Zhiyun Crane 2S Pro Kit Review – An Affordable Filmmaking Kit To Get You Recording At A Professional Level
As Pye mentioned in his review of the Weebill-S, “One of the most noticeable differences between professional and amateur video footage involves motion and stability. Shaky footage screams low budget and fits in more with old school homemade videos than it does professional quality content.” Over the last few years, gimbal makers have made leaps and bounds in the technology and even more impressively, the cost of these tools! I remember when the MoVI M5 was first announced, it cost around $5,000 just to get started with it, and the functionality was very limited. Today, the gimbals on the market are smarter, faster, lighter, and can perform much longer than their “great-grandparents”!
Just a few months ago, Zhiyun released the updated Crane 2S Gimbal which takes everything that was great from the Crane 2 launched in 2017 and made it even better. The Crane 2S is aimed at filmmaking enthusiasts who need something small and lightweight, but with motors still powerful enough to handle some of today’s bigger lenses and camera combinations without crushing your battery life! Obviously, a one-handed gimble is meant for smaller mirrorless systems, but I was still able to load up some heavy DSLR’s like the Nikon D850 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 and it still held strong!
I’ll be honest, It didn’t take too long after getting hands-on with this beast to fall in love with it. As a still photographer, most of my work is well…stills, but I still love to shoot video and have done so sporadically over the last 5 years. I even own the original MoVI M5 (Yes that far back!) that I used in a LOT of productions around the country….so moving to a smaller “1-hand” system was very exciting since I’ve seen them around but have never gotten to use them myself. My experience was mostly with bigger 2 hand or full vest-rigs, so this was a treat!
Now looking at the numbers, despite being a smaller / lighter gimbal than its “big brother” the 3s, the motors really do pack a punch, capable of handling some pretty hefty setups, and it’s compatible with a very wide range of cameras from bigger DSLRs to newer Mirrorless systems. There aren’t many modern cameras you’ll have a problem getting to run with the Crane 2S Pro. When paired with the app, you can access many of the gimbals more powerful and hidden features, however, you can do practically everything from the built-in screen/menu system that’s right on the handle, which also includes a trigger on the opposite side that by default swaps modes of the gimbal, making it super fast and easy to go from Follow to POV modes.
Now here’s where things get fun, just this past month, Zhiyun added even more to bang for your buck by launching the Crane 2S ‘Pro’ Package, giving you a bunch of accessories to make the versatility of the gimbal even more enhanced! If you want more versatility out of a tool that’s already quite capable, this bundle may be of significant interest.
What You Get With the Crane 2S Pro Bundle
- 1 x CRANE 2S
- 1 x CRANE 2S Sling Grip Handle
- 1 x TransMount CRANE 2S DualCam Extension Module
- 1 x TransMount Image Transmission Transmitter2.0
- 1 x TransMount Phone Holder with Crown Gear
- 1 x TransMount Focus/Zoom Control Motor 2.0
- 1 x TransMount Handheld Mini Tripod.
Now the new Transmitter 2.0 is pretty awesome but if you want to work with a remote video monitor like a SmallHD or Atomos you’ll still need to pick up a receiver to pick up the wireless signal on them. (Here is an introduction to the transmitter 1.0 if you’re interested. )
The 2.0 Transmission System claims to be a hefty upgrade in stability and efficiency of signal output to its predecessor as this version allows for monitoring from multiple devices (provided you have the receivers at least). While I can’t say anything about this claim since I’ve never tested the Gen 1, I will say that I was quite impressed with the signal quality and distance I could get in my home and still see the images on my phone (and control the device through the apps!).
Another feature I thought was interesting and useful was the addition of a “Dualcam” filming solution with the Extension Module that allows you to mount a 2nd (smaller) camera above your main system to shoot two shots at the same time. I messed with this a bit strapping a GoPro to the top and chased my dog around the house. (I’ll see if I can get that footage processed and linked here later if anyone’s interested in seeing the side by side.)
Then we have the Sling Grip that gives you a second holding point allowing you to transition from high to low shots quick & easy, and the TransMount Phone Holder, well does just what it says! It’ll swivel and pivot to accommodate any of your smart devices to make monitoring and controlling the gimbal a breeze..
Now the price difference between the Crane 2S and the Pro-Kit is just $250 ($599 vs $849) which is pretty huge considering that if you were to buy these accessories separately, the 2.0 Transmission unit retails for $199 on its own, so you’re definitely going to save some money by nabbing the bundle. Another thing to keep in mind here, and my honest thought is, the price point for the pro bundle from Zhiyun is the same as the base unit for the new RS 2 from DJI. Planned? Likely. Is it worth the price difference/savings? Well, our team will be reviewing the RS 2 from next so we’ll let you know in that post what we find!
Crane 2S Stabilizer Technical Specifications
- Number of Axes 3-Axis (Pitch, Roll, Yaw)
- Rotation Range
- Yaw (Pan): 360°
- Pitch (Tilt): -80 to 135°
- Roll: -35 to 35°
- Camera Mounting Screw 1 x 1/4″-20 Male
- Ports 1 x USB Type-C
- Wireless Protocol Bluetooth 5.0
- Battery Type 3 x 18650
- Capacity (mAh) 2600 mAh
- Battery Runtime 12 Hours
- Battery Chemistry Lithium-Ion
- 3 x 1/4″-20 Female
- 1 x 3/8″-16 Female
- Weight 4.14 lb / 1.88 kg
- Moving tracking deviation:
- Max .: ± 0.3 °
- Typical: ± 0.1 °
- Min .: ± 0.05 °
- Tracking deviation in static:
- Max .: ± 0.04 °
- Min .: ± 0.01 °
- Tilt mechanical range:
- Max .: + 155 °
- Min .: -91 °
- Balance mechanical range:
- Max: 237.5 °
- Min .: -57.5 °
- Pan axis movement angle range:
- Typical: 360 °
- Price – $849 – Adorama | B&H | Amazon | Zhiyun
[Related Reading: How to Use a Gimbal – Movements & Best Practices]
The Zhiyun Crane 2S offers the usual six gimbal shooting modes.
- Pan Follow
- Go mode
Now if you’ve ever ready a gimbal review before there’s not much that needs to be added to any of these modes from the previous version of the Crane, the difference here though is the 2S features an improved responsiveness which makes each of these modes work and respond much better, and for someone who was new to the one-handed systems, figuring out how to use them all was pretty quick and easy.
What I Liked about the Crane 2S Pro Bundle
Zhiyun Crane 2S Pro-Kit Pros
Easy (relatively) to setup & the App works well (decent)
Having never really used a one-handed gimbal before, getting things set up was intimidating for me, but thankfully the team at Zhiyun has videos already made for everything. Now like Pye also said, if you need to have videos to explain the setup of your tools, it’s not intuitive or suffers bad design….while this might be true in some cases, I feel like with tools like these, once you’ve set up one gimbal you pretty much know your way around anything else that comes along. Once I figured out this system I was able to quickly and easily navigate some other gimbals I’m reviewing (Smartphone models) without any hiccups at all. The videos from the official YouTube channel made it very easy for me to figure out anything that was a roadblock and get things started. While the app isn’t as “intuitive” and refined as say, the DJI version that I’ve used for my drones and the smartphone gimbals I’m testing, it is still pretty stable and can add a fair bit of additional functionality to your film making.
Speaking of the Set-Up
Something that really caught my attention was the locks on the axis points of the gimbal. This was HUGE for both safety during packing/transport AND for when you’re setting up / balancing the gimbal. I have been used to systems that wobble and pivot crazily while making adjustments and balancing so this simple little feature was such an incredible asset in my opinion. Additionally, the “trigger” on the front of the gimbal made switching between modes super easy and convenient.
Again, while the design could use some touching up, the functionality is all there and was very useful to me and my setup and use of this gimbal. I could not only control and change the settings of my gimbal, but when using a compatible/supported camera, I could control the Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, and Start/Stop recording all from that display. Basically meaning I never had to reach over and fight with the cables on the camera to make adjustments, potentially messing with the balance of the system
Gimbal Motor Power
Again, having come from an older generation of gimbals, I was blown away by the strength of these motors on the Crane 2S. I was able to load some pretty heavy combinations of gear (and accessories) and let it run for HOURS on the initial battery charge. This was crazy impressive as my old rig couldn’t handle 1/2 of the weight I was testing with, and still would run for less than 3 hours when the Crane 2S would operate for 6-12!
So the thing with the Crane 2S (and its siblings) is it is priced cheaper than most of the competition out there. The downside, is with that savings, comes some products that are a little heavier, or a little rougher around the edges when compared to its competition. So it’s up to you here. Is saving 100-500$ worth more to you than a slightly improved UI or slightly lighter system? Maybe if all I did was video i’d have a stronger opinion here, but seeing as how the technology is advancing every single year by leaps and bounds, I feel like it’s better to save the cash now since you’ll likely be upgrading pretty frequently.
Focus Wheel & Extra Grip
In most kits, you’d normally see a focus/zoom wheel sold as an aftermarket accessory, where this system has it built-in. I had so much fun using this (and easily) with both the focus motor accessory and using it on its own through the camera control to pull focus on my shots. If you have a compatible system you could even use the combo to swap between controlling the zoom using the motor, and the focus using the camera controller settings!
The Adjustable 2nd Grip is also quite useful for letting you set up multiple ways, filming inverted, or even just using 2 hands to make the load easier to manage. You can position this grip in a plethora of different positions and angles making it simply a user preference for how you use it!
Expansion, Expansion, Expansion!
There are access points all over the Crane 2S making it ready to go for nearly any expansion and accessory you can think of now and in the future. Even though I didn’t have anything extra (or could think of anything to add), it is quite exciting, and comforting, to know that there’s room to grow with the Crane 2S Pro bundle. As the technology changes, it’ll be easy to add to and improve the additional tools used with it.
Okay, so this may seem like a non-item for most people, but this was the first encounter for me. Given the primary mount plate for the Crane 2S pro can be removed, with the camera and ALL the extras still attached (focus motor etc), and then mounted to your tripod or slider and then back again?!? That’s massive people. Being able to go from gimbal to slider to tripod and back without having to reassemble and rebalance is an insane timesaver. In fact, if you have a gig to film, you could set the entire rig up at home (balancing) before leaving. Throw the whole kit in your bag, and then just pop it on once you’re on set and start running! This is a massive time saver and benefit, at least in my opinion.
Lastly, while on the mount topic, this system did a little “forward” thinking and built it so that you could quickly flip the camera 90 degrees to do “vertical video” for those creating content for social media!
What I Didn’t Like About the Zhiyun Crane 2S Pro Kit
Zhiyun Crane 2S Pro-Kit Cons
As many have mentioned before, while the setup (from the “noob” perspective), wasn’t terrible, it still wasn’t great. Like Pye mentioned in his Weebill review, if you need a video to explain how to use/access a feature, then it’s not a great design. BUT just because I’m listing this as a con, doesn’t mean it was absolutely bad. It’s just definitely sitting in a place where there is absolutely room for improvement.
Stiff / Sticky Access Points
Remember above how I mentioned the axis locks and how it was great for making balance adjustments and adding accessories to your system? Well, the counterpoint to this is the positions and arms you make the adjustments to for balancing are quite stiff out of the box, meaning you’d have to put some significant force and weight behind them to make changes. It’s definitely got a feeling that you need to “break it in” before things get smooth and easy to use. The first few times was setting things up I had to seriously crank the arms that left me going forward, backward, forward, and backward again to achieve the small adjustments that I really needed to make.
Rear Motor/Arm is Antiquated
Not much to be said here, while I still loved this gimbal, it was kind of frustrating that the rear / main motor would block view of the cameras display unless you were shooting on an angle. Newer models (including the Weebill) have a shorter/better pivoted system giving you more access. Now I’ve read that you can change the motors/arms that the Crane 2S comes with, but I’ve not 100% confirmed this. Being able to do so would be a great move, however i still feel that for an “updated” system, this was a missed opportunity out of the box.
It feels like Zhiyun was trying to be a little more like its competition with the foam case the Crane 2S comes in. While it’s not bad, I am just not a fan of those hard-foam case styles. I’d prefer the look, feel, and function of the previous generations hardshell case. Additionally, when you buy the Pro-Kit bundle, the accessories that come with it will not fit entirely in that foam case. you’ll still need to pack the additional items like the 2nd camera plate, the extra grip, and the transmitter in a separate bag. While you get some pretty awesome discounts by buying the Pro Kit, it’s a missed opportunity to not have an “all-in-one” travel case available for it.
Now while it was still an improvement over the bigger 2 hand system I had experience with, from my reading and research the Crane 2S pro kit is still a little bit heavier than its competition out there. So be sure to factor that into your purchasing decisions. Yes you’re saving some decent money, and yes it’s _only_ 1 or 2 pounds…but over the course of an entire day of shooting handheld….those 1-2 pounds add up pretty quick!
With this Crane 2S Pro bundle, contrasted to the Weebill-S, I don’t think that you’re giving up more than you get for the cost savings. The Gimbal kit comes with a TON of accessories to get you shooting professional-level shots in absolutely no time at all, and if you’re new to these systems, there’s really just a single day or so learning curve to figure the setup out. If you’re familiar with these systems and Zhiyun specifically, you can be up and running in minutes! (As long as you have batteries ready haha).
Given that the pro kit costs the same (or less) than the latest Ronin (it’s closest competition), and it’s one of the easiest to balance systems I’ve ever tested, I’d say that it’s more than worth your time to try the Crane 2S Pro out, especially since has such a wide range of functionality. Just be ready to get a separate bag or case prepared for all the extra pieces that come with the kit!