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The Feiyu a2000 Gimbal: Improved Over its Predecessor

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I recently had the opportunity to try the Feiyu a2000 gimbal. I've worked with a few camera-stabilizing systems before, and have only recently begun to feel more comfortable with them, so I was happy to try another system. Now, truth be told, I have always felt that for free-form work—I shoot handheld—and for anything else, that is what tripods, dollies, and jibs are for. Also, I'm over 50 now, so rig weight has become more of an issue for me. When the a2000 arrived, I found there was an opportunity to compare it to the now discontinued Feiyu MG V2, which is an earlier model, so I snagged that one, as well—just to give myself a baseline comparison. Unfortunately, I didn't have any shoots scheduled, but I was able to fly my mirrorless camera for a few hours with each rig, on various adventures.

The MG V2

This is a one-handed gimbal stabilizer, and it includes the components needed to convert it into a two-handed stabilizer, all without requiring tools. It is pretty nifty, and I appreciated the engineering and attention to detail. It also came in a fitted foam soft case, which was a nice touch. Performance, once set up and balanced, was good, but more on that in a bit. I did find the MG V2 to be frustrating to set up. I was using a mid-sized mirrorless camera, and it took me a very long time to get it balanced on the rig.

Feiyu MG V2

The directions were helpful, but the issues I had were as follows: the camera tie-downs and balance adjustment screws were all D-ring/Allen key combination. So, you could use either method to tighten and loosen, but the D-rings were small, and they hurt my fingers, and using them prevented me from using the entire travel of the plate. The camera slides on the plate, which is removable from the gimbal, but that involved two more screws, and once I had the plate assembled with camera on it, I couldn't seem to get it balanced. I did read in the instructions about the further adjustments that could be made by loosening the hubs around the tilt and roll motors. This allowed me to adjust the length of the gimbal's “arms” (for want of a better word) and balance the camera better. However, I never felt I could get the balance quite right. It is a clean and neat system, but as far as using it, let me just report that at one point one of the hubs got locked in the loose position, and I had to take the camera off the rig so I could free up the hub and tighten it down. Once set up, flying the camera was a pleasant experience, and the built-in joystick worked well for pans and being able to tweak the camera position, but I never felt comfortable with it, and I was quickly ready to move on to the a2000 the next day.

Feiyu a2000 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal

The a2000

This unit is also a one-handed gimbal stabilizer and, after my previous day's experience with the MG V2, I wasn't sure what to expect. When I opened it, I found that it only came in a box with custom cut foam and no travel case of any kind. There were no components included to turn this standard model into a two-handed gimbal; however, they are available as part of the 2-Hand Kit. So, the first inspection did not bode well for the a2000, but that is where the disappointment ended. I noticed that the a2000 is beefier than the MG V2, and those locking adjustment hubs and D-ring screws were gone. The a2000 uses thumbscrews and wing head screws for tying down the camera and adjusting the balance, a welcome improvement.

Feiyu a2000 3-Axis Gimbal & 2-Hand Holder Kit

Camera balancing was a whole lot simpler, and the amount of time I felt like I was adjusting a rag doll went from interminable, with the MG V2, to barely noticeable with the a2000. Plus, the camera plate was now more like a standard tripod plate, and a simple pressure mechanism that clamps down on the plate to secure it is very familiar and allowed for fast tweaks to the balance. About the plate, itself, roughly half the length of the plate had a slot for the captive 1/4"-20 tie-down screw, the other half offered a series of individual 1/4"-20 screw holes. I'm not sure I see the advantage of the individual holes over the slot, and certainly not in having both systems on the same plate, but it turned out not to be an issue. Also noteworthy is the spring-loaded safety catch that prevents the plate from accidentally sliding off the gimbal—a nice touch. The front of the plate includes a 1/4"-20 mounting hole for the included lens support. That should always face forward, because it allows the safety catch to work.

All these improvements bolstered my enthusiasm, and I set off on my day's adventures. First up was doing moves on a small race track my daughters had set up. This meant shooting in inverted or low mode which, combined with the built-in joystick, quickly had my shots going from simple side-tracking shots of the cars, which is all I had planned on being able to get, to shooting head-on shots and following with the cars as they made turns and twists on the track. Look at that, low-angle shots, with movement, and I didn't even have to get down on my knees. I shot more footage than I would have if I was shooting handheld, I shot faster and with more angles and takes. Best of all, I wasn't the least bit winded, sore, or frustrated. It was fun, and I felt more creative when shooting, instead of having to balance what I wanted with what I could physically get. Hmmmm, perhaps there is something to this whole one-handed gimbal shooting thing, after all.

After the battery-powered model car experience, it was off to do some running around. I packed my daughters up and into the car, and I gave my youngest—she's 9—the gimbal to hold as we drove around. We were out of inverted mode, and she was happily framing shots using the joystick. While I wouldn't say the footage is smooth as glass, it does have a nice handheld feel—just what you would expect to see from footage shot inside a car—shot by an experienced cameraperson and not a 9-year-old holding a gimbal for the first time, that is. We arrived our location, and I retrieved the gimbal. Although it was beefier than the one I used the day before, holding it was no problem, walking and shooting, and climbing over some concrete blocks by the water's edge that I frequent, was about as natural as it would have been without the gimbal. If I needed both hands to climb, I could easily power-off the gimbal and put it down. I also found that I could take stills while the camera was mounted on the gimbal, and for most shots, even low-angle shots I wanted to frame using the eyepiece and not the LCD screen, I didn't have to remove the camera from the gimbal, just power it down.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the a2000 is a big improvement over the MG V2. Range of motion was excellent, and I never once stressed out the gimbal or caused the dreaded paralyzing motor shake and shut down. I felt at ease shooting, not at all encumbered or weighed down. Just the opposite, in fact—I got more shots, not just more takes, but more interesting shots, which was a bonus that I did not expect.

Have you had any experience with either of these gimbal stabilizers? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.

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