Zhiyun Smooth 5 review: Not quite ready for prime time

The Zhiyun Smooth 5 is a three-axis smartphone gimbal aimed at prosumer-level mobile content creators. While in-camera video stabilization has come a long way in recent years, for videographers looking for creative camera control as well as smooth cinematic footage, nothing quite compares to a gimbal. dedicated mechanics.

Fleeing the trend towards smaller, lighter and foldable stabilizers, the Smooth 5 is designed for demanding users. It features a chunky build, large handle, and a host of physical controls that allow users to adjust their settings on the fly, right from the grip.

Its chunky design won’t suit everyone, however, and with an introductory price that puts it at the top of the market, the Smooth 5 will have to do anything to rival the likes of the DJI OM5.

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Zhiyun Smooth 5 review: What do you get for the money?

For £159 the Zhiyun smooth 5 standard kit Comes with the gimbal, a mini tripod, and a USB-C charging cable. Alternatively, for £209, a Zhiyun Smooth 5 Combo Kit is also available, which includes all of the standard kit plus a wrist strap, magnetic LED fill light, color filter set, and custom carrying case.

The Smooth 5 is 311mm tall without the optional mini tripod and weighs 615g. The grip offers an array of physical buttons, including a joystick, rotary d-pad, trigger button, and a large rubberized wheel. There is also a small screen that highlights the current mode.

There is a USB-C charging port on the back and a USB-C socket on the top of the device which can be used to charge your smartphone on the go. There are also magnetic connection points for mounting optional accent lighting accessories.

The gimbal can be used standalone – just mount your phone and turn it on – or paired to your phone via Bluetooth, where it can be used in conjunction with a compatible app.

Zhiyun offers a few native apps for Android and iOS, including the standard ZY Cami and more advanced StaCam apps. These apps allow you to dial in your phone’s camera settings, adjust gimbal behavior, and access creative modes for creating time-lapses and panoramas.

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Zhiyun Smooth 5 review: what’s new?

The Smooth 5 provides a number of welcome upgrades over its predecessor. Full 360 degree panning is now available, allowing the Smooth 5 to take vortex shots. The maximum supported payload has been increased from 210g to 280g and it is also compatible with Zhiyun’s magnetic fill lights.

The Smooth 5 also benefits from a wider range of physical buttons, including a new joystick and a small bright screen that shows your current mode and allows you to switch modes without needing to open the Zhiyun app.

It weighs 55g more than its predecessor, however, and with a launch price of £159 it’s considerably more expensive than the £95 Zhiyun Smooth 4.

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Zhiyun Smooth 5 review: What do we like?

First, the Smooth 5’s stabilization easily ranks among the best I’ve tested. Video footage is stable, camera movement slips, and clips shot on the move appear to float. Although noticeably heavier than some other smartphone stabilizers, the Smooth 5 remains well balanced and the extra weight helps keep it stable in the hand.

The vast array of physical controls is welcome and, provided you’ve paired it with one of the compatible apps, lets you change almost any setting on your camera and gimbal, and navigate menus. of the application directly from the handle. The built-in mode selection display is also a bit of a game-changer as it allows you to switch between different gimbal behavior modes without having to dive into the app settings – especially useful if you’re not recording with a Zhiyun app.

There are behavior modes for panning, tracking and following, POV (point of view) and, only for a smartphone gimbal, there is a vortex mode that allows full 360 degree rotation shots. While you won’t often find yourself snapping wild vortex shots, it’s certainly a nice creative tool to have at your disposal.

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Zhiyun’s ZY Cami app offers built-in modes for photos, videos, time-lapses, hyper-lapses, and panoramas, as well as a Hitchcock-style cart zoom function. As far as camera settings go, ZY Cami is pretty basic, at least on the Android version, offering simple frame rate and resolution presets and exposure compensation, but it’s intuitive enough to navigate and pair with no problem.

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Zhiyun Smooth 5 review: how could it be better?

While the ZY Cami app is great for casual video clips, if you’re looking to invest in this type of gimbal, you’ll definitely want a bit more camera control. That’s where Zhiyun’s advanced StaCam app comes in and it’s also where things start to unravel a bit.

StaCam offers granular control over camera settings, exposure histogram, focus peaking, zebra stripes, overlays, and even LUT support, all controlled using the and buttons. physical dials of the Smooth 5. Unfortunately, despite trying StaCam on Google Pixel 5, Xiaomi 11T Pro, and Huawei P20 Pro, I couldn’t get it to work properly. StaCam frequently dropped frames, resulting in jerky and unusable footage, regardless of frame rate or resolution selected.

While it might work just fine on some devices – I haven’t tested the iOS version – in my experience I certainly can’t recommend it for the kind of serious work the Smooth 5 is intended for.

The Smooth 5 is now supported by Filmic Pro on Android and iOS, with full support for all of its physical controls so you don’t have to rely solely on Zhiyun’s camera apps. Filmic Pro is however a third party application and long term support may not be guaranteed. It’s also not a free app; at the time of writing it costs £12.99.

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It is also impossible to get around the fact that this is a very bulky unit. While its bulk might give it a bit more stability, the fact that it barely folds up means it’s not very travel-friendly – it requires the same size compartment in my camera bag as a lens professional zoom 70-200mm.

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Zhiyun Smooth 5 review: Should you buy it?

If the stars align and Zhiyun’s StaCam app works consistently – or if you pair it with a compatible third-party camera app like Filmic Pro – the Smooth 5 is one of the most capable smartphone stabilizers for advanced users.

It’s got a solid build, produces amazingly smooth video footage, has a whole suite of well-positioned physical controls, and the built-in mode switching feature is truly remarkable.

Unfortunately, at this price, there are too many frustrations for me to give it an unqualified recommendation. Its inconsistent performance in first-party applications will likely put off the demanding users it’s primarily intended for, while its high price and bulky design make it very hard to justify over DJI’s smaller and lighter ones. OM5 or considerably cheaper OM4 SE for more casual users.

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Abdul J. Gaspar