Leon Rose puts away his shoulder rig and tries out some pieces of kit that are becoming ubiquitous in video creation, with two of Moza’s range of handheld gimbals
Those of you out there shooting video may already be familiar with the Osmo gimbals and the Zhiyun crane. I have used both for video projects, and I love the flexibility and freedom that a gimbal can give. Once you master one of these, you won’t need your shoulder rig again, and you will find yourself using the monopod or tripod much less. Bloggers will find them useful, and they’re a great way of following any talent and filming quickly.
THE MOZA MINI-MI SMARTPHONE GIMBAL was the first one I looked at. Out of the box, you get batteries, a screw-on tripod base, charging cable, and the gimbal itself, all packaged in a smart case with foam interior and a semi-hard shell. The case is light and would make travelling with this unit easy. The tripod base makes it easy to put your unit down anywhere when shooting, and it also acts as a small extension to the handle.
Apart from the core purpose of a gimbal — providing smooth, vibration-free footage — the Moza Mini-MI has many additional features. One of my favourite features is the ability to shoot and charge simultaneously. It has a 5V charging port on the bottom of the handle, allowing you to power the gimbal with a powerbank while shooting. Also, if that’s not enough, Moza also had the foresight to add a 5V 2A port on the pitch arm to plug and continuously power the phone unit, allowing you to shoot all day without needing to recharge either the gimbal or your phone. There is also an option to wirelessly charge your phone if you have a newer model — iPhone X / 8 / 7 / 7 Plus / 6 / 6 Plus or Samsung Galaxy S8 +/ S8 / S7 / S6 / S5. This is the preferred option, as you won’t have cables in your way. I believe this is the first gimbal to incorporate wireless charging, so it’s a big plus.
I really liked the ergonomically designed handle; it’s very comfortable and easy to hold. Although the body is made of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap, and the addition of a joystick makes shooting intuitive and effortless. There are four screw mounts available on the unit, allowing you to connect an external microphone or a small video light.
Operationally, this unit is as good as anything that I have tried. The first step is to download the Moza Genie app from the App Store or Google Play. I tested it using my iPhone 7 and found the functionality much better with the app, where you can control your zoom using the wheel on the gimbal, using the centre button to shoot. You can change all your parameter settings — resolution, frame rate, crop ratios — and work between the various shooting modes.
The Timelapse mode is something I would use a lot. It gives the capability to preset a time-lapse from one point to another, similar to the much more expensive Syrp Genie. It has an independent control system for each axis, which can be controlled individually by eight follow modes. It also has a function that allows ‘inception follow’, where it sets a forward shooting position like briefcase mode on other gimbals, where you operate the joystick left or right to roll in a clockwise or anti-clockwise movement. There is also a great function called Orbit Tracking, which allows you to lock on to a subject and follow its movement. All of these controls can be incrementally tweaked in the Moza Genie app to make the movements as fast or slow as you need.
For an all-round gimbal unit for bloggers and low-cost film-makers, this is a great option. At around $160, it is priced incredibly low considering its capabilities and it would be a great travel companion, as it’s light and easy to charge.
THE MOZA AIRCROSS is the second gimbal that I tried, and, as a unit designed for mirrorless cameras, it ups the game a little. The unit can support up to 1.8kg, and, at its limit, can be used with a Canon 6D and 24–70mm lens. It is compatible with Sony α-series, Fuji XT-series, Panasonic GH-series, as well as the Nikon and Canon mirrorless models. For this test, I used my Sony α7R III with the Sony 24–70 f/4 lens.
In the box, you get a nice plastic hard case that’s not too heavy and keeps the gimbal packed down and safe to travel with. You get the gimbal head, a tripod plate (compatible with Manfrotto 501PL and Arca-Swiss quick-release plates), and the tripod to mount it on — which, like the Mini-MI, allows you to safely stand it anywhere and act as an extension if you need one. You also get a selection of USB cables to connect your camera and a powerbank.
Optional accessories include a thumb controller. This remote will set you back an extra $210 but give you amazing control, allowing the operator to control the unit from up to 50m away; the gimbal will mimic the movement of the controller. There is also a dual handle that attaches simply to the unit allowing two-handed control. Other optional extras are power-supply connectors for the Sony α-range and Panasonic GH4/5, allowing you to charge your camera directly from the Aircross power source, which is made up of three 2000mAh 3.7V batteries that can last up to 12 hours, allowing you to shoot all day on one charge. An extra three batteries will only cost you $45, but I question whether they would be necessary, as there’s also a USB input, allowing you to charge from a powerbank.
I found the Moza Aircross the simplest to set up and use of all the gimbals I have used. It was very easy to balance and quick to get into position. The Moza Assist app is seamless. I found it easy to connect and control from my phone. Similar to its little brother, the Moza Mini-MI, it has time-lapse track functionality, which is easily set up and tuned from the app.
One of its coolest features is the Auto Tune function. At the press of a button, it will tune itself in about 10 seconds, and you can save multiple parameters once set. All sensitivity is adjustable to your preferred motion control. It’s easy to change the follow controls from the app and it has all the most important follow functions. Inception mode is also available with a firmware upgrade, allowing extra cinematic effects.
All in all, I thought that this was the best in its category for mirrorless gimbals. It’s priced very competitively at $749, and, if you add the controller, the dual handle, and a power adaptor, it will set you back about $1200.
Trying out these products made me wonder how much further they can go with this tech. Already, it’s astounding how it has changed what a video-content creator can do for a low cost. It seems like every new product is changing the game. My spider shoulder rig is collecting dust in my cupboard, and my monopod isn’t getting much use either.