Nothing is more frustrating than taking a shaky video. Not only does it make your subjects blurry, but it is also a sign of unprofessional work. Stabilization is important when recording video, so we will cover two types of camera accessories you can use.
Gimbals and stabilizers can make videos steady, but they work in different ways. A gimbal has a battery-powered motor to balance the camera. Meanwhile, a stabilizer uses weights and gravity to ensure shake-free footage.
This article will teach you other differences between gimbals and stabilizers to help you decide which is best for your needs. We will also answer your questions about these two camera accessories. But first, let us look into their full definitions.
What Is A Gimbal?
A gimbal is a type of stabilizer, which refers to any device that can keep a camera steady. It uses a built-in programmable motor to balance your device in different positions. It works by measuring the current camera position several times per second. When the gimbal detects any movement, it drives the motor to move an equal degree in the opposite direction. The battery powers this motor to eliminate camera shake and stabilize your footage.
The gimbal stabilizer also has a small plate where you will mount the camera. Since the motor does most of the work for you, you exert less effort in stabilizing the camera. You can simply select a mode to balance your gear.
Gimbal stabilizers often come in two main types: 2-axis and 3-axis. A 2-axis gimbal can control up and down movement (tilt axis) and rolling when moving the camera horizontally. Meanwhile, a 3-axis gimbal can control tilt, rolling, and panning, in which the camera moves horizontally from a fixed position. Choosing between the two camera gimbals depends on the motion you encounter while shooting.
Finally, gimbals are available in different shapes and sizes. A small, lightweight setup lets you mount your smartphone or GoPro action camera. More high-end gimbals are designed for professional DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and large cameras for professional cinema. Some models are even built directly into drones, such as the DJI, to stabilize footage recorded in the air.
Pros of a Gimbal
There are many advantages to using a gimbal stabilizer for your footage.
- It can counterbalance different types of movements
- The built-in motor and AI provide smooth video footage
- Relatively easy to use and suitable for beginners
- Programmable modes
- Some models have remote control
- Available in various price points
Cons of a Gimbal
While a gimbal stabilizer has several benefits, it also has its fair share of downsides.
- It requires a battery power source
- High-end gimbal stabilizers can cost several hundred to thousands of dollars
- The smooth results might be too “mechanical looking” for your liking
- While rare, electronics and motor are susceptible to malfunction
What Is A Stabilizer?
Any device that can stabilize a camera is technically a stabilizer. As mentioned, a gimbal is a type of stabilizer.
However, a traditional or “normal” stabilizer lacks electrical components. Instead, it uses counterweights and gravity to stabilize your camera during filming.
A stabilizer has a plate where you mount the camera equipment and other accessories. A short pole supports this plate where you attach weights to the bottom. The heavier the camera and lens combination you mount on the top, the more counterweights you add to the bottom to ensure stability. The center pole length also requires adjustment depending on the handle positioning.
Stabilizers are also called “Glidecams.” Glidecam is a brand that produces manual camera stabilizers. They balance cameras with weights and do not have any electronics.
Pros of a Stabilizer
A stabilizer offers several benefits.
- No electrical components eliminate the risk of a malfunctioning device
- It does not require batteries, so you can shoot for as long as you want
- Higher weight capacity
- Sturdy construction
Cons of a Stabilizer
A stabilizing system also has its cons.
- Steeper learning curve compared to a gimbal
- It requires a longer setup time
- It might cause issues when balancing long telephoto lenses
- More expensive than a gimbal
What Is The Difference Between Gimbals and Stabilizers?
By now, you understand how gimbals and stabilizers work. But you might still be curious about their differences.
Below, we will cover three main aspects where these camera stabilizers differ.
Ease of Use
Gimbals are easier to set up and use. Generally, you only need to mount the camera on the plate. That said, a gimbal stabilizer still has a learning curve you must overcome. It takes some time and practice to familiarize yourself with the preprogrammed settings and other features. Also, take note of the maximum weight capacity of the device. If your gimbal is designed for smartphones or action cameras, do not use it with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
On the other hand, Glidecam stabilizers require more time to set up the counterweights and pole. They are also relatively challenging to use as a beginner. You must consider several factors, such as the number of weights to use and how to balance the camera properly. But once you learn how to use a stabilizer, you can use it for as long as you want since it does not have a battery.
Type of Movement Corrected
Both gimbals and stabilizers can correct different types of motion to keep footage steady. However, they can target specific movements and perform worse in others.
For example, a gimbal is not as effective in eliminating camera shake from the up-and-down movement of walking. To stabilize the camera with the gimbal, you must do a “duck walk,” where you bend your knees to reduce vertical bobbing. Obviously, walking like a duck can limit how fast you move to ensure smooth video. On the upside, a gimbal provides smoother movements than a stabilizer.
In contrast, a stabilizer easily compensates for vertical movement. There is no need to bend your knees while walking, which gets tiring quickly. A stabilizer can also offer smooth panning, thanks to its design. However, it is difficult to achieve buttery smooth footage on a stabilizer. That is because it does not use electronic motors.
Gimbals and stabilizers are priced differently.
Gimbals are available at varying price points, depending on the size and purpose. Gimbal stabilizers that can attach to phones can be priced as low as $100. However, units designed to hold DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can go from $400 up to $8,000.
On the other hand, stabilizers that use counterweights are very expensive. The cheapest hand-held Glidecam can cost you $220. Meanwhile, body-mounted stabilizers for professional use can retail from $1,500 to $20,000. Alternatively, you can rent a stabilizer for as low as $50 to save some money.
Gimbals vs. Stabilizers: Which One Should You Choose?
Now that you know the difference between gimbals and stabilizers, you might wonder which one you should choose?
If you are a beginner with a limited budget, we recommend getting a gimbal. It is easier to learn from the get-go due to the programmable modes and remote control. Plus, it is relatively cheaper equipment than a stabilizer.
However, if the price is not a problem and you want more control over the device, invest in a stabilizer. It gives you hands-on control, resulting in faster tilts, twists, and pans. The movement will also look natural, unlike the mechanical motion you get from a gimbal. That said, a stabilizer is difficult to learn. High-end stabilizers for large cameras are also very expensive. Most professional photographers and filmmakers use them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Steadicam?
The Steadicam is another popular brand of camera stabilization system. In fact, it was the original stabilizer introduced in 1975 as a more flexible alternative to the dolly and tripod. It is popular among filmmakers shooting blockbuster movies.
The Steadicam has a mechanical arm that extends from a sled. The sled part supports the camera, external monitor, and other accessories. It uses counterweights to balance the weight of your gear.
The operator wears a harness that is connected to the mechanical arm and sled. This harness helps stabilize the camera by distributing weight to the operator’s shoulders and hips. Overall, the Steadicam provides smooth and stable footage even when you are moving.
Note that the word “steadicam” has been a generic term in recent years. Most stabilizers are often called a “steadicam” despite not being a part of the original Steadicam brand. So, be careful and check product descriptions before buying a stabilizing system.
Do gimbals fit all cameras?
No, gimbals are not compatible with all cameras. They are available in various sizes and designs to support different camera types. However, they are not a one-size-fits-all kind of product. Some gimbals can only accommodate phones, while others are designed for DSLR cameras.
Check the weight capacity of the gimbal stabilizer before purchasing one. You must also consider the mounting plate because it determines the particular camera models or sizes you can attach. And if you use external battery packs or microphones, determine if the gimbal has a cold shoe mount for accessories.
When should you use a gimbal?
You must use a gimbal to achieve smooth and stable camera movements. This device is useful for many situations, including cinematic shots, wedding videos, travel video blogs, and action sequences. You can also use a gimbal when showcasing properties for real estate videos. Finally, if you are an independent filmmaker, you can take advantage of the professional-looking videos you get from a gimbal stabilizer.
If you want to record videos while moving, it can be difficult to achieve smooth and stable footage. Consider using a gimbal or a stabilizer.
Both gimbals and stabilizers can correct camera shake, but they function differently. Gimbals have a built-in battery-powered motor to balance the camera. In contrast, stabilizers use counterweights and gravity to keep the camera steady.
Do you have more questions about gimbals and stabilizers? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to drop your queries via our contact page.