Zhiyun Smooth 5 Review

Zhiyun Smooth 5 will be everything you love about filming with your smartphone. The 3-axis design allows movements in all angles to be amazingly smooth, even in extreme angles. Intuitive control panel partnering with ZY Cami makes every shot a breeze toward professional level

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Description

Zhiyun Smooth 5 Smartphone Gimbal Review

Product Name: Zhiyun Smooth 5

Product Description: You’ll be happy to know the Zhuiyun smooth 5 gimbal can take up to 380g, which means that any heavy smartphone like the Samsung S21 or the iPhone 13 pro max, along with accessories like lenses, filters, and whatnot, shouldn’t be a problem. It comes to 375g and the gimbal can take it without a hitch. Could this be the best smartphone gimbal in the market today?

Offer price: 169-220

Currency: USD

Availability: OnlineOnly

  • Build Quality
  • Performance
  • Features
  • Easy to Use
4.6

Summary

This is a good gimbal, for heavy smartphones, it’s a no-brainer. If you buy this gimbal you have something that will probably last you for a good few years. It’s easy to use, you get all the functionality you need. It will be soon integrated with filmic pro so you’ll be able to use the control panels at the front with the app if that is something that you use or need. Overall, you’ll be very happy if you buy the Smooth 5. It works as a gimbal is expected to behave and you can even add a few accessories to it because it has a 1/4inch thread on one of the sides. Honestly. You get so much for what you pay.

Pros

High payload
Easy for vlogging
Settings adjustments on the gimbal itself
All axis are lockable
Lightweight and compact

Cons

Bulkier than expected
No easy option for audio
Phone mount can be a bit tricky
Not waterproof
Locks seem of poor internal materials

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User Review
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Zhiyun Smooth 5 Smartphone Gimbal Review

As a past Smooth 4 user, I’ve been waiting for a while for the follow-up, the new Zhiyun Smooth 5 and I had high expectations. I won’t lie to you. My first impressions when I first opened the box were really good and I thought they had hit the nail on the head. Looks like a solid gimbal, it does what a gimbal is supposed to do, and all in all, it seemed to tick most if not all of them. And then I took it for a spin, used it in a couple of jobs, and… I still think it’s a good smartphone gimbal but there is not a single review on YouTube pointing out the issues that this gimbal has. Now, can you work around them? Yes, absolutely. How good or not so good this gimbal is, really depends on how many accessories you plan to use if any at all. But look, stick around and I won’t just tell you the good and the bad, but also show you, and then you can decide.

Overview

So, what’s so good about the Zhiyun Smooth 5 gimbal that makes it stand out from anything out there in the market today. Well, to start with, look at this, this is the most basic move a gimbal has to be able to do. If you have a gimbal that doesn’t allow you to do this move, you’ve been ripped off. It’s as simple as that. So right off the blocks, this gimbal already is, without even going through it, way ahead of most gimbals out there. In general terms, every other move is fluid and very smooth. Honestly, Zhiyun has done a really good job with this gimbal.

Weight and payload

You’ll be happy to know that it can take up to 380g, which means that any heavy smartphone like the Samsung S21 or the iPhone 13 pro max, along with accessories like lenses, filters, and whatnot, shouldn’t be a problem. I often use this set-up, an iPhone 13 pro max, a case, a Sandmarc ultra-wide lens and a filter. It comes to 375g and the gimbal can take it without a hitch. Now, if you plan to use a set-up similar to this, please be careful with the weight of the case or the cage that you use or plan to use because if you max out the rig’s payload, it’s likely because of the weight of the case.

Balancing

Balancing is really easy and I actually like the mount, it is sturdy and grippy but easy to open. You can literally be up and running in less than 5 seconds. The tilt axis bar has markings on so it’s really easy to know where the bar needs to be for the configuration you’re using. Such a simple little feature that can make your life so much easy. And one thing that I really like is that you can use this gimbal either in a horizontal or vertical configuration, so for anyone that records vertical video, TikTok or Instagram content, this gimbal is actually brilliant. You literally have the same functionality, whether you use it in a horizontal or vertical configuration.

Changing Gimbal modes

Another thing that is really good, in the Zhiyun Smooth 5 and this is so often underestimated, is the fact that you can easily change the gimbal modes on the gimbal itself, it’s super easy, and you have a clear visual cue on the handle itself as to what mode you are changing to. You just press the mode button and you’ll see at the top of the gimbal handle a thin LCD strip with the relevant mode that you’re changing to. What’s also cool is that if you double-tap the mode button, you can go backwards. And it’s those little details that make a piece of equipment brilliant. If you went past the mode you want, you can just tap twice and go back, rather than having to go through the entire cycle. Again, we’re talking a second or two here, but sometimes you might have magic happening right in front of your eyes and having those extra 1 or 2 seconds can be the difference between getting it on camera it or not.

Size and build

Now, in terms of size and build. Well, let me tell you, it’s definitely lightweight and although it is mostly plastic, I wouldn’t say it feels cheap, but I wouldn’t say either that feels premium, sort of middle of the road. Which also makes me wonder a bit about the quality of the components inside.

In terms of size, it is definitely larger than other gimbals like the DJI OM5, but it’s also fairly compact. Not the kind of thing you want to carry in your pocket though, and to my surprise, and also to give you a sense of size, it’s almost identical to the Feiyutech G6 Max. So, if you are looking for a gimbal with the word compact attached to it, this might not be it. But the build is good, and I really like the comfortable grippy handle that it has, it makes it quite comfortable to hold and use. And one feature that is brilliant is the fact that the motors are lockable so you can easily carry it in your backpack or even in your hands with the phone mounted on, without it dangling as it happens with other gimbals. But saying that, the mechanism that holds the rotating axis at the bottom doesn’t feel like good components so I can easily see this snapping with just a little bit of force or an accidental push. I am always baffled at how little thought manufacturers pay to the transportation of the rig once set up because once you are all set, you don’t­ want to be taking the phone on and off.

Focus/ Zoom Wheel

The zoom or focus wheel in the Zhiyun Smooth 5, which is sort of a trademark of the zhiyun smooth gimbal range, works flawlessly. Integration with 3rd party apps like Filmic pro is not there yet, but I am sure it will be soon. The question you need to ask yourself is, will you actually ever use it? Because nice as it is, I never zoom halfway through a take and focus is usually done by the camera app, so… I don’t know, I am not sure how much people will actually ever use the wheel, to be honest. Now, using the gimbal with the Zhiyun’s app, the ZY Cami, is really smooth and responsive, and overall, it feels really nice. The app is simple and easy to use, and whether you like it or not, you need to download it and install it to register the gimbal when you first turn it on. The whole process is a bit of a pain but, you know, at least you only have to do it the first time and that’s that.

ZY Cami App

This time around, the app is miles ahead of what zhiyun had before, way better and easy to use. You get both auto and manual settings with total control over the ISO, shutter speed, resolution, white balance, and so on. The layout is nice and it sort of reminds me a bit, or a lot I should say, of DJI’s MIMO app. Obviously, if you are used to filmic pro and the range of different resolutions, color spaces, prores codecs and all the settings you can choose from, well, using the zhiyun app will probably feel quite limited. You might just use the Cami app for time-lapses and navigate the settings because, in all fairness, the Cami app is nowhere near as complete as filmic pro. And to be honest with you, I expect most people to use filmic pro with this gimbal, rather than the zhiyun app, other than for time-lapses.

There is one nice little thing you can do in the Cami app that I haven’t seen in any other camera app. You have the ability to have 2 autofocus points, rather than the single one that you get in most 3rd party apps. This is really cool because you can compose your shot to have something that you need in focus somewhere in the frame other than in the middle, and set a focus point to that area. With the Cami app, you get the middle autofocus box plus a yellow box that you can place anywhere in the frame and you can actually do some smooth auto racking focus. I think this is something many people might actually find useful and might justify using the app, at least for some shots.

Timelapses

Now, if time-lapses is your thing, the Zhiyun Smooth 5 is really good. You get 5 keyframable points and that is more than enough. Normally you don’t need to use more than 2 so having those extra points might give you some extra flexibility. For the kind of time-lapses that most people do, 2 points usually are enough. You get the standard adjustments for the interval and duration of the timelapse, and also a reading of how long the playback will be at normal speed. All in all, it’s a really good setup, and the gimbal is sturdy enough to handle some cross-wind, which is a problem with some other lightweight gimbals when doing time-lapses, where the smallest breeze makes the whole thing shake like it’s on a dancefloor.

Settings

Now, in terms of settings, you get the ability to adjust the speed of the joystick and the zoom wheel. Finally, there is a gimbal that when you set the joystick to slow, you actually get a slow movement. Now, if you need it fast, trust me, it can go pretty fast as well, but I imagine most people watching this review will probably have it set too slow. Two things I found annoying though, which I hope they address in a firmware update, the first one is the fact that the speed setting that you set the joystick to doesn’t stay in memory all the time, so every time you turn off the gimbal and reboot it, randomly, might switch back to the default medium, and you then need to then go into the Cami app and reset it to slow. This is something I hope Zhiyun can address soon because it can get really annoying. The second one is the time it takes for the Zhiyun Cami app to launch and be ready to shoot. I could literally go make myself a coffee and come back and this thing would still be booting up. This is genuinely off-putting. There is no excuse as to why they can’t get this process down to just a second or two. In this day and age, I think it’s not acceptable.

Vlogging

If you’re into vlogging and want to get the best possible results out of your smartphone, you want to use the rear lenses, not the front selfie lens. I know the temptation is to use the front selfie lens because you can see yourself on the screen, but the quality is abysmal when you compare it to the main rear lens at the back of your phone. Obviously, you can still use the selfie lens if you want to and you find that easier, but what is so cool about the Zhiyun Smooth 5 is that if you tap three times at the back of the gimbal, the whole thing spins around so you can film with the rear lenses without having to mount the phone in weird ways as you have to do with other gimbals. This is really cool and no other gimbal in this range does it, that I am aware of. If you want to see yourself, well, naturally it’s not gonna be on the screen and you just have to sort of guess where the camera is pointing at. But most people vlog with the ultra-wide so it would be pretty difficult to get the framing off, to be honest because the field of view is so large.

The ability to use the rear lenses for vlogging is amazing, especially if you want to record your vlogs with the new cinematic mode on the iPhone 13 range. I’m telling you, you want to use the rear lens, not the front selfie one. I couldn’t stress enough how huge the difference is in quality is when using the rear lens over the selfie one. In perfect lighting conditions, the difference might not be so obvious, but the moment light starts to dim, even if just slightly, you can clearly see that the standard lens in your smartphone is so much better.

LED light in combo kit

Now, If you buy the zhiyun combo with the Zhiyun Smooth 5 you get the magnetic LED light and color filters. And let me tell you something, it’s actually quite bright, way more than I expected when I first saw the tiny size of this thing, which is amazing. You could attach a second one to the gimbal if you think you’ll need more light, but for vlogging, a single one is probably enough because you can easily dial up or down the intensity with the jog wheel on the handle, and you can see for yourself that it gives you a lot of light, especially for night time filming, definitely more than enough. You can use it either for vlogging or for standard filming, which is then when I think having a second one might be handy because you can literally light a subject at a relatively fair distance. But I think this is mostly useful for vlogging and I think the single led light that comes with the combo kit is more than enough. Is it worth upgrading to the combo kit? I don’t know……. If you feel you’ll use the LED light at some point, like shooting at night or in low light, then yes, otherwise, I don’t think so. The gimbal and the mini tripod is all you really need and to be honest, the case it comes with it, nice as it is, might be useless for most people. It’s a nice touch and certainly good quality, but I’m not sure it’s that useful. But hey, what I might not find useful, you might find useful so, you know, you decide.

The not so good

Is there anything bad about this gimbal, then? Well, yes, this is not a perfect gimbal, in this price range such a thing is not gonna happen. One thing that a lot of people will find irritating beyond belief, at least I do, is the fact that there is no comfortable way to record sound externally on your phone. When you mount the phone to the gimbal, it has to be right up against the motors, and there is no room for the cable to be plugged in. You can slide out the phone enough to fit the cable, but what happens if you do that is that it will stick out way too far out and if you use a heavy phone with a lens or filters on, I don’t know, personally I just don’t feel too confident using it that way. I wouldn’t even try because I don’t feel it is a safe way to use the gimbal and I don’t want the motors to give way halfway through a shot or worse, things falling to the ground. It might just be ok if you use the phone with a lightweight case and without any accessories, but if you shoot outdoors, you need ND filters so… I don’t know, it’s your decision.

I personally recommend using a small portable recorder like the Zoom H1N, which is what I use myself, and record the audio externally, and then syncing it in post, which these days is very easy and you can do it with just 2 clicks. A couple of other small kinks. You can hear a bit of the motors spinning when you put a heavy load or push it right up to its limit. This again makes a stronger case for recording your audio with a clip-mic attached to a small recorder like the H1N, rather than having a mic mounted on the camera or the gimbal itself. Again, test yourself and see what works with your set-up. The final nagging issue is that if you are in follow mode and you tilt slightly the rig, let’s say 30 degrees, which is the way you should operate a gimbal so all 3 axis are working when you double-tap to reset it, it will go back to the reset position as if the gimbal was fully upright. And this is a real bummer because I would have imagined this gimbal would reset to the horizontal plane, rather than to the upright position. To me, these 3 issues are things that I could easily workaround but I hope Zhiyun can address them in a firmware update in the future.

Conclusion

Essentially, what I want from a gimbal is to operate as a gimbal is supposed to, and the Zhiyun Smooth 5 does that and does it well. There might be a couple of annoying things, yes, but look, it is what it is, you get a massive bang for your money here and filming is all about adapting to what the tools and equipment you have can actually do, so just be a little creative and flexible and you’ll be totally fine.

This is a good gimbal, for heavy smartphones, it’s a no-brainer. If you buy this gimbal you have something that will probably last you for a good few years. It’s easy to use, you get all the functionality you need. It will be soon integrated with filmic pro so you’ll be able to use the control panels at the front with the app if that is something that you use or need. I find it easier and simpler to just tap on the screen anyway so even now with no integration, I can easily work with filmic pro because the main thing, for me, is to be able to change the modes without having to use the zhiyun app, and you can do that now so to me, and probably for a lot of people, integration or no integration with filmic pro makes no difference whatsoever. Overall, you’ll be very happy if you buy the Smooth 5. It works as a gimbal is expected to behave and you can even add a few accessories to it because it has a 1/4inch thread on one of the sides. Honestly. You get so much for what you pay. Yes, it’s a little bit more expensive than other gimbals, but it’s so far ahead that I’m telling you, it’s well worth it. Do I recommend it? Hell yeah. Will it substitute my Feiyutech G6 Max as my main gimbal for smartphones? To be honest with you, I don’t really know. You might be surprised to know that they are very similar in size and weight, if anything the Zhiyun Smooth 5 is a bit bulkier, which I wasn’t expecting, to be perfectly honest. There are certain things that I really like about the Smooth 5, but there are also a lot of things that I like about the G6 Max. For most people, the Smooth 5 will be all they need. If you plan to use a heavy phone, with a case and then add lenses and filters, and possibly even a lens hood, maybe the Smooth 5 is not for you and you need something that can handle a higher payload, like the Feiyutech G6 Max. But if you use the gimbal with the phone, maybe one filter and nothing else, this will be a very good gimbal, no question about that. It all comes down to each person’s shooting style, really.

Zhiyun Smooth 5 and Smartphone Video Tutorial

 

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