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The new Ronin S gimbal is essential YouTube gear

DJI brings its high-end camera stabilization to prosumers
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If you're reading this you're probably a filmmaker or someone who might like to become a filmmaker. If so, you already know that the Ronin S is a gimbal: a robotic stick that stabilizes your camera. The reason your YouTube faves are geeking out over the Ronin S is that it can carry larger cameras than the previous generation -- nearly eight pounds -- compared to the 1.4 pounds of the original go-to gimbal, the Zhiyun Tech Crane-M. The Ronin S is what you need if you want your footage to look both crispy and smooth at the same time.

As a pretend YouTube filmmaker, I got a chance to try the Ronin S for about a week. When I pulled the Ronin S out of the box, my first thought was, "It's big boy season!" because I'm a garbage memelord but also because this thing comes in what looks like a gun case and weighs just north of four pounds before you put a camera on it. The handle snaps in with a satisfying thunk, and the included tripod foot makes the whole setup look like alien technology, which is always a plus.

That satisfaction was somewhat short-lived, however; the next step was to balance an A7SII on the Ronin S' gangly top part. If you're already familiar with gimbals like the original Ronin or the Zhiyun Crane, you know that balancing can be tricky, and ultimately you just have to repeatedly tweak it until it's right. I've found balancing the Ronin S to be particularly difficult because the rail on the roll axis is incredibly tight. Even after loosening the nut, serious force was needed to move the arm left and right, making fine adjustments very hard.

Once I had the A7SII more or less balanced on the Ronin S, I switched it on and the camera snapped right to attention. Since the A7SII and kit lens are so far below the weight limit on the Ronin S, there wasn't even a hint of motor struggle, which was common in last-gen gimbals with full-sized cameras and fast lenses.

You can control the gimbal with the built-in joystick or the Ronin app. The app offers extremely precise controls, allowing you to get glacially slow pans, tilts and rolls. However, there are a quite a few options in the app that assume prior knowledge, so you'll almost certainly have to reference the manual like I had to. Beyond the app giving you fine-grain control over every axis, there are also several modes that can automate complex or time-consuming shots, like Panorama and Motionlapse. These modes really only work well if you have a compatible camera and corresponding shutter-release cable, so be sure to consult the compatibility sheet.

All that said, I was able to get very stable shots while walking and zipping around on a Boosted Board, and for most YouTubers that's good enough. In this regard, both the Ronin S and the new Zhiyun Crane 2 should serve your needs well, but DJI's ecosystem of add-ons and accessories provide a compelling on-ramp to truly professional filmmaking. Out of the box the Ronin S can control camera parameters and even pull focus, depending on what camera system you have on it, and compatibility with DJI's Master Wheels and Force Pro remote control systems means you can shoot with a second camera operator. In the promotional video, DJI shows the Ronin S on a gib while being operated remotely, and I have to say, that's just cool.

The Ronin S is currently available for $699. On one hand, this is a little pricey for someone making videos for fun. For those people, the older Zhiyun Crane models are probably acceptable and cost several hundred dollars less. However, the Ronin S' $699 price tag is an absolute steal for both pro and would-be pro users. Compatibility with the aforementioned Force Pro remote control and the DJI Focus system opens up so many other kinds of shots -- you can bolt the thing to RC buggies and even cars, for example. So if you're looking for a gimbal that can grow alongside your video ambitions, the Ronin S is one of the best on the market.

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