Making stable video recordings without using a tripod did not seem to be possible for me. I still have too little experience with video. If I shoot by hand, then the horizon never stays at the same height in the image. And it is more often tilted than straight. When I walk or run with the camera, it gets worse. You really don’t want to see the results. After I had unpacked the Ring Light (that is the brand) 2D Gyro Stabilizer and made the first test shots, I understood the enthusiasm of the running photography expo visitors. I want a Gyro Stabilizer too! I only have decided yet whether I want a 2D or a 3D stabilizer.
What is a Gyro Stabilizer?
With photography, you freeze the image, whether you’re holding the camera still or not. A slanted horizon can be straightened with software, because a photo represents so many pixels that you can crop the image without any noticeable loss of resolution. With video, however, it is painfully visible if you are not holding the camera straight or still. And with software stabilization of a video recording, you visibly lose image quality. Full HD, for example, has almost ten times fewer pixels than a modern system camera. It is thus important that the horizon be perfectly straight when recording video.
In photography, built-in image stabilization (VR, IS, OS) of the lens or sensor in the camera with the help of a gyroscope is common. This is also a form of mechanical image stabilization, but you need power for it. I thus differentiate it as “electronic-mechanical image stabilization.” The built-in image stabilization of a lens or a camera can compensate for small movements. Only the limited available space in a camera (or lens) makes it impossible to compensate for larger movements, which are clearly there when you walk with a camera. For that, you need external image stabilization, which lets the entire camera move. That is what a Gyro Stabilizer does: a Gyro stabilizer uses a gyroscope in order to correct movements of the camera so quickly that you no longer notice the movements that the camera person has made while recording. Gyro stabilizers are being applied more frequently. Drones for video recordings cannot do that without a gimbal with a Gyro Stabilizer.
Calibration of the Gimbal stabilizer: important and simple
|The Ring Light Gyro Stabilizer is delivered including battery and battery charger, is made from carbon fiber and therefore weighs less than 2 kg. The Gimbal is delivered in a flat box. Putting it together is simple and fairly self-evident. The grips can also be mounted differently (raised) on the Gimbal, so that you can more easily use the Gimbal for making recordings just above the ground. The camera and lens together may not be heavier than 2.5 kg. That makes this gimbal suitable for SLR cameras such as the Nikon D810, Canon 5D MK3, Sony A7s, Blackmagic Cinema or Panasonic GH4. Cameras and lenses with a total length of ≤ 180 mm will fit inside the camera frame.|
It’s advisable to use lenses with a focal length below 100 mm. When the camera hangs stably in the Gimbal, then it takes little power for the motor of the Gyro Stabilizer to keep the camera straight, and you get the most stable recordings. It’s important to calibrate the Gimbal accurately. The first time, that requires a good amount of time, while it’s very simple once you get how it works. The camera must be placed in the Gimbal in such a way that it is precisely in balance. When you’ve done that a few times, it’s a simple job that you do as soon as you put the camera in the Gimbal or change lenses. It’s a matter of higher, lower, move it back, move it to the right.
You start by loosening the screws shown above and shifting the camera higher (for heavy cameras such as a full-frame SLR) or lower (for light cameras), so that the camera hangs nicely horizontal. You secure the camera with an included plate, which you also use with tripods. On this plate, there is a scale, which helps you quickly establish the right balance when you change lenses. Then you make sure that the gimbal is not tilting to the left or right by lining up the camera with lens in the middle (with button 1 in the picture below). Finally, you make sure that the camera doesn’t tilt forward or backward in the Gimbal (with button 2). It is very easy if you use the leveling bubble of the camera as a guide.
You can use the Stabilizer for about one hour on one battery. The battery can stop if it goes completely empty, and therefore there’s no built-in security. There is an external alarm included, which starts peeping when the battery is almost empty. For certainty, I would buy a reserve battery when purchasing it.
With one press of a button, a stable, straight horizon
|A stable horizon ensures a quiet image. Many people get motion sickness if they don’t see a straight horizon. No one enjoys looking at a rocking image. A 2D stabilizer ensures a straight horizon. In the drawing here of Sony’s 5-axis, in-body image stabilization, you see the different movements that a camera can make. If you compare the camera with a head, a 2D stabilizer compensates for two movements, which I have translated into the movements that you would make with your head:|
You can make a third movement with your head (or camera): “Turning” from left to right (“Yaw”). This has no influence on the height of the horizon in the image or on the angle of the horizon. A 3D stabilizer also corrects for this movement, so that you get a quieter image.
|Usually, you will use the “Follow mode in Pitch,” with which the lens and stabilizer point in the same direction. If you make recordings with a Gyro Stabilizer, you won’t always want that. During a walk through the woods, you might want to get a shot of some mushrooms or tree tops. In the standard mode, the stabilizer tries to compensate for this movement as long as possible, until the force becomes so great that it begins to vibrate. Just like the arms of a person that begin to tremble when trying to hold up a heavy load. As soon as you again hold the Stabilizer horizontally, the vibration of the Stabilizer disappears.|
|In the “Yaw Lock mode in Roll,” the horizon remains straight, but you can tilt the camera higher or lower without the Stabilizer compensating for that. For this, you first have to press a pin into a hole. I would have liked it better if you could choose between Pitch and Yaw lock with a second switch.|
Ring Light 2D Gyro Stabilizer: Simple to operate
|I dreaded learning to hold my camera steady while making video recordings without a tripod. It’s true that a Gimbal stabilizer is more expensive than the many other solutions that are on the market, but it’s manageable, simple to operate and extremely effective. That will also be seen by professional videographers. For “making of” videos, a camera person regularly shoots with a Gimbal stabilizer. In the YouTube video shown here, you see the enormous improvement that a 2D Gimbal stabilizer delivers when it comes to a straight horizon and quieter images if you make video recordings while moving.|
|These are recordings from the very first time that I used the Gimbal, without any practice. Thus, the results that you can achieve will most certainly be better. The combination of a GH4 with a Gyro Stabilizer is sufficiently light to use over the long term. If you hold the camera low, then you will probably want to place an extra monitor on top of the Gyro stabilizer, because the screen on the back of the camera is too small to accurately focus from far away or for making a good composition. If you look to experienced videographers, there is almost no one who works without an external screen. If you use zoom lenses that change in length significantly when you zoom in or out, then check the balance by turning off the stabilizer, and otherwise shift the camera into the right position.|
Some photographers want to be as unnoticeable as possible when working—trying to be invisible, like a fly on the wall. That won’t work with a Gyro Stabilizer. If you walk down the street with a video rig, whether it’s a gimbal or another kind, you are certainly going to attract attention.
Conclusion review Ring Light 2D Gyro Stabilizer
I’m no videographer, so my first encounter with a Gyro Stabilizer had a high level of “Alice in Wonderland.” I see things through my own eyes, and I’m not alone in that, because with gyroscope-stabilized gimbals, you get a lot of attention at photography expos. That’s not without reason, because it’s an ideal solution for stable images. Without any practice, I already made quite usable video recordings, while running with my camera. I also found it really nice that the Ring Light 2D Gyro Stabilizer, just like the Panasonic GH4, was not that heavy. Some gyroscope-stabilized gimbals are more than a kilo heavier, and you’ll notice the difference after using the Stabilizer for a while.
That I am going to get a gyroscope-stabilized Gimbal is a sure thing. It’s true that a Gimbal stabilizer is more expensive than the many other solutions for this on the market, but the price is markedly lower than a few years ago. A Gyro Stabilizer is manageable, simple to operate and extremely effective. What you have to pay attention to with a 2D stabilizer is that you turn the camera as little as possible to the left or right, because that’s not corrected for. A 3D stabilizer does do that. Because I am only occasionally going to make video recordings, the choice between 2D and a 3D Stabilizer for me is a budgetary decision. A small bit of movement in this third dimension is less disruptive than a horizon that doesn’t stay still. With a bit of practice, the difference in image quality is small in many cases. If the price difference isn’t too great, then I will probably prefer a 3D stabilizer.
The Ring Light 2D Gyro Stabilizer is offered for sale with and without tripod, on which you hang the Stabilizer when you’re not using it. First, it’s a perfect way to store the Stabilizer. Second, you have your hands free when you put the camera in the Gimbal and calibrate the combination.