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Zhiyun Smooth 5S Review | PCMag

Zhiyun Smooth 5S Review |  PCMag

The Zhiyun Smooth 5S ($169) is an upgraded version of the Smooth 5, adding a built-in fill light for shooting in dark scenes. With its many features, it’s an advanced tool to stabilize your smartphone video and add trick shots along the way. While well-suited for professionals and expert videographers, the slightly cheaper, easier-to-use DJI Osmo 6 ($159) remains our Editors’ Choice for smartphone gimbals.


Buttons and controls to spare

While DJI scaled the Osmo 6 for portability, Zhiyun made its flagship smartphone gimbal bigger, with more features for cutting-edge filmmaking. It tips the scales at 1.38 pounds, which is quite a bit heavier than the Osmo’s 0.75 pounds. In terms of physical size, it measures 12.24 x 6.61 x 2.04 inches (HWD), which is noticeably larger than the 10.9 x 4.4 x 3.9 inches of the Osmo 6.

The gimbal is available in both white and grey. We received a gray model for testing, and while it looks nice, the white model pops a bit more.

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Zhiyun Smooth 5S controller

(Credit: Dave LeClair)

The gimbal’s buttons, wheel and joystick are first class. The buttons have a pleasant tactile feel, which makes it easy and precise to control your images. The zoom wheel, which is larger than most other models we’ve tested, is particularly impressive. The extra size makes it easier to zoom in and out in small increments.

While the joystick is still small, it feels good and makes panning the gimbal a breeze. The optional slow mode allows you to create beautiful slow pans. There’s also a jog wheel used to brighten or dim the fill light (more on this below), which can help quickly change the lighting in your scene. The wheel is smooth, accurate and easy to make precise adjustments.

On the front you will find the Mode button, which changes whether you are working with POV, follow or any of the other available recording modes. There is also a menu button that opens the settings on the smartphone. Finally, there is the Record button.

Zhiyun Smooth 5S rear controller and charging port

(Credit: Dave LeClair)

The power and Fn buttons are around the right side of the gimbal, and you’ll find the shutter button on the back. The shutter button serves a few functions, such as turning on subject tracking mode. The horizontal axis lock switch and USB-C port for charging are also on the back. Another USB-C port on the arm of the gimbal can be used to charge your phone if you want to use the gimbal as a power bank.

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The build quality is quite good. The Zhiyun Smooth 5S feels solid and solid. The heavy plastic material of the gimbal does not feel cheap. The handle of the tripod is thick and covered in a rubberized grip material that helps to steady the gimbal in your hand. Even the stand, which comes with both the base 5S and the Combo kit, feels solid.

The gimbal’s battery is rated for up to 24 hours of capture time, which is significantly longer than the competition. It also supports fast charging. With a 15W charger or higher, it can be charged in as little as two hours. A cable is included in the box, but there is no charger.


Could be smoother

Setting up the Zhiyun Smooth 5S is a bit more clumsy than I’d like. While the DJI Osmo 6 lets you place your phone on the gimbal and go, the Smooth 5S requires you to unlock each of the three motors and balance your phone before you can start filming.

The Zhiyun Smooth 5S Combo Kit

(Credit: Dave LeClair)

To balance my smartphone (an Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max), I had to move the gripping slider almost all the way over. With the grip set this far over, the gimbal cannot be closed down for storage in the carrying case without unlocking it. This necessitates rebalancing the gimbal each time you use it. If you have a smaller, lighter phone, this shouldn’t be a problem. The Osmo 6, by comparison, allows you to balance the phone by moving the magnetic clamp, which you can leave on the phone between uses if you’re filming regularly. Simply put, the Smooth 5S requires more steps that make it less grab-and-go friendly.

Then there are the apps (yes, there are two apps). The Zy Cami and StaCam apps are available for both Android and iOS, though Zhiyun says the Android apps don’t support all the features available for the iPhone (it doesn’t specify which ones).

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The Zy Cami app is the simpler of the two, designed for amateur videographers who don’t want to fiddle with all the settings and modes. StaCam is for those who want to fine-tune their videos with everything from LUT presets, to ISO, to lens selection. The problem is that neither app has the most accessible user interface, which makes them less comfortable to use than DJI’s Mimo app. Also, the apps are sometimes poorly translated into English, with confusing phrasing. Of course, you can always skip the apps altogether and rely on your phone’s built-in video camera app.

There are many modes available in the apps though that help with movie making. For example, in the Zy Cami app, you can choose to take basic video, panorama, slow motion, dolly zoom, timelapse, and hyperlapse photos. With the more advanced StaCam app, you lose these modes, but gain the ability to customize every detail of your images, allowing you to create your own modes and presets.

The Zhiyun Smooth 5S is on a tripod

(Credit: Dave LeClair)

Finally, you have to switch between portrait and landscape mode manually. The Osmo 6 has a button that automatically rotates the phone and video for you. With the Smooth 5S, you have to turn off the gimbal and adjust the phone in the holder to change direction. This is a time killer.

While nothing about using the Zhiyun Smooth 5S or the apps themselves is bad, there are just a few kinks that make using them less smooth.


Illuminates the feature set

The Zhiyun Smooth 5S includes a wide range of features that make it more advanced than some competing models.

Zhiyun Smooth 5S zoom wheel

(Credit: Dave LeClair)

For example, the gimbal provides full 360-degree rotation. Many competing models cannot spin all the way around. If you want to create images where you pan and rotate 360 ​​degrees, the Zhiyun Smooth 5S can handle them.

Another thing that makes this gimbal better for professionals is the ability to support heavier phones (up to 0.66 pounds) thanks to stronger motors. While the DJI Osmo 6 struggles to support a heavy phone like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the Smooth 5S holds it lightly without straining the motors during movement.

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One of the most important upgrades over the older Zhiyun Smooth 5 is the built-in fill light. The gimbal has a light built into one arm to help illuminate nearby subjects. This can be combined with up to two optional magnetic refill lights that attach to either side of the phone clip, allowing up to three lights at once. With all three fill lights on, the gimbal generates 2040 lux at peak. There is no dedicated lighting rig, but it can help when the sun goes down.

Finally, you can use the Zhiyun Smooth 5S and its 2600 mAh battery to charge your phone. Because shooting video is one of the fastest ways to drain your phone’s battery, having extra power from your gimbal can be the difference between getting the day’s shots and having to stop to recharge.

Zhiyun Smooth 5S fill light

(Credit: Dave LeClair)

One thing the Smooth 5S lacks? A retractable selfie stick, which is one of our favorite features in DJI’s offering.


Ready for the big screen

The Zhiyun Smooth 5S isn’t perfect, but it’s still adept at its primary job: helping you capture silky-smooth footage using your smartphone’s powerful video camera. Between its robust selection of modes, built-in lighting and superb controls, the Smooth 5S is easy to recommend to anyone interested in a solid, feature-packed gimbal. But if you prefer a simpler experience that still creates stunning footage, the DJI Osmo 6 is our Editors’ Choice winner for being smaller, lighter, easier to use, and $10 cheaper.

Benefits

  • Creates ultra-smooth recording

  • More functions than the competition

  • Functional control options

  • Precise zoom wheel

  • Built-in fill light

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The bottom line

Although not as easy to use as some competing gimbals, the Zhiyun Smooth 5S helps you create stunning video footage with your phone.

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