I have played with a bunch of handheld gimbals in the last six months. I have used all the usual suspects; The popular DJI Osmo Mobile 3 Smartphone Gimbal. The high-end FREEFLY Movi Cinema Robot and the Zhiyun-Tech CRANE-M2 to name just a few.
All of them are good. All of them are great at certain things. All of them have value and depending on your setup, you could make any of them work.
BUT – and this is a big but. (Not a big BUTT.)
None of them can compare with the WEEBILL-S!
I love the Freefly and for JUST an iPhone, it’s still my favorite choice. But if you want to add lenses or filters to your iPhone, and you fly the Movi, you’re going to have to spend time (and money) balancing with add-on counter-balance weights and it’s a pain in the rear end. No matter how easy they make it look on YouTube. It’s not. Really.
I decided I needed a beefier gimbal (yes I purchased ALL of the above – and more – with my own money. No manufacturer contributed gear for this post) because I want to avoid using counter-balance weights when I add a lens to my iPhone AND I also want to use my mirrorless, Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera and lenses when I shoot video.
I read many reviews, watched a lot of YouTube videos and realized that there are a LOT of gimbals out there. I settled on the Zhiyun-Tech WEEBILL-S because it had the most positive reviews.
Number of Axes 3-Axis (Pitch, Roll, Yaw)
Rotation Range Yaw (Pan): 360°
Pitch (Tilt): 314° (-132 to 182°)
Roll: 314° (-67 to 247°)
Battery Type 2 x 18650
Capacity (mAh) 2600 mAh
Battery Runtime 12 to 14 Hours
Operating Temperature 14 to 113°F / -10 to 45°C
Mounting 3 x 1/4″-20 Female
Dimensions 11.81 x 7.48 x 5.51″ / 30 x 19 x 14 cm
Weight 2.04 lb / 0.926 kg
The key features for me are:
- Rear Underslung Handle in Compact Design
- Highly Upgraded Motors and Algorithm
- Can be Controlled FROM The Gimbal (and/or an APP)
- Auto-tune Feature
There are features I will probably never use on this gimbal and to be fair, it’s probably overkill for me, at least in some regards, but that is what I recommend – OVERKILL!
I have already learned the hard way, that the cute, small, easy-to-pack, run-and-gun, gimbals are difficult to work with. The selling point for all those devices is that they are relatively small and light weight. There is always a trade-off though and in this case, it’s that these units are hard to set up and balance, need constant re-balancing and require counter-weights if you want to add on lenses or filters. They also cannot handle larger cameras, like the Olympus M43, camera bodies.
All that said, the WEEBILL-S is not huge. It is still a manageable size and will fit in most gadget bags. Most people would think it compact, but where they would notice the difference is in the weight. I won’t be the kind of shooter that flies all day so that won’t bother me. But if you fly all day, it’s something to ponder. It’s heavier than the other gimbals I mentioned and will tax your arms on a long day on-set.
The overall build quality of the WEEBILL-S is on par with other gimbals in this price range and everything seems sturdy. The fit and finish is excellent. The product is intuitive, but there are directions that ship with the unit. I do want to mention that the document with the directions contains the smallest typeface known to man, so I went online to learn how to operate the gimbal.
One of the first things I wanted to understand was how easily this gimbal can move from a standard to low-slung configuration.
The unit comes with a unique handgrip that can be mounted and re-mounted on different sides of the gimbal to switch between traditional gimbal mode and low-slung mode, good for shooting low to the ground. This is a very cool design and another standout feature on the WEEBILL-S. You can (and I have) order a handle quick release kit that makes switching orientation very fast and easy. You can also (and I have) order after-market handles so that you can use two handles at once for even more stability.
The handgrip also converts to a small, mini tripod.
The unit comes with a great quick release plate. It is the standard two-in-one quick release plate (Manfrotto/Arca-Swiss), which makes it fast and convenient to remove your camera from the gimbal and shoot handheld or tripod mounted and then put it back on without the need for re-balancing.
There is also a riser plate you can use if you need to get your camera higher up above the quick release plate. The riser plate is Arca-Swiss compatible so I leave it on my camera and then quick mount to the Manfrotto compatible plate.
The WEEBIL-S was very easy to set up. It has an ingenious lock mode where via the flip of a an actual switch, you can independently lock each axis. I cannot imagine why all gimbals don’t offer this. It makes it easy to set up AND to store/transport. It’s a must-have feature for me on any future gimbal I might buy.
Balancing this gimbal is easier than any other I have ever tried. The ability to lock each access independently is part of that process, but I happen to think the overall design, plus the powerful motors make things easier too.
Speaking of the motors, wow…these things are beefy. I mounted an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK III, with Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40 f/4 Pro Lens on this unit and had no problems. It never felt taxed. I mounted my iPhone 11 Pro Max with Moment 58mm Telephoto Lens and likewise, the gimbal had no problems. No stinking counter balance weights required!!!
The autotune function (available right from the gimbal – no requirement to work from an app) helps set the correct motor power depending on the weight and configuration of the camera/lens combo you use.
The WEEBILL-S offers six modes of operation.
Full-Range POV Mode
Allows 360° synchronous movement on all three axes. This ensures that instead of leveling off during motion, the camera will remain locked in position no matter how far you move the gimbal in a certain direction, allowing for true
Create 360° barrel shots.
Operate at maximum follow speed for extreme sports and similar applications.
The camera pans as you turn the gimbal left and right. This feature is highly useful for hyperlapse capture.
The camera will follow the movement of the gimbal handle.
Keep your subject in focus when you mimic dolly or jib movements.
While a lot of gimbals advertise themselves as working “right out of the box” the WEEBILL-S is the only one I’ve tried that can live up to that claim. It’s the easiest to balance. It handles very heavy loads. The motors are super responsive and very smooth. The ability to lock off each axis with the flip of a switch is brilliant. The design is pretty much flawless. It works with most cameras and smartphones on the market. It does work with apps on your phone but you can the commands right on the gimbal.
It has one “feature” I do not like. It’s harder than Hell to get the battery compartment to slide open. I watched a YouTube video from a guy who makes it look easy, but using his exact method, I still get no joy. I resorted to carrying a small screwdriver in the bag with the gimbal and I use that to pry open the battery compartment door. I hope in the next version of this gimbal they make that easier. Unfortunately you cannot charge the WEEBIL-S by connecting a cable to it with the batteries installed. You have to remove them and use the supplied battery holder when you need to charge. Fortunately, you’ll get at least 12 hours out of this thing and that is more than enough for me to use over an entire weekend.
The price is higher than some small gimbals, but it’s 100% justified. Save yourself the hassle. If you can live with (or downright need) a slightly larger gimbal than those typically used to fly smartphones, give this one a try. I wish I had found this one first. There’s nothing in this price range that compares. Highly recommended.