me. if YOU'VE ever shot with a canon dslr you know how robust and reliable their gear is.
for my second test i went to a couple different locations around downtown chicago. I wanted to get familiar with the different modes the gimbal has, see how well the 5d handles higher iso's, and how well the 4k holds up when color graded.
i shot everything in 4k 24p at t 3.1, shutter 1/50, white balance tungsten, picture profile cinestyle, and iso 2000 and 2500. it was edited in PREMIERE cc and color graded with their lumetri color panel. my computer DEFINITELY struggled with the files which made editing the footage a pain. even without watching it on a 4k screen the footage looks so good though. the noise level at these iso's is totally acceptable to me. you can see that some of the camera movements are not perfect. some clips have warp stabilizer applied to them at a very low percent which helped SMOOTH things out. the video was exported with premiere's youtube 2160p preset.
The gimbal offers a few different shooting modes which are:
- Pan Follow: Gimbal moves left and right with you (pan axis), but will not tilt up and down.
- Locked Mode: pan axis and tilt axis are locked. moving the gimbal grip around the camera will remain facing the same direction.
- Pan/Tilt Follow: camera will follow your pan (right/left) and tilt (up or down)
- STANDBY mode; hold down the joystick to diable the motors, but gimbal remains powered on.
- selfie mode: triple tap the joystick and the camera does a 180 and faces you.
in FEBRUARY i began prepping for a month long trip to mexico as part of the media team for baewatch cabo. the first thing i did was buy a Manfrotto 323 RC2 quick release plate. I was tired of having to constantly balance the gimbal. it Turns out the plate made the 5d sit too high and i was unable to balance it properly. the second issue was shooting in 4k for a month was just not practical, especially with 3 canon 5d mk iv's. I also wanted to be ability to slow the footage down in the edit which ment shooting in 1080/60. at the time the rokinon 14mm was my only prime lens. it's a great lens and that focal length has it place but i didn't want shoot everything so wide. so i bought a canon 24mm f2.8 is which is lighter than the rokinon, has autofocus, has image stabilization, and 24mm was the look i was going for. this lens paired with up the dual pixel cmos af inside the 5d mk iv is a match made in heaven. i can get CONTINUOUS focus on a moving subject or track a point by touching the back of the lcd screen while getting PERFECTLY smooth footage. this is a game changer for anyone doing handheld gimbal work. over the course of the month we filmed and photographed close to 3tb of content. it was a mix of gimbal, tripod, and handheld work. you can spot the gimbal footage THROUGHOUT the videos below:
Recap of Krewella performing at El Squid Roe in Cabo San Lucas.
Recap of Waka Flocka performing at El Squid Roe in Cabo San Lucas.
Recap of DJ Carnage performing at El Squid Roe in Cabo San Lucas.
Recap of Lil Yachty performing at El Squid Roe in Cabo San Lucas.
You can find more photos and videos from my month in Cabo here.
In april i attended an instagram meetup held by @art.of.chi. They're an instagram account that features work by local chicago photographers, they also host contests and meetups around the city. Attending these meetups is a good way of networking, learning something new from your peers, and just getting out there and having some subjects to shoot. It was an overcast day so i decided to shoot video instead of photos. The whole video was shot with the Zhiyun crane and Canon 24mm F2.8 IS. I even tried the canon 50mm F1.8 Stm lens later in the evening. wide open i struggled MAINTAINing focus with this lens though. the Footage was shot in 1080/60, cinestyle profile picture, edited and graded in premiere, footage was slowed down 40%-65%, and zero stabilization was applied in post. Music provided by Drama Duo.
Here's a couple photos from the meetup:
In May I spent a month on the road. First a road trip from L.A. to Cabo San Lucas documenting the beautiful Baja California. At this point I was BEGINNING to get some of the best footage i've shot too date with the crane. i'm amazed this thing survived all the sand, dust, water getting tossed around on boats and in the car. Unfortunately the footage has not yet been released so I can't share that with you. Some of the photos I shot have been used for marketing material and I will be posting some of them in a Baja California road trip post so stay tuned for that. Here's one of my FAVORITE photos from the trip and then some of me using the gimbal.
After the Baja Road trip i flew straight to iceland. i spent two weeks traveling the "ring road" around the entire country. i documented my trip using my trusty canon 5d mk iv and zhiyun crane. the gimbal not being WEATHER SEALED was a big concern and as a result i didn't use it as much as i would've liked too. the weather in iceland is constantly changing. i shot a lot in the rain, around waterfalls, on boats, and along the coast. i also wasn't able to fly my dji phantom half my trip due to the high winds and rain. i'm still really happy with the footage and photos i captured and i'm currently finishing up the editing. i will also be making a travel post about iceland that will contain all the photos and footage i shot.
HERE'S THE FIRST EPISODE FROM A THREE PART SERIES OF EXPLORING ICELAND.
That's right! a Canon 100mm F2.8 IS L on the Zhiyun Crane! Although I wouldn't recommend walking around with this setup it is possible to get some slider type shots with this or even resting the gimbal on something and getting some really smooth tilts/pans using the joystick (more on this later). Just make sure you change the motor strength to heavy in the ZY App. I'm not sure why they have two different apps ZY Play and ZY Assistant. The ZY Assistant app give's you the ability to control the gimbal with on-screen joysticks, it shows you the battery life, it shows the degree of pitch, roll, and pan axis. You can also calibrate the gimbal. This is something I've had to do a few times because for whatever reason the horizon becomes crooked over time. There's also an update option that doesn't work. You have to use a computer too update the firmware by downloading their software and then the appropriate firmware that can be found here. It look's like ZY Assistant will no longer be updated and they're recommending everyone use the other app ZY Play. The Android version of ZY play has come a long way over the last year. Using the app gives you so many exciting POSSIBILITIES beyond just getting smooth footage. My favorite thing about the app is being able to get motion control timelapses. you can connect your phone to the gimbal very easily Using bluetooth (why does gps also need to be enabled?). after your connected navigate over to Motion Control. This is where you can set waypoints. These shots were achieved only by setting an a Point and b Point along with the Duration. I used the timelapse feature on the Canon 5D MK IV instead of having to plugin a remote into the camera.
Since january 2017 when i bought the gimbal zhiyun has released a bunch of new gimbals. the zhiyun crane v2, the crane 2, and a Crane plus. the names are a little confusing. the v2 had some minor IMPROVEMENTS over the original version and the crane 2 looks more like a bigger brother to compliment their lineup. The plus looks like it is replacing the v1 and v2 models. i convinced a friend to buy the crane v2 and had a brief OPPORTUNITY to shoot with it. I HAVEN'T had a chance to test out any of the other gimbals they've released RECENTLY, but am hoping to get my hands on one.
Here's a video shot on the above setup of J Balvin performing in El Squid Roe in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur.
so whats next? i'm hoping to upgrade gimbals this year. i'm also looking to add a monitor to my setup as soon as i figure out the best way to mount it. I want to try out the focus from small hd for its touch screen, size, brightness, and mounting points. it also has the potential to have touch focus via usb on the 5d mk iv. i'm also hoping zhiyun is working on updating the app for android users. i've WRAPPed up a couple projects where i used the gimbal and will be sharing that content when it's released. i highly recommend Zhiyun Crane Gimbals for anyone trying to get smooth footage at an affordable price and small form factor. you can PURCHASe the zhiyun crane using my AFFILIATE link here.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this review and the gimbal was purchased with my own money. All thoughts and opinions in this review are my own and not of any entities mentioned in this article. Since I posted some videos on Youtube though Zhiyun Crane has reached out to me too join their affiliate program. Something which I was very excited to be apart of. Purchasing their products through my link helps keep this site running and me traveling. Thank you! - Greg