Review: Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 might be the last iPhone gimbal you need [Video]

No strangers to smooth camera moves, Zhiyun’s new Smooth-Q3 3-axis gimbal provides impressive stabilization for a phone with a ton of features alongside it. Everything from a rotating light on top of the gimbal to smart follow features within the app make it easy to grab some great shots. And while it is a bit more expensive and larger than the 2-axis Smooth-XS we took a look at recently, the $89 Smooth-Q3 seems to be a worthy upgrade if you want to ditch the selfie stick for some better stabilization. Be sure to hit the video below to see all of the details. 

Different Versions

Zyiyun offers two different packages for the Smooth-Q3. Starting at $89, the standard package includes the stabilizer, the detachable tripod, and a USB Type-C charging cable. For some more convenience, the combo package comes in at $109 and adds a handy zippered storage bag, a Zy Cami Prime card, and a wrist strap.

Setup

Setting up the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 is pretty straightforward. On the right side is a thumbscrew that, when loosened, lets the arm slide up. After that is expanded and tightened back down, unlock the two motors by turning them clockwise. Then, there is an arrow that shows which way to orient the camera of your phone for mounting in the expanding mount. 

Easy-to-reach buttons

Zhiyun has made everything easy to reach and control with a one-handed setup. Behind the handle are the power button and the trigger button. On the left side of the stabilizer is a zoom rocker. The main controls include a joystick for controlling the position of the stabilizer, a mode button, and a red record button. There are four LED lights above the mode button that indicate the current stabilization/follow mode and power level. 

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3: Video

On-board lighting

Lighting is just as important as the camera you’re shooting on, and Zhiyun has built-in a light on top of the Smooth-Q3 to help light a subject. Holding a finger on the capacitive touch button for a few seconds will turn it on, and then consecutive taps will cycle through the three different levels of brightness. And while it may not be enough light to illuminate a whole scene, it’s plenty bright for making sure a face is well-lit in less than ideal situations. 

Follow Modes

Above the mode button, the LED lights can indicate what follow mode the gimbal is currently using. There are tiny letters underneath the LEDs that help to notate what these modes do. First, PF is a pan-follow mode that will turn left and right with the handle as it is moved around while keeping the vertical tilt and horizon level. Tilt can be easily adjusted with the joystick. 

Next, the L will lock the gimbal to the point where it is positioned. The gimbal won’t move when the handle is turned left and right or tilted up and down. Adjustments can still be made with the thumb joystick, but it’s meant to keep the camera more or less locked in one direction.

F mode, which they call “POV Mode” in the app, is a follow mode and will keep the camera following the movements of the gimbal much closer and follow vertical tilts as well, all while still keeping the horizon level. 

POV takes the F mode a step further and allows you to roll the camera like it was handheld. This mode won’t stabilize the horizon like many of the others but can be useful for getting certain styles of video. 

There are two other modes, which are easier to enable through the app, but they seem to function very similarly to POV Mode and POV. 

ZY Cami 

Smooth-Q3 can stabilize a phone without being connected to it, but to unlock the full potential, it needs to connect via Bluetooth and be used with the ZY Cami app. Beyond just zooming and starting or stopping recording, there are shooting modes for timelapse, slow motion, hyperlapse, panoramas, and even a dolly zoom. 

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3: Smart Tracking

While the Smooth-XS has tracking, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 takes it to the next level. A single press to the trigger button will enable a tracking mode that follows what’s in the focusing box in the ZY Cami app. In my experience, it works pretty well but isn’t perfect. While it could track my daughter riding around on her bicycle, when she got further away, it seemed like the app forgot it was tracking her pink helmet and instead picked up the trees in the background. In other instances, it did very well, though, to follow the subject I had it focused on. 

My only complaint with the trigger tap tracking mode is that when you tap the trigger again to go out of that mode, it reverts to the L, or lock, mode. I typically use the gimbal on PF mode, so this is kind of frustrating to have to cycle through all of the modes again to get back to the mode I had it set to prior to using tracking.

Dolly Zoom

I got mixed results when using the dolly zoom mode. It typically didn’t turn out as smooth as I had hoped. It seemed that if I moved quicker, it would smooth out the zooms, but it still wasn’t as silky smooth as I had hoped, and I probably wouldn’t use this mode very often. Be sure to check the video to see a couple of examples of this.

Stabilization 

What good is a stabilizer if it does provide smooth video? The Smooth-Q3 keeps things pretty steady in most situations. It would pick up little vibrations when I was running trying to keep up with my kids, but most of the time I was really impressed with how smooth the video came out. Even when sprinting and holding the gimbal upside down, behind me, the video turned out pretty good for a $90 phone gimbal. 

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3: Battery life

Zhiyun claims between 7-15 hours of battery life on the Smooth-Q3, which should be plenty for most situations. After fully charging it and using it for about three hours straight, the power indicator dropped one of four bars. 

9to5Toys’ Take

All-in-all, Zhiyun has put together another great, feature-packed phone stabilizer at an affordable price. If you don’t need the 3rd axis of stabilization, you can always opt for the cheaper Smooth-XS for $55 on Amazon, but for me, adding the additional axis makes the stabilizer much more fluid and usable.

Buy Zhiyun Smooth-Q3

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