Smartphone cameras have been getting better and better, with the likes of the iPhone X line and the Samsung S9/S9+ delivering fantastic 4K recordings at a smooth 30 fps. It’s no wonder then that more and more phone users are beginning to take photography and filmmaking with their phones more seriously.
The Zhiyun Smooth Q is a feature packed 3-axis gimbal that is now available for under $90. The mere fact that it’s a 3-axis motorized gimbals means it will provide far better stabilization than any EIS or OIS that is built into any smartphone.
A sub-$90 3-axis gimbal simply didn’t exist a couple of years ago and will no doubt be very tempting for a whole new generation of smartphone cinematographers.
Zhiyun are a big name with a good track record when it comes to their gimbals. Despite being a budget gimbal, I definitely have high hopes for the Smooth Q. Let’s see how their new ‘consumer grade’ gimbal, the Smooth Q, turned out this review.
Inside the Smooth Q’s box are a charger, Micro USB cable, user manual and finally the gimbal itself. The gimbal is packed in a silver, semi-hard case that almost looks like a scaled-down electric guitar case.
The plastic build quality of the Smooth Q means it won’t really handle a beating, but it does contribute to its lightweight 440g construction. The hand grip does not feature a rubberized grip, and thus feels a little less comfortable in the hands than some other smartphone gimbals like the DJI Osmo Mobile.
Mounting smartphones is easy and simply a matter of sliding your camera in and making sure it sits tightly.
Powering the gimbal on by holding down the button for two seconds will automatically make the Smooth Q calibrate and balance the mounted phone into a leveled position. For a entry level smartphone, I was impressed that the motors were powerful enough to balance larger phones like my iPhone 8 Plus without any problems.
With a max supported load of 200g, the Smooth Q supports most smartphones around. However, phablet sized phones like the iPhone XS Max Galaxy Note 9 which weigh above 200g will run into issues.
The Smooth Q can also be used with GoPros or action cameras if a suitable case adapter (purchased separately) is used.
Zhiyun Smooth Q Features
The Smooth Q’s built-in battery has outstanding battery life. With a 26650mAh capacity, it lasts around 12 hours from a full charge which takes approximately 3 hours. The Smooth Q also doubles up as a 5V, 2000mA powerbank, which makes a lot of sense given its battery is so good.
On the hand grip you’ll find a digital zoom slider that means you don’t have to pinch in and out on your phone’s display. Unfortunately, this feature is only usable if you’re recording through Zhiyun’s ZY Play App, and the zooming in isn’t particularly smooth.
Another impressive feature of the Smooth Q is its range of motion. Fully capable of panning 360-degrees, the Smooth Q is good for taking those wide panoramic shots. Moreover, you can easily switch between landscape and portrait shooting modes, the latter becoming more and more important as the likes of Instagram now enforce portrait videos.
Controlling the Zhiyun Smooth Q
The Zhiyun Smooth Q has a fairly basic control setup. By default, the gimbal starts in pan follow mode, which keeps the horizon level but follows any movements you make in the pan axis.
The follow mode is activated by clicking the mode button twice. This is the same as the pan follow mode, except it will also follow movements in the tilt (up and down) axis.
Finally, there is the locked mode. This mode will keep the camera’s orientation locked, and the camera will stay focused on what you’re pointing it at.
Like most other smartphone gimbals, the Smooth Q also features a joystick that allows you to electronically adjust the pan and tilt. Personally I never use the joystick as using my hands is both smoother and feels more natural.
Zhiyun have claimed to feature a much improved stabilization system over previous Smooth gimbals which makes it more responsive.
I haven’t used any of the older Zhiyun smartphones gimbals so cannot make a direct comparison, but the Smooth Q’s motors definitely felt snappy. There was no significant lag produced by the Smooth Q when making quick changes of direction.
The motor noise was roughly the same as the DJI Osmo Mobile, making it neither loud nor especially quiet.
Overall stabilization was very reliable from the Smooth Q. However, keep in mind the gimbal’s motors can only support a weight of up to 200g. Those with heavier phones might want to consider gimbals which aren’t cutting things so close.
Zhiyun ZY Play App
Zhiyun’s companion app is fairly basic. Its latest update lets you record 4K video from the app on Android as well as iPhone. However, it lacks some of the custom settings you ideally want in a video recording app.
That’s why I’d recommend using a stock iPhone/Android camera apps or a third-party one. iPhone users may want to check out popular third party options since you cannot disable OIS (which can interfere with the gimbal’s stabilization) in the stock iOS camera app.
However, it does the job for updating the gimbal’s firmware, adjusting follow speeds and configuring other settings.
Currently priced below $90, the Zhiyun Smooth Q is a great budget smartphone gimbal. The long battery life is perhaps its best feature, but it is certainly no slouch in other regards. Its build quality feels somewhat cheap, but it looks able to withstand casual use.
- One of the cheapest options for a smartphone gimbal
- Decent image stabilization and quiet motors
- Doesn’t play well with heavier phones
- Poor build quality
Looking for a gimbal for your iPhone? Check out my list of recommended gimbals for iPhone.
I’m a photographer and the chief editor of Capture Guide. After spending several years in parts of South America with my trusty old Nikon D7100, I’m now back home patiently waiting for borders to re-open.