One thing that on-the-go videographers seem to swear by is a quality gimbal. These devices keep your camera steady as you move so that video footage comes out smooth and jitter-free. While some cameras feature built-in image and video stabilization features, a physical gimbal does the job much better and yields impressive results.
Among the more prominent names in the camera gimbal industry is Zhiyun, a brand we’ve gone hands-on with previously. Zhiyun is out with two new gimbal models this week including the Crane M3S and Weebill 3S that pair advanced gimbal technologies with ergonomic packages that cost a bit less than some of the competition. But do they perform to snuff?
Zhiyun Crane M3S
To start, we’ll look at the Crane M3S, a portable and lightweight powerhouse ideal for phones and smaller digital cameras that can also handle a full-frame camera body with a small lens if necessary. This gimbal packs away nicely in any gear bag and comes with advanced technologies that ensure you get the shot you want.
Like any gimbal, the Crane M3S needs to be calibrated to your camera the first time and each time you change the lens – this means mounting your camera to the device, locking all the motors to keep them from moving, and balancing your camera so that it sits how you would want it to when recording. You’ll notice little markings on each axis of the gimbal, which represent the small adjustments you’ll make during this calibration:
Once you’re happy with the calibration results and your camera sits balanced, you can unlock each motor one at a time, ensuring that the gimbal holds balance or making small adjustments to regain balance again before turning the gimbal on. Proper balance is essential, as it maximizes the performance of each gyroscopic motor.
When you turn the Crane M3S on for the first time after calibration, it immediately takes hold of your camera and keeps it locked on subject. The three gyroscopic motors work powerfully and efficiently to keep your image steady as you walk.
Upon taking the Crane M3S out of the box, one of the first things we noticed is that it’s jam-packed with modern technology. This includes a 1.22-inch color touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity for shutter control on Bluetooth-supported cameras, USB-C power delivery for charging, and a built-in multi-tone 2700-5500K, 1000 Lux LED light that powers through the darkness to keep your subject lit.
The Crane M3S features an ergonomic grip that feels great in the hand. The joystick and the various buttons and controls are in places where my fingers (and thumb) can comfortably reach even while operating the device with a heavy camera on it.
At the bottom of the gimbal is a thread for a tripod, which Zhiyun includes in the box to set the gimbal upright on a tabletop. The tripod works great for table-based video recording and even for the initial calibration process.
New starting with the Crane M3S is Zyiyun’s quick release mounting plate, which makes quick work of removing your camera from the gimbal without any tools. This new release plate also makes it really easy to change out your camera’s battery without having to dismount and re-balance your camera all over again as you would typically need to do on an ordinary mounting plate.
On a single charge, which takes just two hours thanks to USB-C power delivery, you can expect to use the Crane M3S for as long as 7.5 hours, which is more than enough for a video shoot. In fact, we’ll bet your camera’s battery dies before the gimbal’s does.
The Crane M3S seems like a great option for entry-level videographers looking for something to support their smartphone or digital camera, but if you have a heavier camera body and chunkier lenses, then you might want to check out the next option we’re about to show you instead…
Zhiyun Weebill 3S
Enter the Weebill 3S, Zhiyun’s flagship gimbal. Mechanically, the Weebill 3S works the same as the Crane M3S with its three gyroscopic motors, locking mechanisms, and similar ergonomics, but it differs in camera support, heft, and accessory support. If you’re working with a bigger, heavier camera in a more professional setting, then this should be the obvious choice.
While the mechanics are generally the same as the Crane M3S, it’s apparent that the Weebill 3S has stronger motors. It also comes with a more advanced mounting system designed for larger full-frame camera bodies, like our Nikon Z6 ii, that can be mounted in either landscape or portrait orientation. The lens we attached in our testing was a Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8, which isn’t a light lens by any stretch.
The mounting plate for the camera has adjustments that suit all major makes and models, and one thing that really pushes it over the top is that it includes an optimal lens support so that longer lenses have additional surface area to brace against to prevent wobble and slip during movement.
The Weebill 3S comes with the same mini tripod for tabletop use and calibration that the Crane M3S does, but it the former also be had with the optional wrist rest attachment, which makes using heavier cameras easier on your arm and wrist by bracing the weight against your wrist. This attachment can also make it much easier to get close to the ground while filming.
Balancing the Weebill 3S is just as easy as balancing the Crane M3S thanks to similar measurement devices and locking mechanisms on each axis with markings that help keep your adjustments precise:
Ergonomically, we find that the Weebill 3S is just as good as the Crane M3S, but even better when paired with the wrist rest attachment. All the controls are, once again, in places where our fingers (and thumb) can comfortably reach without any excessive stretching, and the screen is touch-sensitive, allowing you to navigate menus that way.
The Weebill 3S is also just as tech-friendly with its USB-C fast-charging port, Bluetooth connectivity support for the shutter on Bluetooth-equipped cameras, and the built-in multi-tone 2600-5500K, 1000 Lux LED light for keeping your subject lit in challenging lighting situations.
While this beast features more powerful motors and handles larger cameras, the Weebill 3S can run for 11.5 hours after a full two-hour charge, which compares to the Crane M3S’s 7.5 hours.
If you’re using a dedicated camera body almost exclusively, and not a point-and-shoot or smartphone camera, then you should really consider this gimbal over the Crane M3S.
My thoughts on the new Zhiyun gimbals
Having used products by the Zhiyun brand in the past, I can tell after playing with the Crane M3S and Weebill 3S that the company has invested a lot of time and money in improving their product ergonomics and user experience. The quality of the final product has improved exponentially, almost to the degree of many top brand competitors, and this makes it a compelling option for anyone who might be in the market for a gimbal.
Since I spend a lot of time with cameras, a quality gimbal is something that I feel I need, and I would have no problem recommending a Zhiyun gimbal. Additionally, because I use a heavy camera body with big lenses a lot of the time, The Weebill 3S is my first choice, followed by the Crane M3S if I’m packing only my smartphone or a smaller camera with smaller lenses (although it handles my Nikon Z6 ii just fine if I use modest prime lenses).
Below, I’ll list some of the pros and cons of each gimbal:
- Powerful features in a small and portable package
- USB-C power delivery
- Built-in Bluetooth connectivity
- Built-in LED light
- New connectivity plate that makes it easy to remove your camera
- Excellent 7.5-hour runtime
- Fantastic ergonomics
- Includes tripod attachment and smartphone clamp
- Easy to calibrate
- Excellent smoothness
- Can only handle smartphones and smaller cameras
- Lack of wrist rest may fatigue non-muscular users
- Only available in white
- The most powerful motors you can get in a Zhiyun gimbal
- Works with anything from smartphones to dedicated camera bodies
- USB-C power delivery
- Built-in Bluetooth connectivity
- Built-in LED light
- Superb 11.5-hour runtime
- Comfortable ergonomics, boosted by the optional wrist rest
- Includes tripod attachment
- Easy to calibrate
- Exquisite smoothness
- Less portable due to size and included attachments
- Mounting plate is more complicated than the one on the Crane M3S
There is very little bad that I can say about these gimbals since I think they’re an excellent value for the money. Of course, there’s going to be some subjectivity based on each individual user’s ergonomic expectations.
Where to get one
If you’ve decided that you’d like to pick up a gimbal from Zhiyun and either the Crane M3S or Weebill 3S seem like they could be viable options for your videography or photography needs, then we’ll gladly point you in the right direction.
The small but mighty and travel-friendly Crane M3S gimbal can be had from Zhiyun’s website for just $299 for the gimbal and tripod, or $359 for a full kit that includes the gimbal, tripod, cell phone mount, and a stylish carrying bag.
Alternatively, if you have more camera gear than just a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera, and you need the additional ergonomics to handle the heft, then you might want to grab Zhiyun’s Weebill 3S, which can be had from Zhiyun’s website for just $319 for the gimbal and tripod, or $439 for a full kit that includes the gimbal, tripod, wrist rest attachment, and a stylish carrying bag.
Gimbals are handy pieces of equipment for videographers who want the highest-quality footage while filming on foot, but they can also be handy for photographers who want to add just a smidge of additional camera shake prevention to their tripod.
While there are potentially higher quality brands out there, Zhiyun offers great value at a low price that won’t break the bank, and their quality improvements over the years have brought them nearly up to par with the competition, which is why we think they warrant a look.
Are you planning to pick up one of Zhiyun’s new Crane M3S or Weebill 3S gimbals? Let us know why or why not in the comments section down below.