Last weekend’s charity walk was a great opportunity to shoot some video on my iPhone, but editing it later, I couldn’t help but think it was a little shaky in places – my hands certainly aren’t as steady as they used to be.
I’d seen a number of reviews (mostly positive) about smartphone stabilisers or gimbals, so figured that £100 or so for one might be a good investment. There were a huge number of rather superficial reviews for the DJI Osmo 2, but it did seem that Amazon customers in particular didn’t rate it too highly. Further research brought up the Zhiyun Smooth 4 (same £129 price as the DJI Osmo 2) and that did get excellent reviews, other than for its apparent lack of compatibility with Android phones (not a problem for me of course). So one was duly ordered, and arrived yesterday. First impressions on opening the polystyrene carry case was ‘Wow! – this is big!” Although I’d seen photos of it, I kind of expected it would fold down to something that would fit in a modest man bag or sling type camera bag, but ‘noo!’ it doesn’t fold at all and is a good 40cm long.
Undeterred, I downloaded the Zhiyun ZY Play app, which allows it to control focus and zoom on the iPhone as well as on/off and subject tracking. Once paired, it maintained position very well indeed, and the zoom knob on the side of the handle controlled the phone beautifully. I was thinking that maybe I could overlook the jumbo proportions and just get a bag big enough to carry it around, when the first disconnect with the phone occurred; it took me several minutes to restart the app and then resync my phone with the device, and then it happened again, and again… Seems that if the phone goes into sleep mode, it drops the connection, and then the app can’t reconnect. On one occasion, not only did I have to close and restart the app, but had to restart my phone too. Fiddling around to get it started again (getting frustrated now…) I got a warning to say my phone was almost flat, even though I had only charged it a few hours before! So an hour or so of carrying the kit around, and literally just a few minutes of actual video shooting runs a phone down completely… Zhiyun helpfully provide a power out USB connection on the unit for charging phones from its own internal rechargeable battery, but a) I didn’t have the requisite lead, and b) the lightning charge port on the phone was blocked when the phone was put in the cradle.
So a fail all round, and the stabiliser, while a nicely engineered item with some good features, will be going back. Regardless of the fact that it isn’t as portable as I’d hoped, something unreliable and that drains the battery in the phone is never going to work for me. I think I may try just a simple pistol grip and phone holder next – no active stabilisation or zoom control of course, but I’ve a feeling it will help keep the phone steady. Happy days…