Reviews |ZHIYUN Crane 2S

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review
Review

Price when reviewed

£649

$534
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Our Verdict

Aimed at enthusiast filmmakers, the ZHUYUN Crane 2S follows hot on the heels of the superb Crane 3S. Both models are very similar in function with the 2S better suited to DSLR and Mirrorless whilst the 3S is designed for larger cinema and DSLR cameras or being used as part of a larger rig. The 2S, despite its intended camera coupling, has some almightly powerful motors and was able to handle everything we threw at it; from the compact Sony A7’s through to the larger Canon EOS 5D MK IV. Controls and features are straight forward, and while it might not have the refined design of some other gimbals, the performance is unquestionable.

For

  • Easy to setup
  • Great App
  • Easy to switch between modes

Against

  • Not as refined as some gimbals
  • Plates take a while to loosen up.
  • Rear roll motor obstructs part of camera screen in the supplied set-up

What is the ZHIYUN Crane 2S?

Crane gimbal stabilisers were amongst the first of the single-handed devices to hit the market. Since then ZHIYUN has built a firm fan base of dedicated filmmakers who swear by their quality and robustness.

Like any good tech contest; Apple Vs Pc, Canon Vs Nikon, you have your dedicated gimbal camps, those that are firm believers in the DJI Ronin series and others backing the Crane.

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review

If you haven’t already delved into the world of gimbal stabilisers, then it’s a hard contest.

Both ZHIYUN and DJI are good in their own ways, but recently having been amazed at the robustness of the 3S, which I’ve been using alongside the Ronin-S, I’m now keen to see how the smaller 2S competes.

Looking at the specs, there seems little to separate the Crane 2S and 3S; it actually looks like this new smaller model is a direct competitor to its bigger sibling.

In reality, it is a lighter weight machine; however, those small motors pack some power and should suffice for anyone with a mirrorless system or DSLR for that matter.

As ever this new Crane comes feature-packed with many of the advanced features requiring the App, available for iOS and Android.

The Crane 2S is an exciting package, especially for fans of the Crane systems, but with so many gimbal stabilisers can the ZHIYUN still impress in this marginally smaller chassis?

Specification

  • Tilt mechanical range: -91º – +155º
  • Roll Mechanical Range: 57.5° – +237.5°
  • Pan Mechanical Range: 360º
  • Tilt axis controllable angle: -80° – +135°
  • Roll axis controllable angle: -35° – +35°
  • Pan axis controllable angle: -180° – +180°
  • Battery Capacity: 2600mAh
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Product Net Weight: 1880g (excluding tripod and batteries)
  • Operation Time: 12h

Features

The Crane 2S is compatible with a wide range of cameras, from mirrorless to DSLR.

Unusually ZHIYUN hasn’t released the usual payload information that we’ve seen with previous models, but as soon as I find a camera that pushes the Crane 2S to the max on weight, I’ll add it to the review.

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review

On size, a Sony Alpha 7 III with 28-135mm is too big, but we’ll come to that later. This combo of camera and zoom lens shouldn’t be on a gimbal anyway.

One feature that I really like is the new locking system for each of the axis arms; this is fast and easy to use and works with marked slider locks.

Unfolding the gimbal takes a few seconds, and those new locks click and unlock with a reassuring movement.

As it stands the major features here are the axis mobility with the tilt ranging from -80 to 135º, roll -35 to 35 and pan -180 to 180. This gives the gimbal amazing versatility in use and helps to prevent bounce when you reach the gimbals rotation limits.

Alongside the gimbal is the App, and depending on the type of user you are, you’ll either use this as an integral part of your rig or never go near it, aside from the odd calibration.

A major part of the Crane 2S is the build quality, ZHUYUN has focused on what their user base and filmmakers need and expect from a Crane.

Firstly there’s plenty of connection options for the camera on the gimbal. So, once wired in through USB Type-C, you can start and stop recording along with other options, some of which require optional extras such as the focus puller.

Accessories such as extension arms, grips and other bolt-on attachments are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the pro-market. So, it’s great to see two 1/4-inch screw threads positioned just above the grip, for monitors, grips or other accessories.

On the grip itself, ZHIYUN has worked on the ergonomics, and the diameter of the grip is spot on. It features an easy to reach joystick along with a settings control dial and navigation buttons.

Most people who tried the gimbal found the grip to be of a decent size; however, there we a few who found the diameter a little on the large size.

Part of the reason for the size of the grip is that it contains three 2600mAh batteries that supply the gimbal with power for 12hours.

On the side is the focus control wheel that can be used with the optional focus puller or programmed for other settings or mode adjustments.

Build and Handling

Despite the complexity of motorised gimbals, the actual design of these clever devices hasn’t changed a great deal since they first hit the market.

The Crane 2S is all about giving filmmakers a powerful gimbal solution on a decent budget and therefore sticks to basic design principles.

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review

The overall build and quality of construction are excellent; there’s very little to fault. The large grip is an ideal size, although some people may find it a tad too big compared with other models.

The grip is also finished in a smooth carbon finish which looks great but doesn’t offer the same purchase that you get with a good rubber of textured grip.

The biggest issue, however, with the design is that the roll motor covers the rear screen. A few years ago, this was a common issue, but now we’ve come to expect the manufactures to redesign the mechanisms to get around this fundamental issue.

However, there is a saving grace, and that is that ZHIYUN has added two accessory mounts to either side of the grip. Bolt-in a phone holder, and if your camera enables wireless transmission, then you can get a better view of what’s going on that way instead.

Also, if you study the rear arm carefully, you’ll spot that there’s a section that can be removed. This required some care as the cable inside needs to be feed gently into the remaining arm, however, once removed, the motor is lowered and the screen becomes visible.

While the arm blocks the screen by default, it doesn’t make the screen completely unusable; you can still get a good idea of whats going on.

Connections as per usual are wired from the camera to the gimbal to start and stop recording and through Bluetooth to the phone.

Setting up was all straight forward, but you do need to calibrate the gimbal before it springs to life. The process is relatively straight forward, although the instructions on how to do this are not the clearest I’ve come across.

Once the camera is in position and the gimbal is calibrated and switched on, you instantly get to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to motor power.

I’ve either become an expert at balancing motorised gimbals, or this thing has the power to override any inaccuracies.

During the test, this ease of setup became a real winner as often you don’t have the time to mess around balancing a gimbal between each shot. Here it was just a case of popping on the camera, making sure things were roughly balanced, and away you go. Much easier.

Overall the build felt good and solid if a little dated on the fineness of design. The real issue is that rear pan arm that comes up to cover the rear screen.

The handling is also good, although some may find the grip just a touch too large and with no grippy texture it can get slippery after a few hours of use.

Performance

First and foremost the Crane 2S is a formidable gimbal, it’s fast to set up and use and will do the job it’s designed to do. Compare this with the Weebill or even the original Crane, and you’ll instantly see how far gimbal technology has come.

Using the gimbal without accessories, the overall performance is excellent. It’s incredibly quick to react and buffers the extremities, so if you miss calculating a move, it seems better able to compensate than previous generations of gimbal.

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review

In use, the pan arm rising across the screen was an issue, but you learn to live with it or attach a monitor and stream footage live.

What I did notice is that there was plenty of clearance, and issue with the Weebill is that everything is compact, fit a monitor, and that monitor can restrict the free movement of the head.

Here having that higher arm gives you a small amount of additional room and flexibility when adding accessories.

I still prefer the drop position arm as seem on the Crane 3S, but you do need that extra size.

For what it is the Crane 2S is a good compromise, the arm is annoying but coupled with either your mobile phone or a monitor keeping the arm where it makes sense when it comes to keeping manoeuvrability.

As stabilisation geos, the Crane 2S is as good as anything else out there, and there’s the benefit that you can be lax with balancing your camera. Those motor will essentially compensate for your slackness.

Then there’s the fact that it’s pretty flexible when it comes to camera lens combos. Sony A7 III and Sigma 50mm T2.0 fine and countless others fit and balance fine, a Sony A7 III with 28-135mm cine lens, however, is a touch too far on size, but I doubt weight. But then the Sony 28-135mm js not a lens designed for this type of use.

Using the Crane 2S and Crane 3S side-by-side, you start to see the difference between these two stabilisers; the Crane 3S is bigger and more supportive for professional roles, the Crane 2S is ideal for filmmakers and enthusiasts. Essentially they’re both good.

Zhiyun Crane 2S Sample Video

We’ve used the Zhiyun Crane 2S with a variety of cameras. The video below was shot on the Sony A6600, one of the smaller, lighter models that we’ve used the gimbal with. The Crane 2S was used in Follow Pan mode throughout and the A6600 was set to 4K at 25p and 100Mbs.

The video below was shot on the Nikon Z6 II, which is a full-frame mirrorless camera, on the Zhiyun Crane 2S. The purpose of the video was to test the Z6 II’s autofocus system and the Crane 2S provided a good shooting platform.

Read our Nikon Z6 II review

Verdict

When the Crane 2S arrived, it seemed like a slightly odd release considering it followed hot on the heels of the crane 3S. However, after a few weeks using it as my main stabiliser, it started to impress but also showed its limitations that clearly showed the separation between this and the 3S.

At first, checking through the specs, both gimbals seem very similar, but place them side by side and the differences are instantly apparent.

ZHIYUN Crane 2S Review

ZHIYUN has essentially designed an affordable version of the Crane 3S. But, while the Crane 2S can hold an undisclosed weight and has similar features to the 3S, the design is more traditional, and you have to work harder and smarter to get the same results.

You can forgive the roll arm covering the screen and the slightly simple grip design, but you have a feeling that it has been designed to hit a price point.

With the likes of Manfrotto, DJI, Moza and countless others producing equally robust and powerful gimbals ZHIYUN needs to do something a little bit more to make the 2S stabiliser stand out.

That little bit more comes in two forms; one free, and the other paid for. The first is the App, which is essentially the same as the one for the Crane 3S.

It provides you access to a huge selection of other features including; Full range POV, Vortex and spectacular Go Modes. There’s also the usual array of Panorama, Timelapse, Motionlapse, and Long Exposure Timelapse modes.

The other standout feature is the TransMount accessories; these are all optional extras but greatly extend the use of the gimbal. These include the Focus/Zoom control motor and Image transmitter to name two of many.

The performance of the Crane 2S is impressive, and there are a lot of great design features. There are also some areas of the design which feel a little dated such as the arm that covers the screen, but overall there’s little to fault the performance.

In use, the Crane 2S does the job, and with the App and huge range of accessories, it’s certainly a good choice. If you have already owned a ZHIYUN gimbal such as the Weebill or older Crane, then look at this or the crane 3S as your next upgrade.

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