One of the most important aspects of cinematography is camera movement. When used correctly in a scene, it can add energy, provoke emotion, reveal locations, or even aid in editing transitions. However, camera movement can also be a tricky thing to deal with. Without it, the audience's attention can become unfocused but adding too much movement can create confusion or - in some extreme cases - lead to nausea. Luckily there are a lot of products available to filmmakers that make handling camera movement a whole lot easier.
The different types of camera movements are varied and vast as are the tools used to achieve it. There are dollies, cranes, drones, steadicams, and much, much more. One of the most popular camera movement products - especially for indie filmmakers - are motorized gimbals. They are incredibly nimble and portable and create liquid smooth movements. But the market has become greatly saturated with options. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to breakdown and compare some of the choices you have from DJI, one of the most successful brands in the industry.
We will be taking a look at every gimbal option available from DJI: The Ronin 2, Original Ronin, Ronin-M, Ronin-MX and the Ronin-S.
The ring handle form factor could be considered the most versatile of all the forms. It places the gimbal cradle in the middle of a large circular handle allowing the user to grip and hold the device however they choose. This can make operating the gimbal much more comfortable and ultimately lead to better and smoother results. Additionally, having a fully encompassed ring handle allows for much easier operation during complicated and intricate movements. For example, if you need to pass the gimbal from one operator to another through a window or over a table, having the full circle handle eases the stress of needing to be dead accurate. Instead the second operator can grab just about anywhere and continue the movement flawlessly. Finally, the ring handle also includes a built-in stand. This alleviates a lot of the operator’s stress as they can set the gimbal down just about anywhere and whenever they want. There is no need for the hassle of carrying around the separate stand.
The most widely-used form factor for gimbals is the dual handled form. Most options from DJI follow this style with a cradle hung underneath a crossbar with two handles on either side. This form has become the accepted standard in the industry and can be seen being utilized in the design of the Original Ronin, Ronin-M and Ronin-MX. This two handed form gives your camera an incredible amount of stability and freedom of movement as it is not limited by length of track like traditional dollies. In fact, the only limitation you have is how long your operator can hold it up. This issue is certainly something to keep in mind as the gimbal can become quite heavy depending on the combination of gimbal and camera being used.
One of the hottest trends in the indie film industry right now is the single-handled gimbal. With more and more shooters opting for smaller DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, single-handed gimbals such as the Ronin-S are becoming very popular. These newer models defy the standard form by placing the camera cradle on top of a single “pistol grip”-like handle instead of the traditional underslung form. These handheld gimbals are smaller, less fluid, and handle less weight than their two-handed counterparts but they offer even more flexibility and range of motion during use. These more compact models allow users to fit into tighter or more crowded spaces that would be too cramped for the larger cumbersome models.
When making the choice between the different Ronin models, the answer will almost always come down to it’s application on set.
Every Ronin has its own unique advantages and can be an excellent tool to help you create some truly fantastic images. But unless you know how to apply those advantages to your practical filmmaking needs, the machine will always be fighting you. That is why it is so important to understand the situations each device will be most helpful.
The Ronin 2 is the big dog in the DJI Ronin family. It is the biggest and heaviest of the bunch but it can handle an impressive amount of weight. It’s load capacity tops out at 30 pounds! Which means you will have no trouble fitting just about any camera including a good amount of accessories on this bad boy. This is the gimbal you’ll want to opt for when you’re making your big budget film with the big, impressive camera. It’s design has a full, circular handle around the gimbal which can be removed when using the Ronin 2’s gimbal for aerial or car mounting. The fully encompassing handle gives the user complete freedom of hand placement making it much more adaptable than any other DJI gimbal. That being said, you’ll definitely need to bulk up if you want to operate this gimbal as it weighs in at a staggering 14 pounds before the camera. It is highly suggested to use the Ronin 2 alongside a ready-rip or easy-rig to help alleviate some of that weight. The Ronin 2 is hands down the most advanced gimbal DJI offers and is no slouch when pitted against the likes of the Freefly Movi gimbals and others.
The Original Ronin is the one that started it all. This was the first entry into the now extensive line up of motorized gimbals offered by DJI. It’s a great power house option in the gimbal world and based on its form factor and size, will give you the most stable results of the DJI products available at Eleven04. It can handle a vast majority of camera set-ups and is the only DJI option Eleven04 offers which comfortably fits the bigger, non-dslr cameras. It’s weight capacity is around 16 lbs which will easily handle nearly all the cinema cameras when paired with a moderately sized lens. Though it is important to note that when attempting to fly longer cameras such as the FS7, you will need the cradle extension arms in order to fit the lengthier body. The extension arms will also come in handy if you intend to fly with longer lenses such as the Fujinon MK series or other cine zooms. Finally, for the ever-popular low budget film camera/lens combo of mirrorless body with cine lens, your best bet is the Original Ronin. While you may be able to get away with one of the smaller gimbals for this combo, the headache you will create for yourself during camera balancing will prove to be more effort than it’s worth.
The Ronin-M is an excellent middle of the road option. While it can only handle about half the weight of the original version (about 8 lbs), it is smaller, lighter, easier to maneuver and still creates excellent results. This would be an excellent option for filmmakers who are using smaller cameras like DSLRs and mirrorless cameras but still want the silky smooth images created by the dual-handled form factor. Although we have seen some people balance large cinema cameras on the Ronin-M, we at Eleven04 do not advise it. The results will be merely usable at best and the added weight will do a number on the motor resulting in less stability and much lower battery life. Ultimately, your images will suffer.
At a glance, you may not immediately notice the differences between the Ronin-M and the Ronin-MX. While the distinction between the two is subtle, the MX model does offer some unique features that set it apart. First, the MX gets a small boost in weight capacity increasing to 10 pounds over the M’s eight. This decision was most likely implemented as a way to capture users of bigger cameras such as the RED community. Additionally, the MX features a brand new camera cradle design. It replicates a similar style to that of the Freefly Movi gimbals with its fully encompassing cage with cold shoe mount for the top of your camera. This allows for some extra stability especially when using longer lenses. The Ronin-MX also aims to solve some common problems seen throughout the gimbal user community - one of which is battery life. When using a gimbal in its most primary function - balancing a camera - most gimbal batteries can last a reasonable amount of time. However, as soon as you start adding accessories into the mix, the life span of that battery drops drastically. That’s why DJI has included two battery slots on the MX. The first slot remains in the typical location on the back of the gimbal while the second is added above the cradle horizontally. The slot on top is used to power the gimbal while the slot on the back is dedicated specifically for accessories such has monitors or video transmitters. The last feature which truly makes the MX stand out from the crowd is its ability to be used for aerial photography. It is fully compatible with DJI’s M600 aerial system and now boasts full 360 degrees of rotation to allow for the most versatility when flying. The Ronin-MX is a great choice for filmmakers who are looking for a bit of extra stability while maintaining a smaller and lighter form factor or for anyone doing aerial videography.
The newest addition to the DJI professional gimbal line up is the Ronin-S and it’s one of the hottest single-handed gimbals on the market. It provides the user with the most flexibility and freedom of movement when compared to the other options at DJI. Its weight capacity is the same as the Ronin-M which means anything more than a DSLR is going to start pushing it’s motor to the limit. However, larger cameras should not be the application of this gimbal. Instead, the Ronin-S is perfect for shooting events, weddings, real estate videos, concerts, or anywhere else where the wider frame of the dual handled gimbals would get in the way. Plus it has the best battery life by an extremely wide margin, clocking in at twelve continuous hours when balanced correctly.
Almost every company has their own app these days and DJI is no exception. In fact, DJI has two separate apps for their gimbal products. These apps allow you to have advanced control over your DJI devices and fine-tune your settings to fit your specific needs or preferences. The unfortunate part is that the apps will not work across the board on every DJI device. Rather, you’ll have to match the gimbal with the correct app in order for everything to function properly. Luckily, it’s not too complicated as the apps themselves are easy enough to differentiate. The older app is called DJI Assistant. It is black with a blue ring around the DJI. The newer app is simply called Ronin and has a red ring around the Ronin logo. The blue, older app controls all the older ronin models including the Original Ronin, Ronin-M and Ronin-MX. The newer red app controls the newer Ronin models, the Ronin 2 and the Ronin-S