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What are people's general views on gimbals?

I have a love/hate relationship with gimbals (I own two relatively lightweight ones) and, in the few years that I've owned them, I simply cannot get to like them. I've tried a cheap Glidecam clone and just hated it, as balancing it was always like trying to get a drunken wife into a car (been there, done that). The gimbals work fine, but they simply can't hold my run & gun rig that weighs 4.3 kg.

There are of course gimbals that can hold that weight and newer ones that can do that without having to break down the rig for full movement, but you then end up with a huge weight to carry around (and I'm able to carry some fairly hefty weight). For the sort of work that I was doing before COVID, I was using an Easyrig clone to support a very heavy rig, but I subsequently reduced the weight to a nice 4.3kg and did away with the support (wandering around some places looking like a Ghost Buster started to wear thin). But there are times when I want to move about with the rig and get reasonably stable footage, which kind of points to a gimbal of some sort.

Recently I did some testing with a counterweight system, by attaching my monopod to my rig, with the monopod extending horizontally from the rear of the camera (aligned with the lens). The results from the monopod experiment were actually quite surprising, giving an almost gimbal like movement with a bit of stabiliser added in post. Noting that I can't Ninja walk (more like Bobba Fett sitting on my shoulders) the results looked little different to shots using another camera on one of the gimbals. This could be an option with some practice.

Gimbals are all the rage at the moment, but are they really an ideal option for documentary style work, which is my main aim? Has anyone come up with a portable solution that doesn't involve a gimbal?

 

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Funny you mention the monopod - I use one on the base of my S1 with the stabilisation turned on and get very nice results. I have a Ronin S, but to be honest I still prefer the vest system I mistakenly sold after believing all the hype about gimbals.

I think you're right in the direction of adding mass to the rig, particularly when it's offset, and if you can couple this with a camera with decent stabilisation the results are excellent and with almost zero setup. I do ninja walk though...

I also would be interested if anyone has an alternative solution.

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