For consumers, DJI is better known for its Phantom drones, but the company also makes a lot of high-end gear for the filmmaking industry. Just announced at the 2015 NAB pro-video show is DJI’s Ronin M, a handheld, three-axis camera stabilization gimbal in its Ronin-series of non-flight videography accessories.
Using a system of brushless motors, the Ronin M keeps a camera stabilized when hand-held, whether the cameraman’s following a subject by foot or trailing behind in a car. The Ronin M is similar in function to the original Ronin, but by using a single magnesium frame instead of aluminum, DJI managed to shave the weight by almost half while keeping it rigid. The one-piece U-shape arm design also helps to reduce vibration. The Ronin M disassembles so you can transport it in almost any backpack.
The Ronin M weighs 5 pounds but can support a load of up to 8 pounds, so you can attach everything from enthusiast compact mirrorless and DSLR cameras to pro cinema cameras. A quick-release systems allow for easy mounting to tripods, cranes, jibs, aerial rigs (although the Ronin M is meant for ground-based operation), and other filmmaking equipment. Once a camera is mounted, the Ronin M balances itself via DJI’s Auto Tune Stability (ATS) technology with the press of a button – no effort on the cameraman’s part. The battery last six hours while a dedicated power distribution box provides juice to accessories.
Designed for one-man operation, the Ronin M can be held in three ways: Underslung Mode, where the rig is held in front of the cameraman at chest level; Upright Mode, where the Ronin M if turned upside down to film above eye-level; and Briefcase Mode, where it’s turned on its side to film in narrow places. Regardless of how it’s held, the Ronin M keeps the camera steady. A new Silent Mode can be enabled to shift extra power in reducing motor noise – handy in environments where the mic can easily pick up sound. The Ronin M retains the SmoothTrack Control from the original, in which the rig keeps the camera facing the correct direction without abrupt angle changes. The cameraman can also turn on Single Axis Follow Mode to lock down two axes.
The Ronin M supports second operator controls, in which another person controls the camera with a remote while the main operator concentrates on positioning the rig. The rig is customizable using the DJI Assistant smartphone app, via Bluetooth. It’s firmware upgradeable, and it’s also compatible with the optional DJI Ronin Thumb Controller for positioning the camera.
At around $2,000, the Ronin M is obviously not a casual accessory. It’s geared toward professional filmmakers, anybody who makes videos for a living, or enthusiasts who want to capture smooth, Hollywood-style shots.