If the Zhiyun WEEBILL was not ad boy enough for you, how about the bigger brother, the Zhiyun Crane 3 LAB? We took this gimbal through the paces, and if you only have ten seconds for this review, here is the verdict: it’s the best gimbal we’ve used to date. Is it perfect, no? but it currently has a set of features that no other gimbal at this price point (or probably higher) provides.
As always, if you have any questions about the Crane 3, let me know in the comments and I will answer ASAP.
The Crane 3 is probably the best Gimbal you can buy for $899.00 (basic) or $1,199.00 (Creator Package). If you want a quick overview of what you’ll get with the box, here is a video to look at, but if you came here for function and performance, read on!
Build and Balance
Right from the start, the Crane 3 feels like a workhorse. It’s the first gimbal that I know to move the handle to this weird V position, and it definitely feels better to have a second handle that you can hold close by. I’ll admit, I do not have massive biceps. But the ability to shift the weight-center closer to the body really made it easier for me to carry the rig for a longer time. It also makes it extremely easy to shoot low angle. (if you are accustomed to this weird knee-killing position with older gimbals you are going to appreciate this).
I did get my leg stuck on the crane a few times, but now I just lean forward and let the crane pull me. And getting into “low mode” is extremely easy and you can do it in one smooth move.
The Crane 3 is rated for 4.5 Kilos, which is a lot. An FS5 with a speed booster, battery, and a decent lens is probably under two and a half kilos combined. So technically, you have more than enough. In reality, you would probably never hit that weight limit. The bigger limitation is coming from the length and height of your rig. We were able to balance a Sony A7III, an FS5, and even a RED Dragon on the crane. (Which is way above the rated weight – don’t try this at home kids). Our most common issue was balancing the rig (and specifically the lens axis) in a way that does not bump the back-end of the rig against the rear motor. I really wish the Roll arm was just a little bit longer.
A weird change from the Crane 2 is that Zhiyun took away all the screw mounts from the tilt plate, so there are no options to add weights to balance the rig so it can move forward. That said, when balanced, the Crane 3 is one of the smoothest Gimbals I got to work with.
Gimbals made huge progress over the last few years and it shows on the Crane 3. Zhiyun outdid themselves and the motors are extremely responsive and extremely smooth. It was stable when I held it close and it easily manages shots on the included monopod doing a long “job” move. (And you can’t blame me for having steady hands).
Another nice surprise was how the crane handles Follow mode. On the crane 2 (and other gimbals), where you go to Follow mode, the gimbals “zeros out” and start parallel to the floor. On the crane three, on the other hand, it keeps following from the same angle that you clicked the button at. This makes it possible to go to Follow mode mid shot. But more importantly, you don’t have to twist your hands into impossible positions to get a good Follow mode angle.
The Crane 3, like all Zhiyun Gimbals has three motor settings, depending on the weight of the rig you use. For our A7III rig with a cage and a small lens, we used Light/Medium and did not notice a difference. For the FS5, we had to go high. All this depends on your specific rig, but it will give you a clue as to what is possible weight wise.
Buttons and Interface
For me the most useful buttons are Lock and Pan Follow, they are placed on the front, where you can’t see them. You eventually get used to their position, but I wish they were placed where I can visually verify when I am pressing them.
Follow, POV and reset are placed near the thumb, and camera controls are placed near the LCD. I love this location of buttons where I can reach them all with my thumb. I wish that ALL the buttons were placed around the OLED-monitor which is where you’d look for data, so your eyes are drawn to that area anyway.
The only exception would be the power button that is just on the wrong side, that said, there is no way you would accidentally hit that button. What I did love though is the Joystick. Zhiyun opted for a drone-like stick and the feedback on it is just great. This makes it really easy to use the stick for precise movements.
On the left-hand side, there is a follow focus wheel. And….. IT GLOWS IN THE DARK! this is pretty cool if you use focus marks. It makes pulling pre-defined focus points a breeze.
The wheel works great for DSLR lenses. For Cine-lenses, though, I wish I had better control on how much lens-turn the wheel creates.
The transmitter box is a new addition to the Crane. It’s designed to get low-lag live view into your phone, It does so by connecting the camera HDMI port into the box, and then transmitting an optimized stream from the box to the ZY app. We’ve had great success when we initially connected a Nikon camera. For our Sony A7III we had to fiddle with the settings quite a bit to make it work. I wish there was an easier way to do this, though this is probably more on Sony’s side than Zhiyun. (gotta love them sony menus….).
The other thing that the ZY app does is to give you control of the camera and gimbal. You can have one person taking care of the frame and another one doing focus, zoom and camera setings via the app.
The base plate is almost a Manfrotto standard plate, but… It only has one 1/4-20 screw and no place for a 3/8, so bigger cameras are not as secured as they can be. There is also a weird pin which you have to remove to be 100% Manfrotto compatible.
On the other hand, the plate can slide, so the distance from the camera to the right arm is controlled. If you are using the new Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4k camera you are going to appreciate it.
Oh, My God! every single possible cable is in there. And the phone mount is stellar. If you bought the basic package, you owe it to yourself to add this mount as well. I also really enjoyed the little Tripod / mount. It is very solid when used as a tripod and feels very nice and rigid when used as a handle.
If I had to sum up, the package and presentation are a very good value for money. The Creator package also has a belt and two servo motor.
I love the case. Like the WEEBILL case it is hard enough to protect and carry the gimbal but doe not have that hard plastic which makes the case cumbersome. The case hugs your Crane 3 perfectly for storage or flight.
One point I would improve on is that the case is built for storage. You can’t keep your rig balanced and you even have to take the transmount off. That kinda defeats the purpose of a quick release plate. I am sure that there will be a new case version that handles these things. One the good side, the case holds four sets of batteries. that would be enough for a 2 days assignment without needed to charge.
All and all, the Crane 3 took-over as our goto gimbal here at DIYP, and we think that for $899it gives a value that is hard to beat. It is now our go-to crane and we will share more as we continue to use it.