Last year I purchased the Ronin M, https://store.dji.com/product/ronin an affordable option to achieve lovely smooth dynamic video movement. 

The problem with the Ronin is that is was cumbersome and confusing, particularly when the operator only uses it occasionally. My team and I found it time consuming to set up and to be honest we rarely got it perfect and in the context of a wedding it wasn’t the easiest thing to use, particularly when travelling to a two or three different locations in a short space of time.

Don’t get me wrong though, the Ronin M is a wonderful bit of kit but you have to know how to use it and have strong arms and shoulders!

Ronin M review

Anyway we persevered and achieved some great footage but always kept an eye on the market for different options. Enter the Zhiyun Crane 2, zhiyun 

 

I’d been doing some research online and noticed this new product was getting quite a bit of publicity. One of my suppliers for video equipment proav  stocked it so I went along for a demo. I’m not an impulse buyer but after a quick demo I was sold and bought it there an then.

This new gimble has changed everything, it’s a completely different product to the Ronin, smaller, lighter, more compact and so much easier to use. During the demo Liam at Pro AV attached the Lumix GH5  panasonic.com  and within a minute the camera and crane was pretty much set up and ready to go.

Panasonic GH5 Camera

There was no need to configure the crane with the app (which you can do), it really was a matter of going through a few simple steps to get it balanced. It’s remarkably easy to use, moving up and down, left and right, walking with it, holding it high, turning it upside down and filming along the floor, the whole process is fairly effortless.

The other great benefit is that the crane has a stand attached at the bottom, a 'mini tripod' where the legs close and act as part of the column, so when you want to put it down it’s so much easier than the Ronin stand. The column above stand holds the batteries, an odd size which I’ve not seen before but it takes three which last up to 8 hours.

Zhiyun Original Battery Charger for 18650 Battery for Zhiyun Crane 2

The test footage we shot was smooth, the crane turned to every angle without and glitches or sudden jerks. Frankly it’s a game changer.

There’s a very useful control panel that has three different modes allowing you to alter the gimble movements. One very clever option is to move around with the crane but the camera stays pointed exactly where you started.

A little switch also allows you to move the camera up, down, left or right helping you to compose your shots perfectly.

By connecting the crane with a small lead to your camera allows you to use the large dial on the crane to focus your camera which is a great addition, however it only supports a few cameras and Zhyun need to get this sorted quickly so users can update their firmware and be able to use their existing camera, otherwise it's valuable feature that can't be used. It's the only disappointment with this product but a major one at that.

The control panel also allows you to start and stop recording.

Zhiyun Crane 2

The crane comes in a great compact case which is included in the price whereas I had to buy a separate case for the Ronin at £150.00. Within the box is the main crane, a tiny zip up box with cables, battery, charger and instruction manual.

 

Zhiyun Case for Crane 2 Zhiyun Crane 2 case inside
 
So having had it for a week and trying it with the Canon XC10 something wasn’t quite right, it wasn’t the crane, it was the camera. The crane did it’s job but the footage quality wasn’t great, so when I mentioned earlier I wasn’t an impulse buyer I went and bought the Panasonic GH5 as used in the store demo!

So with the new crane and new GH5 I was set up to go and the results have been simply outstanding, beautiful smooth footage with minimal set up time and camera that keeps its focus sharp and exposure perfect when moving around with the crane in to different lights.

From slow movements to fast running there was no sign of sudden jumps or that feeling when you can see yourself walking.

The first real test came last weekend as I had two weddings to shoot so I could really see how it works in a real pressure situation.  First thing is that set up is easy and takes 2-3 minutes including taking the crane and camera out of their cases, once it was set we were ready to go for the whole day. We started with shots holding it out of a moving car so we could get some establishing shots.

Throughout the day whenever we needed it we grabbed it, turned it on and were ready to go. We also filmed the whole wedding ceremony from the front without having the need to put it down to give the arms and shoulders a rest.

The footage we have from the two weddings is simply awesome, not only because of the quality of camera and crane but it’s so easy to be discreet with it, unlike the Ronin where everyone notices you.

Dance floor shots take on a whole new style as you can get in to the middle of a crowded dancefloor with it!

There’s not many down sides to the crane, I’ve already mentioned it’s not yet compatible with most camera models, I couldn’t use the focus dial on the Canon XC10 or more surprisingly the Lumix GH5 considering that really is the leading camera at the moment. The other thing worth noting is that with the crane being very compact I think it’s best to use the smallest camera you possibly can. I tried the Canon XC10 and also the Nikon D750 with a 24-105mm lens but it all felt quite bulky.

A camera the size of the GH5 is perfect as it compliments the crane so well.

If you’re thinking of buying a gimble for the first time or possibly changing from something as large as the Ronin it really is a no brainer.

Before I made the actual purchase of the crane I did do my homework by looking at other options and noticed DJI are due to release a version of the crane in September; however they are not releasing prices yet which is frustrating. The Zhiyun 2 comes in at around £700 and when visiting The Photography Show recently I asked DJI how much their forthcoming crane would be selling at as it was on their stand for demo but the sales staff said they had no idea of cost which I think is crazy; they must have their reasons for holding off on price, but at a major trade show they ought to give some indication.

If you do invest in the Zhiyun 2 there’s plenty of YouTube videos showing how to balance it all up; its worth spending a lot of time as you won’t get it right first time. It can take a few days to really get it right but once you know what to do it really is very easy.

I’ll be reviewing the incredible Panasonic GH5 in another blog soon.