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ZhiYun Z1 Evolution Gimbal – silky smooth camera footage from your GoPro and clones [Review]

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Everyone wants to get in on the action camera craze, you can’t turn a corner without some company or other releasing a new GoPro clone. But the fact is that most of the results from these cool tiny cameras leave a lot to be desired. Shaky, blurry, footage of your efforts does little to make you look good, which is why there are a number of handheld camera stabilizers coming on to the market. But do they actually work?

We recently tested out the ZhiYun Z1 Evolution Gimbal, which is a 3 axis automatic camera stabilizer designed to make your footage smoother and much more professional. The real surprise is that it actually works brilliantly, as you’ll see from our video test below.

First impressions
The product comes in a nicely designed box, along with the basic tools you need to get started. It runs off two 18650 2000mAh batteries and so comes with a special battery charger container, which means it’s slightly less portable than it would be with standard microUSB charging, but it’s a small point. And those batteries provide a great 12 hours of use per charge!

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There’s also a useful little User Guide which runs through the assembly and set up of the unit, which is useful since there are a number of different modes you can select depending on your needs at the time.

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Once you’ve assembled the unit, and added the batteries, all you have to do is hit the small copper colored On/Off button and you’re off to the races. The unit sits in standby until you depress the joystick button at which point it springs into action in stabilized mode. From then on it’s just a matter of pointing the camera where you want, and letting the stabilizer smooth out all the jerks and jitters.

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The clamping mechanism for the camera allows for more than just a GoPro, so you can insert any of the growing number of cheaper clone cameras. It’s important to make sure that the camera is securely fixed, though, since it needs to be rock solid for the stabilization function to work properly.

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Incidentally one other nice thing about the unit is the fact that it works out of the box, pre-calibrated. There are instructions in the manual which explain how to re-calibrate if the unit goes out of true – you can either download a software utility or do it manually by following the user guide instructions – but we found the thing ran perfectly well immediately, which is very impressive.

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Mode happy
The various modes you get are activated by depressing the joystick button again. You can set the stabilizer to do pan and follow stabilization and also lock particular axis as you need. We also liked the smooth pan and tilt feature which you can select, which let you hold the unit still and just use your thumb to move the camera in a direction. Very slick.

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Conclusion
The overall impression of the unit is of a quality construction. It has the solid heavy feel of something which has been built to last, there are no flimsy plastic bits anywhere on this product, all top grade machined aluminum. The weighting, design and ease of use are excellent, although we possibly would have preferred a more manual way of selecting different modes which would indicate which mode you are in. But again this is a small quibble, since the product works so brilliantly to smooth out your footage results.

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We’ve seen other products which struggled to cope with even the most basic movement, but we literally ran around with the stabilizer in our hands, and the video result was superb (as you’ll see from our video above – the samples are near the end of the video test). So overall? A great product, which definitely delivers on the promise of professional looking video, giving the kind of stabilized footage that digital image stabilization struggles with. Very cool indeed!

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Price: $350.00 [UPDATE: They have now reduced the price to $298.99]

Features:
•Power switch on the side of handle.
•Reverse polarity protection, over discharging and short circuit protection design makes a remarkably power efficient.
•1/4inch screw port on the bottom. It is easy to be fixed on the stuff like most extension rod in the market.
•Pioneering use of integrated aluminum technique and integrated annular motor. Strong torque as ever, rotating more smoothly, light and portable.
•Integrated camera holder. This smart design allows mounting camera and back-pac without changing screws.
•Adapt to Xiaomi yi camera. Support for Xiaomi yi camera’s AV output.
•The rotation angle of each axis up to 330º.
•Stepless rotational speed control. Four-way joystick,adjust the angle at will.
•Special 3.5mm headphone jack to output AV signal. Connected monitor screen with extension cord in the market make it easy to view the footage.Practical and beautiful
•Automatic drifting suppression. Reduce the calibration frequency

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


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