I’m always looking for ways to film more efficiently. Using decent equipment is great, but it puts the brakes on any spontaneity. Since owning the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I’ve found myself using it more and more for both photography and video. It’s by far the best camera I have ever used on a smartphone, and I would say that I’m fairly picky.
So I’ve thought about using it for more content and wondered whether or not it would be essential to use a gimbal.
How Is The Built-In Stabilisation?
The stabilisation on the iPhone 11 Pro is, to quote Apple, cinematic. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it must be good, right? The devices released in 2019 (both the 11 and 11 Pro) have optical stabilisation in both HD and 4K (unlike all previous models) and also feature stabilisation on the rear and front cameras. So, how much benefit will it give if all I’m filming is a simple ‘walk and talk’ shot?
What’s In The Video
The video shows a few shots filmed on the iPhone 11 Pro Max both with and without a gimbal. The gimbal I use is the DJI Osmo Mobile 3.
- Firstly, I filmed my friend walking. I was making no particular effort to hold the camera steady while walking alongside him.
- Next, we shot the same clips, but I made an effort to ‘walk like a ninja’ and roll my feet. The attempt here is to null out that ‘bobbing’ effect that is so commonly seen on cheaper and lightweight 3-axis gimbals.
- The third clip is running/jogging with the camera.
- The final shot was a straight sprint with the camera. Completely haphazard and all over the place. Unfortunately, we only managed to get this shot with a gimbal, but this was tough to film.
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Whether you want to carry around yet another bit of kit and fart around attaching and balancing a gimbal is up to you. The chances are that, by that point, the moment has long gone so if you’re looking to film the unexpected, it might not be the best idea.
The on-camera iPhone 11 Pro stabilisation is excellent. For ‘walk and talk’ shots, there’s no need to use a gimbal. Played side by side, I doubt I would be able to spot the difference between the two clips.
Jogging or running with the camera felt terrible. It felt as though any footage would be completely unusable. Fortunately, I was surprised. There are benefits to using a gimbal here. For example, it’s easier to hold the handgrip of a gimbal versus the rectangular shape of a phone. Not only does this naturally improve composition, but it also makes the chances of dropping your camera much lower. The clips are smoother, but they certainly aren’t terrible with the inbuilt stabilisation. So much better than I expected.
Anything faster, with, e.g. more aggressive or maybe unpredictable motion such as the back of a Land Rover on a dirt track or in our basic test, chasing after someone sprinting, undoubtedly benefits from a gimbal.
That said, it depends on the look you’re trying to achieve. In these shots, there’s a clear subject in the video. You focus on Rod and movement, as a result, become much less distracting. I’d even go so far as to say that sometimes this movement makes the shot look more natural. Smooth gimbal shots are sometimes desirable, but they also create a fake, plastic look which could deter from storytelling if not used sparingly.
So to sum up, no. I don’t need a gimbal for the type of filming I do. The iPhone 11 Pro is easily up to the job. It’s a ‘nice to have‘, and I will find uses for it, but you can get some great content straight out of the phone. If you own a phone without built-in stabilisation, a gimbal can be a gamechanger for you.