Every year I always get quite excited to check out new mobile gimbals coming to the market. They’re definitely useful tools for mobile film makers or online content creators. We’ve used them in the past to cover particular events or product launches. So last year, we had the Smooth Q3 on the bench and liked it very much. Sure we had a couple of gripes, but who makes the perfect product right? A year later, and today we’ve got the Smooth Q4 on the desk. Has Zhiyun addressed the gripes we found last year? Of course, there’ll be a card in the corner to our older review if you want to check that out. So, with all that said and done, let’s dive into the Zhiyun Smooth Q4 review. What changes have been made, and are they welcome additions?
The biggest change and most notable between last year’s Smooth Q3 and the Smooth Q4 of 2022 is in the handle itself. It’s a lot longer and has a decent amount of grip thanks to the wide surface area of the grip pad. Though strangely, the Smooth Q4 almost feels like it’s been built for left-handed use, as the grip wraps around the left-hand side of the handle, and can really hug the hand. I suppose though this could be advantageous, for me anyway as I’m right-handed, as it leaves my dominant hand free to change important phone camera settings on the fly.
The button placement is pretty identical to last year’s model which is good for me as I didn’t have a problem with this. On the sides, you can find a power button, a USB Type-C input for charging and a scroll wheel which used to be a slider on last year’s model and can be used for zooming your camera. Around the front, you’ve got a Mode button, a start/stop record button and finally an analogue stick to move the gimbal head. There’s still a trigger button which will lock the gimbal head when held down. Two taps will centre the gimbal and three taps switch between vertical and horizontal filming. If you press it once, it activates SmartFollow 3.0, which is a super useful feature if you’re going to be blogging or even filming a subject that’s moving, like in sports. When extended the Smooth Q4 has a height of around 31 centimetres. There is now though which was a surprise, an extendable arm which adds an extra 22 centimetres of reach giving you an opportunity to get more creative with overhead shots or even shots closer to the ground without the need to awkwardly crouch down.
There is now a quick folding design to store the gimbal away, which is certainly a welcome change from last year’s sliding design. It’s not as small when broken down as the Q3, but you can build it a lot faster to get into the action a lot quicker, so swings and roundabouts here I think. What can also be removed is the bottom tripod legs to get a smaller form factor. The whole thing when folded down though, without the tripod legs has a size of around 19 centimetres in height and seven centimetres in width, so not too bad at all, and could easily fit inside a coat pocket. At the bottom, you can also find holes for the wrist strap, though was such a struggle to attach that I gave up in the end and went without. Even using a small pin I couldn’t manage to feed the rope through the given holes.
There’s been an interesting change on the gimbal head, and that’s the two folding flaps that make up the phone clamp. These fold in again to give it less real estate when folded. The clamp extended a maximum of eight centimetres which is perfectly fine for a good number of phones, if not all phones available on the market, and offers a decent amount of clamping force so you’re able to whip around the gimbal without the fear of your phone falling out. A new addition to the Smooth Q4 is the addition of a magnetic fill light that attaches to the top of the clamp. No longer is this stuck in place like it was on older models, but can now be removed. you can turn it on and off using a long press on the zoom scroll wheel, and single taps change the brightness or power of the light, and also comes with various coloured filters so you can get the right look for your video.
Everything as usual runs through the Zhiyun ZY Cami app, which is available on both Android and iOS app stores. It is the partner app which opens up a bunch of features that work in conjunction with the Smooth Q4 gimbal. First time installers will see users accepting privacy policies and terms and conditions and all that, but once you’re on the home screen, you’re greeted with a number of tutorials and examples of what other people have shot to give you some inspiration. The middle plus button will take you to a menu to allow you to access to your creator tools, which consist of Create and Quick Edit, of which Create is for longer format video, and Quick Edit is for your TikToks and Instagram Reels. You’ve got templates to choose from which include transitions and overlays and finally Upload, where you can add image and video content stored on your phone to the ZY Cami app to make videos.
Clicking the camera button on the top left of the homepage took me to the actual camera built into the app. But before reaching that I needed to turn my phone’s Bluetooth on to connect to the gimbal. It found the device straight away and worked well. What didn’t though is when I was offered a firmware update, and my gimbal was under 50% battery. It wouldn’t let me update the firmware, and it also wouldn’t let me update the firmware when the gimbal was plugged into a charger. I had to physically wait to charge the device and then try again. The gimbal also never accepted update version 1.8 for me, and kept prompting me every time I clicked the shoot button to update, so eventually, I just ignored the update and proceeded with testing camera functionality.
The camera app allows filming at up to 4K resolution at either 24 or 30fps. If you drop this to 1080p, you get access to up to 60fps and dropping it to 720p you again can film up to 60fps. You’ve got some video modes you can flick between as well, including a panoramic mode, a dolly zoom for that cinematic background movement effect, a timelapse and finally a hyperlapse, which is essentially a faster timelapse. You’ve also got a SMART mode which helps you create templated videos, which will look quite effective for social media use, and an AiLive mode which is for essentially livestreaming which you can choose a few services, and even use an RMTP key for YouTube and Twitch. You’ve got gesture control too to remotely activate filming
Diving into the gimbal settings you’ve got the chance to change your shooting settings, like adding a Bluetooth microphone, white balance, and if you want a grid, like for your rule of thirds. There are also options to change your scene mode for running or walking, which strengthens the arm to reduce any noticeable jolts to the frame and also your joystick speed. The gimbal itself comes with its usual Pan Follow, Lock, Follow, POV and Vortex, and for the most part, I stuck to Pan Follow, but it’s nice to know there are some cool features there for those budding film-makers out there.
The Zhiyun Smooth Q4 is a decent piece of kit, that Zhiyun have really taken feedback from and even inspiration from the wider mobile gimbal market. Looking at you DJI. It’s a cost-effective way of bringing some quality to your mobile shoots, and if you’re someone who likes to film a lot of footage when out and about, or choose to use your phone while covering events and the like, then definitely check out the Smooth Q4. It’s a wicked gimbal.