Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 test, the benchmark for stabilizing your smartphone?

Bigger, more ergonomic, smarter, the latest version of the Zhiyun smartphone stabilizer has been on the market for a few months. Its name: Smooth-Q3. A dial that promises to make photos and videos even more polished. Good plan or simple gadget?

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 test

  • Excellent stabilization
  • Smooth movements
  • Complete software
  • Comfortable
  • LED torch for selfie
  • Limited battery life
  • Lack of image filters
  • Some bugs in the software
  • Reset calibration on PC

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Technical data:

Dimensions and weight:

  • Dimensions (folded): 45 x 154 x 180 mm
  • Dimensions (unfolded): 90 x 127 x 279 mm
  • Weight: 340g
  • Load capacity: 150 to 280 g
  • Maximum phone length: 164mm

Battery:

  • Capacity: 1300 mAh
  • Standard usage time: 7h
  • Maximum usage time: 15h

Cradle:

  • Mechanical amplitude Pan:-150° to +150°
  • Mechanical amplitude Tilt:-260° to +80°
  • Mechanical amplitude Roll:-170° – 170°.
  • Maximum speed: 120°/s

Zhiyun is a Chinese brand specializing in stabilizers, from small phones to SLRs. Unlike DJI or Feyu, the company does not manufacture drones or cameras but exclusively gimbals. Thus, in a few years, the Chinese company has built a solid reputation among individuals but also professionals.

Unboxing

The opening of the box of the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 is quite standard. Next to the gimbal, you will find a mini USB-C cable (50cm), a paper manual, and a plastic tripod. This last one ensures excellent stability of the device, once it is screwed on (3/8” screw pitch). It measures 13cm long when folded but only raises the stabilizer by about 5cm.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_02 © P-E LAURENT

Setting up

The installation of the gimbal is quite simple. Just deploy the arm and tighten the nut to secure the assembly. A slight click can be heard during the maneuver, preventing the arm from slowly retracting by gravity. The smartphone fits into the plastic but solid clamp of the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 test. The range of the jaws is from 4.5 to 8.5cm. According to the instructions, a phone thickness between 7mm and 10mm is tolerated. This dial accepts small smartphones (like the iPhone 13 Mini) as well as large ones (like the Samsung S21 Ultra or the iPhone 13 Pro Max).

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The inside of the jaws is made of silicone, preventing scratches on the phone. To facilitate a correct installation, a sticker specifies the orientation of the camera. It is necessary to find a point of balance so that the phone does not tip on the left or right. The manual advises that the smartphone is parallel to the ground. The jaws are strong enough to hold the smartphone with a shell. Then simply install the ZY Cam app for Android or iPhone. A QRcode is stuck on the gimbal and directs to the download of the app. Note that the software is available in APK, for smartphones unable to access the Google Play Store.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_06 © P-E LAURENT
Foldable tripod

Software

If the stabilization works on 3 axes as soon as the gimbal is on, the use of the dedicated app is essential to take full advantage of the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3. It exists for both Android and iOS platforms. Unsurprisingly, the connection between the smartphone and the watch is done via Bluetooth, quickly on iPhone or Android phone. The ZY Cam app is similar to other stabilizer apps, with a few extra features. The homepage features videos of Zhiyun dial users as well as video tutorials. The second tab is dedicated to editing (see dedicated section below) while the third tab is dedicated to the user. In addition to the classic preferences (update, language…), there is a Zhiyun Prime option.

It is free for the first month and then costs 2 euros/month or about 20€/year. It offers free download of effects, scenery and music, but also 30mn and 4K videos. In “shooting” mode, the app indicates permanently the iris opening, the ISO and the exposure value (EV). The recognition of gestures to trigger the recording (photo or video) can be activated at any time. A tab “Glamour Effects” is responsible for digitally lifting your face (with larger eyes, a thinner or fluid face, change the skin tone …). On the other hand, there are no Instagram-type filters like the basic app on your smartphone offers. It’s a shame.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_android © P-E LAURENT

Ergonomics

The grip of the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 is excellent. With small or large hands, holding this stabilizer for long periods of time remains comfortable. The front panel controls are easily accessible with the thumb even if accessing the zoom slider (on the left) is a bit more difficult. A classic mini joystick controls the vertical (tilt) and horizontal (pan) movements of the gimbal. There is also a Mode button (), a recording button (photo or video) and 4 green LEDs, indicating the battery level. At the back of the handle is the ON/OFF button and the clutch.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_03 © P-E LAURENT

Functions

The use of a gimbal may seem less relevant these days with the electronic, digital and sometimes optical stabilization of recent smartphones. But a gimbal not only stabilizes the image, it also smoothes out movement and is more comfortable than holding the edge of a phone in all directions. Like other electronic stabilizers, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 test allows for horizontal (pan) or vertical (tilt) panning with its motors. The vertical axis range is 300° (-150° to +150°). For landscapes or architecture, you can therefore enjoy almost a complete turn. Much better than most other stabilizers on the market. The amplitude on the horizontal axis is also remarkable 340 degrees (-260° to +80°). It gives you the freedom to shoot plunging and low angle shots in a very fluid way. The Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 is therefore perfectly suited for selfies (photo and video).

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Small bonus: a mini torch composed of 4 white LEDs, with 3 levels of intensity. This one can be rotated 180°. It can therefore be used as a mini projector light to illuminate a dark environment or to get out of the way in the dark. We talked to you about the services offered by the paid version of Zy Cam. Perhaps the most interesting advantage is the ability to control the gimbal remotely, through another smartphone. Not only does it allow you to change the recording settings, but Zhiyun Prime offers the luxury of moving the smartphone camera on the horizontal axis. A kind of remote control monitor to film or photograph from several meters away from the scene.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_torche © P-E LAURENT

In practice

The installation of the smartphone is quite fast. No need to remove the shell, the imperfections of the intuitive placement are compensated by the power of the motors. With our iPhone 11 or old Samsung S7, we had no problem. The jaws did not crush the ON/OFF or volume buttons of the smartphones.
The Zy Cam app offers manual disengagement to control the iris aperture (1/8000 to 1/2s), sensitivity (ISO 100 to 2500), and light index (-3 to +3EV). There is no manual adjustment of the horizon from Zy Cam, in case of faulty automatic calibration. Fortunately, automatic calibration has never been a problem. It is still possible to automatically calibrate at any time. Otherwise, you have to go through a computer and use Zhiyun Gimbal Tools to recalibrate the gimbal on 6 sides.

With the 1300 mAh battery, Zhiyun promises a standard battery life of 7 hours, which can reach 15 hours. Beware 15h of battery, this means that the gimbal is on, but is not manipulated. Our tests corroborate this estimate. The charge is done with the USB-C cable provided for 3 hours. Only 4 green LEDs indicate approximately the battery life.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_08 © P-E LAURENT

In pictures

As mentioned above, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 shoots in automatic or manual mode, with adjustable shutter speed, ISO and EV. This dial is capable of taking pictures instantly or with a self-timer (3, 5 or 7s). The amplitude of the motors ensures excellent selfies, both underwater and overhead. Whatever the position of your wrist, this dial always manages to frame correctly with the front or back camera, in vertical or horizontal. As mentioned before, Zy Cam is a bit stingy in terms of additional features compared to the original camera app (Android or iOS).

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_photo2 © P-E LAURENT

However, three pano modes are proposed. There is the classic 180° mode (8 shots), but also the 240° mode and the 3×3. The first two modes are content to scan the horizon on the vertical axis with 8 shots spaced 25 ° for the 180 ° panoramic and 11 shots spaced 25 ° for the 240 ° panoramic. The 3×3 panoramic mode, as its name indicates, scans the space both horizontally and vertically, making a matrix of 9 shots. These panoramic modes work both with the smartphone in vertical or horizontal position. Stitching photos was fast in 180° and 240° modes, but it failed several times in 3×3 mode. The app would freeze in the final steps. In none of the panoramic modes are the intermediate photos kept in the app to eventually perform a more sophisticated stitching.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_pano180 © P-E LAURENT
Panoramique 180°

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_pano240 © P-E LAURENTPanoramique 240°

There is also a mode “MagicClone Pano”, which performs a panoramic movement with a person and makes 3 shots. This one has 3s to move between each shot. The app merges the 3 shots into one and it looks like you have 3 times the same character.
There is probably a panning function on your smartphone’s basic camera app, but it requires the rotation of the arm and is therefore not as accurate as an electronic stabilizer like Zhiyun Smooth-Q3. The presence of the 4 LED flashlight is useful for saving your smartphone’s battery (equipped with an LED), but is especially useful for selfies. It is possible to activate the phone’s LED in addition to the torch to best illuminate a totally dark environment. Of course, the quality of the pictures will depend on your smartphone and not on the gimbal.

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Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_clone © ZhiyunMagicClone Pano mode

The assembly

There are several ways to edit videos on Zy Cam. The first, and probably the simplest, is to use the SMART function. It’s not in the editing tab, but in the shooting tab. You shoot 4 different shots with a set length and SMART edits the shots, adds music, effects and transitions automatically. About fifteen SMART pre-edits are proposed according to different themes. The second way to edit is to select an editing template (8 available) and upload a video to the cloud. In less than 5 minutes (more with long videos), the video is edited. Between the upstream and downstream flow to be provided on distant servers, the risks of having network problems is real. Actually, it’s more of an animation than editing since the video lasts only a few seconds, with dynamic sets and effects. This online montage is only available to subscribers of the Prime (paid) version of Zy Cam. However, you have a free one-month trial.
A third editing solution is to use the QuickEdit function. Just select an editing template (currently 17 available) that already contains, music, transitions and effects and then set the videos. Zy Cam will automatically cut and add the elements to create a well-made edited video. The editor only needs to add an image filter (55 themes) and possibly a credit (5 variations).

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Zhiyun Smooth-Q3: TechMarkup’s opinion

The experience of the Chinese manufacturer is felt with this gimbal. In spite of the torture sessions that we inflicted on it, this dial always did its job correctly. The framing was perfectly smooth, in all directions, thanks to the high ranges of the motors. The tripod does its job perfectly and even allows you to extend the stabilizer arm for selfies and conventional shots. In photos or video, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 never blinks. It’s a pity that we had to deal with some freezes while stitching 3×3 panoramic pictures or while editing online. Nothing to worry about.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q3_052 © P-E LAURENTWhat do you think about the Zhiyun Smooth-Q3 test ? Let us know in comments

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