I have recently tested the new Ronin S from DJI, and immediately started using it for all my video shoots. Mirrorless cameras have flooded the market and to offer stabilization options, manufacturers have been putting out just as many if not more options of one-handed gimbals. These small and portable stabilizers match the size of mirrorless cameras and make full sized solutions designed for larger video cameras redundant. There are many options but almost all of these have been offering either robotic-looking movements not comparable to the control offered by a full-sized gimbal or a Steadicam, or a very light load limit that disables the users arsenal of lenses. DJI, the company that makes arguably the most popular electronic gimbal system, now provides what I have found to be the best solution so far for small and light cameras. The Ronin S is compact and designed with the ergonomics of mirrorless cameras in mind, small and light but not limited to inferior camera movements, less intuitive operation, and pairing with light lenses. All these are limitation you don’t want shooting a live event of set production, and now DJI has offered videographers and filmmakers a solution.
The major design flaw of one-handed gimbals was that along with their low price came a cheap and straightforward design that placed the gimbal mechanism in the way of the camera’s LCD. The designers of the Ronin S have put in the work to design a solution to this, and the user of this new gimbal can see the on-camera LCD in most angles of operation. Another limitation of the one handed gimbal has been a dependence on autofocus, as the lighter form factors couldn’t accommodate a focus motor and any contact with the lens would affect the motor. The Ronin S design includes a built-in focus control wheel that can be used with compatible cameras such as the popular GH5. Another issue with gimbals has been balancing them on the go during busy shoots like a wedding or live event. This one has incorporated a screw-on tripod-style base that allows the shooter to set it down quickly and make any needed adjustments. The Ronin S isn’t all new tricks like these, the basics have been designed flawlessly as well. The gimbal is assembled and disassembled quickly for transportation. The handle is easy to hold, wider than most gimbals on the market, and all controls are easy to use without loosening grip on the camera. First, there is a control wheel for easily and intuitively overriding the gimbal’s automatic function. With this wheel you can easily perform crane-style moves by affecting tilt manually while moving the camera rig up and down. There are only three other buttons on the gimbal- a trigger-style button to locks all axis or reset the camera’s orientation to forward, a mode button to alternate between which axes are locked, and a record button that allows the user to start and stop recording on compatible cameras. The sleek black metal more than satisfies in terms of build quality, and the sturdy tripod-style mounting plate is far more durable than some alternatives on competing gimbal. All tightening knobs are ratcheting, and the whole thing feels like it will last through travels to destination shoots or the messiest creative projects.
Using the gimbal once a camera has been correctly balanced is one of the most intuitive methods shooting I’ve experienced. Paired with manual focus using the built-in focus control wheel, it offers unprecedented control to a filmmaker or videographer without the need for bulky equipment, a “video village”, or assistants. A clear view of the LCD is possible at all angles, sideways or upside down. The handle doesn’t get uncomfortable, even after a full day of shooting or simply being on standby at a live event, and the grip allows confident camera moves without worrying about dropping your rig.
The competition in the market for one-handed gimbals has been enormous, and there have been some both great and disappointing products put out by both new and long-trusted manufacturers. For me, the Ronin S from DJI finally signalled the maturity of the product’s development. The one-handed gimbal finally could compete with full-sized alternatives that meant a bulkier and more rigid workflow. Along with the new mirrorless cameras on the market that are competing with cinema cameras, the Ronin S gimbal has unlocked a new world of shooting.