Zhiyun Crane V2 gimbal review

Zhiyun Crane V2 makes capturing buttery smooth video easier than ever

The Zhiyun Crane handheld, three-axis gimbal helps DSLR and mirrorless camera shooters create smooth, cinematic video by eliminating the shakiness of handheld filming. Ever since its debut in 2016, the Zhiyun Crane has been a popular gimbal with amateur and professional filmmakers alike because of its easy-to-use, one-handed operation, compact design, and sub-$1000 price ($649). However, Zhiyun Tech listened to user feedback over the past year and quietly introduced an updated version with some small but significant improvements. In our Zhiyun Crane V2 gimbal review, we look at the changes from the previous version and the features that made it so popular in the first place.

The camera footage that we captured with the Crane V2 was impressively steady, even for first-time users.

The Zhiyun Crane was one of the first gimbals for DSLR and mirrorless cameras that didn’t carry the bulk or expense of larger professional rigs like the Freefly Movi and DJI Ronin M, which remains the case for the second version. Like many gimbals, it employs self-balancing brushless motors along three axes (pan, tilt, and roll) to eliminate unwanted movement and stabilize video footage. Setting up the gimbal is as simple as attaching your camera to the mounting plate and balancing your camera to reduce stress on the motors; after that the gimbal handles the stabilization nearly effortlessly.

The gimbal body is made from machined aluminum alloy that is lightweight yet durable, making it travel friendly for filmmakers on the go. The original launched with two sets of lithium-ion batteries that allowed for a combined 12 hours of use, but the Crane V2 accomplishes the same run time with a single set of higher capacity batteries, so you can theoretically shoot all day on a single charge (you can purchase additional batteries for longer workflows, which cost about $30 each). Also new in the Crane V2 is the addition of a quick-release plate on the mounting platform, so you can quickly mount and dismount your camera from the gimbal. The Crane V2 now supports camera setups weighing up to 1,800 grams, or around 4 lbs, which is 50 percent more weight than the original Crane could handle. There is also a lens support bracket for use with larger camera lenses.

Zhiyun Crane V2 Review
Philip Chung/Digital Trends
Philip Chung/Digital Trends

While the weight of the gimbal with your camera installed might lead you to use two hands to carry it, the Crane V2 is designed for one-handed operation and the controls for the unit have been consolidated into 1-square-inch, so you can easily access all the buttons and four-way joystick with your thumb. The joystick controls pan, tilt, and roll of the camera for smooth moving and panorama shots, but you can also pair the Crane V2 with a smartphone over Bluetooth and control all its functions remotely via the mobile app (iOS and Android). The onboard shutter and zoom controls let you access camera functions without having to mess with the camera while the gimbal is operating. You do, however, need to purchase a camera control cable separately to use those functions, which are available for Sony and Panasonic cameras only.

The Crane V2 has the same three operation modes as the original, which includes a pan and follow mode, a locked mode, and a pan-and-tilt follow mode. One of the best features of the Crane V2 that remains unchanged is the use of tool-less adjustment thumb screws that let you balance the camera quickly and easily. During operation the motors are nearly silent and don’t interfere too much with captured camera audio. On the bottom of the gimbal is a 1/4-inch mounting hole so you can use it with a tripod or other mounting systems like a telescoping boom.

The camera footage that we captured with the Crane V2 was impressively steady, even for first-time users, although it does take some practice to end up with flawless gliding pans and follows. For DSLR and mirrorless camera users, the Crane V2 offers a relatively affordable way to take the next step in creating professional-looking, cinematic video. If you already have the original Zhiyun Crane, these changes probably aren’t enough to justify buying the newer version, but if this is your first gimbal, since the V2 is offered for the same list price of $649 there’s really no reason to pass on it. We even spotted it on sale recently for $100 less. Casual filmmakers or those on a budget who prefer shooting with a smartphone should checkout the Zhiyun Smooth-Q or the similarly named but unrelated Smove gimbals.