Thanks to the popularity of the MōVI and the gimbals that came after it, fluid moving video is now affordable and relatively easy to achieve. Weight can be an issue, though, both for the gimbal itself, and the total weight of the package. Using an iPhone 6s with a Swiftcam M3s promises stable 4K video around 660 grams. So how low can you go?
The gimbal itself is packaged well, and magnets mean that the parts don’t move around too much when the device is off. The phone is held in a spring-mounted grip at the top, and a provided magnetic counterweight allows heavier devices to balance. I found the iPhone 6s (heavier than the iPhone 6) was right on the edge of requiring the weight to be added; with a light case, the counterweight was needed, but without a case, it wasn’t.
As a single-handed gimbal, feel is important, and the handle is a smooth plastic with a grippable area on the front. A joystick facing the operator is in the right place for thumb control, while the power button facing the subject is a little too easy to touch—I’ve accidentally turned it off once or twice.
Three IMR 18350 batteries provide power, and can be swapped out relatively easily through a screw-cap on the bottom that also provides a standard tripod mount. Though battery power is quoted at 2–3 hours, I found I could power it for only 1 hour from a fully charged set. Batteries are under $10 each, so spares aren’t expensive, but continuous operation is an issue.
In fact, with the counterweight attached, I found that the gimbal was likely to flash its light quickly (the battery warning) and shut down after 15–20 minutes of usage. After waiting a few minutes I was able to restart—presumably, either the batteries or the gimbal had overheated—but it was consistent. This wasn’t really a problem for me on a recent shoot (there are frequent breaks in most shoots) but it’s something to be conscious of. Turning the gimbal off when not in use would be a good idea to prevent overheating, extend battery life, and be sure of lasting the shoot.
Pop the phone on, and roughly balance it. This is pretty easy—push the phone back and forth a little in its holder until the roll angle sits nearly level. If the phone tilts a little (top or bottom heavy) you can also add an included sticky foam pad to top or bottom, to influence the tilt. Then, press the power button to activate the gimbal, hold it upright, then push the joystick in to calibrate it.
Once the gimbal takes over, you can move around pretty freely, but if you move beyond the gimbal’s capabilities, it’ll start to vibrate to let you know it can do no more. It’ll do a solid job of stabilizing footage, whether you stand still, move slowly, walk, or even run.
The joystick is a real bonus. Not only can it be used to move the phone in two dimensions for smooth pans and tilts, but you can press it to move into extra modes. The default mode is Full Follow, where the gimbal smoothly tracks both pan and tilt, but press the joystick once to move into Pan Follow, where tilt is locked and only your pans are followed. Press the joystick again to move to Full Lock, where tilt and pan are both locked, and once more to return to the Full Follow mode.
An app is available, in both the Android and iOS app stores, which allows the gimbal to be configured. Telling it which smartphone you’re using it with should help (though the 6s isn’t listed yet) and you can also change the speed of the joystick, calibrate the gimbal, and perform a 360° sweep.
The Swiftcam M3s works, and works well. It’s much simpler to set up and lighter than heavier gimbals I’ve tried, while the joystick and app make it more flexible than most. If you don’t need a gimbal to run non-stop, for $300 it’s a great deal.
Price: $299 USD
Web: Swiftcam M3s