Introducing the Zhiyun-Tech Crane-M3 Gimbal

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Made for shooters on the move, the Zhiyun-Tech Crane-M3 three-axis gimbal stabilizes mirrorless cameras, action cams, and smartphones, giving you smooth pans, steady slider movements, and engaging crane-style lifts. This is an easy-to-use accessory that elevates your handheld footage and boosts your production value.

Three-axis stabilization technology damps camera shake.
Three-axis stabilization technology damps camera shake.

As Seen on TV

Filmmakers will appreciate how versatile this device is, allowing you to get a wide variety of shots, freeing you from being clamped to your tripod. Slowly pushing in on your subject can create a sense of urgency, that time is of the essence. This effect was used extensively in the new Netflix film, Kate, in which the viewer intrinsically understands that, like a swimming shark, Kate is unable to pause even for a moment. Likewise, at other points the camera rotates around Kate, encircling her so the audience feels immersed in the scene by seeing her in a 360-degree view. With the Crane-M3, these advanced techniques will be in your wheelhouse.

The Crane M-3 is light enough to carry for hours.
The Crane M-3 is light enough to carry for hours.

I was able to execute a few interesting camera moves with the Crane-M3 that would have been completely unusable if I had tried to do them handheld. Walking around a park, I held the camera high up in the leaves of a tree, then craned down past the branches in the foreground to reveal a pleasant scene—a flower-covered hill with a stream flowing through. Next in the sequence was a slider shot, floating past the tops of the flowers while bees hopped around searching for nectar. The third clip revealed the stream as it fell from one boulder into a deep pool. I was able to hold the camera very close to the surface of the water, using the gimbal like an action handle to extend my reach to backlight the droplets. If I had needed to use a tripod, it would have taken me five times as long to frame each shot properly, and even then they would have looked static in comparison. Simply put, this device improves the experience of shooting just as much as it boosts your production value.

Intuitive controls allow you to pan and tilt on the fly.
Intuitive controls allow you to pan and tilt on the fly.

Smooth Controls

I appreciated what I call the “easy ease” setting of the joystick that controls the orientation of the camera with pan and tilt. Depending on the smoothness setting, a press of the joystick will start the camera moving very slowly, then just as seamlessly come to a stop after you release the input. In other words, you can jab the stick around and the viewer will never know the difference. The only skill is anticipating the action and predicting where the camera should land.

Create virtual walk-throughs that are smooth and stable.
Create virtual walk-throughs that are smooth and stable.

Real-World Applications

Aside from filmmaking, this tool is ideal for practical videography. Take real estate, for example. People want to see more than just photos of an apartment. Many apartments I see these days (and yes, I am deep in this process at the moment) offer walk-through videos. Unfortunately, the first impression of the place is diminished by the shaky, “Cloverfield-esque” look. If you’re going for the Million Dollar Listing aesthetic, I’d highly recommend investing in this brilliant piece of technology.

Keep up with the wedding as it moves from the ceremony to the reception.
Keep up with the wedding as it moves from the ceremony to the reception.

At several points in a camera operating career, I’ve found myself being jostled around on a bumpy, dirt road, filming the driver. This would have been an ideal time to have the Crane M-3. I have no doubt the footage would have turned out much less distracting for the viewer. Similarly, I’ve relied on weighted gimbals in the past, but they have a tendency to sway back and forth like a sailor without his sea legs. Those issues are eliminated with this motorized, three-axis gimbal.

Vloggers can control the camera from arm’s length.
Vloggers can control the camera from arm’s length.

Speaking of issues, the few I did have were quickly resolved. At several points, the gimbal began twitching and jittering. The solution was a quick recalibration, at which point the gimbal does a few automated test movements to get a feel for how much inertia the camera has, so it knows how much force is required to keep the camera level. I also had an issue tilting directly face-down at the ground to get a shot of the stream. I got around it by tilting the camera on the GoPro mount, but that option would not be available to mirrorless camera users.

Final Thoughts

Filmmaking has always been a blend of artistry and technology. In 2021, a motorized gimbal is almost essential because audiences demand professional, smooth movements to keep them engaged. For the mirrorless shooter, this piece of tech enables you to mimic slider, dolly, and Steadicam shots with much less equipment. Unless camera shake is written into the script, it’s probably best to mount your camera on the Crane M-3 and take advantage of its incredible three-axis design.

What are your thoughts on the Crane M-3? Start the conversation in the Comments section, below.

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