Whether you’re filming home movies, video blogs, concerts, or sports events, the one thing those videos will have in common (if you’re doing it with your iPhone) is that your arm will get tired and they’ll be shaky. For the steadiest videos, you’ll need a gimbal; look to the FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal if you need stability with options.
So, let’s back up a moment. Image stabilization is present in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus main cameras, but if you use the iPhone 7 Plus’s 2x zoom, you’ll lose it as the second camera doesn’t have it. When you are filming short clips, it’s not that big of a deal; if you are trying to zoom in on something and it’s going to take a while, or if you want something closer to what the pros might get, then you need all the help you can get.
Gimbals have been around for thousands of years, the first known example being Philo of Byzantium‘s (280–220 BCE) “eight-sided ink pot with an opening on each side, which [could] be turned so that while any face is on top, a pen [could] be dipped and inked — yet the ink never runs out through the holes of the other sides. This was done by the suspension of the inkwell at the center, which was mounted on a series of concentric metal rings so that it remained stationary no matter which way the pot is turned.” source
Hand-held 3-axis gimbals used in photography allow “handheld shooting without camera vibration or shake. Powered by three brushless motors, the gimbals have the ability to keep the camera level on all axes as the camera operator moves the camera. An inertial measurement unit (IMU) responds to movement and utilizes its three separate motors to stabilize the camera.”
While some 3-axis gimbals can be rather large and cost thousands of dollars, the FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal is manageable and relatively inexpensive at $299. What sets it apart from some of the other 3-axis stick gimbals available, like the FeiyuTech G4 Plus? It has two handles, so you can either use both hands to keep it steady (which is less fatiguing), use it one-handed, or you can even use no hands; that’s pretty cool.
Let’s take a look at what comes in the box, and then we’ll talk about the FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal itself. Included with the gimbal are the battery, a microUSB to USB cable, a cold shoe attachment with a 1/4″ screw, a user guide, and one 3000mAh rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery.
The FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal feels very sturdy and durable; the body is composed of matte black aluminum with a metal 3-axis gimbal hardware and grippy black handles on the side. It measures approximately 11.25″ long by 6″ tall by 5″ deep (measuring the gimbal arm), and it weighs 1 pound 5 ounces with the battery installed but without your phone. While this gimbal is sold and marketed as being for the iPhone, you can actually use it with just about any smartphone or Go-Pro HERO series (you may need some foam inserts to make the Go-Pro fit perfectly, though).
This is the top view of the gimbal. You’ll note that there are three 1/4″ screw ports on the top, which can be used to attach various accessories such as lights and/or a microphone; you can use the included cold shoe attachment if needed. You can also flip the gimbal upside down and insert the middle screw in a tripod.
There are two more 1/4″ screw ports on the bottom of each handle.
FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal Features:
- DUAL HANDLE SYSTEM: A pioneering structure for doubled stability, enriched holding styles and reduced burden.
- RICH EXPANDABILITY: Five 1/4-inch screw ports for various accessories like flash, microphone, and tripod to expand application scenarios including dark environment, noisy places and more.
- SMART FACE TRACKING: Following target face and guiding gimbal movement accordingly powered by the evolving Feiyu ON app [available for iOS and Android], also featuring dynamic panorama and auto-focus for extra creativeness,
- PRECISE BALANCE ADJUSTMENT: Slide bar balance system to adapt to phones and action cameras of various sizes and weight including iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung, HTC, HUAWEI with lens clips, and GoPro HERO series.
- EXCELLENT CRAFTSMANSHIP: Enhanced finish with revolutionary unibody motor arm for sports camera and smartphone gimbals to ensure better anti-shake performance, built from solid aluminum alloy, super lightweight and comfortable by rubberized handle grip, up to 8 hours’ runtime from a single 22650 Li-ion battery.
This is the cradle that will hold your smartphone or Go-Pro HERO; it is made of aluminum lined with grippy rubber pads. It will hold the 3.1″ wide iPhone 7 Plus without a case, and it will just stretch wide enough to hold the naked 3.15″ wide Huawei Mate 9; anything wider is a no-go.
The included battery goes in the right handle, which is the one with the controls. Once the battery is installed, you’ll be able to charge it in the future by removing the little rubber stopper that covers the microUSB port and attaching the included cable.
All of the controls that you’ll need are built into the right handle; from the top down, you’ll find an LED indicator, the joystick (up/down/left/right), the On/Off Function button, and the Bluetooth shutter. The Function button switches between working modes, power on, and power off.
Working modes are indicated by the LED status:
- Blue light flashes once: Panning mode
- Blue light flashes twice: Panning and tilting mode
- Blue light flashes three times: Standby
- Blue light constant on: Lock mode / initializing
- Blue light keeps flashing: Initialization failure/malfunction
- Red light flashes three times: Low battery
- Red light keeps flashing: Entering standby/entering power off
The LED will glow solid red as you are charging it, and it will glow solid green once charging is complete.
When you insert the phone you’ll be using as your camera, you insert it with the screen facing the controls because it will be acting as your monitor while filming. If you butt your phone all the way to the tilting axis (as shown in this photo), and then turn the gimbal on (long press until the LED glows solid green), you can see if any adjustment is necessary to make sure that the inserted phone is level.
This is the side of the phone and gimbal that will be facing your subject. If adjustments to balance need to be made, the following can be done:
- If your phone is tilting to the right, then you loosen the knob ring and move the cross arm to the left, find the best balance, and then tighten the knob ring.
- If your phone is tilting to the left, then you loosen the knob ring, move the cross arm to the right, find the best balance, and then tighten the knob ring.
That’s really about all there is to it … and then you are ready to start recording.
How you use the FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal is up to you and what you happen to be doing at the time. If you want to take the most level and possibly best panoramic photo you’ve ever taken, you can take with while the iPhone is in the gimbal; stand in position, pointing where you want to start, and then roll the gimbal slowly to the right or left 90º.
You can also use the gimbal’s joystick to turn the camera to the angle or side that you want to shoot while you are filming; it seems a little counter-intuitive to me, though — when holding the gimbal like this, pressing the joystick up points the phone/camera down, and pressing the joystick down points the phone/camera up. You get used to it, though.
The beauty of the FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal is that there are multiple ways to use it. If you are filming video in the traditional manner, with the phone in landscape mode, and you’re by yourself, you can mount it on a pair of mini tripods, or flip it over and use the center hole on what would usually be the top, or you can set it on a tabletop like this …
… or like this. It really doesn’t matter which way you twist or flip the gimbal, your phone will always be pointing the right way.
You can also flip the gimbal to its side for portrait video shooting, although that’s not the best for Youtube or most video shooting.
If you use the Feiyu On app, which will also allow you to use the Bluetooth button for capturing photos, you’ll need to open the app and pair it to your gimbal.
Once you’ve done that, the Bluetooth shutter button will function, and there are several cool functions like the face tracker that you can enable. In this mode, the gimbal will make the camera follow the subject’s face — even if the gimbal is on a tripod or table top. It’s pretty cool. I did notice that the Bluetooth connection could be kind of iffy, but for the most part, it works.
Because a zoomed video has no stabilization, I decided to use that as an example of how steady the gimbal makes your filming. This is a video taken with 2X zoom on my iPhone of my husband in his studio.
Here’s a quick video of me walking my dog, Otis, using the iPhone 7 Plus to video the walk — without and with the gimbal. Notice the difference?
Whether you are taking home movies or you simply want to take more stable photos and videos, the FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal is a fantastic choice because it is versatile, adjustable, affordable, and easy to operate. With this gimbal, it is possible to get professional results, even if you are just an amateur.
The FeiyuTech SPG PLUS 3-Axis Gimbal retails for $299.00, and it is available from Amazon [affiliate link], the Apple Store, and other retailers.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Easy to set up; Everything you need to get started is in the box; Will work with iPhones, Android phones, and Go-Pro HERO; App available for iOS and Android; Controls on the handle make it easy to tilt and pan without moving; Well-made piece of gear that should last
What Needs Improvement: Bluetooth connection with app can be a bit iffy