Review: Zhiyun Smooth Q3 smartphone gimbal
In need of an affordable smartphone gimbal? This offering from Zhiyun might be perfect.
The market for smartphone gimbals is pretty hot right now, with multiple companies all constantly releasing new devices to get you buttery-smooth footage from your phone. Whether you want that footage for YouTube, or want to remove hand-shake for individual photographs, there are a plethora of options to choose from.
Sure, your smartphone might have optical image stabilization, but it won’t do as well as a gimbal – there just isn’t enough space inside your smartphone to properly stabilize the lens mechanically, and all of the digital methods have some sort of drawback. Gimbals also have additional features, like AI image recognition to keep you perfectly centered in the frame or in-app editing options for your final video.
We’re looking at one today, the three-axis Zhiyun Smooth Q3, which for $109 comes in a kit with a mini tripod, a snazzy carrying case, a wrist strap, and a year subscription to ZY Prime, Zhiyun’s app subscription that gives you extra content like themes to use in your shooting. So, is it any good?
Smooth by design
Okay, if you’ve ever seen a gimbal designed to be used with a smartphone before, you’ll notice one immediate addition to the Smooth Q3.
That’s the rotatable light on the smartphone clamp, which is far more useful when it’s pointing towards you while you’re taking selfies than it is for taking images from the back cameras. It’s a great feature, and really it makes the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 worth buying all on its own.
Tapping the light turns it on or off, and once it’s on, you can tap through three brightness settings before it turns back off again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a feature on every consumer gimbal as it’s really useful.
When you’re looking for a smartphone gimbal, sure you want to know about weight capacities (280g max, 150g min), battery capacity (15hrs max, average 7hrs), and if it has a decent companion app (yes, ZY Cami), but what you really need to pay attention to is size, and if the gimbal can be made smaller for carrying.
The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 is the smallest gimbal I’ve used to date, and it’s even shorter than most smartphone gimbals when slid fully open. The slide that Zhiyun has used is a neat design, sturdier than fold-out options, and sturdy once the fastening screw is tightened.
So, is it any good?
The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 does a good job of stabilizing the video. As with all gimbals, you’ll get better results the more experience you get using one, including the “duck walk” that gets the best, horizon-stable footage.
The ZY Cami software has some neat additional modes, like a “Multiple You” feature that lets you create panorama shots with you on the same screen multiple times. SmartFollow 3.0 allows you to swipe across your subject, and the software will use AI to keep them in the frame while they move around. That’s cool, especially if you’re a solo creator. Gesture control is great too, letting you start recording or take an individual photo with simple hand gestures.
Upgrading to the optional ZY Prime membership ($1.99 a month, $19.99 yearly) gives you even more options, like livestreaming to several major platforms through the app.
The trigger button is just where you’d want it for starting and stopping recording, or taking individual photographs if you’re just using the gimbal to steady your hand. The power button is slightly above it and takes some getting used to, but that’s par for the course for gimbals because the last thing you want is to accidentally turn off the device while you’re mid-record. Oh, and it’s a snap to switch between landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) modes.
The initial Bluetooth pairing of the XY Cami app was quick, but I came across a couple of times during testing where Bluetooth refused to connect. ProTip: Tapping the power button eight times resets the Bluetooth connection on the gimbal so you can re-pair it.
This thoughtful manually-triggered reset is a nice touch from Zhiyun, where other gimbals usually require you to unpair the gimbal in your phone’s settings and hope that it reconnects.
The phone grip is tight, and I had no worries about the stability with either my iPhone 11 Pro or the OnePlus 9. The only minor gripe I have is that the phone clamp doesn’t open enough to let you use a phone with a case on it, so you’ll have to get one of the clamp-on lens options if you want to use anything to enhance your smartphone’s camera lens.
So, should I buy it?
For $109 in a combo with a carrying case, the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 is a solid mobile gimbal with some neat features not found on other options. You also get a year’s membership to ZY Prime in the combo kit, making it an even better value.
It’s supremely portable thanks to being able to collapse down to half of its length, making it much more likely that you’ll take it with you. It’s also $30 less than the previous model from Zhiyun, the Smooth 4, which makes it a rather good value.
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