Gimbals are vital for cinematographers who want to produce professional videos with little more than the phone in their pocket. These mechanical stabilizers help keep your smartphone steady enough to shoot fast-moving scenes without the shakes or jitters that mark out most amateur footage.
Not all gimbals are created equal, however, and there’s a big difference between the best models and the also-rans. When you’re paying the better part of $200 for higher-end versions, you really want to make sure you’re getting good value for money.
That’s why we’ve put together our picks for several of the best iPhone and Android gimbal options that deserve a second look, from budget and compact models to high-end and vlogging-specific versions.
- Weight: 1.2 pounds (560g)
- Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.8 x 4.1 inches (328 x 123 x 105mm)
- Maximum Phone Weight: 210g (7.4oz)
- Battery life: 8+ hours
- Weight: 0.9 pounds (422g)
- Dimensions: 8.1 x 7.7 x 2.7 inches (205 x 195 x 69 mm)
- Maximum Phone Weight: 200g (7.1oz)
- Battery life: up to 15 hours
- Weight: 0.6 pounds (259g)
- Dimensions (folded): 7.0 x 3.1 x 1.5 inches (179 x 79 x 39 mm)
- Maximum Phone Weight: 281g (9.9oz)
- Battery life: up to 8 hours
- Weight: 1 pound (460g)
- Maximum Phone Weight: unspecified
- Battery life: up to 12 hours
- Weight: 1.1 pounds (495g)
- Dimensions: 12.1 x 4.5 x 4.3 inches (307 x 114 x 109 mm)
- Maximum Phone Weight: 280g (9.9oz)
- Battery life: up to 12 hours
- Weight: 0.8 pounds (380g)
- Dimensions: 8.0 x 4 x 1.7 inches (204 x 102 x 42mm)
- Maximum Phone Weight: 260g (9.2oz)
- Battery life: up to 17 hours
Best Gimbal Overall: Zhiyun Smooth 4
The Zhiyun Smooth 4 is a robust 3-axis gimbal with a performance on par with the DJI OM series, which it’s often compared against. More than just a cheaper alternative, it’s a fantastic contender in its own right.
This gimbal gets all the basics right: long battery life, a stable mount that accepts most smartphone models, and various useful shooting modes like Object Tracking and Time Lapse.
What we liked best about the Smooth 4, though, is its myriad of control buttons that give quick access to most tools and shooting modes. It’s a convenient decision, since you don’t need to awkwardly tap on your phone screen in the middle of shooting, disrupting your filming and concentration.
While advantageous, the one minor drawback of the abundance of buttons on the Smooth 4 is that it can be overwhelming for beginners. You’ll quickly get used to it, though, and soon find it to be a much more powerful way to shoot smartphone videos.
The maximum supported phone weight is 210g (7.4oz,) which can cause problems with very large phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but otherwise shouldn’t be an issue. The companion Zhiyun Android app also isn’t as polished as the iOS version, but compatibility with Filmic Pro lets you use this (far superior) app instead.
The Zhiyun Smooth 4 is surprisingly inexpensive for what you get, especially given the fantastic stability and wealth of extra control you get. Overall, the Zhiyun Smooth 4 is a great deal for both amateur and professional smartphone cinematographers, and our top smartphone gimbal pick of 2021.Buy on Amazon
Best Gimbal for iPhone: DJI OM 4
Apart from its famed consumer drones, DJI also produces high-quality gimbals as well. The DJI OM 4 is one of its best, with exceptional stability, intuitive controls, and solid customer service backed by a reputable brand. It’s also significantly more travel-friendly than its predecessors, weighing under a pound, with impressive battery life of up to 15 hours.
A unique feature of the OM 4 is the magnetic phone clamp attachment, enabling you to snap or remove your phone in seconds. While this allows you to use phones of any size with the OM, be aware that it can reduce the stability somewhat for heavier phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The 3-axis gimbal of the OM 4 is one of the most stable on the market, keeping your smartphone steady enough to capture exceptionally smooth video. You can use the OM 4 on its own or pair it up via Bluetooth with the DJI Mimo app to open up more options for resolutions, frame rates, and advanced features.
One of these is ActiveTrack 3.0, the proprietary tracking technology that DJI also uses in its top-of-the-line consumer drones. Other useful tools like Dynamic Zoom, TimeLapse, and CloneMe Pano also make shooting creative videos fun and easy.
One small caveat with these tools, though, is that they might not work with some Android smartphones. The Android version of the Mimo app also lacks some of the features of the iOS version, making the OM 4 most worthwhile for iPhone owners.
Thus, if you’re looking for an iPhone gimbal with great performance, you can’t go wrong with the DJI OM 4. Just be prepared to shell out more for the quality: it’s noticeably more expensive than others on this list.Buy on Amazon
Best Budget Gimbal: Hohem iSteady X
The Hohem iSteady X might be a budget smartphone gimbal, but it doesn’t skimp on performance or features. Like more premium options, it uses a 3-axis stabilizer that produces smooth videos, but at a fraction of the price.
The iSteady X is lightweight and compact, weighing around 0.6 lbs, and has a decent battery life for a budget model. The gimbal can run for up to eight hours on a single charge, making this a good option for traveling.
When it comes to operation, the iSteady X is all about simplicity, and is ideal for beginners. You can easily rotate your phone up to 270 degrees with a single push when it’s mounted in place, eliminating annoying re-adjustments.
While there are some advanced features in the companion app like a dolly zoom and dynamic transitions, they are intuitive to use with the provided presets.
One drawback is that the smaller size of the iSteadyX makes for a slightly weaker grip compared to larger models. For professionals who want the steadiest shots possible, this can be a dealbreaker.
Overall, though, if you want to shoot stable smartphone videos without shelling out a lot of money, the Hohem iSteady X is a great low-cost option.Buy on Amazon
Runner Up, Best Budget Gimbal: Wiser X01
Despite typically having a slightly higher price point than the Hohem iSteady X (above), the Wiser X01 also deserves a mention as one of the better budget smartphone gimbals you can buy.
Right off the bat, the X01 gives a similar bang for your buck to the iSteady X and others on this list, with the same compact size, low weight, and 3-axis stability.
The X01 has two advantages that set it apart from other budget models. One, it has an average runtime of up to 12 hours, making it one of the longest in its class. Secondly, the advanced shooting modes and features, like panoramas, panning, and object tracking, are more often seen in premium gimbals than cheaper models like this.
The only problem with the X01 is the Gimbal Pro companion app. It’s not as intuitive and straightforward to use as other gimbal apps, plus some users experience syncing and other reliability problems. That’s a shame, since it detracts from what is otherwise a good budget option, and pushes the X01 down into our runner-up spot.Buy on Amazon
Best Gimbal for Vlogging and Filmmaking: Hohem iSteady Mobile+
The Hohem iSteady Mobile+ is a significant upgrade over the iSteady X above, adding more stability and better capability to capture fast-moving footage. That makes this a preferable option for serious vloggers or filmmakers.
This gimbal’s Sport Mode does a great job of capturing fast scenes where there’s plenty of movement going on. It can pick up even tiny movements and compensate for ultra-smooth results. This mode is beneficial for those who want to film extreme action scenes without it ending up a blurry mess in the final video.
The gimbal also has advanced modes like time-lapse, auto retouching, and slow-motion to add creative spins to your productions.
iSteady Mobile+ is a dream for vloggers as well. It has a compact (albeit heavy) foldable form that can be easily stored in a bag or pocket, and the smartphone can be quickly snapped into the clamp for taking shots at a moment’s notice. The long 12-hour battery life is also ideal for a full day of filming without having to stop to recharge.Buy on Amazon
Best Compact Gimbal: Zhiyun Smooth Q2
The Zhiyun Smooth Q2 is the smaller, more user-friendly version of our top overall pick, the Smooth 4. Luckily, the Q2 still retains the exceptional stability and smoothness of its big brother.
The biggest highlight of the Q2 Smooth is that it’s very lightweight, coming at only half a pound. The dimensions are also smaller than the Smooth 4, and indeed all of DJI’s offerings.
The Smooth Q2 is as easy to set up as it is to transport, with a quick-release latch that lets you attach your phone in seconds so you don’t miss that all-important footage. It also has a run time of 17 hours, the longest we’ve seen in a gimbal.
The Smooth Q2’s controls are simplified compared to its larger sibling, removing many of the buttons of the Smooth 4. These have been replaced by a 5-way joystick, which allows you to control the gimbal’s rotation and tilt.
So, which one is better in terms of control? It depends if you’re looking for simplicity or sophistication.
The Smooth 4, with its impressive set of buttons, is geared for the professional who uses a lot of advanced features while they’re shooting. The Smooth Q2 is easier to operate and, thanks to its joystick, better in certain situations for fine tuning your gimbal’s movement.
The bottom line is that the Smooth Q2 is more than just a smaller version of the Smooth 4. It’s an solid alternative for beginners or casual users who just want the basics done right.Buy on Amazon
The Zhiyun Smooth 4 is our top smartphone gimbal pick overall, since it offers the best balance of cost, features, performance, and compatibility with most smartphone models. iPhone users who are happy to spend a little more, however, are better off with the DJI OM 4 for its powerful iOS features and intuitive controls.
Main image via Free To Use Sounds, product images via Amazon