Reviews |Zhiyun Crane 3S SmartSling Kit Review

Zhiyun Crane 3S SmartSling Kit Review

Zhiyun Crane 3S review

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Our Verdict

The Crane 3S is a next-generation motorised gimbal stabiliser. It packs in the features and has one of the heaviest payloads for any single hand gimbal on the market.

But this is far more than other gimbal stabilisers, and with the modular grip design it can be used in multiple ways; use it on its own to get smooth handheld footage or use as part of a larger rig. However, you use it the Crane 3S is a formidable force for capturing cinematic footage.


  • Decent max payload
  • Lond battery life
  • Good for fast motion


  • Heavy
  • Limited features for some cameras
  • Joystick can be tricky to reach

What is the Zhiyun Crane 3S SmartSling Kit?

The gimbal stabiliser market has exploded in the last couple of years as theses clever devises enable you to capture professional stabilised footage with your standard DSLR or mirrorless camera.

In the past, this level of stabilisation was the preserve of professionals who could afford the equipment and training. While gimbals have been around since the ’70s, it’s only with the latest motor and battery technology that the gimbals have both reduced in size and cost.

Zhiyun Crane 3S review

Zhiyun is a company that has been at the forefront of the advancement and development, and while they may not be as well know as DJI they are on a par, and their Crane series of gimbals is a firm favourite for many videographers.

In this review, I’m looking at the Crane 3S SamrtSling kit. This includes the additional SmartSling Handle that bolts onto the horizontal grip of the stabiliser. Once attached it gives you more holding options as well as control over the operation and settings for many cameras.

As previously mentioned the Crane series has a dedicated following, two close videographer friends swear by the features and build quality of theirs, and this is the latest and most advanced version yet.

When it comes to features, there’s little that this gimbal doesn’t feature, and this version boasts a max payload beyond that of many others on the market.

However, while compatibility is rapidly expanding for the Crane 3S, not all features and options are available to all cameras.

That said, there’s still plenty on offer for one of the most robust and sophisticated gimbal stabilisers yet.


  • Product type: Stabilising gimbal
  • Max Payload: 6.5kg
  • Battery life: 12 hours
  • Feature App : ZY Play
  • DC-In: Yes
  • Camera Control: yes


The Crane 3S comes in three different kits with modules that differentiate each. Each of those modules is available separately so you can upgrade from one to the next as required. 

The EasySling is the first option and features the gimbal along with an additional handle that can be bolted in for more significant support. 

Zhiyun Crane 3S SmartSling

The SmartSling, which is the version I’m looking at in this review, features the SmartSling handle that again bolts into the gimbal and provides the same support but has integrated camera controls. 

The Pro kit features the EasySling and SmartSling along with the Servo Zoom and Follow Focus Motors.

Before we look at the features, it’s worth pointing out that each configuration will only work with certain cameras and lens combinations. Zhiyun have a comprehensive compatibility list on their website which can be seen here:

If you have a compatible camera, such as with the Panasonic GH5 then the Crane 3S is a formidable piece of kit, if you own the Sony A7 III then it’s still a formidable piece of kit but you’re are limited to basic camera control and the powerful stabiliser.

At present, the SmartSling and App have compatibility with many cameras including the Nikon D850, Z6, Canon 5D Mark IV, 6D and R, Panasonic GH5 and Sony A7R3. This list is rapidly growing, so do check out the website for your camera.

Basic features

The Crane 3S SmartSling kit includes the main gimbal, mini tripod, SmartSling a few accessories and cables and the free to download app.

One feature that instantly makes the Crane 3S stand out is the maximum payload which is 6.5kg; this compares to the DJI Ronin-S at 3.6kg. This additional payload does one of two things, the first being that it enables you to stabilise far heavier cameras, the second being it’s a little more forgiving.

Zhiyun Crane 3S motor

Unlike other single-handed gimbal stabilisers, Zhiyun has concentrated on comfort. As well as the usual foldable mini tripod base that converts to a grip in use there’s a horizontal grip and then the addition of the SmartSling. This multi-grip design makes the Crane 3S easier to hold than other gimbals, even with a heavy camera and lens combo, although it is heavy.

Adaptability has also been well-considered, and the Crane 3S is one of the few gimbals of this size that can quickly adapt from being handheld to being part of a larger rig or mounted. There’s plenty of mounting options.

As well as the ability to adapt the grips to your needs, the arms and mounts can be adapted to support small and large cameras better. This means that you can use the Crane 3S with a Sony FS7 then switch to a small Sony A7 III mirrorless if you so wish.

The gimbal lock design has also been redesigned compared with the previous version, and this gives more security when being transported.

The Crane 3S is supplied with three batteries that provide power for 12 hours with a 3KG load.

The Crane 3S SmartSling Kit without the camera or baseplate weighs in at 3.08kg.

There is also the option for DC in, which supports the new 25.2v TransMount PowerPlus battery pack. This gives the Crane extended use time to 18 hours and is ideal on professional shoots.

One of the issues that affect many gimbal stabilisers of this type is the effects of high wind and G-Force that reduce the usual stability the Crane 3S would provide. Engineers have worked hard to counteract these forces with an all-new algorithm that promises to enable you to capture smooth shake-free footage however fast the action.

Another feature that has been carefully considered is the 55º tilted roll axis that has been accurately calculated and ensures that you always get a good view of the camera’s screen and have plenty of space to mount cinema, camera lens combos.

When it comes to the mechanics of motion it has a tilt range of 360º, Roll range of 330º with a max of 75º and min of -255º and pan axis of 360º. This gives plenty of flexibility and control.

Other features available with additions

While the SmartSling does have a good level of features, you can further add to the functionality with the addition of modular motors and wifi kit, which are available for an additional cost.

On the side of the gimbal, there’s a built-in focus wheel. To use this, you’ll need those add on servo motors and of course a compatible lens.

Zhiyun Crane 3S review

On the SmartSling there’s also a built-in zoom rocker, again this requires a compatible camera and lens to use.

Another exciting addition that you could add is the CRANE 3S X TransMount Image Transmission System.

This enables you to control and transmit visuals directly from the camera connected gimbal to a smart device. Again check the compatibility for this, and the feature also requires additional equipment.

Then there’s ViaTouch 2.0 which is part of the TransMount system and enables seamless communication between the gimbal, camera and smart device all using the ZY Play app that needs to be installed on a smart device. Again you need the additional kit to take advantage of all the features.

ZY Play App

The ZY Play app is where most of the advanced features reside.

Once your camera is wired into the gimbal, say a GH5, you can then take control of your camera, adjusting the values and some shooting settings as well as starting and stopping recording.

The app also packs in some interesting features such as Panoramic, timelapse and trajectory photography.

Build and Handling

The Crane 3S once assembled and balanced is solid and features the usual three-axis mechanism that enables the motorised stabilisation.

Real attention to detail has been paid throughout the design with independent locks for each axis. These locks help protect the motors and arms during transportation and make it easy to pack away; they’re also used when balancing the camera at set-up.

Zhiyun Crane 3S Easy view of screen

There is little to fault with the manufacture of the Crane 3S other than to say that this is not a small or lightweight piece of kit.

Key features of the design are the axis locks, DC-in on the side, plenty of accessory ports both for digital and physical additions, the SmartSling handle that slots and locks and the variety of other mounting threads, both 1/4 and 2/3-inch giving plenty of options and versatility.

Initial assembly and balancing

As with most motorised gimbal stabilisers, a little assembly is required before you get started, it’s also worth downloading the app, ZY Play.

The first part of the assembly is the mini tripod which bolts to the main gimbal, once screwed in the gimbal can then be placed on a flat surface and the SmartSling slotted and locked in.

Next, dependent on the camera the base plate is bolted on, if you’re using a mirrorless or medium DSLR, then you’ll probably need the riser plate as well.

This additional plate gives the lens a little more space and is required for balancing with smaller cameras.

Once in place, the lens support can be slotted on to the base plate, and the Y section raised to rest against the lens.

It’s worth noting that if you’re using a zoom lens and you intend to zoom in and out without rebalancing, then the zoom needs to be placed at the midway focal length. For an example using a 24-70mm, something around the 50mm is a good midpoint and means that there is less for the gimbal to do to correct the slight imbalance if you zoom in or out0.

Now the baseplate is slotted into the gimbal and making sure the tilt axis is unlocked, you slide the camera back and forth until it finds a balance.

Once the camera balance has been found, the lock can then be secured. Now the tilt axis can be balanced; this involves moving the arm up and down until the camera holds it’s a position.

Next, you repeat a similar procedure for the other two axes. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but Zhiyun has created superb videos that walk you through the process.

The final stage is to connect the cables, and this will differ depending on the camera you have. Again check the compatibility chart on the website to see what functions and features will be available for your camera.

On the Panasonic GH5, most of the features such as focus and camera settings and control are all available, on the Sony A7 III you can only really start and stop recording and take photos. In both cases, you’ll need to ensure that your camera has been updated with the latest firmware.

Now that the camera is balanced and connected, you’re almost set to go. Switch on the gimbal, then the camera, and finally connect the app.

Once the app boots, you need to select the manufacturer through the settings screen, and that’s it, you’re ready to shoot ultra-smooth video or use the app to shoot timelapse and panoramas.


For the bulk of this test, I used the Sony A7 III with a variety of lenses. The first thing to note is that if you thought the DJI Ronin-S was heavy, then the Crane 3S is another level up.

However, the design of the Crane 3S does give you plenty of handling options, and if shooting for a day, I would recommend a Flycam Flowline or similar.

And that’ss the thing with the Crane 3S, it gives you options, and that’s something that other gimbals just don’t do.

Using the Crane 3S with the Panasonic GH5 was seamless, the two are ideally matched, and the compatibility between the two is incredible.

The gimbal smooths and stabilises the footage, and there’s plenty of control over the settings through the SmartSling.

Switching to the Sony A7 III and the gimbal still works well, although you lose the ability to change settings through the SmartSling, the loss of the LiveView through the app is also a shame but not a deal-breaker.

What does become apparent very early on is that the Crane 3S is very forgiving? Those motors are designed to carry the load of a professional stills or video camera, so a small mirrorless is easily balanced and held.

That leniency does have a limit, and if you hold the gimbal to close to the max or minimum rotations when the camera isn’t quite balanced, you will get a small amount of judder.

During the test I found, especially for low angled shots, that on occasion there was a slight judder from the motors. If this happened, a quick rebalance would quickly correct the issue.

A cruder fix was just to tilt the handle up slightly to give the gimbal a little more room to play. These are user-related issues rather than anything with the gimbal; it’s just that the power of the motors forgives the user being a little lax with the setup.

The results of the stabilised footage are impressive. Handheld and static scenes showed the framing and hold on composition are excellent; there’s a natural smoothness to the look of the footage.

Setting out on a brisk walk and trying to tailor the walk to avoid any bobbing and again the Crane 3S does a great job enabling you to capture smooth professional-looking video with ease.

The final stabilisation test was to take the Crane 3S for a run. Not a long one, as it weighs quite a bit, and here you can see just how impressive those motors and new algorithms are.

OK, the speed wasn’t overly fast, but the terrain was pretty rough, and downhill and you can see just how well the motors work to create a smooth pan.

There is a slight jerk in the footage just after a jump, but the Crane 3S manages to smooth this, so it looks like a small blip, whereas it was me momentarily losing my balance and only just recovering from a possible face plant.

When it came to the stabilising performance, there was little to fault.

However, in use, there are a few things that I did highlight. The main one was access to the joystick under the horizontal handle. The spacing here is tight, and sometimes it can be a little tricky to get the full range of movement that you want.

Also, I would have liked some control on the SmartSling over the motion of the axis, maybe the zoom could operate tilt, and the index finger jog wheel could operate the side to side movement. Still, unfortunately, I couldn’t see a way to customise these buttons and dials in this way.

The final part of the Crane 3S that I have mentioned but not in any depth is the app. ZY Play is used across the Zhiyun gimbals and offers added features for the gimbal as well as adjustments.

The interface is well laid out but does take a little time to orientate correctly. The two main highlights from the app are the timelapse which enables you to capture stunning timewarp style footage and the panoramic option.

The Panoramic setting enables you to set a start and stop point, and then the gimbal works out how many shots are needed and automatically shoots the sequence. It’s a feature that has been common across gimbal stabilisers but nevertheless is still impressive.

Zhiyun Crane 3S review verdict

The Crane 3S is an impressive piece of kit, and what I liked about it was the flexibility. If you’re working solo, then there’s plenty of features that will assist you with the shoot; such as the ability to attach accessories and hook up to additional supports.

It’s also incredibly easy to balance due to those powerful motors and the axis locks help out as well.

Zhiyun Crane 3S grip

The build is solid, there’s nothing dainty or weak about the construction, and it feels like a real workhorse.

That solid build and power do come at a price, and that’s the weight, you do need to be fit to shoot with it unaided for a day, but again Zhiyun has thought of that with all those connection options.

The real test comes down to the compatibility and quality of stabilisation.

On the first point, compatibility is increasing, and already through the test, all cameras that I tried with the gimbal had an acceptable level of control. If all could have the levels attributed to the Panasonic GH5, then that would be amazing. Still, even with just the ability to start and stop recording, take pictures etc as with the Sony A7 III, that was still enough to make this a worthwhile purchase.

The primary function of the Crane 3S is to provide you with a platform for shooting smooth video, and to that end, this motorised gimbal stabiliser excels.

So, yes this is a fantastic product, but who should buy it? For most enthusiasts the price and size will be off putting, it is just above the needs of those just starting out or looking for something for occasional use.

However, if you’re a professional or filmmaker, then the Crane 3S gives you more options than other similar products. Mainly the ability to mount in a variety of ways making it incredibly flexible in use.

Attach the Crane 3S to a Crane, rig, flowline, dolly or any equipment that enables motion, and it won’t let you down.

Handheld some might find it heavy, you’re looking at a minimum of 5kg, but during several tests out in the field, I carried it for well over an hour without issue. The design of the handles makes it easy and comfortable to carry when not filming.

When filming, I could happily control the gimbal position for around five minutes before a quick rest and the more you use it, the more you discover the comfortable positions to hold.

Overall I have to say I was blown away with the quality of the Crane 3S. Its performance throughout was excellent, and for handheld static and motion shots, the quality of the stabilisation was exceptional.

For faster-moving and running shots, the Crane 3S really stood out.

For any professional videographer or filmmaker needing a highly versatile gimbal then there’s really nothing else this good at this kind of size and price.

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