Only a few years ago only the select few video and photo shooters would consider having a stabilizing gimball in their everyday carry. Just a few weeks ago we celebrated 25 years since the internet was born and look how far we’ve come.
I can run my online stores and be anywhere in the world for that. Cameras are more affordable than ever. It’s easier to make a name for yourself on a budget so to speak through the power of blogging and social media. So it the scope of all that I keep trying out new things as I head into this hybrid of photo and video world.
This time I have an Ikan DS1 Beholder Gimbal that in many ways is what you’ll be drawn to as you browse B&H Photo Video website. It’s where I get most of my new gear just becase I don’t get charged taxes, they have a huge library of products, and I get free 3-day shipping. I am also an affiliate and the most exciting part about that is seeing what people actually end up buying.
I looked for gimball options to try out and this DS1 seemed like the best fit based on reviews and overall look of the gadget on the web. It’s not that easy to judge these things just by looking online. You’d want to have them in your hand. So I got this gimball to test it for a few weeks.
First thing I noticed is a bit confisung branding on this thing. I get that a lot of items are made in China and you can private label almost anything at this point, so I got worried when I didn’t see extensive ikan branding on the box, packaging, and inside the case. You get a few flyers inside but the majority of guidance is on the web and that’s what you need to watch when you get started.
The build is quite nice and I am confident that this gimball can last a long time. Nothing is flimzy, everything is tight and fits well together. The power button is a bit too small for me, but that’s about it. I like the addition of yellow to the design, definitely helps with quick adjustments. But I’m not a huge fan of the battery block and charging options. Will talk about that more as we go along.
There is a pretty clear order of steps to make sure you have a good experience with the gimball:
1. Primary rule: get the balancing right first before you turn it on.
2. There are three axes to control. You need to make sure each one is as straight as possible.
3. They are controlled by sliding a camera quick plate, or the two arms of the gimball.
4. Takes less than 2 minutes for initial setup.
5. Once done, gimbal has a much easier time to balance the movement as it has to work less to have the camera in the initial proper position.
Once these basics are done, you’re off on your shoot. I noticed that this gimball is not too friendly with setups heavier than mine. It cannot handle a 24-70mm lens mounted to an a6300 body. So you really need to think through how big of a camera or a rig you want to attach. You’re limited by default.
I recently reviewed DJI Osmo and was pretty awed with the smoothness of the movement when I didn’t even try to be careful with my steps. That’s not the case with DS1 – you need to think through your steps. The gimball is not as light as Osmo. It needs to work harder at stabilizing the camera. You can’t be careless and expect good results.
There are two main modes of shooting, one that keeps your camera locked in in a certain position and mo matter how you move your hand, the camera will stay in the same angle as much as possible. The other option is more of a free movement, which is nice for tracking objects and having a bit more of a POV experience I think.
I tried to shoot the same thing with no gimball and it’s definitely an unusable walking footage in my case. So really the gimbal saves the day, even though you have to be carefull with it.
In general, there are a few of similar options on the market. You need to think about the weight capacity, charging options, and how you adjust the camera balance. I have not tried other gimballs so I don’t know if others are any smoother, but it seems that this one is on par with what ou can expect.
You get more freedom than with a monopod, but then again, it all depends on your style of shooting and on the final video look you’re going for. These gimbals are rockstars among wedding shooters, but I’m not one of them for example. I want to shoot clips for my store. I need to be able to have speed and dynamic when I’m shooting static objects. For that DS1 is quite nice.
I had an issue on the initial charging of the battery. The power block looks very raw and my usb cable got stuck and I could not detatch it myself. I asked someone else to help and he did it safely and everything is fine. But I was on the verge of returning everything. So keep your cool and work through the first few charging experieces with a cool mind. The battery is definitely an unusual one. I can’t really say it screams quality. But I think it’s one of the most reasonable ways to keep the cost of the gimball down.
My final thoughts on the gimballs is that you need to see how they fit in your workflow. I’m guessing we’ve all seen what’s in the news a few weeks ago – the new portable slider by edelkrone. They have some very cool products, never tried them but would be very interesting to play with a lot of their things. For me personally, a monopod and a video tripod make a lot of sense. I want to go away from the shaky hipster wedding style and have solid planned moves for my camera for each clip. That takes a lot more prep, but also shows the confidence of the shooter right from the first second.
iKan Beholder DS1 was fun to test out. I like that it’s more on the budget side, I’m not ready to go above $1,000 for a gimball. But at the same time it’s not DJI Osmo X3 either, which was a breeze for shooting. X5 Osmo would be the ideal combo, but you’ll pay a lot more for it. So the dillema is as usual – how it fits in your budget and how it answers your needs.