Zhiyun Smooth 5s Gimble Summary
Zhiyun Smooth 5s Gimble looks and performs nearly the same as the Smooth 5, but now includes a built-in fill light as well as up to two optional magnetic lights. With PD fast charging, you be on the move again in as little as two hours. But the bulky design makes it less portable than the competition, and if you have a big phone, it’s hard to use the secondary power port. It’s almost the best smartphone gimbal, but not quite.
The big selling feature is its introduction of a built-in 5000k, 95 CRI, 650 lux fill-light, which is surprisingly bright and effective at lighting subjects within a few feet of the gimbal.
As well as the built-in light, the Smooth 5S also supports two additional lights which can attach magnetically either to the top or bottom of the phone clamp.
Although adding or removing these magnetic lights will likely require you to re-balance the gimbal for optimal smooth motion, especially when using larger phones like the iPhone 14, the added brightness that they can quickly provide without needing to pack and set up a secondary external light is incredible.
While the lights can’t be controlled individually, the Smooth 5s has a dedicated physical button for turning all the lights on or off and a dial for adjusting brightness for a peak illuminance of 2,040 lux.
The color temperature can’t be adjusted; however, Zhiyun includes a set of magnetic color filters (yellow, red, orange, and blue), which can be attached for a more artistic look. I used this feature several times, though I would have preferred temperature adjustments to dial in the exact look. This would be a great upgrade to include in a future model.
Zhiyun Smooth 5s Gimble Features
Available in the same gray color we saw last year or the new white, the Zhiyun Smooth 5S uses the same high-quality plastic and rubberized grip found on its other gimbals. Just as with the Crane M2, which is also available in white, the Smooth 5S has a Storm Trooper aesthetic thanks to black accents on its grip, controls, and along its sides.
It looks quite ordinary, but it has some quirks that hinder the overall user experience, unfortunately.
Overall, it’s well-built and has handled a few major falls without issue over the past two months. The white model seems more susceptible to showing scratches as my unit has several scuff marks, especially along its x-axis motor. There are also a few deeper scratches on its body, but nothing too noticeable unless you look closely.
The Smooth 5S is quite large for the mobile gimbal category, measuring about 12 x 6.6 x 2 inches and weighing close to 1.4 pounds. This may not seem significant, but compared with the Zhiyun Crane M3, which supports small mirrorless DSLR cameras, it’s about 1/4 larger and 0.2 pounds heavier.
While the Combo includes a rather nice storage bag, I’ve never been a fan of using these as I feel it defeats the purpose of packing light and being able to set it up quickly. Instead, I usually just throw this into a small bag, backpack, or occasionally even my pocket.
Aside from its size and weight, there are a few other reasons why I don’t like packing or carrying the Smooth 5S. The first concerns how the Smooth 5S folds and locks into place when not in use.
Unlike the Crane M2, which locks its axis parallel to the joystick, the Smooth 5S is horizontal. The joystick may be small, but it sticks out just enough to make it awkward to pack into tighter spaces. With smaller gimbals I’ve used, including the Crane M2, I’ve never had an issue packing them. However, with the joystick on one side and the control wheel on the other, the Smooth 5s frequently felt like it was poking against my back, and it was honestly quite painful.
One of the biggest limitations of the Smooth 5S is its smartphone charging. With larger phones like my iPhone 14, I must push it to the far right side against the tilt motor to balance it properly. Unfortunately, this means that I lose access to the charging port on my phone as it’s now blocked, and as such, am unable to power my phone indefinitely for longer recording sessions.
One workaround I found was to purchase a right-angle charging cable, though, even with its more low-profile design, it sticks out enough to prevent me from achieving perfect balance. The Smooth 5S is still able to support this weight imbalance, but it’s more prone to sliding around as the clamp is only holding from the side rather than the middle.
Controls and Setup
If you’ve used any of Zhiyun’s recent gimbals, the controls with the Smooth 5S will feel very familiar. The rather simple user interface is just as easy to use, and the gimbal has the same 300g maximum payload and setup and pairing process, for better or worse.
Similar to other smartphone gimbals, the Smooth 5S balances smartphones with a combination of their placement in the clamp, as well as moving the tilt axis arm, which has a screw to adjust the tightness and lock it in place once balanced.
Although adding or removing one of the magnetic lights requires rebalancing, it was quick to do as you only need to slide your phone up or down in the clamp vertically.
The joystick is small but allows for precise movements with ease. The zoom/focus wheel on the left is surprisingly large but doesn’t look too out of place. There is also a built-in record button in the middle. The wheel certainly gives the Smooth 5S a much more “pro” feel, though as someone who rarely uses it. I would have opted for a smaller design instead to save space. On its rear, a small trigger is found that can activate Follow mode or switch to Selfie mode.
The Smooth 5S has a USB-C connection for the rear trigger for charging the gimbal. As well a USB-C port on the arm of the gimbal to power your phone or connect to other smaller devices. As discussed previously, however, charging your phone is quite limited due to the design of the phone mount. Especially with larger devices that will most likely lose access to their charging port.
Experiences With the Smooth 5S
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with smartphone filming, but it’s sometimes necessary when packing light. My filming gear tends to be heavy as I use a Sony a7siii and a DJI RS2 gimbal for most of my videos. While a smartphone isn’t as good as a DSLR. Especially in low light, for “less professional” content, I’m willing to sacrifice quality for convenience.
In my time using the Smooth 5S over the past two months. It has been one of my favorite phone gimbals, but again, it does have a few tradeoffs. I used this for filming a few events, CES and Chinese New Year, and just your regular walking around. The Smooth 5S is more than capable of supporting my iPhone 14 Pro with its rubber case. Allowing me to capture smooth footage. Performance feels on par with other gimbals at this price point, with very smooth and controlled pan and tilt movements. But still, the obvious bobbing up and down that is unavoidable unless you carefully “ninja walk”.
Although the Smooth 5s has its awkward phone mount design and is very heavy and bulky. It has still been one of the better mobile gimbals I’ve used because of its fill lights. Anytime I’ve filmed indoors or in low light, the Smooth 5S dramatically improves the quality of my videos. And I’d argue in some ways makes it better compared to a similar shot on DSLR without any light.
(Almost) The Best Gimbal for Smartphone Videography?
Overall, the Smooth 5S is a solid choice for getting more professional shots when using a phone, especially in low light. I understand why it’s so big, but at the same time, it takes away from one of the advantages of mobile film-making… being mobile.
The built-in lights are a worthy trade-off, though its hard to look past all of the quirks. If Zhiyun could design a smaller gimbal, had better access to charging your phone, and still had built-in lights. It would easily be the best mobile gimbal on the market. One can only hope we see some (or all) of these upgrades in a future release.
- Brand: Zhiyun
- Maximum Payload: 300g
- Battery: 3000mAh
- Weight: 625g
- Charging Time: 2 hours (PD), 4 hours (normal)
- Runtime: 2-4 Hours
- Tilt Mechanical Range: Max: 209° Standard: 349° Min: -140°
- Roll Mechanical Range: Max: 259° Standard: 349° Min: -90°
- Pan Mechanical Range: Max: 180° Standard: 360° Min: -180°
- Size: 311*168*52mm
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