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Today's Apple iPhones can take superb-looking high-resolution video anywhere you go. But if you want to make sure your footage stays smooth and still even when you're on the move, you'll want to stabilize your shot with a motorized gimbal, and the Zhiyun Smooth 4 is one of the most effective at doing just that. The three-axis stabilizer uses quiet brushless motors to intelligently keep your phone steady as you move in three dimensions: tilt, pan, or roll. The result with the Smooth 4 is video that's essentially free of any camera shake. And, with a listed max payload weight of 7.4 ounces, it's designed to support any model of iPhone. The large iPhone XS Max comes close to the weight limit, though, so properly balancing it can get tricky.
Even at its reasonable price, the Smooth 4 comes loaded with features to please casual and advanced filmmakers alike. A number of controls on the handgrip operate both the gimbal and your phone, including a smooth dial wheel for focus and digital zoom. There are buttons for menus, flash, and more. A convenient trigger button activates Following mode or PhoneGo mode to increase motor speed for more responsiveness. On the practical side, it can run a solid 12 hours on a full battery and charge your phone while you're at it. Plus, its USB-C charging cable is more universally future-friendly than most other gimbals use.
The Osmo Mobile 2 from DJI shows that sometimes, simplicity is the best way to get the job done. Even without as many buttons and controls on the grip as other competing gimbals, it has more than enough for most mobile videographers. There's a mode/power button, a record button, a zoom slider, and a joystick to move the camera around. It's compact and weighs just over a pound, making it easy to grip, carry, and use. The long 15-hour listed battery life further adds to its portability.
On top of the physical features, the three-axis gimbal's stabilization performance is among the best you can get. You can place any iPhone in portrait or landscape orientation and record using a follow mode or free mode. The software offers effective ActiveTrack and motion time-lapse features, along with the option to take still photos with panorama stitching. Some users encountered bugs on the DJI Go app, but the Osmo Mobile 2 also supports the popular Filmic Pro app if you prefer to use that instead.
Billed as an advanced "cinema robot," Freefly's Movi stabilizer has cutting-edge technology and features that set it apart from the typical smartphone gimbal. Even its design is noticeably unique, with a built in a U-shape that lets it take up less overall space and stand on surfaces without a tripod. You mount your iPhone on one side, and on the other side is a handle with customizable controls, including a trigger button. You can hold it with one hand or use two for extra stability.
The Movi connects via Bluetooth to iPhones running on iOS 11 or later, with a free Movi app that is excellent—not something you hear about the software for most other gimbals. The high-end features at your disposal include time-lapse and hyper-lapse modes, an Orbit mode for circling around your subject, and an Echo mode to repeat the same camera moves multiple times.
The price tag for all these capabilities may be more than casual users want (or need) to spend for a gimbal, but it offers a powerful tool for the professional filmmaker, or anyone seriously aspiring to reach that level.
Since smartphone gimbals don't need to take on the weight of a full video camera or even a DSLR camera, they've become more compact and more affordable for mobile video enthusiasts than ever before. That's the case with the Moza Mini-S from Gudsen, an entry-level three-axis gimbal available in black or white. It weighs 1.1 pounds and folds up to a very compact 5.1x2.7x7.7 inches. Yet even at that size, it can support up to a solid 9.1-ounce payload, enough for even the bigger iPhone models. The handle is comfortable and has room for a joystick, focus and playback controls, and a trigger on the back to cycle through various follow modes.
Aside from cutting down on camera shake, the Mini-S includes a lot of nice features for the price. Advanced recognition functions quickly detect track objects and faces automatically. Hyper-lapse and slow-motion settings play with the flow of time. A Vertigo mode creates the dolly zoom effect named after the Alfred Hitchcock film.
You don't need to pay premium prices for an iPhone gimbal that simply works. The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus is an affordable, functional piece of equipment with plenty of tricks at its disposal. Its stabilization abilities aren't quite on the same level as higher-end models, but it still records video that looks much smoother and more cinematic than your iPhone can manage on its own, even with the built-in image stabilization. It has a wide range of motion for each of its three axes: 320 degrees of roll, 320 degrees of tilt, and a whopping 600 degrees of panning. This lets it rotate more than a full turn and achieve the gimbal's Inception mode, one of the several video effects supported by the device.
The iSteady Mobile Plus comes with a soft rubber grip and a detachable mini tripod, nice touches for what you pay. Its listed 12-hour battery life is also longer than a lot of competitors, including more premium products.
As Apple's largest and most premium iPhone, the XS Max makes for an excellent on-the-go video camera. But its size (3 inches wide, 6.2 inches long, and 7.3 ounces in weight) makes it difficult for some smartphone gimbals to balance or calibrate properly. It may be surprising, then, that a gimbal with the word "Mini" in its name supports the XS Max with ease. The decently compact Moza Mini-MI actually holds a greater maximum payload (10.3 ounces) than a lot of other stabilizers on the market. You also have room to add on accessories like a clip-on lens.
Besides its high weight capacity, eight follow modes, and wide array of video features, the Mini-MI also touts itself as the first wireless phone-charging gimbal. Simply placing your iPhone XS Max (or any phone that supports wireless charging) in the holder starts filling up its battery without the need for any cables. A 5V USB port is available for wired charging as well.
If you're out on a long video shoot or road trip with your iPhone, the Freevision Vilta Mobile (or Vilta-M) can help keep your footage stable all day long. It has a generous 17-hour battery life that ensures you won't run out of juice in the middle of a scene. If you do need to charge, you can plug the Vilta Mobile in to a power source with the USB cable and keep using it in full while you do so. Plus, intelligent battery management features provide overcurrent and short-circuit protection, along with other benefits that keep the battery safer and longer lasting as a whole.
Another important consideration for long sessions is comfort for the operator, and the Vilta Mobile has some of the best ergonomics on a smartphone stabilizer. A rubberized grip on the handle makes grasping the gimbal a comfortable experience. The design in general shows a welcome emphasis on ergonomic thinking and high-quality materials.
Thanks to an extendable arm that lets it reach an extra 7 inches, the FeiyuTech Vimble 2 is a uniquely versatile modern accessory that can pull double duty as both a three-axis video stabilizer and a selfie stick. While the arm is extended, buttons on the handle control the camera shutter and other phone features via Bluetooth and the free Vicool app. Face tracking keeps technology keeps you or your subjects in the frame, and you can use object tracking to lock the focus on something on the screen.
Even when you're not using it for selfies, the additional length of the Vimble 2 can help you shoot new angles that previously wouldn't be possible. It's easy and worthwhile to carry it around with you, and even though the 5-hour battery life isn't the longest, its performance and features add up to a very useful device for a very affordable price.