You’ve got ambition, a great phone camera, and shaky hands. It’s a curse many videographers have experienced. But don’t worry—you can easily lift the curse (and achieve stunning image stabilization) with a motorized phone gimbal.
What to Look for in a Phone Gimbal
A gimbal is a photography tool that uses motors and gyroscopic sensors to stabilize a camera automatically. It allows photographers and videographers to achieve clean, floating shots without having to use a large Steadicam. Gimbals kind of look like selfie sticks, except they contain batteries, motors, and (sometimes complicated) photography controls.
Phone gimbals are a growing phenomenon, and they’re very popular among amateur videographers, YouTubers, and video hobbyists. Because they’re so niche, it can be hard to find a phone gimbal that matches your needs. So, before you buy a phone gimbal, we suggest you consider the following key qualities and features:
- Build quality: All the gimbals in this article are made of lightweight, durable plastic. If you plan to film in riskier situations, though (while skateboarding, for example), we recommend you choose a chunky gimbal that can handle some abuse.
- Battery life: You want to make sure your gimbal has a decent battery life, so your project isn’t interrupted. The gimbals in this article all have a battery life of at least 10 hours.
- Controls: Most phone gimbals have built-in hotkeys to activate recording or snap photos. But some have additional buttons to adjust focus or exposure or change the shooting mode (things you would normally adjust on your phone).
- App features: Premium phone gimbal apps have features like face tracking or time-lapse modes. Make sure your phone gimbal has the in-app features you’re most interested in.
- Phone compatibility: The adjustable mounts on phone gimbals are made to fit all flagship phones. However, if your phone isn’t made by Apple, Google, or Samsung, do a web search to see if it works with the gimbal you like.
- External lens compatibility: Some external lenses won’t work with phone gimbals. If you use an external lens on your phone, you might have to do some research to make sure it’s compatible with the gimbal you’re thinking about purchasing.
Now that you know what to look for in a phone gimbal, it’s time to start shopping. Here are some of our favorite phone gimbals in all shapes and sizes.
Best Overall: Zhiyun Smooth 4
If you’re looking for a full-featured phone gimbal with robust controls, check out the Zhiyun Smooth 4. It’s reliable with great image stabilization, in-app video modes (object tracking, time-lapse, etc.), a 12-hour battery, and more hotkeys and controls than any other competitor.
In other words, you don’t have to reach up to your phone to change your contrast or picture settings; it’s all right there on the Smooth 4’s thin body. This makes the Smooth 4 a great option for professionals, quality freaks, or hobbyists who want to familiarize themselves with traditional video controls and equipment.
Of course, more isn’t always better. If you’re afraid the Smooth 4’s controls will make things more complicated than they need to be, it might be best to stick with a more straightforward gimbal.
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer Compatible FiLMiC Pro for iPhone Xs Max/Xs/X/8 Plus/7/SE Samsung Galaxy S9+/S8/S7 etc Smartphones(Gopro Adapter/Charging Cable/Counterweight Included)
The Zhiyun Smooth 4's unique and robust controls make it one of the best phone gimbals for amateurs or professionals.
Runner-Up: DJI Osmo 3
If the Zhiyun Smooth 4’s controls seem like overkill to you, you might be interested in the DJI Osmo Mobile 3. Its joystick-like controls are easy to use. It produces amazingly stable shots, folds down to a compact size, and has an unbeatable 15-hour battery. Plus, its app has the most reliable face and object tracking tools we’ve seen, along with some unique hyperlapse and slow-motion tools.
We should mention that the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 works with gesture controls, so, technically, you can fiddle with your phone’s complex settings without touching its screen. But gesture controls are rarely convenient to use or easy to remember, so we still suggest this gimbal as a more straightforward alternative to the button-heavy Zhiyun Smooth 4.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3 Smartphone Gimbal (Black) CP.OS.00000022.01
The DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is a fantastic phone gimbal that just works. It's easy to use, comes with a great app, and has a stellar 15-hour battery life.
Best Budget: Hohem Isteady Mobile Plus
For its price, the Hohem Isteady Mobile Plus is a great little phone gimbal. It stabilizes video with the best of ’em, has straightforward controls, and its 12-hour battery life is comparable to more expensive gimbals.
The only big downside to the Hohem is its app. While it’s fully-featured, with tracking and time-lapse modes, the Hohem app is known to be a bit buggy. Its built-in video effects don’t match the quality of some competing apps, either.
Of course, none of this matters if you want to shoot stable videos with your phone’s camera.
3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer for iPhone X XR XS Smartphone Vlog Youtuber Live Video Record with Sport Inception Mode Face Object Tracking Motion Time-Lapse - Hohem Isteady Mobile Plus (Upgraded New)
For the price, you can't beat the Hohem Isteady Mobile Plus. It provides reliable stabilization and has a 12-hour battery life.
Best Premium: Freefly Movi Stabilizer
Freefly, the company that makes crazy drone cameras for Hollywood, also makes a popular phone gimbal called the Freefly Movi. It’s an extremely straightforward device designed for “mobile film making.”
As a regular old gimbal, the Movi is as great as you’d expect. It’s easy to use, comfortable to hold, and has an 8- to 10-hour battery life. The device really shines when you use it with the Freefly Movi app, which is full of incredibly robust shooting features and panning automation meant to mimic difficult Hollywood effects.
Freefly Movi Cinema Robot Smartphone Stabilizer
The Freefly Movi is a wonderful gimbal designed to mimic the time-based and panning shots you see in big-budget Hollywood movies.
For Makeshift Stabilization on the Cheap: Joby GorillaPod Pro
Yeah, the Joby GorillaPod Pro is a tripod, not a gimbal. But if you’re a videographer on a budget, it’s one of the best tools money can buy. You can use the GorillaPod Pro as a makeshift stabilizer, tripod, or versatile camera mount. Plus, you can use it with any phone, GoPro, or full-size digital camera.
GripTight GorillaPod Stand PRO: Premium Clamping Mount and Tripod with Universal Smartphone Compatibility for iPhone SE to iPhone 8 Plus, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S8 and More
It's not a motorized gimbal, but the GorillaPod Pro is a cheap alternative to conventional stabilizers, tripods, and camera mounting equipment.