If you are looking for a portable smartphone gimbal that actually fits in your pocket, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 delivers. Tiny, well made, easy to use and budget-friendly, this is the perfect gimbal for all smartphone users.
Mobile phones have turned us all into videographers. Whether we are posting stories and videos to social media, or capturing important moments in our lives, more video is created daily than in any other time in history.
A gimbal can give shaky smartphone footage a smoother, more professional look. There’s only one problem: any gimbal worth buying is too bulky to transport easily or expensive.
The Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 is a pocket-sized gimbal and is currently the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign. At $109 for the basic package, it’s budget-friendly—but is it any good?
Small Gimbal, Big Claims
Smartphone gimbals are not a new concept, but what sets the Smooth-Q2 aside is its size. At just over 20 cm high, it fits comfortably in trouser pockets. This is one of the main focuses of the Kickstarter campaign for this gimbal, which will be shipping to Kickstarter backers starting in October.
The basic early bird package for the Smooth-Q2 on Kickstarter costs $109, with a premium kit including accessories for $119. There are other Kickstarter price options, but the cost of the gimbal on release will likely be $30 more on top of the early bird prices.
My review of the Smooth-Q2 coincided with covering IFA 2019, a large and busy tech conference. As such, there were long periods in between filming things, and at no point did it feel cumbersome in my pocket.
Unboxing or Lack Thereof
Since this an unreleased pre-Kickstarter product, there are a few caveats to this review. The Smooth-Q2 came in simple packaging and without an English language manual. Even after translating the Chinese manual, I discovered that the “ZY Play” app which accompanies Zhiyun products wasn’t yet compatible with the Smooth-Q2.
This means that the promised timelapse, object tracking and Hitchcock dolly zoom effect were not available during the review. I was, however, able to connect my phone using Bluetooth and use the in-handle record button.
Everything I am reviewing today is the gimbal “as is”, though given our previous experience with Zhiyun it’s fairly safe to assume these extras will work as promised.
Included in the pre-Kickstarter kit were the gimbal, a USB-C charging cable, and the quick start guide in Chinese.
In terms of specs, at 8 x 4 x 1.63 inches (204 x 102 x 41.5 mm) and 1 pound (450g) it’s both small and light.
It supports smartphones from 2.17-3.19 inches (55-86mm) wide, and 0.17-0.57 pounds (75-260g) in weight. The internal battery is a 4500mAh 21700 Lithium-Ion cell which gives up to 16 hours of run time. Charge time is around 4 hours.
The body is made of CNC-machined aluminum with a rubber handle, and the build quality feels excellent. Robust without being too heavy, it’s not rugged but it’s also unlikely to get damaged in your pocket or bag.
Now would be a good time to mention that the gimbal also doubles as a battery bank. There is a micro-USB port on the top arm of the gimbal for charging your phone, or powering it when in use. While this will undoubtedly cut into the gimbal usage time, it’s a neat feature.
Even better, in an age where batteries are sealed inside devices, inaccessible to the user, the Smooth-Q2 has a screw-cap base allowing quick swapping of batteries.
Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 In Use
Setting up the Smooth-Q2 was quick and easy. After charging I added my phone to the quick release clip and slid it into the gimbal before locking it in place. The gimbal auto leveled the phone, and I was ready to go.
Bluetooth pairing was simple and linked the onboard record button to both the default camera and Open Camera app. While the “ZY Play” app does not yet support it, the app is simple to use with other Zhiyun products, and there’s no reason to think the Smooth-Q2 will be any different. The gimbal has five settings as standard:
- PF – (Pan Follow): Follows twisting of the wrist left and right but locks the tilt, which is controlled by the joystick.
- L – (Lock): Locks the position of the camera, giving the “chicken head” effect. The joystick effects both pan and tilt in this mode.
- F – (Full Follow): Follows wrist movements for pan and tilt, the joystick effects roll.
- POV: Tilt, pan and roll are all affected by wrist position, the joystick is deactivated.
- Vortex Mode: Spins the gimbal continously via the joystick.
Every mode here has its uses. I found myself using the full follow mode the most, simply as it allowed the greatest freedom. The vortex mode is a little different as you need to hold the gimbal out in front of you like a torch to use it.
The different modes are all fairly intuitive to use, and switching between them on the fly is simple with one joystick press moving forward through the choices, and two presses moving backward. Pressing the power button once displays battery level using the onboard LEDs.
Portable and Practical?
The combination of the small size of the gimbal and the quick release mechanism makes the Smooth-Q2 very quick to set up. From getting it out of my pocket to filming took under 10 seconds. While the clip makes my already large phone a little cumbersome, it has a surprisingly low profile.
The bottom of the gimble has a 1/4 inch screw thread which fits a regular tripod mount, and the premium Kickstarter package includes a mini desk tripod. I found in my testing that the gimbal will quick happily stand alone without a tripod on a flat surface.
The motors felt solid at all times, even with my phone slightly off-center due to the position of its buttons.
Throughout testing this gimbal, I found it to operate much as promised. The footage remained smooth, and the battery never gave out on me. The simplicity of the device is one of its major plus points, and there is no learning curve using it. I’m confident anyone could pick it up and use it more or less immediately.
At the time of review, to use the gimbal in portrait mode, you need to hold it sideways. This could get tiring pretty quickly, but I’m still in the camp of vertical video being unacceptable at any time, so it didn’t particularly bother me.
I could imagine someone with a wider angle lens on their phone having issues with the gimbal arm coming into shot in certain modes. While you could flip your phone in the mounting clip, you’d then have it covering the screen when recording. This is only an issue when holding the gimbal straight up, tilting it forward would put the arm totally out of the way, and for a gimbal this tiny I think it’s an acceptable trade-off.
I suspect for many users the quick release clip might be somewhat redundant as it’s straightforward to put your phone in. In my case, the clip is a little too thin for my phone, and it didn’t sit correctly, though it was still secure. Any phone with a power button halfway down the side of the body will not sit centrally.
Despite my phone being heavier than most, the gimbal only struggled when I was moving my hand so erratically that it couldn’t compensate.
Should You Buy The Zhiyun Smooth-Q2?
Kickstarters are always a risk, and no matter the company, you should be aware that many people have been burned by them. That said, Zhiyun has plenty of previous examples of delivering great products, so we think it’s safe to treat this campaign as a pre-order.
Even without the extra smartphone app features, this gimbal is solid and simple to use. It would be equally suited to someone wanting a budget device to up their social media game, and someone wanting to incorporate serious cinematic effects into their creations. Whether you pay $109 for the early-bird package, or the $139 it may cost on release, this gimbal is an absolute steal, and I cannot recommend it enough.