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Beyond Futuristic Cameras
Handheld gimbal stabilization systems are a must tool for filmmakers, videographers and photographers. If you are one of these people, the Ronin-M is an excellent option. Add it to your production kit to gain the freedom to move the camera smoothly in any way you can imagine, without tracks, jibs or complex setups.
Many years ago filmakers embraced the MoVI. It was an innovative solution but with a tag price of 15k which was fine for large studios, but out of reach for private producers. A few years forward and DJI offers the Ronin-M. It's much much cheaper and even lighter than the Ronim. It's perfect for smaller cameras and easier to carry. Though if you have calibrated the camera before reaching your destination, you'll usually find that you have to do it again before starting the actual shooting.
The Ronin-M can handle basically any DSLR as well as small cinema camera such as the Canon C series or even the Alexa Mini with a lighter lens. It's a very exciting tool and very affordable for filmmakers with modest budgets. The Ronin-M has the capacity to carry and stabilize a camera rig up to eight pounds.
Since they hold cameras, for gimbals to work best they need to be perfectly balanced. Just like any other gimbal, balancing the Rinin-M it is not an easy task. If you are off a little it is usually fine, though the roll axis has a tendency to drift which is exacerbated by being off balance even a little. This can be fixed by just restarting the unit, which takes about 15 seconds. The Ronin-M is balanced without the need for tools, which is a great advantage. After practicing for a while you'll get used to this delicate operation and eventually it shouldn't take you more than 5 minutes to balance it.
The DJI App that wirelessly connects your iPhone to your Ronin-M can calibrate, trim and customize every aspect. You have lots of impressive different options to choose from. In addition, there is a remote control that looks exactly like the controller of the Phantom and it works just as easily. If the Ronin M is on and the remote is off, the Ronin will perform moves on it's own. As soon as you turn on the controller, the Ronin M will stabilize the camera but any movements (pans, tilts, and rolls) will be controlled with the remote. Once you turn off the remote, Ronin-M will immediately start working on its own. The remote can be used to quickly calibrate the Ronin (to find the "center") or it can be used while a camera operator is using the Ronin to actually frame the shot.
The Ronin-M's design includes a top bar from which the actual gimbal attaches in the center, a top handle and two vertical grips which can be fixed at any point on the top bar and rotate 360 degrees for optimum comfort. This ingenious simplicity has been quicly adopted by many manufacturers. The Ronin-M differs from its very expensive predecessor (the MoVI) in the gimbal itself. Ronin-m's design is smaller and simpler, which makes it easier to put together. The gimbal slides and locks into the top handle from which both sides of the top bar are attached by screwing them on. The two handles slide onto the top bar and are tightened via a thumb screw. Much of the frame is built with carbon fiber and magnesium, making it super strong but very light, which is a huge plus when shooting all day.
The Ronin-M's battery is very good. It's a 3400mAh LiPo that lasts more than six hours and it acts as an adjustable counter weight. It has a handy four-bar indicator light on the top of the battery so you always know how much power you have left. It also comes with a RC controller for a second operator to adjust the pan, tilt and roll. You can also buy the thumb controller unit, which will do the same thing.
The Ronin-M feels very natural in your hands whether you're holding it above your head, in front of your face or by the top handle. The unit can be turned sideways for what they call brief case mode, though we never came up with an instance where that was more comfortable or convenient. The computer and motors in the Ronin-M will take out most of the handheld jitters and small movement. Footage from the Ronin-M, or any gimbal, looks slightly like warp stabilized footage in that the video appears to float — but not in a bad way. What would be otherwise very shaky footage is not just usable, but in fact pleasant. Our favorite thing to do with the Ronin-M was to pass the camera to another operator over or through barriers, shots that are near impossible without a handheld gimbal.
Overall the Ronin-M is a great tool at a very affordable price. It's very user friendly and intuitive to operate. The DSLR or mirrorless camera can be taken anywhere with the Ronin M without worrying much about rolling shutter. The footage Ronin-M produces is super smooth. No doubt, it's a highly recommended gimbal.
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