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Which smartphone stabiliser? Zhiyun Smooth-Q vs DJI Osmo Mobile

DJI Osmo Mobile

Updated 16 February 2018

Zhiyun Smooth-Q (left) and original 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?

Update

The DJI Osmo Mobile has now been replaced by the Osmo Mobile 2, which is much more affordable than the original, can shoot vertical video, and now has a tripod socket on the base. It’s available from February 2018. The comparison below now relates to the new version.

Buyer beware
These stabilisers are complex and fragile devices. Make sure you buy from an authorised dealer who will accept returns.

DJI Osmo Mobile 2

Advantages

  • 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.
  • 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.

Disadvantages

  • The DJI Go camera app drains your phone battery.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q

Advantages

  • The gimbal will rotate through 360 degrees, so you can have continuous stabilised pans.
  • You can use a wireless remote.

Disadvantages

  • 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? 

I used to recommend the Zhiyun, but with the price drop I’d get the Osmo Mobile 2. DJI build quality seems better. If you need warranty service on the Zhiyun, you have to return it to China; DJI have a European service centre in the Netherlands.

Buy Zhiyun Smooth-Q Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK

Buy Osmo Mobile 2 DJI online store (other retailers will have stock from March)