Getting a gimbal for your GoPro can significantly enhance the quality of your video, while at the same time providing you with more options for how you want to use it. In fact, the jump in quality is so significant, that it’s something every GoPro owner should strongly consider. In this full buyer’s guide, we will look at how to choose the best gimbal for GoPro and will also consider how to make the most of it.
Why a GoPro Gimbal
If you’re going to be snowboarding, free running or surfing and you want to capture all the action in high resolution then there is only one solution: find a GoPro camera.
GoPros are incredibly durable, waterproof (sometimes with the help of an additional case), and high resolution cameras that mount to your head, dashboard, board or anything else whenever you’re doing something incredibly awesome and you want people to see.
The idea is simple: attach one to your helmet, mount one to your car dashboard or surfboard, or even send it sky high with a drone; and then you’ll be able to capture amazing video and stills of events that would otherwise be hard to capture. You’re not going to want to take your expensive DSLR camera with you skydiving or snorkeling… but a GoPro is another story!
But of course, you already know that. Why is that? Because GoPros happen to be everywhere and are incredibly successful. And they’re successful for a reason as well – that reason being that they happen to be really well made and highly useful.
If you want to get the very most out of them though, then you need a gimbal. In this complete buyer’s guide, you’ll find out what a gimbal is and how to make the most of them. At the same time, we’ll also go over 5 of the very best GoPro gimbals on the market today.
Last update on 2018-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Gimbal for GoPro: Top Five
Before we get into the details of why you need a gimbal for your GoPro or how to use them, first let’s take a look at five of the best for you to consider.
YI 4K Action Camera Bundled 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer Selfie Stick Bluetooth Remote Travel Case(US Edition) Night Black
The Y1 4K gimbal is an ideal choice for stabilizing not just GoPros, but a whole range of different cameras. Not only that, but it also doubles as a selfie stick (more on this later) allowing you to grab photos of yourself wherever you are.
It has the ability to perform pans, tilts, and zooms (which can also be used for creative videography) and it attaches very quickly and easily.
FeiyuTech G360 Panoramic Camera Gimbal 360 Degree Unlimited Compatible with Samsung 360 Sony X3000R Kodak SP360 Action Camera iPhones Smart Phones
While it’ not listed among the compatible camera in the title, the FeiyuTech G360 gimbal will work just fine with the leading action camera. It has a ton of different features and uses too, being a very high end option.
For instance, it allows you to get panning shots which is ideal for getting those panoramas. Not only that, but it has a very impressive battery life of up to 6 hours.
Bestablecam SteadyGim3 Pro 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for GoPro
This is a hand-held gimbal that is one of the most popular among GoPro owners. It doesn’t just stabilize your videos (which it does very well) but can also provide a ton of other creative options such as a ‘head lock mode’ and a joystick control mode.
The tray supports GoPros as well as Xiaoyi and SJ4000 cameras. In short, this is actually one of the very best hand-held gimbals available for GoPro.
GoPro Camera Karma Grip
This is an official accessory for the GoPro, which is always encouraging. It acts not only as a gimbal, but also just as a grip (as the name suggests). Meaning what exactly? Meaning that you’re going to be able to hold onto this nice and easily thanks to the ergonomic design and the textured finish. It can help to prevent accidents that end up losing your GoPro in other words!
And what’s more, is that the GoPro Camera Karma Grip is compatible with many GoPro mounts, meaning that you can also attach this to your car, or surfboard, or helmet – and get the same smooth footage.
Hohem 3 Axis Stabilizer Handheld Aluminum Electronic Full 360 Degrees Gimbal
This is a 360 degree gimbal that comes with a great carry case and an app to give you control from your smartphone (it’s Bluetooth compatible). This one is also notable for being one of the most affordable gimbals out there. Also gives you control via a 5-way joystick and a multi-function switch.
Why You Need Stabilization
So, why precisely do you need a gimbal anyway?
GoPros are amazing but they’re not perfect of course. The best GoPros will offer some form of video stabilization. These tend to be the more expensive and modern models though, and with the earlier and cheaper options, you might find there is zero stabilization.
That said, even the more modern implementations of image stabilization utilize something called ‘EIS’ or ‘Electronic Image Stabilization’ as opposed to the superior, and preferable ‘OIS’ or ‘Optical Image Stabilization’.
What does all this mean? Well, stabilization is what helps to keep a video looking smooth – and it also helps to steady a photo so that you can avoid those unwanted blurs that happen when your hand wobbles (especially in low light). Without any stabilization, you need to keep your hand much stiller when taking photos (ideally by using a tripod) or you need to keep a fast shutter speed. The latter is generally fine for action shots (which the GoPro is technically intended for) but not so useful if you want to use your GoPro on holiday as your general camera.
Likewise, stabilization is an absolute must for video – as otherwise it will jerk around and look difficult to watch. You’ll end up creating the ‘handheld cam’ effect used in the Bourne movies, but to a much more extreme and unwatchable extent.
And here’s the kicker: the jerkier and the faster the footage, the more this is going to be a problem. And guess what? GoPro cameras are 100% designed to be taken down mountains and thrown around. That footage is incredibly shaky. And this can result in something that is nigh unwatchable in some cases – a real shame when you just put your life on a limb in order to get that awesome video!
Now you might be wondering whether you can fork out for the more expensive GoPros and get the EIS to solve this problem. The problem is that EIS is significantly inferior to OIS.
Whereas OIS works by suspending the lens of the camera inside a separate unit that will help it to remain physically upright at all times, EIS on the other hand uses software and calculation to solve the problem instead. It has in-built sensors that allow it to detect movement, and it then attempts to compensate for those movements within the video. So, if the camera appears to jerk suddenly left, it will attempt to jerk the footage suddenly right at the same rate in order to fix the issue.
But there are several problems with EIS. For one, it is only as good as the programming and the sensors. The best EIS in the world is still going to let some jerkiness through and will prove inferior to OIS. That’s true of modern smartphones like the Huawei P20 Pro that includes an ‘NPU’ or ‘Neural Processing Unit’ – a highly advanced chip that is designed to mimic the logic processing of the human brain. A GoPro is still a relatively cheap, basic camera. And it is subjected to some of the jerkiest and fastest movements of any camera. So, it can only do so much.
What’s more is that EIS can actually create new problems. For instance, you might find that certain objects in the world appear to move strangely as the EIS has mistaken them for movements in the camera.
And then there’s the fact that EIS needs to crop in on the image. In other words, it removes the edges of the scene in order to then use that additional information when correcting for the movement. One of the best things about the GoPro line is that the cameras are so wide-angle, allowing you to get lots of action into each shot. If you use EIS, then you will reduce some of that wide angle and lose one of the best features of the camera!
Enter: The Gimbal
So that’s why you need the gimbal – it is an external attachment that essentially provides you with OIS for your GoPro.
The device uses motors and gyroscopic sensors to keep your camera entirely still providing you with incredibly smooth footage that looks almost professional in quality. Even when you’re using your GoPro for dangerously going nuts – as it was intended – a gimbal will still be able to provide you with steady footage.
So, hold it out with one arm while you’re skateboarding, and you should get a pretty smooth shot. Likewise, with a mounted gimbal.
But GoPro cameras are also just great value cameras that deliver high quality images and video. That means you might sometimes want to use your GoPro for other things – which is another place that a handheld steady gimbal can come in handy.
It’s awesome for budding film makers who want to create professional video on a budget but it’s also something you can make use of in other ways – for example, we’ve already seen that being able to keep your camera steadier is very useful when you’re taking photos in low light for instance. A lot of people will take GoPros on holiday with them and use them as their primary cameras. A gimbal can make that all the more useful!
Another Use for Your GoPro Gimbals: How to Take the Perfect Selfie
Technology has had many impacts on our lifestyles but among the most noticeable is the huge increase in photos. There was a time that taking photos was something that happened only on special occasions. Even then, we would have to wait for days or even weeks for a roll of film to be used up and then sent away before the developed photos would come back. Today though, we take photos of the most inane, everyday things and then upload them to Instagram, while Facebook is filled with photos of friends down the pub and other events that would hardly constitute anything ‘special’.
And one of the strangest side effects of this is the ‘selfie’. The selfie of course is a photo taken with a camera phone pointing back at ourselves and it has become something of a sensation.
Whatever you think of the selfie, there is simply no escaping it. Even if you try and avoid taking selfies of your own, you are almost sure to be asked to pose for them with friends and so it’s worth learning how to make them look good at least. And if you are somewhat partial to the selfie yourself, then you can look back at your selfies one day and perhaps cringe just a little less.
As it happens, your GoPro gimbal actually doubles as a very handy selfie-stick for those that want to take their GoPros on holiday with them and capture the sites behind them, or those that use their GoPros as their main cameras.
So, how do you take the perfect selfie anyway?
The first thing to recognize is that a good selfie should be taken from above so that you’re looking up at the camera. This has the immediate effect of making your eyes look bigger and your face look slimmer – whereas holding the camera from directly in front or slightly from underneath can actually make your chin look bigger which is obviously a lot less flattering.
The only exception to this rule is if you have a receding hairline or bald patch, in which case you should hold it directly out in front.
This is where the gimble comes in very handy right away – it allows you to hold your GoPro at a greater distance than you otherwise might be able to, therefore achieving different angles.
Girls have a habit of pouting in selfies which of course can make their lips look bigger and cheeks more defined, but it also has a very self-conscious effect as well. Of course, you can try and pull off the ‘ironic-but-I-still-look-good’ pout, but this isn’t easy and it may well backfire. Likewise attempting to look nonchalant won’t really work either seeing as you are taking a photo of yourself from close proximity – pretending to be disinterested isn’t fooling anyone.
Instead then, just smiling normally is a much better way to look less self-conscious and the photos will be much better for it. Or why not experiment with something a little different? You can look in awe of your surrounds for instance, or determined ready for the jump you’re about to take!
If you are taking a photo of someone else, then it’s important to consider lighting and how that will flatter their features. Ideally, you’ll want to aim for ‘Rembrandt’ lighting which lights the face more on one side.
Just because you’re taking a selfie doesn’t mean that this sort of composition needs to go out of the window: try to stand with the light source to your side and just slightly in front of your face and the result will look much better.
When you take a selfie the background becomes almost an afterthought which is partly what gives them their appeal as a humorous way to show off what you’re been doing. Make sure though that you don’t obscure the background too much with your head as otherwise no one will know where you are. And if the backgrounds don’t change or provide much context, then every single selfie becomes the exact same…
Of course, when using the GoPro as a travel companion, you might well be using selfies to show off all the great locations you’ve visited. The wide angle lens is perfect for this and with a gimbal, you can create some truly spectacular shots. Just try to think about the best angle (where does that canyon look best?) as well as the lighting.
There are plenty of ways you can get more from a GoPro. A gimbal is one excellent option, but you could likewise get a drone for instance for some amazing aerial photography.
Whether you want to use this as a way to cheaply create cinematic videography, better photography, or smooth action films… consider which of these is the best gimbal for GoPro for you.