Reviews |Zhiyun Smooth Q3

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 Review

Zhiyun's new entry-level gimbal packs a lot of features at a good price. But is it up to the job? Find out in our Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£84

$85
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Our Verdict

The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 is a handy little addition to to anyone’s travel bag. It may not completely eliminate the motion from your footsteps, but it makes a huge difference than had you shot handheld. And that’s who this smartphone gimbal is aimed at. With a sub-£100/$100 price tag, serious vloggers and professional videographers will want to look for something more advanced. But if you’ve been filming holidays and days out handheld on your phone and want to give these videos a little more professional look and feel, the Smooth Q3 will do the job nicely.

The gimbal packs up small and supports most smartphones, and it’s button controls are effective and easy to use. There are also some nice features, such as a built-in LED fill light, and the ZY Cami companion app works seamlessly with your phone’s camera app. If you’re taking that first holiday this year now that things are opening up, the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 is great value for money.

For

  • Excellent companion app
  • Very compact
  • Provides stable footage

Against

  • Handle could be longer
  • Slight hints of movement when walking

Is the latest budget gimbal from Zhiyun a worthy investment for your smartphone filmmaking? Find out in our Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review as we put it through its paces.

What is the Zhiyun Smooth Q3?

The Smooth Q3 is Zhiyun’s latest three-axis stabilised entry-level smartphone gimbal. The Smooth Q3 accommodates all smartphones and operates via the ZY Cami app in conjunction with your phone. A unique feature to the Smooth Q3 is an integrated fill light on the mounting clamp.

The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 is small and lightweight, with a foldable design for extra portability. It also comes with a detachable mini tripod that mounts to the bottom of the gimbal.

Features

The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 offers three-axis stabilisation in body that weighs just 340g and supports a maximum payload of 280g. Its stated 1300mAh battery runtime is 15 hours and charge time is three hours.

Perhaps the most novel feature of the Smooth Q3 is the built-in LED fill light on the head of the phone mount. This provides a little bit of extra light for filming in darker conditions. You can turn this on by simply holding your finger on the top of it for a couple seconds. This light can also rotate depending on the direction in which you’re filming.

Unlike many other smartphone gimbals that fold inward when not in use, Zhiyun took a slightly different approach with the Smooth Q3. At the bottom of the gimbal arm, on the base, is a round screw. Loosen this and the Smooth Q3 gimbal arm extends until it clicks into place.

The Smooth Q3 communicates with your phone via Bluetooth in the ZY Cami app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. I used a Huawei P20 Pro in my test. On the gimbal handle you then have record and mode buttons, a trigger for object tracking or re-centring gimbal, a zoom control and a joystick for changing the angle of view. These direct controls mean you don’t need to go into the app settings to make changes.

There are six shooting modes you can choose from: follow, pan follow, lock, point of view, Vortex and Phone GO. New to the Smooth Q3 is also Zhiyun’s Smartfollow 3.0 technology. With this enabled, aim your phone at your target, press the gimbal’s trigger and your camera will lock on to your subject. Pressing the trigger again releases whatever subject you’ve locked on to.

Specification

  • Dimensions (folded): 45 x 154 x 180mm
  • Dimensions (unfolded): 90 x 127 x 279mm
  • Weight: 340g
  • Battery life: 15 hours
  • Charge time: 3 hours
  • Payload: 280g
  • Smartphone thickness: 7–10mm
  • Shooting modes: Follow, pan follow, lock, point of view, Vortex and Phone GO

Build and Handling

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review: build quality

The Zhiyun Smooth Q3 measures 90 x 127 x 279mm when in use and folds down to 45 x 154 x 180mm. You can do this by loosening the metal screw and sliding the arm down until it locks against the handle. There are contacts in the base of the arm and adjacent to the screw that connect when you fully extend the arm. This allows the gimbal to operate.

The Smooth Q3 is mostly made of plastic, but it is a thick variety. The mounting clamp is rigid and your phone isn’t going to slip. First time out of the box, I actually had to use two hands to get it open, it’s that secure.

The controls are pretty self-explanatory. One the side of the handle underneath your fingers are the power button and the trigger. Zhiyun provides a really helpful quick start guide in the box explaining what these buttons do. Triple pressing the trigger button lets you switch between landscape and portrait mode. Single pressing it activates Smart Follow, and double pressing the trigger repositions the gimbal. You can also use the power button to check the battery level or reset Bluetooth.

On the left side of the Smooth Q3 is a Wide – Telephoto switch. On the front is a record button, a joystick and a Mode button. Modes include Pan Follow, Lock, Follow, Point of View and PhoneGo.

On the bottom of the handle is a tripod mount. On top of the mounting clamp is a fill light, which you can press to cycle through different levels of brightness.

All the buttons are rigid and secure. Nothing feels like it’s too sensitive.

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review: zoom switch

Overall the build is pretty solid and the button layout is well thought-out. My only niggle would be that the handle feels too short. I have fairly small hands, but even I felt the Smooth Q3 could be a bit longer. The base sort of rests in my palm, and I need to adjust my grip when pressing different buttons, particularly the power and trigger buttons on the other side.

Performance

To use the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 with your iOS or Android smartphone, you need to download the ZY Cami app. In the app it will prompt you to make a connection with gimbal. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to go. It takes seconds, and is very easy to do.

The app was a little flakey when I was first setting it up. It was initialising and kept getting hung up at 90%. After reinstalling it, though, I’ve had no issues.

When you turn on the gimbal, the Smooth Q3 defaults to portrait format. Simply press the trigger button three times if you want to film in landscape mode, and away you go.

I took the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 on a walk in the woods. It’s a bumpy stretch with a lot of uneven ground. Overall, I was pretty impressed by the stability the Smooth Q3 provides, particularly for a gimbal at this budget price point.

There are slight hints of movement in the videos I shot, but for the most part it does a great job of flattening your footsteps if you’re filming while walking. And filming from a moving vehicle, there was no noticeable movement at all.

The zoom and joystick are great options that allow you to change your angle of view and add some visual diversity to your videos. However, I found their movements a little too abrupt – mainly the joystick. A more subtle response to your touch would make your videos look more natural. I found that when I used the joystick to pan around a scene, the effect was a bit choppy.

As I walked with the gimbal I also noticed a little bit of drift. I could compensate for this with the joystick to keep my intended view in the frame, but every so often I would need to re-centre the gimbal.

Overall, in all the tests for my Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review I found that it does a pretty good job. It really smooths out motion in vehicles, even a bike (riding one-handed and holding the gimbal; I wouldn’t recommend) on pavement. It was only when walking that I noticed faint hints of my footsteps. But then, I was looking closely. If you’re filming a Sunday walk with your family or a boat cruise on holiday, are you really looking for these minor deficiences? No, probably not.

So when commenting on the quality of footage the Smooth Q3 provides, it’s important to consider the context of the intended user. For anyone who has been filming their kids’ birthday parties or tourist adventures on their phone handheld, this will be a dream.

Verdict

Should you buy the Smooth Q3? In my Zhiyun Smooth Q3 review I found that it has a few shortcomings, but it’s also very quick to set up, simple to use and easy to carry around. And that’s a pretty strong selling point for a gimbal. It really depends on what your aim is in using it.

If you’re a casual smartphone video shooter who wants to get some better quality footage of your holidays and family days out, you can hardly go wrong with the Zhiyun Smooth Q3. Its budget price tag, range of features, ease of use and pretty good video quality will instantly be an improvement over anything you try to shoot handheld from a tourist bus or a mountain hike.

If you’re a serious videographer, though, looking to make money from your smartphone videos or to showcase them on your YouTube channel, you might want to consider going for one of Zhiyun’s more advanced gimbals.

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