Modern phones can shoot great quality video. But if you want your YouTube, TikTok or home videos to have more of a professional look, you’ll need one extra gadget: a gimbal.
Some phone cameras already offer OIS, AIS, EIS and other acronyms but they can only do so much to stabilise shaky hands. What a gimbal does is to help isolate your phone – and therefore its cameras – and allow you to get smooth-looking video even if you’re running.
You don’t need to be running, though: a gimbal is useful even if you’re standing still, as you can smoothly pan left and right or tilt the camera up and down. And you’ll be surprised at the results you can get even if you’re spending less than $100 / £100.
Most gimbals stabilise on three axes, often referred to as pitch, roll and yaw. Or in photography terms, tilt, roll and pan. A lot of drones use exactly the same type of gimbal, albeit scaled down.
The real benefit of using a gimbal is that your viewers are less likely to feel nauseous when watching videos you make while moving around compared to simply holding your phone in your hands and waving it about.
Aside from the hardware, it’s important to also consider the companion app as well. While you can use a gimbal with your phone’s usual camera app and some of the physical buttons might work, you’ll need the companion app, such as DJI Mimo, if you want to use all the buttons as well as creative modes such as shooting motion timelapses. The quality of apps varies even more than the hardware, with some apps being brilliant, and others utterly awful to use.
Being forced to use a sub-standard app can ruin the experience, which is why it’s a good idea to read reviews such as those below before making your choice.
Of course, hardware does differ too, and you’ll want a lightweight gimbal that’s comfortable to use with all buttons and controls in easy reach. Don’t overlook battery life, either.
The good news is that prices have dropped significantly since phone gimbals first appeared a few years back, so even if your budget is small, you should be able to buy a good one.
Which phone gimbal is best?
Unsurprisingly, the list below features many DJI Osmo Mobile models, as well as some from Zhiyun. These are the big names when it comes to gimbals, and they also offer good apps to go with the hardware.
While they can all be good choices, your budget and requirements will dictate which is best for you. Do you need a telescopic ‘selfie’ stick built in? Do you want a magnetic mount that allows the phone to be quickly attached and removed from the gimbal?
Discounts and seasonal sales can affect your choice, too, as they can bring models previously out of your budget into reach: you’ll find the latest prices below, too.
1. DJI Osmo Mobile SE – Best-value
- Fairly compact
- Great value
- No telescopic pole
- Not available in the US
DJI’s Osmo Mobile SE is a new model, but it’s based on the older Osmo Mobile 4. However, the display, joystick and buttons from the Osmo Mobile 6 have been used, so you’re getting some of the benefits at a lower price.
The display lets you see which mode the gimbal is in at a glance, as well as the battery level. The joystick is much nicer to use, and although there’s no telescopic pole or zoom/focus wheel (as you get with the Osmo Mobile 6) the Osmo Mobile SE does have the latest Active Track 5.0 which is better at tracking subjects, and adds ShotGuides which show you exactly how to get some creative effects.
As with DJI’s other gimbals here, the Osmo Mobile SE makes it simple to shoot smooth video, and the Mimo app is better than we’ve seen from other manufacturers. Just note that it isn’t available on the Google Play Store: you have to get it from DJI’s website, which is hassle if you have an Android phone.
You get a tabletop tripod in the box so you can use it hands-free and shoot great-looking motionlapses.
2. DJI Osmo Mobile 6 – Most compact gimbal
- Very portable
- Telescopic 'selfie' stick
- Useful zoom and focus wheel
- No USB port to charge phone
- Can’t adjust sensitivity of the zoom wheel
The Osmo Mobile 6 is one of the smallest, lightest gimbals around and this will make it the most attractive option here for a lot of people.
It is more expensive than the Osmo Mobile SE, but it has a built-in selfie stick and a dial on the side which lets you control zoom or focus manually. You may not need that, but it’s a useful extra if you do.
Both gimbals offer the option of buying a magnetic clamp with a built-in fill light, but unlike the Smooth Q3 below, the lights can’t rotate to face your subject, and the clamp is surprisingly expensive.
If the price is no barrier, then this is a fine gimbal. But given the Osmo Mobile SE is so much cheaper and offers virtually the same features, it’s harder to recommend the Osmo Mobile 6 over it.
3. Zhiyun Smooth Q3 – Best for built-in selfie light
- Built-in LED fill light
- Decent price
- Inferior app
- No selfie stick
The Smooth Q3 is an unashamed DJI clone, even down to the design of the removable warning stickers.
Yet it also has one feature that DJI’s stabilisers lacked – until the OM 5 was launched, that is. It’s the LED fill light which is handy for illuminating your face, or your subject, in unfavourable lighting conditions.
It’s warm white and you can’t change that, but you can choose from three different brightness levels, and it rotates, unlike DJI’s, which can only face you.
It’s a decent gimbal overall, offering 3-axis stabilisation, good battery life and all at a sensible price. The only niggle is the ZY Cami app, which simply isn’t as good as DJI’s Mimo. But you can use your phone’s stock camera app if you just want to use basic video modes.
Though we haven’t reviewed it, the 2-axis Smooth X has a built in selfie stick but costs less than the Zhiyun Smooth Q3.
4. Joby Smart Stabilizer – Best for built-in selfie stick
- Built-in selfie stick
- Not the most user friendly
Joby’s Stabiliser isn’t as user friendly as DJI’s Osmo Mobile SE. You’ll be referring to the manual a lot to get to grips with how the various modes and functions work. But if you shoot videos of yourself for TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms, the Joby Smart Stabilizer does a good job at a good price.
The stand-out feature is the built-in telescopic ‘selfie stick’ that allows you to be further from the phone, so is useful if your phone lacks a wide-angle front-facing camera, as many do.
5. Zhiyun Crane M2S – Best for multiple devices
- Can stabilise various devices
- Good battery life
- Balancing is fiddly
- Swapping devices isn't seamless
While it may not be quite as versatile as the marketing suggests, the Crane M2S can stabilise compact system cameras, as well as phones and GoPros (or other action cameras).
Unfortunately, even with the upgraded Quick Release 4 system, swapping cameras still isn’t seamless. But if you want to carry around one stabiliser to cover multiple devices, the Crane M2S is one of the best options.
Compared to the older M2, the Crane M2S has a useful 1000-lumen fill light, supports faster charging (in only 100 minutes from empty) and offers up to 10 hours of battery life.
We found, when using a Pixel 6 to test it, the M2S required us to rebalance the phone when switching from landscape to portrait shooting, which was a pain. The ZY Play app isn’t as slick as DJI’s, and do make sure any mirrorless camera is compatible before you commit.