Top-Teks customer David Cubbage boat tested the Zhiyun Crane, read how he got on here!
I purchased the Zhiyun Crane Gimbal from Top-Teks Ltd to use on an ongoing sailing documentary I’m producing over the coming year. Although I have worked in the film and video industry for many years I’m now retired and produce my own short digital films purely for my own pleasure, it’s my hobby. The great thing with developments in modern DSLR’s, we now have reasonably lightweight and inexpensive tools to aid people like me to get professional results, the Zhiyun Crane Gimbal is one of those tools. Top-Teks asked me if I would mind giving them some feedback on the gimbal so I decided the best way to describe how good it was in use, was to show it in action on the water and let people judge for themselves with their own eyes.
Test and Setup
I wanted to pair the gimbal with my new Panasonic GX80 but the kit zoom lens supplied with the camera was too lightweight to allow me to balance the gimbal. Panasonic had positioned the tripod screw thread further forward than usual so the camera was back heavy. Not deterred, I purchased a new, heavier zoom lens and managed to get it perfectly balanced. It is vital to the performance and operation of the gimbal to manually balance it in all the axis before you power up.
I only had a small weather window to carry out the test so had no time to get help to steer my dinghy while I operated the camera and gimbal, so I did both. It is testament to the ease of use of the gimbal that I could do both at the same time. It’s not a perfect solution as I had to be careful I didn’t collide with any of the expensive boats in the marina. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was shooting so some of the shots may appear haphazard and slightly over exposed. Because of these restrictions, I chose to shoot the test in one continuous take and made the decision not to edit the footage other than to add titles and a soundtrack. This way I could show the full potential and creative capabilities of the gimbal, warts and all and as I think the completed video proves, there are none apart from forgetting the limits of the camera. The gimbal was so lightweight, responsive and easy to use that I overlooked the camera doesn’t have a Global Shutter, meaning some of the faster panning shots suffered from Rolling Shutter artefacts.
Although this is a test for the performance of the gimbal, the results will be judged by the quality of the footage from the camera. I always shoot in 4K but the limit on the GX80 is 24 or 25 fps so some of the fast movement shots appear jerky, a faster framerate would be better for these shots and although I could have shot at double the framerate in 1080p I prefer to shoot in 4K. Apart from the obvious higher data rate of 4K at 100Mbps, 1080p is only 28Mbps, my ‘A’ camera is a hacked Panasonic GH2 with a Kowa 2:1 anamorphic lens. I love shooting all my projects in widescreen when I can but the total weight of my setup means it’s consigned to being supported on a tripod. I shoot in 1080HD on the hacked GH2 at 120Mbps but with the anamorphic lens I get 1080 by 3840 when stretched in post, I usually finish in 2.4:1 aspect ratio. The footage from my old hacked GH2 is just as good, if not a bit better than most modern 4K DSLR cameras so to match the aspect ratio I shoot in 4K on my GX80, DJI Phantom 4 and Go Pro’s, then crop in post and colour correct to match footage from the GH2.
The Zhiyun Crane is a beautifully engineered piece of equipment. Quality is excellent and the results you can get when properly setup is simply amazing. During my tests, I found it to be very responsive; if you watch the video you can see how, on tight turns the bow of the dinghy bounces around yet all outside the dinghy remains smooth and level. Battery life is excellent, I’ve yet to experience the batteries running out of steam. Zhiyun supply two sets of batteries and a charger with the kit so you could get enough juice for a full day’s shoot, I wish other manufacturers would follow their lead and do the same, especially where cameras are concerned.
Zhiyun have just released a new double handle kit for the crane which I ordered from Top-Teks Ltd and took delivery this week. I’ve yet to try it out on the gimbal but my first impression is again, beautifully engineered to the same high standard as their gimbal. I can’t wait to put it through it’s paces over the coming weeks.
See David’s 4k test footage