The Zhiyun Smooth 3 is a semi-professional 3-Axis smartphone and Action Cam Gimbal that aims to add a touch of professionalism to amateur photography with full image stabilization. What functions the Smooth 3 offers and what else the gimbal has on the box, more in this review.
First impression of the Zhiyun Smooth 3
Scope of delivery
Compared to the recently tested consumer gimbal “Feiyu Vimble C”, the Zhiyun Smooth 3 comes with a package that includes the gimbal, a hard case with lanyard, a micro USB cable and an English-language user manual. A replaceable 26650 battery was already inserted into the gimbal.
Design and workmanship
The Zhiyun Smooth 3 is made completely of aluminium and convinces by a very clean and at the same time high quality workmanship. Unsightly gap dimensions, jammed threads or sharp edges are not to be found on CNC milled aluminium parts.
With dimensions of 134 x 97 x 303 mm, the Smooth 3 is slightly larger than its predecessor Smooth 2 and the consumer counterpart Smooth Q. The weight of the Gimbal is already 520g with an inserted battery but without a smartphone. Due to the comparatively narrow and long shaft, the gimbal fits snugly in the hand. If you want to lengthen the shaft, you can screw an extension via the? inch tripod thread on the bottom side. All operating keys, such as the control stick, the selection keys and the side steering wheel are positioned close to each other and can be easily reached by a single-handed operation. A somewhat unfavorable solution is that the Micro USB socket on the handle has no cover and is unprotected. At least a small rubber cover would have been desirable here. The same applies to the Micro USB socket on the motor of the tilt axis. For example, a connected device can be charged via this USB socket. A corresponding USB adapter cable is not included in the scope of delivery and is only available separately. According to Zhiyun, a suitable adapter cable will soon be available as an official accessory.
Smartphones with a width of 58 mm to 85 mm can be inserted into the clamp mount of the Zhiyun Smooth 3. For example, an iPhone 5 (58.6 mm) or a Xiaomi Mi Mix (81.9 mm) fits easily into the clamp mount. The load-bearing capacity is between 75g and 260g. The alignment of the holder can be changed using an adjustment screw. If the mount is aligned horizontally, action cams can also be stabilized. The holder is rubberized to fit all of the surface so that the smartphone is non-slip and protected from scratches.
Preparations and commissioning
It is crucial that a gimbal is never switched on without a counterweight, as otherwise damage to the brushless motors may occur. If you want to enjoy your gimbal for a long time, you should take this advice to heart! The Zhiyun Smooth 3’s operating instructions refer to this crucial point once again. It also explains how to insert the smartphone and how to operate the gimbal.
Depending on the size and weight of the inserted device, the gimbal must first be balanced. For this purpose, the rail of the X-axis can be shifted by means of an adjusting screw. A scale on the rail helps to quickly find the position found previously. In contrast to many other gimbals, such as the Feiyu Vimble C, the powerful engines of the Smooth 3 do not have to achieve a perfect balance. Even an incorrectly balanced smartphone is stabilized. However, it should be noted that this causes the motors to become more stressed and at the same time reduces the battery life.
Functions and Zhiyun Assistant
Without connecting the gimbal to the app, it offers a total of 3 control modes. The Zhiyun Smooth 3 also allows you to roll and tilt 320° (roll and tilt) and swivel 360° (pan) freely using the joystick.
Pan Following Mode
After switching on the Gimbal, it is in “Pan Following Mode”. In this mode, the tilt and roll axes are locked so that only the horizontal pan movements are followed. However, all axes are freely movable via the joystick.
With a click on the Mode button you will be in “Locking Mode”. In this mode, all axes are locked. No matter how you move the gimbal, it always remains horizontally aligned on a line. The axes are also freely movable in locking mode via the joystick.
Double-clicking on the mode button will bring you to “Following Mode”. In this mode, the gimbal follows all pan, tilt and roll movements. The joystick control is retained.
If you press the mode button three times in a row, a 180° pan is automatically performed. As soon as you are familiar with the different modes, switching back and forth between them is easy. There is no separate LED indicator to distinguish the currently selected mode. Only the locking mode is indicated by a constantly blue LED above the joystick. At the same time, the LED indicator shows the current battery status. Unfortunately, the indicator does not show a distinction between Pan Following Mode and Following Mode.
Zhiyun Assistant / ZY Play
If you want to use all features of the Zhiyun Smooth 3, you can’t avoid an installation of the Zhiyun Assistant or the ZY Play App. The Zhiyun Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices in the app stores. The enhanced ZY Play App is currently only available for iOS devices. In the following I refer to the Zhiyun Assistant.
The connection to the app is established via Bluetooth. There were no problems in the test. Within a few seconds the smartphone was connected to the gimbal. There is no confirmation prompt during pairing. On the one hand, this allows a connection to be established within a very short period of time, and on the other hand, theoretically everyone could connect to the gimbal.
When connected, you will be greeted by a clear start screen that provides information such as remaining battery life, axes and active mode. The sub-menu item “Control” leads to the control surface of the Gimbal. All physical control buttons are available there in virtual form. In the settings of the Zhiyun Assistant you can configure the individual axes. Among other things, the movement speeds can be adjusted here. Another subitem is the “Calibration”. If the gimbal is adjusted, it can be recalibrated by means of this.
There is also an integrated camera function within the app. In addition to general shooting options, it also offers ISO, white balance and exposure settings. One feature that is only possible with the camera function of the Zhiyun Assistant is object tracking. If you focus on an object or a person and highlight them, the gimbal remains permanently fixed on the mark. The zoom function via the wheel attached to the handle only works with the camera function of the Zhiyun Assistant!
After learning about the functions of Zhiyun Smooth 3, let’s have a look at how the gimbal performs in practice. For this the gimbal accompanied me for one week on Tenerife and 2 more weeks at home.
Until I had the Smooth 3 ready to go, not even a minute passed. The counterweight quickly balances the gimbal and the scale allows me to remember the balance point. The connection to the app is, as already mentioned, also established within a few seconds.
The stabilization is carried out in the truest sense of the word “smooth”. The full 320° and 360° can be enjoyed without the slightest murmur of the engines. Even at steep slopes, no typical vibration due to overloading of the motors has become noticeable. Fast running movements and rough camera pans are well balanced. This makes the Smooth 3 ideal for cinematic film movements. Stability was also surprisingly good in strong winds. Even in this case, the recordings remained largely stabilized. After a test of several weeks, I have not yet had to recalibrate the gimbal.
The only drawback is the ZY Play App, which has not yet been released for Android. In contrast to the Zhiyun Assistant, this offers advanced camera functions. Nevertheless, the Zhiyun Assistant should not be underestimated. The object or face tracking in particular was convincing in the test because of its high accuracy and recognition rate. Another disadvantage of the Zhiyun Assistant is the maximum selectable video resolution of 1920 x 1080 at 30 frames per second.
The battery of the Zhiyun Smooth 3 is type 26650, has a capacity of 4600 mAh and is exchangeable. Zhiyun indicates a maximum runtime of 14 hours. With perfect balance, you can reach over 12 hours. The charging time via the Micro USB charging socket of the Gimbal was 3 hours in the test. Faster charging times can be achieved with a separate charger. It is practical that the battery level can be read directly from the app and the gimbal shows the remaining capacity via an LED indicator.