The Zhiyun Crane Gimbal – Just Another Toy or Great Tool?

I recently got my hands on a Zhiyun Crane gimbal. Now, we all know there is a plethora of gimbals and handheld stabilisers out there, some for smartphones, for GoPros, DSLRs and for cinema cameras like a RED or Alexa Mini. These add up to over 30 different models in the B&H stock list alone. So, what makes the Zhiyun Crane stand out, and what is it like using it?

The Zhiyun Crane has a payload of 1.2kg which makes it ideal for mirrorless cameras and smaller DSLRs. (EDIT: the latest firmware upgrade allows you to increase the payload to 1.8kg). The gimbal features brushless, encoded motors that can rotate 360 degrees, and is controlled through a toggle-style button – useful for some applications. It has 3 operation modes that include:

  • Pan and follow mode
  • Locking mode
  • Pan and tilt follow mode

Zhiyun Crane Sony a7S

I’m using mine with a Sony a7S and a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 with a Metabones adapter. The lack of a native E-mount lens plus the weight of the adapter does make the payload rather heavy for smooth motion, but image stabilisation in the lens does help in this case.

The Setup and Configuration

The Crane comes in a neat hard case, and the balancing is really quite quick and easy unlike other gimbals and stabilisers I’ve used. It’s tool-less, so small adjustments to balance the camera can be made without faffing around with screwdrivers or keys. After a few minutes, the camera sits relatively horizontally without tipping, meaning it’s nearly ready to go. One small thing I noticed when balancing the camera, as well as when attaching or removing it, is that the motors don’t lock, so the plate that the camera sits on is always moving around. I can imagine this only affects the speed of setting up the camera, but nothing more.

zhiyun-crane-out-the-box

Operation and Using The Zhiyun Crane

Familiarising myself with the gimbal and getting used to walking with it wasn’t that big of a challenge, although during the filming for the review I found myself adapting my walking technique to keep the camera nice and steady. I do think this is down to using a heavy lens, though. On a previous shoot, I used the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, which weighs only a few hundred grams and has OSS, and I found the results to be much smoother. The Sony 10-18mm f/4 also sounds like a good native option for gimbal use.

Getting the moving shots is relatively straight forward – the gimbal powers up quickly, you hit record and away you go. The Zhiyun Crane can be used in both standard (upright) and inverted mode (with the camera underneath). I haven’t used the latter yet, but using the dual handle for getting shots lower to the ground for some perspective would be ideal. The ability to be set up and filming in just a few minutes was a pleasant surprise!

Micro-jitters are apparent when playing back footage (all shot in 50p), mostly on the up/down axis while walking, although the Warp Stabilizer in Premiere seems to remove these quite well. A downside to the Crane is not being able to see the whole camera screen, as it is blocked by one of the motors. But unlike other handheld gimbals out there, you have access to the HDMI port on the left of the camera, so hooking up a monitor would be a quick fix if you have a flexible and light HDMI cable.

One big downside for me is that the Crane doesn’t have a quick release plate for switching between a tripod and the gimbal quickly. The process of removing the tripod plate, possibly changing lenses, attaching the camera to the gimbal, checking its balance and powering it up takes maybe 5 minutes, but those 5 minutes might mean missing ‘the shot’. I certainly see myself having a dedicated camera on there to avoid this switch over time.

What About The Footage?

I think that when shooting in 25p, the micro-jitters caused by my heavy lens would have been too apparent. When shooting in 50p, some shots were usable out of the camera without the need for stabilisation, while others needed a touch of it to be usable. The Zhiyun Crane came with me on a couple of recent shoots, and the movement adds a lovely dynamic to the final video, and certainly lifts the production value.

Talking of Value

You can pick up the Zhiyun Crane from $649/€749 – definitely in the affordable price range for a handheld gimbal of this quality. The accessories now include the dual handle bar which will help distribute the weight of the gimbal and camera combination, and also a bluetooth remote that controls the pan and tilt movement.

Final Thoughts

The Zhiyun Crane is a great option if you shoot with a mirrorless camera and have native lenses. It’s speedy to set up and performs well for those smooth, moving shots that add so much more life to videos and films, without having to spend over $1000/€1000. The build quality, responsive motors and ease of operation all speak for themselves when you’re using it. There are some shortfalls, but what would you expect? Like any setup, practice is key to getting it right. A lighter lens would likely help with the jitters, and for those shots where you can’t see the screen, a monitor is the answer. Bang for buck, the Zhiyun Crane is a great choice.

UPDATE

There have been a number of comments about the shakiness of the footage in the video, about the load capacity and others, so I want to answer these for clarification.

  1. The review was conducted within a week of receiving the product, so it is just like getting it out of the box and using it straight away.
  2. The load weight was 1.207kg (1207g), 7g over the load capacity without upgrading to the latest firmware.
  3. The latest firmware was not installed on the gimbal.
  4. The reason why the a7S, metabones and EF mount Tamron 17-50mm was used, is because it’s the lightest camera and lens combination I had to hand. I do not own any E mount lenses.
  5. The footage is shaky, and in the video there is a clear comparison between footage straight out of the camera, and with post stabilization.

The Zhiyun Crane now has the latest firmware installed, and another review video will be conducted to compare the results.

Have you tried the Zhiyun Crane? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Ash Kan
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Valentin Remy
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I can see post-stabilisation there ^^ Doesn’t look great

Ash Kan
Guest

Yeah. Sorry. Here without https://youtu.be/k2apYba0vUQ

Ash Kan
Guest

And here a Video complete with crane:

https://youtu.be/JMDlOHdN9Ko

Mark Shirley
Guest

Ash Kan was warp stabalisation used on that video.

Ash Kan
Guest

The Hapa Video is without Warp at all. I cut that Video within an hour inkl rendering and uploading… :-)

Adam Loretz
Guest

Nice review. Lots of jitters with the lens. I’d love to see a few shots with a lightweight, wide prime

 Markus Magnon
Member
Markus Magnon

“the weight of the adapter does make the payload rather heavy for smooth motion, but image stabilisation in the lens does help in this case.” I´ve seen so many gimbal test. But noone wrote about the exact weight they put on the gimbal. But this is what most imortant to me. I don´t want to read. “it was heavy”. i want numbers. What does heavy mean. 1 kg, or close to 1.2 kg? Or 1.6 kg? give me numbers. What does the Sony a7s weight, with battery. what does the Tamron lens weight. What does the metabone speedbooster weight, etc.… Read more »

Jonathan Pais
Member
Jonathan Pais

Agree 100%

Hugo Da Palma
Guest

Great tool! How much?

Greg Spencer
Guest

It was around $500-600 on some recent Black Friday sales. Typically $650isj

Mark Shirley
Guest

Hard to tell from this review as the samples before stabalisation are quite disappointing.

Rafael Gartner
Guest

Das ruckeln ohne den Warp st. Ist das oft ?

Ash Kan
Guest

Verglichen mit freihändig filmen sieht man doch kaum ruckeln oder was meinst du?

Member

God gymbal footage always looks like a go pro mounted on a robotic lawn mower

David Orian
Guest

טל חיים

טל חיים
Guest

It great gimbal. I thing something wrong with your gimbal in your test. You can also see my motor test for this gimbal 😉
https://www.facebook.com/gimbalstore/videos/1361763817182201/

Stephen Mylo
Guest

jesus there’s a lot of shake! what gives!!

 Lincoln Westfall
Member
Lincoln Westfall

Have you upgraded the firmware to the “heavy” setup? That took care of my big heavy lens micro bounce.
http://www.eoshd.com/comments/topic/21011-zhiyun-increases-payload-50-crane-stabilizer-now-able-to-fly-5d-mark-iii/#comment-168072

Gerry Goto
Guest

Had one and sent it back. If you’re buying it for personal use and don’t mind it butchering the odd shot it’ll do just fine. I did absolutely love not having a baseplate to deal with. The mounting/balancing options are brilliantly designed. Hopefully a future model will improve on the gimbal itself because there is a lot of good going on in the design department!

Greg Spencer
Guest

This thing is awesome. I own it and use it more than my Ronin M and Ronin. It’s great with an a7sii or a6300 and I’m assuming other similar cameras. I didn’t even read this review yet but I can vouch for it. It’s become very popular among the wedding filmmakers I know.

Môsieur Mitri
Guest

why buying a gimbal (even a cheap one) if you have to do post stabilisation ..

 yann audouin
Member
yann audouin

Great tool. I personnaly use it since this summer with 1.2Gg on it and it work like a charm.
A6300+cage+speedbooster+canon 16-35 f4+quck release plate work well on it.

Member

Hi Adam, just wanted to say i noticed you are balancing the camera with the engines on, that is probably why you have jitters as the engines are working overtime to balance it. You should balance the camera with the engines off. It takes a bit longer, 10-15m for the first time, but it eliminates the jitters. I use my zhyiun with an excessively heavy canon 6d + tokina 11-16mm at around 1,6kg if I’m remembering correctly and the worst problem I ever had is the gentle wave up and down of walking which I fixed by practicing a slight… Read more »

Member

Maybe you had pre balanced it, if that’s the case return it, it shouldn’t do those jitters :)

 Markus Magnon
Member
Markus Magnon

Best comment. I´ve seen another video and the guy also said its important to balance it in “off-modus”. And it makes sense. Nice to hear that you get balance 1,6 kg on it with no jitter effect. And of course you still have to do “ninja walk”.

Member

Hi Markus I made a mistake I forgot the 6D is quite light, it’s around 1320g. But I’ve tried it with a Zeiss ZE 50mm f/1.4 which is really heavy also and it worked quite good. And I’ve seen tests like this with heavier cameras like the 5D and it looked good, like any piece of equipment you just have to get used t it. Some obvious things that you can’t do are switching from high to low mode while filming. Overall I’m quite happy.I also bought a side handle for the bottom and a small cable and DSLR controller… Read more »

Member

To put it short the engines can definitely take it and you can see most of the jitters in reviews are from user mistakes and lack of preparation as they rush things. I’ll try to post you something by the weekend.

 Larry Tee
Member
Larry Tee

The title is a bit odd “Another Toy or…” when this gimbal is considered by many to be the best performer in its price range. A couple weeks ago I remember seeing it as B&H’s top rated handheld gimbal. Given all the variable that could be improved on in your test, I don’t see why something like this is left up. It is a rather misleading video, all things taken into consideration. And the a7s with the Tamron 18-50mm? That’s probably not a very common setup, so why test it? I read this artyicle and watched the video because I’ve… Read more »

 Al Dolega
Member
Al Dolega

Scumbag Cinema5D: “tests” product outside of its stated capacity…. posts negative review anyways.

C’mon, Cinema5D, you’re better than this.

 Markus Magnon
Member
Markus Magnon

Seems at bit harh…. but i was totaly confused by this review/article. Why write an article about some tool when you do not using an update first? And in the article… i thought he was using the update. to test in on 1.8 kg max)
The title just sucks. “Toy or Tool”. Its seems like a very good product and i wish CINEMA5D would redo this test with exact weigh numbers, firmware update, and IS off.

 Lincoln Westfall
Member
Lincoln Westfall

Adam – Good to see you’re being intellectually honest and updating this review with the proper “1200-1800g” firmware. It’s not just a weight issue but especially a lens length issue, with front-heavy lenses causing a bounce that the pitch motors aren’t set up to handle with the standard straight-out-of-box “<1200g" fitmware setup. But really Zhiyun should make it easier to switch between heavy and light setups than connecting it to a computer and changing the firmware every time. Overall, this gimbal is an amazing value as an affordable, well-made tool that can produce professional level butter-smooth results if set up… Read more »

Marcel van Leeuwen
Member

upgrading can be done trough the Zhiyun App. No need to connect it to a computer. The App is a really nice addition to the gimbal. I have worked with it a lot setting it up for customers and everyone loves it.

 Lincoln Westfall
Member

I like the app too, but unfortunately they only made this “heavy” firmware (V1.50 5D RC2) available for loading via USB from a computer, so as not to disrupt the app-upgradeable “light” firmware (V1.52) that they assume most users want. What they need is a unified firmware that somehow allows both algorithms to be user-selectable via the device’s buttons (and via the app).

Valovics László
Guest

Does the Sony PXW-X70 Camcorders could fit in there?
Not out there be?

Member

I don’t think it’s stabilized properly. From the video it looks like it’s bottom heavy.