With an influx of sponsored videos from seemingly every half-popular filmmaker on YouTube, it can be hard not to get tempted to buy the latest gadget…
Over the summer, a well-known manufacturer released their new gimbal, and suddenly my YouTube feed was suddenly inundated with tons of new reviews from just about every filmmaking, tutorial teaching, and tech reviewing YouTuber out there. Congratulations on another great marketing campaign; it obviously works and people seem happy with it. But I won’t buy it. In fact, I’ve never owned a gimbal in my life.
While it can be incredibly tempting to grab that shiny new toy, it’s worth pausing for a moment and asking yourself, “Do I really need this?” My argument is no. Not you. Here are six good reasons why.
1. Don’t be afraid of a little handshake
I’ve always found that shooting with a gimbal comes off almost too well, if that makes sense. It’s something a little off how smooth and polished it is. It’s like eating at a restaurant where you don’t even dare to breathe because it’s way too posh, and you wouldn’t really mind those greasy, cheesy £3.50 chips from the takeaway down the road to eat.
What I’m saying is that, at least in my opinion, a little bit of camera shake is good. I mainly shoot travel documentaries and natural movement in the frame isn’t a bad thing – it feels more “raw and real” to me, which is what I always strive for.
2. Built-in image stabilization
Continuing with the point above, if it weren’t for my camera’s incredible IBIS, I wouldn’t achieve the natural, smooth motion I’m happy with. I shoot with a GH5 and native lenses, which effectively negates the need for a gimbal. Just check out this video I shot entirely handheld in Istanbul with an Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 pro:
Almost all capable cameras these days come with an impressive IBIS that lets you shoot handheld, run-and-gun style. You don’t need a gimbal if you already have the technology in your hands.
3. Why make yourself more work?
Speaking of run-and-gun style (I am everywhere), and having seen other members of my crew struggle with these things, I have a feeling gimbals are a nuisance you can do without. They’re really quite heavy for starters (it’s a real arm workout when you’re shooting 8 hours a day with these things) and they take up more valuable space in your gear bag. Can you afford to bring it with you?
In addition, they need time to settle down. I got to one place, set up my camera in less than 5 minutes and can’t wait only to have to wait another 40 minutes while someone struggles trying to get the gimbal to work. This was a waste of valuable time and space.
4. Gimbals make you lazy
I’ve also noticed that gimbals can make you lazy. While doing an arm workout, your creativity can become quite limited. When your camera is on a gimbal, you feel like yourself to have taking certain shots in a certain way to get the most out of it. There’s panning forward or back while the camera pans up or down, the 360 orbital, and a handful of others you’ve seen countless times over the years. It’s a bit of copy and paste for my taste.
Detach the camera and suddenly you’re back in full creative control. You choose what type of shots you want to take, what angles you look best from, and what movement works best for you.
5. Gimbals are expensive
I suppose that’s subjective. Gimbals are expensive. Even if you don’t think this is the case, can you reinvest that budget elsewhere? I took the same amount of money I would have spent on a gimbal and built an entire rig for my GH5. You could do the same. Before you spend the big bucks, think long and hard about whether that money would be better spent elsewhere.
6. Are you sure this isn’t just Fomo?
Which brings me to my final point – do you only buy the latest and greatest gimbal for fomo (fear of missing out)? It can be really hard not to commit when you see so many videos promoting a product and telling you you do it to need This while many other filmmakers around you go off and grab one. Just ask yourself why you are buying it and ask yourself if it will really benefit you and improve your filmmaking.
Finally with some caveats and context
So these are my arguments for not needing a gimbal. Of course, there is a caveat to all of this. Deciding whether or not to buy a gimbal depends on what you are shooting and what type of filmmaker you are. That makes no sense for my films and my way of working. But to play devil’s advocate here for a moment… maybe you need one?
For example, a lot of music videos and weddings could do with it – these are types of videos where a gimbal really comes in handy. What I’m getting at in a roundabout way is that all of this should be a totally independent creative choice that you make for yourself. If you buy one, make sure it’s a conscious decision and not just because [insert YouTube channel name here] told you!