The Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is a great choice if you are a content creator looking to take your production values to the next level. The gimbal is easy to set up, easy to use, and achieves beautifully smooth footage with smartphones, small action cameras as well as mirrorless cameras. If your camera is fully compatible, the added features available through the control cable and Bluetooth make this compact and lightweight stabilizer that much more capable.
- Impressively smooth footage, even when running
- Easy to use
- Great design
- Excellent build quality
- Great battery life
- Only fully functional using compatible cameras
- The touchscreen icon layout and sensitivity
- An all-black version would be a nice option
The Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is a beautifully designed lightweight camera stabilizer perfect for those who shoot with smartphones, action cameras, and mirrorless cameras with small lenses. Despite its small size and light weight, the gimbal offers some impressive features, including multiple shooting modes and a built-in light. The captured footage is much smoother than is possible to achieve through handheld shooting or in lens or body stabilization.
The Zhiyun Crane series has been around since 2016 and offers cost-effective camera stabilizers with many advanced features. The M 3S is the latest version of the M3, built on its general design but now featuring enhanced performance, an improved battery, and an increased load capacity.
The Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is intended to be paired with compact and action cameras and smartphones, but to take advantage of its more advanced features, you will need a compatible camera that is connected via the appropriate included cable or through Bluetooth.
While its increased load capacity will allow it to carry the weight of DSLRs with smaller lenses, the gimbal itself is too compact for most cameras of that bulk.
Mirrorless cameras typically have smaller bodies that can easily be accommodated by the Zhiyun Crane-M 3S’s more compact frame. If you use a full-frame camera or use larger lenses, you may want to check out Zhiyun’s Weebil 2 and 3S gimbals.
The first thing that you notice about the Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is the design, which features a white body with black and red accents. It is a fresh take on camera stabilizers which are typically in more muted black or gray finishes.
I have no doubt that it will appeal to many, but offering a more traditional all-black version seems to me to be a good idea as many professionals will see this as overly “prosumer.”
The Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is available in three kit levels:
- The Standard Kit ($279 at B&H Photo) includes the stabilizer, a charging cable, a small tripod, and control cables for specific compatible Sony, Canon, and Panasonic cameras as well as an EPP (Expanded polypropylene foam), a carrying case.
- The Combo Kit ($339 at B&H Photo) replaces the small tripod with a larger one, adds a clamp for mounting smartphones, and replaces the EPP carrying case with a backpack featuring the same white with black accents design. It also includes the same cables.
- The Pro Kit ($379 at B&H Photo) includes all from the Combo Kit and adds a shotgun microphone and 4 fill light filters.
For this review, I have the standard kit. Weighing just over 1.5 pounds and measuring roughly 11″ tall by 3″ deep by 6.5″ wide, the Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is easy to bring with you in your camera bag or the included case.
I do not have cameras compatible with the Crane’s cable control and have conducted this review using an iPhone 14Pro and a Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium.
If you are new to camera stabilizers, you may feel put off by the process of mounting and balancing the gimbal for use.
Zhiyun has made this easier by adding a sliding quick-mount plate that makes changing camera batteries quick and easy. If you are familiar with the set-up process of similar devices, you will find it simple and convenient to swap between cameras and camera types.
Controls on the body of the Zhiyun Crane-M 3S gimbal include the power button, a switch that toggles between the modes, a photo/video button toggle switch for use with certain compatible cameras, a joystick that controls the movement of the camera, a fill light control wheel which switches between light brightness and color temperature, a trigger button that switches to customized modes, reposition the gimbal and enter and exit certain other modes and an adjustment wheel that scrolls facilitating the adjustment of parameters in the touchscreen menu.
The touchscreen itself is a small but welcome addition and features a graphic interface with four icons for Mode, Balance, Info, and Settings.
Navigating the menus is simple, but as the screen is small, some of the icons, such as the return arrows, are hard to hit on the first try. It is also fairly easy to tap the screen while using the gimbal. Next to the touchscreen, on the left side of the gimbal, is a ¼” expansion port for attaching accessories such as the optional microphone.
The gimbal features a built-in fill light using Zhiyun’s Lumen Amplifier technology with a maximum illuminance of 1000 Lux and an adjustable color range of 2700-5500K. The light is quite intense and can cause shadowing, but it is a great thing to have when you need it. The light is also dimmable.
Under optimal conditions, the gimbal’s built-in battery lasts up to 7.5 hours, charges in 2 hours, and can be charged while in use. The touchscreen displays the battery level while charging.
Shooting with the Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is easy and fun.
The three-axis gimbal system had no issues balancing and moving the small Leica camera or the iPhone, and the results are smooth and professional with minimal effort.
Performing regular moves such as walking on level ground or up or down stairs, it is very easy to achieve perfectly smooth motion. Where the gimbal really shows its stuff is during more energetic actions such as running, where it does a much better job than most in camera or in lens stabilizers.
The Zhiyun Crane-M 3S features multiple shooting modes, including Pan Follow, Lock, Follow, POV, GO, Vortex, and Portrait. The M3 S also supports wireless control through the ZY mobile app. The app enables remote control of the movement of the gimbal.
This is a great feature that works very well as it enables users to place the gimbal’s tripod on a surface and achieve repeatable pans. The app also has controls for creating panoramas, time-lapses, and trajectory photography.
These features are limited in their function, especially if you are using a non-compatible camera. The same is true for the wired or Bluetooth shutter control.
I wish that Zhiyun had taken the app’s special functions one step further and made them programmable. If the pano feature allowed for the setting of the in and out points and an overall duration, for example, the feature could be used to create camera movement in timelapses.
Zhiyun Crane-M 3S Specifications
Tilt Mechanical Range 305°
Roll Mechanical Range 314°
Pan Mechanical Range 360°
Operation Voltage Max: 12.6v / Min: 9.6v
Operation Current Max: 4000mA / Min: 135mA
Output 5V, 1A
Battery Runtime Max: 7.5h (lab data)
Charging Time 2h (lab data)
Size & Weight
Product Size (W*D*H) 284.2*74.5*163.5 (mm)
Net Weight 705g/unit
What’s in the Box
- CRANE-M 3S Gimbal
- Small Tripod
- EPP (Expanded polypropylene foam) Carrying Case
- Sony Control Cable LN-UCUS-C02
- Canon Camera Control Cable LN-MBUC-B02
- Panasonic Camera Control Cable LN-UCUC-D07
- USB Type-C Charging Cable
Camera Compatibility List
- FX3, A7R5, A7R4, A7R3, A7R2, A7M3, A7M2, A7S2, A7S3, A7C, A6600, A6500, A6400, A6300, A6100, ZV-1,ZV-E1, ZV-E10, RX100M7, RX100M6, RX100M5A, RX100M5, HX90
- Z5, Z6, Z6II, Z7, Z7II, Z30, Z50, ZFC
- M50, M50 MARK II, M6 MARK II, R, R5, R6, R6 Mark II, R7, R8, R10, R50, RP, 200D II, 200D Mark II, G7 X MARK III, G1X Mark II, SX720 HS
- GH4, GH5, GH5S, GH6, G9, S5, DC-G100, ZS110, LX10, LX100M2
- X-H2s, X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-T5, X-A7, X-S10, X-T30, X-T20
The Zhiyun Crane-M 3S is a great choice if you are a content creator looking to take your production values to the next level. The gimbal is easy to set up, easy to use, and achieves beautifully smooth footage with smartphones, small action cameras as well as mirrorless cameras.
If your camera is fully compatible, the added features available through the control cable and Bluetooth make this compact and lightweight stabilizer that much more capable.
The unit is quite sharp looking, and the feel of the controls and overall construction are very good for this market segment and price range.
The Zhiyun Crane-M S3 Standard Kit sells for $299; it is available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers, including B&H Photo and Amazon.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I like: Impressively smooth footage, even when running; Easy to use; Great design; Excellent build quality; Great battery life
What Needs Improvement: Only fully functional using compatible cameras; The touchscreen icon layout and sensitivity; An all-black version would be a nice option