Look no gimbal: GoPro Hero5 Black digital image stabilisation tested on 6m Charters Pole

At the Photokina show we were lucky enough to get a little time shooting with the new GoPro Hero5 Black. One of its key features is in-camera digital image stabilisation. Instead of a lens-based optical stabiliser (like that in the recently launched Sony FDR-X3000R) the Hero5 Black uses software to achieve its stabilisation. Until recently digital stabilisation for video hasn’t really been considered as good as optical stabilisation. GoPro are clearly hoping to convince users that their new stabilisation system is up to the task.

GoPro's Joe VanDalsem flying the Hero5 Black on the Charters Pole
GoPro’s Joe VanDalsem flying the Hero5 Black on the Charters Pole at Photokina
The Hero5 Black lens
The Hero5 Black lens

To test it out we attached a GoPro Hero5 to the top of the new 6m tall Charters Pole. This is brainchild of Hollywood DP and Newsshooter occasional contributor Rodney Charters. It is a giant carbon fibre pole that has been designed to lift small cameras or lights way up high – essentially, it creates a long crane effect without the crane. We’ve seen excellent results from the Charters Pole using a DJI OSMO mounted on top, but how good a result could we get with a Hero5 on its own without a gimbal?

We attached the Hero5 to the top of the pole using a small clamp and off we went. The camera was set at 50 frames a second in 2.7K, with everything else set as standard. We were able to monitor the camera on an iPhone most of the time, but occasionally the signal did drop out due to the huge amount of Wi-fi on the show floor. I suspect that in normal shooting environments this shouldn’t be an issue.

The simple setup with the Hero5 Black and Charters Pole.
The simple setup with the Hero5 Black and Charters Pole.

The resulting video you see above is untouched with no post stabilisation and no grading. No shot took more than two attempts, and some took only one.

Even though the Charters Pole is more rigid than most painters poles or audio boom poles, it still has some flex when at max extension. I didn’t really expect the results without a gimbal to be usable.

The Charter Pole is solidly made of  carbon fibre.
The Charter Pole is solidly made of carbon fibre.

What is amazing is that we were able to capture pretty good static and panning shots using the bare Hero5. Sometimes it took a couple of attempts to avoid wonky horizons and the odd vibration as we moved the camera, but generally it was easy enough.

Better still was the result when using the Hero5 for simple jib moves looking down onto the subject. No other camera I’ve used so far can pull off the same kind of shots without a gimbal attached. The shot of the three GoPro ladies waving to the camera had me rushing to place an order for the Hero5 online. It was just so simple to get the shot and I want to be able to do the same in any documentary or news piece.

There are limits to the stabilisation, though. Start walking with the pole and the Hero5 did show some jitters that I think are perhaps not as good as what a DJI OSMO would accomplish. For these kind of shots I think a gimbal would really be needed – although if you did enough walking you might get something usable for three of four seconds without one. We didn’t get a chance to try the new GoPro gimbal but I suspect that it would be a big improvement over the bare camera.

The Charters Pole with DJI OSMO attached.
The Charters Pole with DJI OSMO attached.

To do the digital stabilisation the Hero5 has to drop down to 2.7K resolution. If you really need full 4K then you probably need a gimbal solution. Likewise, if you want to perform more complex moves, or have the camera tilt during a jib shot, then the gimbal is the way to go. But for most news and documentary shooters looking to get some nice establishing shots with the minimum of fuss the Hero5 with Charters Pole certainly works. I look forward to playing with it more.

The GoPro Hero5 starts shipping in a few weeks. For more info check out the GoPro website.

The Charters Pole is available to pre-order now from the Genus webstore.

Note: The Hero5 tested here is a pre-production model. The author is involved with the development of the Charters Pole.

Subscribe to our newsletter