The ZHIYUN Crane 4 marks a significant evolution in the Crane series, and not a moment too soon. ZHIYUN faced a conundrum: their mid-weight WEEBILL gimbal had become so efficient that most mirrorless camera users — who predominantly consist of run-and-gun videographers — found it sufficient for their needs. This left many pondering the necessity of the more robust Crane 3 or S models.
Adding to the brand’s challenges was the naming confusion caused by the lighter Crane M series. This range seemed to piggyback on the reputation of the premium models, diluting the cachet that the Crane name had built up among independent filmmakers.
But now, the Crane 4 is poised for a comeback. It brings a raft of new features, more power, and a level of balance that repositions this gimbal as a top choice for both high-end enthusiasts and professionals seeking a reliable, single-handed stabiliser.
Yes, some design elements could use further refinement. However, when integrated with ZHIYUN’s ecosystem of focus motors and transmission gear, this gimbal starts to shine brightly. It signals that the Crane series is back in the game as a serious contender in the gimbal market.
Design refinements needed
Higher price point
What is the ZHIYUN Crane 4?
ZHIYUN has long been a go-to brand for filmmakers ever since the debut of their first single-handed gimbal stabiliser. While they’ve been formidable players, they’ve also been in a relentless battle against the industry giant, DJI. However, with a more diverse range of models catering to all user groups, the highly anticipated Crane 4 looks set to tip the scales.
A few years back, you would walk onto any mid-sized set or event and spot videographers armed with Crane gimbals. These days, that crowd is more likely to be wielding DJI’s RS 3 Pro. Several factors contribute to this shift. For one, ZHIYUN’s brand message got muddled when they extended the esteemed Crane name to their lower-end models. Additionally, the WEEBILL series is so effective and competitively priced that it’s further complicated buyers’ choices.
The Crane 4 aims to turn heads — and, spoiler alert, it does. This new single-handed gimbal stabiliser seems to have everything an independent videographer could wish for. But there’s a stumbling block: the dilution of the Crane brand. Once synonymous with professional, high-end stabilisers, the name is now also associated with entry-level, lightweight options.
As the Crane 4 gets its boots on the ground and videographers start to test its mettle, the hope is that it will re-establish its credentials as a worthy contender to DJI’s RS 3 Pro.
Load Capacity: up to 4.5 kg
Battery Life: 12 hours
Axes: 3-axis stabilisation
Connectivity: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Compatible Cameras: DSLR and mirrorless
Software Support: ZY Play mobile app
Weight: 1.2 kg
Charging Time: 2.5 hours
Operational Modes: Lock, Pan, Follow, POV, and Vortex
Build and Handling
While ZHIYUN’s CRANES have always been well-crafted and robust, there has been something a bit industrial about the design in the past. Previously, the focus was more on function, with all-metal construction that lacked the finesse of some rivals. With this latest release, ZHIYUN has addressed most of these design concerns, taking cues from the WeeBill series. The Crane 4 now boasts an ergonomically beautiful design.
However, there are still a few elements that feel more like bolt-ons than integral parts of the gimbal, such as the wrist rest and the handle. They function well, but they don’t feel as refined as the rest of the gimbal.
Overall, the design of the new Crane has evolved significantly from its previous iterations and now more closely resembles the WeeBill series. The comfortable grip, easy-to-reach controls, and solid build give it an appealing aesthetic.
When it comes to setup, balancing the gimbal still requires a few minutes and is heavily dependent on practice and skill. Once the camera is mounted and balanced, the powerful motors take over, aligning everything swiftly before initiating the calibration process.
During setup, I was particularly impressed with how easily the Canon EOS R5 C could be balanced. This is a relatively large camera, but it’s well within the Crane 4’s capabilities. Balance was quickly achieved, and tests showed that the gimbal has the power and speed to handle fast-paced movements, even with the weight of this larger mirrorless camera.
Complementing the gimbal is the app, which is feature-rich and allows for connections to various available accessories as well as general gimbal control. App connection was straightforward, and once everything is paired, you can control the gimbal directly through the app. For more advanced features, you’ll need the transmission system, but out of the box, the app is reliable and offers most video and still photography movements like panoramic shots and smooth pans with ease.alanced, this is a relatively large camera, but well withing the abilities of the Crane 4.
Balance was easily achieved and testing the movement and controlled showed that the gimbal had the piower and speed to keep up with a decent pace, even with the weight of this larger mirrorless camera.
As ever alongside the gimbal is the App, again fully featured with the ability to connect to the various accessories that are available as well as the gimbal itself for more general control . App conection was easy enough adn once everything is connected you can contro the gimbal directly usung the app control To get some of the more advanced feature you need the transmission system, but out of the box the app is reliable and will enable you to most of video and stills movements such as panramic photos and smooth pans with relative ease.
One of the most immediately noticeable upgrades is the introduction of balance indicator lights on each motor. This innovative feature takes the guesswork out of calibrating your setup; if the balance is off, a reminder light will alert you. This emphasis on user-friendliness extends to the gimbal’s quick-release module, which makes switching between horizontal and vertical shots a seamless experience.
This gimbal isn’t just versatile in terms of camera orientation—it also offers an extendable sling grip that aligns perfectly with the central axis. Whether you’re using the gimbal in a two-handed mode or opting for the sling grip, the 1/4″ screw hole ensures you can accessorise as you please. And while we’re on the topic of comfort, the new and improved wrist rest structure is designed for extended shooting sessions, combining ergonomic design with a skin-friendly texture.
Lighting is another area where the Crane 4 shines. It comes with a built-in 10W fill light, so there’s no need for a separate lighting setup. The fill light is more than just an add-on; it’s a fully integrated feature complete with a light cover to achieve optimal shooting conditions. But let’s not overlook the user interface. Customizable settings are at your fingertips, literally, with the Crane 4’s intuitive front dial and trigger button. From ISO to aperture, the controls make the creative process straightforward and efficient.
Bluetooth shutter control, compatible with most mainstream cameras, further enhances usability. With the touch of a button, you can commence recording or take that perfect snapshot. A 1.22-inch touch control colour screen supports multiple functional adjustments and adds a level of modernity and efficiency to the device. ZHIYUN has also paid attention to the smaller details; a built-in magnetic wrench allows for quick disassembly and assembly, and silicone protective covers on the shaft arm reduce wear and tear.
Precision is key when it comes to focus, and the Crane 4 excels in this domain as well. The built-in dual follow focus interface can be paired with external servo focus controllers, providing a highly accurate focusing experience. Complementing the hardware is the TransMount image transfer system, facilitating both remote monitoring and collaborative authoring. As for battery life, four 18650 batteries ensure that you have more than enough power for a day’s worth of high-intensity shooting, and should you run low, the PD fast charging capability means you can recharge without interrupting your workflow.
The ZHIYUN Crane 4 presents an impressive array of features designed to meet the diverse needs of both amateur and professional videographers.
If you’re used to older single-handed gimbal stabilisers, then you’ll know what a pain they can be to set up. Once you’ve got the balance with your camera and lens, you typically have to put out tape or markers as guides for future setups. Over time, that setup process does become easier as you learn the techniques and tricks for achieving balance.
What I’ve appreciated about the Crane series since the last release is the ease of the setup process. The Crane 3 was incredibly easy to balance, with powerful motors that meant you could be less than meticulous during setup and still achieve decent performance. However, a gimbal, no matter how powerful, only works to its full potential when the balance on all axes is correct.
With the Crane 4, the balancing process follows the usual procedure of lens-up balance, tilt, roll, and yaw balance, and then auto-calibration to perform a systems check. The design of the Crane 4 makes this process both easy and smooth. A red light on the side serves as a warning if the balance is off, which was rare during the test; if this light shows, you know it’s time to rebalance to avoid mid-shot wobble.
Shooting landscape is how the majority of us operate, but with more people shooting for social media, vertical orientation has become an important consideration. The Crane 4 has an easy clip system that allows you to slide off the camera and remount it vertically. It still takes about a minute, but it’s far faster than most competitor systems.
The Sling system, essentially a handle, makes holding the gimbal in various positions more comfortable. However, its design feels a bit like an afterthought, as does the wrist rest. Both are perfect in function but feel a bit DIY in design. The flaws in these two features are purely aesthetic and don’t impact their effectiveness.
A new addition to the Crane series is the built-in 10W lamp, a significant upgrade over the one seen in the WeeBill series. It comes with a decent diffuser for soft lighting and has a dedicated control wheel on the grip’s side. Throughout the test, I was really impressed with the lamp’s performance and ease of use.
Advanced features are where the Crane 4 excels, offering a range of gimbal modes, including FPV and Follow. The fully integrated app enables you to control the gimbal remotely, and if you have the video transmission hardware and focus controls, you can also monitor and control focus and zoom, although this requires additional hardware.
Bluetooth integration has taken a leap forward, expanding the list of compatible cameras. If you have a compatible camera, you can start and stop recording and adjust ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.
The small screen on the grip is incredibly useful for delving into settings. Most features are easily accessible, but the one you’ll probably use most often is the auto-calibrate function.
The size and design of the grip make this the most comfortable single-handed gimbal stabiliser I’ve used. The joystick is well-positioned, and the Bluetooth integration for starting and stopping recording works seamlessly.
Throughout the test, I balanced a range of cameras, including the Sony A7 III and IV, and the Canon EOS R5 C. All were easy to balance, even the Canon EOS R5 C, which can be challenging due to the bulk of its fan. The Sling grip and wrist rest contributed to the ease of handling, making the lightweight unit comfortable to hold for extended periods.
Overall, the Crane defies its compact size with powerful motors and stabilising effects that make capturing professional-looking footage straightforward. Its system’s expandability sets it apart, offering video transmission, focus, and zoom motors, and an ease of use that’s hard to beat.
At the end of the test, I have to say that I’ve been really impressed with the handling and features of this small yet powerful gimbal. It’s fast to react when needed and comes packed with a ton of features, making it a true rival to the market-leading DJI RS 3 Pro.
When it comes to balancing, the Crane 4 is straightforward to set up. Its motors pack a punch, defying the gimbal’s small size and weight. In use, the low weight of the gimbal, coupled with the functional design of the sling grip and wrist rest, makes handling more comfortable compared to the competition.
Though designed primarily for video, this gimbal also includes features that are perfectly suited for still photography. Custom functions enable you to take multi-shot high-resolution images and panoramas.
What also stands out is that, like its predecessors, the Crane 4 is part of an extensive ecosystem that caters to small, medium, and large-scale productions.
Considering its price, the Crane 4 is an exceptional option for all filmmakers and photographers looking for a bit of automation to assist with high-resolution shots and panoramas.