In the following article, we are going to answer the question some folks have been asking: “How does a gimbal work?”. We’d like to dive right into the juicy part, but let’s cover some basic ground first. Buckle up, here we go!
What Are Gimbals?
Image Stabilization (IS) is a method of reducing blur in photos by automatically moving the camera lens to compensate for camera shake or vibration during shooting. There are two common methods of image stabilization:
- Software electronic (Electronic Image Stabilization – EIS)
- Hardware optical (Optical Image Stabilization – OIS)
Electronic image stabilization uses a comprehensive software algorithm to improve image quality.
Optical image stabilization is a hardware solution and eliminates a very common problem – image blur caused by camera shake or jitter during shooting. However, it’s important to understand that image stabilization doesn’t prevent camera shaking as such, but only partially neutralizes its effects. In that case, if the device shakes badly, even OIS will fail to help completely.
The advantage of electronic stabilization is that only software is needed for its operation, and OIS needs additional camera hardware components. It is possible to use both image stabilization technologies at the same time.
When choosing video recording equipment, it will be a misconception that it is enough to buy an adored high-resolution camera and the image will always look good. In fact, if you look at a video taken by professionals, we can see with a slight movement of the camera that the camera is attached to something which avoids sudden turns and shakes. In the case of manual recording, the most modern version of such a system are electronic stabilizers that compensate for the rotation of the camera due to the built-in electric motors.
These devices are called ‘Gimbals’.
How Do Gimbals Work?
The reason for blurring in photos is the shift of the optical path between the focal length lens and the center of the image sensor.
The desired result is achieved by adjusting the optical path of the image sensor by moving or tilting the lens to compensate or neutralize the movement of the user. Two methods are used.
1) They had previously applied a change in lens position – the lens shift method, where only the lenses in the camera module can make small shifts, unlike changing the optical path.
2) The second method (a more modern one) involves moving the entire module, including the image sensor and lens, which is how the photo stabilization is achieved.
For offset correction, optical image stabilization uses various sensors that determine the offset along the X / Y coordinate axes. Sensors also detect oblique displacement and deviation. All data collected is used to calculate how large a change in the lens position is required to ensure that the optical path corresponds exactly to the center of the image sensor.
Electronic image stabilization achieves a similar result, but unfortunately, due to poorer image quality, it is not enough for professional uses.
Luckily, gimbals use both EIS and OIS when fixing these problems.
For any gimbal, the camera and the handle to which it is held are connected by two frames placed perpendicular to each other. Between the frames are three hinges driven by electric motors. Each of these electric motors prevents the camera from rotating along one of the three axes. This is why a gimbal is also known as an axis gimbal. These three axes are commonly referred to:
- Pitch – up and down rotation
- Yaw – movement from side to side
- Roll – a circular (clockwise or anticlockwise) movement.
The gimbals also include gyroscopes, which in fact determine the tendency of the camera to rotate around these axes.
By using gimbals and all these features, you stabilize your camera and prevent it from shaking, producing a clean and smooth recording, and photo shooting.
From all this, it is clear that even in its simplest form, the electronic stabilizer is a high-tech device, whose capabilities could only have been utilized for a lot of money in the past.
Related: How Do Gimbals Work?
Types of Gimbals
Depending on the tasks and budget, different cameras can be used to record videos and shoot photos. Therefore, since the cameras have different weights, the gimbals differ in the maximum load.
Gimbals for Action Cameras
Action cameras are compact in size, which is why the stabilizers for them are light. They can be used with monopod extensions, which turn them into an advanced “selfie stick”.
The first gimbals for action cameras were quite ‘primitive’ for today’s standards, but they were widely used nevertheless. Since action cameras are a dying species, the upgrade from the first primitive models was not that amazing, unlike the gimbals for smartphones and DSLR cameras.
Gimbals for Smartphones
A more common and increasingly popular gimbal is for smartphones, since everybody has one, and the need for photos and videos is ever-increasing in modern times.
A professional is unlikely to intentionally record on a smartphone, but for an amateur, this may prove to be the main video recording device, as all modern smartphone models make high-resolution recording possible.
Be that as it may, smartphone gimbals are becoming increasingly better in performance and functionality, and using the newest smartphone gimbals (in combination with a great smartphone camera) can produce fantastic results.
A smartphone is put on a stabilizer and the two of them are connected via Bluetooth. The gimbal stick has control buttons through which you can take photos more easily. These buttons usually control:
- Power: turn it on or off
- Photo shooting/recording
- Switching between modes
Gimbals for DSLR and Video Cameras
As DSLR and mirrorless video cameras are now being used professionally for every purpose, naturally their gimbals will be the most advanced ones. Whether you are a professional filmmaker or a rising YouTube or Instagram content creator, the gimbal is a must-have addition.
The market is saturated with many fantastic gimbal companies, and they all produce gimbals with incredible features. The most notable companies are Zhiyun, DJI, and FeiyuTech.
You can create any shot imaginable with these – anything that you’ve seen in a movie could be done.
Related: Best Tripod for DSLR Video
Free Quiz: Find Your Ideal Gear Setup in 1 Minute or Less 📷
A Final Word From Run Gun Shoot
The choice of electronic stabilizer, or gimbal, primarily determines which camera you want to use and what your budget is. This can especially be difficult when you have to choose between many similar models since the number of manufacturers is ever increasing.
One way or another, each electronic stabilizer significantly improves productivity. In some cases, it can be replaced with classic mechanical Steadicam, which, oddly enough, gives a more natural stabilizing effect, but that’s a completely different story. We hope you figured out a few new things here on the question of “How does a gimbal work?”. Stay safe, guys!