Gimbal Buying Guide and Affordable Camera Drones with Gimbals
This article is about consumer drones with gimbals. We discuss the advantages of using a gimbal, just briefly how a gimbal works and some of the affordable drones which have gimbals. When it comes to picture quality, most of us when looking to buy a drone, only consider the specifications of the drone camera. However, to get steady and smooth pictures and videos, we need a stabilized gimbal underneath our drone camera. Not all drones have gimbals. In fact, on most of the affordable camera drones, the camera is attached to the fixed structure with only a slight tilt available for the adjustment. Without the camera being connected to a gimbal, the image and video quality of the drone imagery get deteriorated. If you wanna shoot ultra-smooth aerial footage, the gimbal is essential.
Drone Camera Stabilization using Gimbal
Without going into the physics of the gimbal, just in simple words, when we mount a drone camera on a gimbal (which itself is attached to the structure of the drone), the camera stays at the same orientation, no matter even if the drone rotates. The rotation of the drone is sensed in advance by Gyroscopic sensors, and the anticipated amount of rotation is counter-balanced by the rotation of servo motors in the opposite direction and hence keeping the camera motionless in that axis. This results in highly reduced vibration and a high-quality stable and smooth flowing video footage. Since there are three axes of rotation, roll, pitch, and yaw, we can have a single axis, 2-axis or 3-axis gimbals which can stabilize drone cameras in one, two or all three axes respectively. The pointing accuracy (generally measured in degrees or a fraction of a degree) depends on the quality of the gimbal. The type of the drone gimbal you should use depend on the quality of the picture you wish to capture.
Desired Features of Camera Gimbal
There are few metrics and attributes which show the quality of the drone camera gimbal.
The Number of Stabilized Axis:
Some gimbals are stabilized in pitch only, while others can also handle roll or even all three major axes of pitch roll and yaw.
Pointing Accuracy and Speed:
For pointing accuracy, the lower the value, the higher is the accuracy. And high allowable speed is better. The accuracy is measured in degrees (or a fraction of it) and the maximum speed (rate) in degrees per second.
Brushless motors are considered better due to low noise and vibration attributes.
The gimbal should have a low self-weight and required load carrying capacity. If your gimbal is heavy, your flight time would be reduced significantly. So, keep an eye on the weight when buying!
The gimbal should be compatible with drone camera and flight controller. The gimbals usually work best with specific camera profiles. However, sometimes, you can get away with some balancing.
Gimbal Mount Compatibility:
You should also note the compatibility of gimbal mount with drones. Some gimbal mounts are designed for direct fit install on the company’s drones. Some you can modify and install on any drone, but some mount sizes would not be suitable for other drones. The company website typically has drawings and dimensions of the gimbals and their mounts which you can confirm before buying one.
If you are thinking to upgrade your quadcopter, it is also essential that you select a gimbal which is easy to set up. Some are really very difficult to setup and not for someone who is not into electronics.
2-Axis Drone Gimbals
There are many 2-axis gimbals available in the market. Once you are happy with a 2-axis video stabilization, the next thing which you should check is that the gimbal is compatible with your drone camera. For example, if you are using any of the GoPro cameras, you can use DJI Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal or Walkera G-2D Brushless Gimbal, etc. Following are some of the 2 axis drone gimbals.
1. DJI Zenmuse H3-2D
Zenmuse H3-2D is a 2-axis brushless gimbal. It is one of the GoPro drone gimbals. You can use it with GoPro camera Hero3. You also have to check the compatibility of the Zenmuse H3-2D with the DJI drone you have. It is compatible with older models of DJI drones and aircrafts such as Phantom and Flame Wheeland. H3-2d gimbal is compatible with DJI flight control system. It can also be adapted for First Person View (FPV) where you see the footage as you are sitting on the drone. For video transmission, you would require a downlink.
It has a precision of less than a degree, and the two axes it stabilizes are pitch and roll axes. The gimbal will continue charging the Hero3 camera while in the air. The gimbal has a lightweight structure and is highly reliable and can be used for film, tv and marketing video productions. The video quality is professional. One thing you should be careful about is that installation may be a complicated task for you if you are not into electronics and soldering type of stuff. You may ask your hobby shop or some friend for the installation, they might be able to help you with that.
2.Walkera G-2D Brushless Gimbal
It is an extremely popular and affordable 2-axis drone gimbal. The roll control range is from -45 to 45 and the Pitch control range is from -135 to 90 degrees. It supports many cameras such as GoPro Hero3, GoPro Hero 3, iLook, iLook+ and Sony. For mounting, you can mount it on many popular entry-level drones of size 350.
3. Quanum Q-2D Brushless GoPro 3 Gimbal
This 2-axis drone gimbal is suitable for GoPro Hero 3 of DJI Phantom, Walkera QR X350, and other quadcopter cameras. It is lightweight brushless gimbal. The accuracy is 0.1 degree. The controlled axes are pitch and roll. It is adaptable to most 350 size quadcopters.
4. Tarot T-2D V2 Brushless Camera Gimbal
The gimbal is a brushless gimbal suitable for Xiaomi Yi Sports Camera. T-2D v2 comes with a two-layer vibration isolation mount. The accuracy is 0.1 degree. The controlled axes are Roll and Pitch.
3-Axis Gimbals for Drones
Some of the popular 3-axis gimbals for drones are listed below, but as you can find, the market is flooded with gimbals now.
Zenmuse H3-3D is another favorite 3-axis gimbal.
This is a 3-axis brushless gimbal from Gearbest. The gimbal is suitable only for GoPro Hero3 and Hero4 cameras. It can be mounted on 450 size quadcopter such as Phantom. The gimbal structure is made up of carbon fiber and aluminum with some plastic components. It allows about 120 degrees of yaw movement and 45 degrees of roll in both of plus and the minus directions. The pitch axis (tilt) is controllable from minus 120 degrees to plus 15 degrees. These movements are physically limited. The complete gimbal assembly with Hero camera and the controller weighs approximately 300gms. You can control camera tilt using transmitter knob or stick. You can also view live FPV videos. In FPV mode, the gimbal and the multicopter would stay at the same angle. You can download the software from Tarot website.
Affordable Camera Drones with 2 axis Gimbals
If you an absolute beginner and want to capture some stunning drone videos, you may consider buying a camera drone which has a gimbal already installed. Here is the list of quadcopters which have 2-axis gimbals:
This quadcopter has a 2-axis very stable camera gimbal. It is suitable for GoPro HERO 3 and 4 series of cameras. It has a dual-mode GPS and headless mode and return to home which are useful features for beginner drone pilots. Traxxas drone is easy to fly. The quadcopter has a robust composite structure and a sporty look but has few limitations as for its gimbal is concerned. The motors are brushless, and the drone is quiet. The props need screws to mount them which is a bit old-fashioned. The battery has a proprietary plug for connecting with its charger, which is annoying. Now coming to the limitation of the gimbal, you can not control the gimbal from your radio transm
itter. You have to set the gimbal before the flight. Similarly, you cannot start or stop video recording with your transmitter. The flight controller is open source which is a big plus.
2. WLtoys Q696 – D RC Quadcopter 5MP Camera 1080P and 2-Axis Gimbal
It is an affordable drone with a 2-axis gimbal and a 1080P camera. Having a gimbal in this price range is fantastic. Also, usually quadcopter in this price range have 720P camera, but this drone has a 1080P. The video quality is good, but you would see the props inside the field of view during the flight which is annoying. It has two-speed modes which are helpful for beginners.
Camera Drones with 3-axis Gimbals
1. DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter V2.0 Bundle with 3-Axis Zenmuse H3-3D Gimbal for GoPro
At this time, buying DJI phantom 2 is extremely affordable. If you get GoPro Hero 4 camera (4K at 30fps) and Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal, you are set to capture some stunning cinema quality 4K videos. You can save some money by using GoPro Hero 3 camera (1080P at 60fps). DJI Phantom 2 is ready to fly drone out of the box. The controller is easy to use and good looking. It has a GPS, so altitude-hold capability.
The home position would be set on auto as soon the drone detects the GPS. You can also set the home position in the app. However, you can set the current location of the drone transmitter as its home or the current location of the drone as its home. Only these two options are available. If you lose the connection, it would return and land to the place from where it took off. But for this return to home at a loss of control signal, you need to set it in the settings. There is a lot of information available on DJI Phantom 2, but I mentioned it here just to show you an excellent affordable option of getting a drone with a 3-axis gimbal.
2. DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Aircraft with 3-Axis Gimbal and 2.7k Camera
DJI Phantom 3 has various versions which differ in video quality and video transmission range. In this standard release, we have an integrated stabilized camera in 3-axis. So, it comes with a built-in type of gimbal. If you want to get the gimbal functionality straight out of the box, this is a good choice for you. The newer version of Phantom 3 SE has a 4K camera but currently only available inside China. On DJI store, I actually found the price of Phantom 3 SE lower than the standard version!
If you are interested in further expensive drones, you can see the reviews of some top rated drones.
How to Install Gimbal on any Drone: Few considerations
- Sometimes, you have an RC drone with a camera which you like for any reason but it does not have a gimbal, and your video quality is not good. In this case, you can consider buying a gimbal and attaching it to your drone. For this, there are few things which you must take note of before purchasing a gimbal. This first thing is the height of the landing gear of your drone concerning the total installed height of gimbal with the camera. When mounting a gimbal, you may need some base plate and the thickness of the base plate would be added to the height and hence the term installed height is used. If your landing gear is not high enough, you can also extend it by using suitable landing gear extensions.
- The second thing is while making the modification, you should try to use the available threaded holes if possible.
- Another important consideration is that not every gimbal is suitable for every camera. Some gimbals are ideal for GoPro cameras while some are designed only for 2DRobotics or any other drones.
- Now the weight is another critical consideration. Installing any gimbal will certainly reduce some of the flight time. But you don’t want to cut the flight time of your drone too much. Also, the load carrying capacity of your drone could be an issue, therefore have a look at the maximum payload capacity of your drone before installing a new camera gimbal.
- Sometimes you have to put some balancing weight to balance the camera and to protect the motor from straining (noise). Make sure you are not hindering the free movement of the gimbal.