What is a Gimbal?

If you’re new to the quadcopter and video recording market, you may be wondering “What is a gimbal?” You keep hearing about gimbals in connection with the DJI Phantom and GoPro cameras, something about improving their overall image quality, reducing shakiness in video recordings, and eliminating the dreaded “jello effect” common on so many videos. But what exactly are these things? Read on to find out.

Wikipedia defines gimbal as “a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis. A set of three gimbals, one mounted on the other with orthogonal pivot axes, may be used to allow an object mounted on the innermost gimbal to remain independent of the rotation of its support.” Phew. That was a mouthful. So what does all that mean?

Ok so to boil it down to its elements, a gimbal allows you to keep your video recording device stable and fixed. It will aim at the same direction, regardless of whether the craft holding it is pitching forward, left, right, etc. either due to poor flying or adverse weather conditions. If you’re looking to do professional level video recordings – then it is nearly essential to have! Now, not all gimbals are created equal  – and you can spend upwards of $1,000 for a top-notch model. It all depends on what you need!

The DJI Zenmus H3-3D Gimbal

The DJI Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal is a stabilization device that is exclusively for the DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter. It is driven by a 3-axis brushless gimbal that not only supports tilting and canting, like the previous H3-2D model, but also panning as well. Not only will it keep your aerial video’s horizon level and isolated from vibration, the gimbal can also be used to remotely operate there camera, allowing you to adjust the camera angle with ±0.08° accuracy in flight.

Electronically, the gimbal is designed to operate plug and play with the Phantom 2; however you may or may not require additional mounting hardware depending on which version of Phantom 2 you have. The first version of the Phantom 2 (v1) has a small opening on the bottom of the airframe that was optimized for the H3-2D gimbal, and is too small for the H3-3D. In this case, additional mounting hardware is required to act as a spacer, and taller landing gear will also need to be installed. If you are using the later Phantom 2 (v2 or later), then no additional mounting hardware is required, and the original landing gear can still be used. If you are using a different aircraft than the Phantom 2 (that still has a compatible DJI flight control system) you will need the “hobbyist” version of the H3-3D, which includes a GCU (gimbal control unit) and other essential hardware. Neither version is compatible with the Phantom 1.

The DJI Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal

The DJI Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal is designed to mate your GoPro Hero3 camera to your DJI Phantom quadcopter. It is a 2 axis gimbal, which means that it can stabilize up and down and left and right. But, it can’t pan left and right – you’d need a 3 axis gimbal in order to do that.

The DJI Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal with GoPro Hero3 Black Edition Mounted

The Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal attaches to your Phantom (or to your DJI F450 quadcopter) via a dampening unit, which you attach to the base of the craft with four screws. Once you’re all hooked up and wired in, enjoy those stable videos! Unfortunately, DJI advises that you NOT use previous versions of GoPro cameras like the HERO HD2, as they have different weight and sizes and thus are not optimized for this particular gimbal. At under $400, this is one of the cheapest options out there.

 

DJI Zenmuse Gimbal Z15

The DJI Zenmuse Z15 gimbal is a major step up – it offers 3-axis, with unlimited rotation angles. It offers even more control than the Zenmuse H3-2D – ±0.05° as opposed to ±0.08. That means it’ll stay more closely on what you’re trying to shoot. The Zenmuse Z15 gimbal is designed for use with the either the Sony Nex-5n/5R/Nex-7 or the Panasonic GH-2, all of which are excellent models.

The Zenmuse Z15 looking straight on with a Sony Camera

 

DJI Zenmuse Z15-GH3

The DJI Zenmuse Z-15-GH3 gimbal is an improvement of the original Z15, optimized specifically for the Panasonic GH3. It narrows the precision of the control angle to ±0.01! It can be used with the S800 EVO model.

Zenmuse Z15-GH3 Gimbal with Panasonic Camera Attached

 

DJI Zenmuse Z15-5D Gimbal

This bad boy can carry the hefty Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 5D Mark II, standards for any professional videographer. It offers a ±0.02° precision range of its control angle, and it fully customized for the 5D series.

The Zenmus Z15-5D is carrying some hefty weight!

Buying Options

B&H Photo and Video offers some of the best gimbals and cameras available, including:

Well, that wraps it up for now for us – but we’ll be updating this page with more gimbal options soon. Let us know if you have any questions or want advice on what gimbal to purchase!