October 15, 2015

The Evolution of Camera Stabilisation

As Cameras Shrink, So Do The Stabilisation Rigs That Carry Them

Post updated January 2018: I was talking with someone yesterday about how cameras and photo/video kit in general are shrinking. That is most definitely a good thing and will no doubt save my back from more pain. Roll on the ongoing evolution of camera stabilisation.

However, this comes at a cost (vanity).

Many photographers and videographers are aware that the client or customer can sometimes be a bit backward-thinking. Especially when it comes to the equipment that will be used for their job. They expect you to turn up with huge cameras, monstrous tripods and all manner of gear.

Perhaps they don't realise that bigger isn't always better these days. After all, look at the quality in low light from the Sony A7s. Remarkable, and Go Pro cameras produce high quality footage and can be placed anywhere. After all, Top Gear (BBC) and many other broadcast production teams use them.

But then, if I turned up to a job with a single Go Pro and my iPhone 6s +, I may get some doubting looks.

Camera Stabilisation - Large Rig

Evolution of Stabilisation
Man With Old Camera Stabilizer

When you add stabilisation rigs into the equation, in the past that meant hoofing around a lot of heavy kit. Cameras, lenses, accessories, lighting and the rig itself…not fun.

In fact, I had a similar piece of kit to the one here for my Sony PMW EX1 although mine was a lot smaller with less bits attached. It worked really well but was a pain and long-winded to set up and lug around so I never really used it.

You still see TV guys running around football pitches with these because they do work so well. The cameras they hold are top end but what would you think if you saw them using the pieces of kit below?

This mahoosive stabiliser is great for large jobs (such as for TV). However, you might look a little silly turning up to shoot a wedding or Christening with one of these.

Not only that, they carry a hefty price tag too. Anywhere between $10,000-$15,000 (at the time of writing)! Zoiks, well out of my reach for what I shoot.

Camera Stabilisation - Medium Rig

This nifty little device is called the Ronin M from DJI. It is the smaller of two such products and will carry any camera up to a DSLR such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. I now own this : )

Ronin M Stabilizer

The 3-Axis gimbal system from DJI is world class and a leader in its field. You can run with this rig and it is a breeze to produce super-stable footage.

Maybe not "quite" as good as the one above but excellent none-the-less. Some of the guys I have worked with use these for "run and gun" style shoots and also on the back of a motorbike.

Much cheaper at around $1,400 or £1,200. This you could get away with at smaller events like weddings, parties or even a commercial shoot. Steady as a rock and able to take high end cameras like the 5D's or Panasonic GH4.

Camera Stabilisation - Small Rig

Now we come to the latest technology and this is where it gets crazy. The 3-axis DJI Osmo is the latest gadget to come from this inspirational and high-tech company.

DJI Osmo

What's great about this device is its versatility. All owners of the DJI Inspire 1 Pro UAV (drone) can simply remove the 4K X3 camera from the drone and place it on the Osmo hand-held stabilisation system. All in about 30 seconds or less. It will also take it's new X3 "advanced" camera which has been upgraded for the Osmo as well as the superb DJI Zenmuse X5 and X5 pro cameras.

I love this as I have now ordered the X5 for my Inspire. This means I can either use the X5 on the Inspire 1 and the X3 on the Osmo or the other way around depending on the job.

Evolution of Stabilisation

This "upgradeable" mentality is great for the consumer and it should start to bring prices down. The Osmo is priced at around £549 for the system including gimbal and X3 camera but just £215 for the handle only. 

Perfect for Inspire 1 owners. I hope this is the way many manufacturers will start to go as it is becoming a bit lame feeling pressured to upgrade whole systems year after year. Bolt-ons and upgrades is what we want!

Evolution of Camera Stabilisation - Osmo vs Inspire 1

If the image stabilisation from the Osmo is anything like the gimbal on the DJI Inspire 1, I will be a happy man. The Inspire is incredible. I have used the Feiyu-Tech G3 Ultra Handheld gimbal and it is superb…it's just that the Osmo is way better!

Now, can you imagine a sports videographer running up and down Wembley with this tiny gadget?

The X5 Pro camera shoots RAW 4K footage so image quality will be broadcast quality. However, he might look a bit odd as it doesn't ooze "professional" from a distance (even though it is), or "expensive" come to that.

How would the public react to that or indeed commercial clients when you take it on a highly paid job? People need to be educated to this new technology because I for one will be using it.

The beauty is that DJI are producing a number of accessories for this meaning you can attach it to cars, crash helmets and so on. Much more user-friendly and innovative. $15k, super heavy pain-in-the-ass stabilisation rig vs £215 4K handheld rig that does virtually the same job and more?

If you liked this article on th Evolution of Stabilisation, or hated it and fancy a rant, please leave your comments below. Oh, and share my ramblings with your peeps. Thanks.

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