Combining the maneuverability of a selfie stick with the steadiness of a tripod, a camera stabilizer is an essential tool for imparting your videos with seamless movement. It will provide an easy-to-grab support, and these stabilizers come in various forms, from simple cage grips to motorized gimbals. Whether you’re shooting with a DSLR or your phone’s built-in camera (which already have impressive onboard image-smoothing tech), a stabilizer is unmatched when it comes to removing any shakiness and capturing wide, cinematic shots.
Check out quick info below of the top three camera stabilizers from our testing, then scroll farther for full reviews of these and other promising models.
Why Buy a Grip or Gimbal?
Whether you’re looking to create a short film, music video, or vlog entry, there’s bound to be some movement if you’re shooting with your camera in hand. While some jitter is natural, overly jerky, low-quality footage can ruin shots and cause viewers to stop watching—not great if you’re a content creator (or want to be). A gimbal or cage gives you the ability to move smoothly and pan around a scene, even if you haven’t been blessed with surgeon-steady hands.
Cage grips mount your camera or phone inside of an easy-to-hold structure that naturally fights off shake by evenly distributing weight across both of your hands. These basic devices require more active control since you’ll need to manually turn your camera to capture movement like pans or tilts. However, if your desired shot requires a lot of complex movement or you simply want to use a single hand, gimbals use motors and sensors to level out your camera and move along an axis with the help of AI. With gimbal software, you can even set a motion pattern or track a person or object as it moves. Gimbals often have a more accurate balance, since they adjust automatically without room for human error. The resulting footage is much smoother, but you’re going to pay for the privilege; gimbals cost more than either tripods or cages.
How We Tested
To begin, we researched expert and consumer reviews to pool the most promising gimbals for our testing. Once they arrived, we loaded each stabilizer up with either an iPhone 13 Pro Max or a Canon M50 DSLR camera, depending on the included mounting plate. We then performed three shooting tests. The first was a basic tracking shot as we followed a walking subject from behind on a straightaway that banks into a curve. This helped us evaluate the overall steadiness as well as how each stabilizer handled wide pivots.
After our tracking shot test, we moved into a stairwell in the Popular Mechanics office and placed three neon-pink square markers on different points of the walls to serve as targets. We choreographed the same path of movement as we recorded walking up a flight of stairs while zooming, panning, and rotating each stabilizer to see how smoothly they adjusted to quick motion transitions.
For the final test, we used the included software of compatible stabilizers to evaluate tracking as we filmed a static subject in a half-circle motion. Starting from the left side, we made our way to the front of our subject, then slowly walked to their right side. This showed us AI-tracking accuracy, which is important for creators who like to hone in on subjects or record self-facing vlogs centered in the frame while in motion.
We’ve also included some models that we haven’t gotten hands on for testing yet but look promising based on our experience and knowledge of stabilizers. You can find those under Other Great Options below.
DJI’s Ronin-SC is a high-performance gimbal that affords a number of ways to maneuver your camera thanks to the grip extension. Serving double-duty as a tripod, that extra seven inches of length is great for both low-angle (via an underslung grip) and high shots (by grabbing the bottom of the pole). We assembled the Ronin-SC by aligning the base grip to the gimbal itself, then screwing in the extender to the bottom of the grip. Easy. We immediately noticed and appreciated the light 2.4-pound weight of the high-quality aluminum construction. But that’s a double-edged sword, since it means the SC maxes out at camera payloads of 4.4 pounds. That’s still plenty for everyday shooting, though. With our Canon DSLR attached, the entire setup weighed just 3.3 pounds and was easy to hold thanks to textured grips. If you’ve got filming experience, getting the camera stabilized on the gimbal will be second nature, but adjusting the riser plate and properly balancing the camera lens will take some getting used to for newbies. While the markers for weight and lens positioning are clear, this gimbal isn’t necessarily the best for beginners. It’s geared toward those looking to take their video production to the next level.
As for operation, the device has a responsive precision joystick to control pan and tilt, as well as plenty of buttons. We encountered no resistance in the rotation’s range of movement as we directed our camera up, down, left, and right. The M button switches between customizable profiles. A red circle denotes the record button, which you hit to capture photos and video. Double-tapping the back trigger snaps your camera directly to the center, during which our Canon M50 DSLR camera picked up virtually no jerk. While these are the basic buttons, the DJI smartphone app allows for a much deeper level of control, from detailed calibration to the Active Track 3.0 subject tracking feature. Mounting our iPhone above the camera allowed us to draw a tracking box around our subject in the half-circle test, following as we walked around. While the tracking looked great with our subject centered in the frame, the Ronin-SC was still edged out by the OM 5 below in this regard, given that gimbal was incrementally better at focusing on the subject around the corners.
While we were initially worried that the light weight wouldn’t be hefty enough to ensure stability during quick, jerky movements, this gimbal had the most stable footage in our stair test. Despite the bouncy walk we took going up the stairs, the captured video looked as smooth as if the camera was floating. And in the walking shot portion of the test, the camera followed our subject around the bend without breaking a sweat, with the best stability and turning motion of the entire pool. While competitive gimbals are much more expensive, the DJI Ronin remains light and accessible at just under $300, in the sweet spot for intermediate to pro filmmakers.
The DJI OM 5 is a powerful and sturdy mobile phone gimbal. Unlike cheaper mobile-centric gimbals we’ve used over the years, the grip’s smooth rubber and foam finish surrounding the metal construction rests comfortably against the palm without straining or making our hand clammy. Instead of securing your phone in a plastic clamp, the OM 5 uses a magnetic metal grip. Not only does it adhere to the gimbal with ease, it grabs on to your phone without scratching it thanks to a padded interior. Most importantly, it eliminates the need for balancing or calibrating the phone, letting you can shoot within seconds. It’s best to think of the OM 5 as a simplified Ronin, with buttons simply for recording and phone orientation, plus a smaller joystick. This simplified operation makes it ideal for beginners, but even advanced filmmakers will still be impressed. We really liked the trigger to switch between modes due to the satisfying click and its comfortable positioning. And despite the OM 5 weighing just 10 ounces, every phone we used in testing—from an iPhone 13 Mini to the gargantuan iPhone 13 Pro Max—remained stable and produced quality shots without jitter.
DJI’s Mimo app is neatly organized and runs you through a cohesive interactive tutorial on how to use the Gimbal, from basic orientation transitions to motion tracking. After getting familiar with the device, we had no issue moving with our subjects as well as our own face. From the app, you can switch video modes to guide your motions in creating spin shots, time-lapses, or dynamic zooms. The ease of use meant the OM 5 put up a stiff fight to be the top pick, but you can’t use the device with a DSLR, and we weren’t impressed by the sub-seven-hour battery life. As with its big sibling above, the included eight-inch extender grip for both high- and low-angle captures also doubles as a tripod so you can set your phone up anywhere.
With the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s camera performance rivaling a DSLR, the footage we captured walking up stairs was just as dream-like as the Ronin’s without any bounce. As we swerved around the corner of the walking test, the gimbal gave some minimal resistance, keeping the subject slightly off center. (This happened repeatedly, as we ran the test multiple times to make sure it wasn’t an anomaly.) Where the OM 5 truly excels is motion tracking, with the gimbal keeping the camera locked to our subject in the half-circle test and our faces as we ran around, with the subject-tracking field we designated in the app centering targets in the frame. You won’t be able to shoot with your phone’s native app to make use of the feature, which is a bit disappointing considering the chops built into some of the new phone lineups this year.
If you don’t need a motorized gimbal, the Fantaseal cage grip is a basic camera stabilizer that prevents shake with its ergonomic U-shape. This design prevents tremors by distributing pressure between both your hands. It has no buttons and can’t track subjects, relying solely on you to maneuver it. If you have the ability to walk around scenes for your desired shots or need a quick, steady capture, the seamless snap-in process for mounting your camera, phone, flash, and microphone is hard to beat, especially for the price.
Arriving in three separate pieces, the Fantaseal snapped together in under two minutes; the process was as simple as connecting the interlocking sections before inserting two screws. We attached the included phone mount to the top to adjust our M50’s camera settings through the app and transfer recordings to our phone in real-time. While the spongy foam material doesn’t feel as comfortable as the models above, the finger indents ensure it stays grippy and helped relieve the weight on our hands for steadier recordings. The plastic frame keeps the cage light but is less durable, showing some scratches after our two weeks of use. These tradeoffs keep the device to under $50.
The smooth motion transitions from panning to climbing up stairs were quite impressive for a cage with no motor assistance, but we did notice some slight jitter with every other step. This model also performed behind the options above in our walking test, with some slight shake on the straightway portion. This by no means indicates that this stabilizer is bad. The footage is a clear step up from using your bare hands, and this level of stability is perfect for beginners or smaller video projects. However, if you need a consistently steady shot with a rolling free range of motion, you’ll want to look at the gimbals above.
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BY GABRIELLE HONDORP AND HUNTER FENOLLOL