Zhiyun Smooth-Q (left) and DJI Osmo Mobile
Stabilisers can make a big difference to your iPhone filmmaking. I’ve been using a DJI Osmo Mobile for a while. I got the chance to try out the much cheaper Zhiyun Smooth-Q the other day. How does it compare with the Osmo?
These stabilisers are complex and fragile devices and they have a relatively high failure rate (particularly batteries with the Zhiyun). Make sure you buy from an authorised dealer who will accept returns.
- The Osmo is made from magnesium alloy and build quality seems very good.
- It’s easier to set up, install and lock your phone in securely.
- It’s easier to switch modes with the Osmo: there’s a positive trigger button on the front.
- It has interchangeable batteries.
- Its object tracking is smoother.
- The pan/tilt joystick is more responsive, allowing for slower movements.
- It integrates with the advanced Filmic Pro camera app.
- The DJI Go camera app drains your phone battery.
- There’s no tripod socket on the base: there’s a rosette on the side, but it’s awkward to attach it to a standard tripod or boom pole. I had to buy the add-on DJI accessory mount.
- There’s no selfie mode.
- The gimbal will rotate through 360 degrees, so you can have continuous stabilised pans.
- It has a selfie mode, so you can use the rear camera for filming yourself.
- The clamp swivels so you can mount your phone in portrait mode. (You can use the Osmo in portrait mode, but only by holding the gimbal handle horizontally.)
- It has a bigger battery, though it’s not removable.
- You can power your phone from its internal battery (though you’ll need an L-shaped Lightning connector).
- You can use a wireless remote.
- There’s a standard tripod socket on the base.
- You can mount your phone upside down (with the stabiliser in ‘torch’ mode) allowing you to connect Lightning accessories.
- It has a plastic body so it doesn’t feel as solid as the Osmo.
- It’s slower to set up. The spring-loaded clamp for mounting the phone is awkward to use, and it’s possible to jam the arm against the gimbal when trying to set it up.
- The record button on the handle only works when you’re using the Zhiyun Play app – otherwise you have to use the on-screen button.
- Changing modes is confusing – you need to use multiple button presses, and there’s no way to know which mode you’re in.
Disadvantages of both devices
One bid downside with both gimbals is that they block the Lightning port, so you can’t connect an external power supply or a Lightning accessory. There are ways around this: you can use a Lightning connector with an L-shaped adapter. And with the Zhiyun, you can mount your phone upside down to give access to the Lightning socket. (Holding it vertically, the arm will block the rear camera, but if you hold it horizontally – in ‘torch’ mode’ – it doesn’t.)
Both devices can occasionally go haywire, stop stabilising, and need resetting. This seems to be more common with the Zhiyun device.
Neither of the filming apps are great. So I use the native Camera app or Filmic Pro, except when I need object tracking. Both apps are heavy on phone battery (DJI Go seems worse). Additionally, the DJI Go app doesn’t seem to clear deleted video files properly: I had to delete and reinstall the app to stop it taking up 8Gb of space on my phone.
Audio is tricky, especially if you have a phone without a headphone socket – you can get away with this on the Zhiyun by mounting the phone upside down to free up the Lightning socket. On the Osmo, you can mount a wireless mic receiver, or a VideoMic Pro, on the optional DJI accessory shoe.
Which one would I buy now?
Even though the DJI gimbal is clearly better made, and generally more user-friendly, I’d get the Zhiyun. These are the key features that give it the edge:
- Much cheaper
- Selfie mode
- 360 degree pan
- Standard tripod socket
- Wireless remote option