Gimbal for small cameras Zhiyun Crane-M review

The Zhiyun Crane-M is a 3-axis hand-held gimbal and supports cameras that weigh 125g to 650g which makes it useable for poin-and-shoot-cameras as well as other small and lightweight cameras such as camcorders, phones or action cams. If the used camera is either too lightweight or too heavy the motors will not be able to adjust the angles properly and might even break. Another important factor is the size of the camera which shouldn’t be bigger than 120x120x60mm.

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You can buy the gimbal for $499 HERE!

The main reason for us to use such a small gimbal is to be able to film in public without getting too much attention and distracting people. For most people this just looks like a fancy selfie stick especially because a small camera is being used. We mostly used the Panasonic LX100 which is a point-and-shoot camera that can record video in Ultra HD (3840×2160) and 1080p.

All of the three axes can be rotated 360 degrees. The integrated motors stabilize the camera but before turning the gimbal on, the camera needs to be balanced to make sure the stabilization works properly without any weird movement or shakiness.


Just like its big brother the Crane-M has a grip that has a joystick, an ON/OFF button as well as a mode button. But it also features a Shifter Lever to zoom and adjust focus depending on the camera model. By moving the joystick the gimbal will adjust its axis accordingly. If the joystick is pushed up the camera will tilt up. The gimbal has three different modes which can easily be changed by pressing the mode button next to the joystick. The pan following mode, the locking mode and the pan-tilt following mode are quite useful for a lot of situations.

The gimbal is powered by two 26500 batteries which are located inside the grip and can be charged externally. The power lasts up to 10 hours depending on the camera’s weight and how much the axis rotations are being used.

Even though the Crane-M is made for compact cameras it’s not much smaller than the regular Crane gimbal that can carry DSLR sized cameras with big lenses. It’s definitely a more compact version but also not super tiny.

Shooting inverted is a lot of fun and doesn’t require any special change in settings. The handle just needs to be turned around to immediately switch in to inversion mode. We like shooting inverted because it’s easy to get amazing shots at a low angle because they are usually hard to capture. Adjusting the axis up or down can make these kinds of shots look even more interesting and special.

The Crane-M can be controlled remotely by using a dedicated control unit or the Zhiyun app for phones. The app has a few features to adjust the settings more precise and can also calibrate the gimbal.

Gimbals are often used with ultra-wide-angle lenses following a character or going through a scene but they can be used much more versatile. A gimbal doesn’t always need to move at a fast speed or a far distance. It can also be useful for slower tracking shots just like a slider, moving horizontally or vertically at a slow speed. The shots will be more interesting to watch if they have a clear beginning and ending, meaning the camera doesn’t have to be in constant motion. It can slow down at the end of the shot or speed up depending on the scene. Otherwise the shots might seem like they were shot by a robot. It’s also good to change the focal length too, to let the audience discover a different view of the scene without having to switch to another tool like a slider or a shoulder rig.

The Zhiyun Crane-M is a well performing gimbal that is easy to setup and use. The footage captured with it is steady and mostly looks smooth, meaning the gimbal doesn’t change directions all of a sudden while moving it fast, for example while walking. But of course it’s not perfect and sometimes there is some shakiness visible that is not wanted but that doesn’t happen often and could also be improved with firmware updates.

The relatively small size also makes it a useful travel companion. Considering the overall performance and the price, the Crane-M is a good tool for filmmakers who need a reliable gimbal for a small camera.

You can purchase the 3-axis hand-held gimbal for $499 at B&H!

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