For any budding filmmaker, a gimbal can be a great bit of kit. To have the ability to grab those smooth panning shots without having to lug around a large tripod and fluid head can be essential to getting a great shot. And now, with mobile phone cameras becoming better and better with each new flagship release, it’s no wonder that people are turning to mobile to create their films. Just look at some of the short films that have been made in the past, like the black and white Bentley advert shot on an iPhone, or even Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane, which was shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus.
But to get a smooth shot you’re going to need some more equipment. Even the most steadiest of hands can’t eliminate camera shake all together, which is why we’re taking a look at the Benro 3XSLITE mobile gimbal, a cheap budget solution for filmmakers, and one that is also very feature rich. the Benro 3XSLITE retails for £90 RRP and is available now to purchase from the Benro website.
So what are you getting for your £90? Well, a mobile gimbal that can shoot in either horizontal or vertical aspect ratios, and to switch between the two is as simple as clicking a button on the side of the gimbal’s handle. But more on features in a moment.
The gimbal itself is very light, and even with my Google Pixel 3 clamped in place, I never once felt fatigued while shooting. A gimbal is designed for run and gun videography, so it must be light. The majority of the gimbal is made from plastic to keep the weight down, but is sturdy enough to survive a few bumps and scrapes while in use or while you’re transporting it to a shoot. It also folds down when not in use to about the size of a large phone and comes with a felt bag to protect it from scratches.
All buttons are within reach of your thumb except for a trigger that’s placed at the front for your first finger. The trigger is designed to hold the gimbal’s position in place, when usually it follows the movement and motion of the handle. The buttons on front include a joystick which manually manoeuvres the gimbal head, as well as a record button and enter menu button. These require a Bluetooth connection to your mobile and the ‘Benro Gimbal’ partner app to take advantage of. You will also need to use the app to calibrate the gimbal. It requires an initial balancing, but this is simple enough by sliding a phone between the clamps. Nothing complex like you would typically find on a DSLR gimbal.
There’s also a couple of customisable buttons that you can set to trigger certain actions of your choice within the app. It’s a nice way to activate a function quickly. Down the side you have a manual focus and zoom slider, a 3.5mm auxiliary input for an external microphone and a USB Type-C input for charging the gimbal itself. The battery life will last for around 24 hours worth of use.
The entire product works extremely well, and adds a whole level of smoothness to your footage. I only wish I had it earlier for my trip to Japan, it would have worked amazing out there instead of relying on my phone’s image stabilisation. As a tip when using the gimbal though, I would turn off your phone’s image stabilisation, as the gimbal and phone image stabilisation may combat eachother to give you the smoother image. When I had both turned on, I was getting a strange but minimal warping effect on my video, so I just relied on the gimbal
Inside the app, things again are very simple to setup and use. The app doubles as a video recorder, with all the settings you will need around the outskirts of the phone. By default the video recorder app is set to standard video, in which it records at your phone’s capable resolution. Using the controls on the Benro 3XSLITE, gave me the option to take photographs, shoot slow motion footage or a timelapse. When inside the timelapse option, I had the choice to set intervals, shutter speed and how long I wanted my timelapse video to last. Timelapses can also feature some dynamic movement too to make your results more interesting.
There are some features as well that are extremely interesting and that’s to do with object tracking which includes faces. It makes it a lot easier to stick the gimbal in a position, and let it do the work for you. Your very own cameraman. If you wanted to perform some kind of stunt in front of the camera, say on a skateboard for example, then you can set the Benro 3XSLITE to track your skateboard or face to capture the trick. Lastly, there’s a tripod mount on the bottom with a 1/4 inch thread so you can mount it to various mounting accessories, making shooting action hands free even easier. There is an included stand though in the box to get you started.
I like this gimbal a lot. The Benro 3XSLITE performs extremely well, and has improved my mobile video shooting ten-fold. Pair what you shoot on this gimbal with the Adobe Premiere app, if you’re a subscriber of course, and you could create some pretty wonderful masterpieces. It is feature packed, and I especially love the ability to plug in an external microphone. For vloggers, or Instagram videographers looking to up the quality of your mobile videos, this could be the gimbal for you. For more information, head over to the Benro website.