SJCAM Gimbal 2 is an evolution on the motorised gimbal. Not only does it enable you to stabilise your footage, but it also packs in a host of advanced features that take it well beyond other gimbals of this size on the market.
SJCAM, if you haven’t come across them before, are a well-established action camera manufacturer.
What’s more, they really know how to make action cameras. It comes as no surprise then, that they should produce one of the most advanced motorised gimbals for this style of camera.
Its features include ultra-fast responsive 3-axis stabilisation, 6-hour battery life, USB-C port and direct power supply. But, what really sets it apart is the automated modes controlled from the App.
These modes enable the gimbal and a selection of SJCAM cameras such as the SJCAM SJ8 Pro to integrate with the gimbal. This means you have modes such as Timelapse, Motionlapse, Slow Motion and Dolly Motion.
Build quality overall is good, but the grip does feel plasticy. It’s not a patch on the quality of the GoPro Karma Grip, although that said the Gimbal 2 has many more features.
Although SJCAM has refined the overall design compared with the first iteration, there are still some rough and ready aspects such as the simple clamp that holds the camera and then there’s the plugin link cable between the camera and gimbal.
A direct USB-C to Gimbal socket would have been a far neater solution, but then this gimbal is compatible with a selection of SJCAM cameras.
The simple clamp design does have its benefits enabling non-SJCAM action cameras to be fitted, although this isn’t officially supported.
Booting up and the gimbal is simple enough to use and pretty much ready to go out of the box once charged.
The joystick in the centre of the grip enables easy rotation and tilt, although it’s worth pulling back on the speed of response in the settings for more cinematic movement.
The buttons and trigger on the front can all be used to operate the camera from recording to swapping modes and after you familiarise yourself with the options it’s all straight forward.
As well as direct control the gimbal 2 can also be operated from the App. This is the same as the one used for the latest SJCAM cameras and offers solid overall performance.
However, while the Android version of the App seems fully up to date, there’s some functionality through the iOS App that just doesn’t work at present. There are also some screen headings and options in Chinese.
Overall the gimbal works incredibly well with smooth fluid motors that will enable you to capture pro level footage with your SJCAM action camera.
Build quality is good but the materials, especially for the grip section, do feel a little cheap and there are a few design aspects that could have been refined.
The App is the major area that lets down an otherwise excellent product. As a whole, it works well but some of the most exciting features, while they work on Android devices such as the Motion Lapse, seem limited on iOS devices.
These, however, are likely to be fixed with firmware updates. When you compare the SJCAM Gimbal 2 against the competition it stands out through it’s packed feature set.
At the price as well you can’t really go wrong, let’s just hope some of those issues with the App can be resolved.
SJCAM has a long history of producing action cameras that have challenged the quality and specifications of the GoPro, and like any good manufacturer, there’s always a host of accessories.
The SJCAM Gimbal 2 is the second generation electronic stabiliser from the company and enables you to capture smooth fluid motion like the pro’s, albeit on a small scale.
Specifications and features have taken a leap, and the improvements are instantly apparent as soon as the Gimbal is weighted with a camera and switched on.
Motors are smooth and lightning fast to react, showing leaps forwards in the technology inside the device.
SJCAM have also considered the design and refined many of the elements of the new stabiliser. As with the launch of the Gimbal, the Gimbal 2 has been launched alongside the latest range of action cameras, primarily the SJCAM CJ8 Pro.
The new Gimbal has gone through a complete aesthetic redesign over the original and features a better and far more tactile grip, although it still feels a little plasticky.
It also sees a big enhancement in the pan feature that sees the gimbal now able to pan through a huge 640º.
Clearance is also far better as you manoeuvre the grip, so it now easier to shoot low angled shots.
Comparing the features against much of the competition and the Gimbal 2 has instant appeal, especially with the automated shooting features that enable you to add motion to time-lapses.
It’s direct integration with some SJCAM action cameras also highlights major benefits over the rivals.
Initial impressions are good, and at present, although there are plenty of these electronic stabilisers on the market most just miss the mark when it comes to quality integration and features.
Here however we have the camera manufacturer producing the camera and gimbal, both of which are fully integrated.
If that integration is smooth then this could be a must have for any action camera user.
The SJCAM Gimbal 2 is a 3-axis which offers a tilt 320º, Roll 320º and Pan 640º. This amount of movement is pretty much unchallenged at this price range and offers plenty of versatility for any filmmaker looking for a handheld rig.
Considering the all-electronic form of stabilisation the grip holds a 6-hour charge, which is impressive and more than enough for a day shooting. It will also charge up the action camera if attached which will, of course, reduce the use time.
Around the body of the grip are two buttons; on/off button which doubles as the switch between Photo and Video as well as the shutter button.
To the left of this is the mode button that alters the gimbal lock dependent on the number of times you push it in quick succession.
Then above these two buttons is the thumb joystick, this enables you to move the gimbal through two of the three axis.
On the front of the grip is a trigger, this is used to re-centre the gimbal.
Alongside the Gimbal 2 is the SJCAM App, this is the same as the one used for the cameras and enables you to switch between the camera and Gimbal Settings.
It also enables you to adjust the Gimbal reaction speeds and use the added features such as TimeLapse, Motion Lapse, Slow Motion and Dolly Motion.
Compare these features to the competition and they certainly stand out. There are no other gimbal stabilisers with this level of interaction.
Out of the box and powered on all seems good and a first look at the features and everything seems to be working fine.
Build quality and handling
Packaging can often be a good indicator of the product inside, and here the Gimbal 2 arrives in packaging that mimics that of the DJI OSMO range of products. Cardboard sleeve and polystyrene protective case.
However, where the DJI case is designed to be used for more than the initial protection of the product, here it really is just for that purpose.
Once the Gimbal 2 is removed the overall impression of the device is good, it has an aesthetic design, decent weight and everything looks and feels well finished.
When it comes to the quality of the plastics used there is a marked difference between this and the high-quality materials used in the construction of the DJI and GoPro products.
The grip really gives the pricing of the Gimbal 2 away, the grip here is moulded plastic rather than rubberised. It feels ok but certainly doesn’t shout high quality.
The most important part of the device is the gimbal and cage. Compared with the grip this all feels good and solid. The actual camera clamp is pretty basic, quite literally a clamp, but there’s no faulting how well it works.
The Gimbal 2 is designed for use with a selection of SJCAM cameras, but testing a few others in the clamp and the Gimbal 2 seemed to balance and work just fine.
Once the camera is clamped in place and you’ve connected the camera and gimbal with the connecting wire, you can then switch on the device.
After a few moments, it will spring to life and the head will shift and swivel as it auto calibrates. You do need to make sure that it’s stood on a flat surface when you do this, but once calibrated it’s ready to go.
Now picking up the gimbal and you instantly see the effect of the motors kicking into action. The speed of the adjustment is impressive and smooth.
The major movements are smoothed but unlike the GoPro Karma Grip, there’s far more to this gimbal than just removing camera shake.
A small joystick enables you to move the head through 3-axis, tilt, roll and pan. There’s also a mode button that enables you to switch from Pan Follow, to Pan and Tilt Follow, All Lock or All Follow.
When you flick through the modes and see the effect on the gimbal motion it all makes sense pretty quickly.
Along with the mode, button is the power/shutter button and this enables you to switch on/off the camera with a long hold, or a short press will fire the shutter or start recording.
Finally, there’s a trigger which has different functions again dependent on the push. A long push locks the gimbal and a double press re-centres the head. This is probably the most useful function.
The SJCAM Gimbal 2 comes packed with a fully compatible App and a quick flick through the features and it has to be said it’s impressive.
It’s also the same app as the latest SJCAM SJ8 Pro which means that you can switch between the camera and gimbal with ease.
From the outset, the Gimbal 2 proves to be a formidable gimbal stabiliser. It’s smaller and lighter than the GoPro Karma and packs in tonnes of additional features.
Used as a straight gimbal stabiliser and the performance is excellent with the motors firing into action and smoothing out all the wobbles that come with handholding a camera.
As ever the one motion that the gimbal can’t counter is the bobbing caused by walking, but with a little practice, it’s not too difficult to change your walking style slightly to overcome this.
If used for running or cycling then through the app there is the option to boost the response speed of the motors which is handy.
The 1/4-inch thread on the side enables you to use existing mounts to attach the grip to your handlebars or other objects with relative ease.
The GoPro Karma missed the mark on several aspects, primarily complete lack of control. Here the Gimbal 2 offers a joystick which enables you to move the camera to point in any direction that you want.
The speed of the joystick can be adjusted and the action of the small stick does make it easy to use. On the front of the grip is a trigger which enables you to recenter things which is an essential feature.
The mode button enables you to quickly switch between locking axis is also well positioned as is the shutter button.
Used in the hand with the controls the Gimbal 2 performs exceptionally well.
Switch over to the App and the overall user experience is good although using the iOS version there are a few bugs in the app that just don’t work such as the MotionLapse option.
The interface for Motion TimeLapse is good and it doesn’t take long to work out what it does and how it works, however, there’s always a bit of guesswork around the motion and time it takes between each point.
On the Android version of the App, you get LiveView through the Gimbal section of the App, on iOS you don’t. This may all be updated in the near future but at the moment this is more a feature for Android phone users rather than Apple.
The most important aspect of the gimbal is how the footage looks, is it smooth, does the Gimbal 2 do the job of smoothing out the footage?
To this end, it’s difficult to fault the performance, the Gimbal 2 takes out handheld shake, smooths motion and vastly improves the quality of your action camera footage.
There is one other major factor to the Gimbal 2 and that’s battery life. When the Gimbal 2 is used in isolation without the camera plugged in then battery life may well be fast approaching 5-6 hours. It certainly surpassed three without issue.
However, once you plug in the camera, you then have the batteries powering the gimbal and topping up the camera, so battery life is vastly reduced to about 3-4 hours. To be honest that still impressive.
Gimbal 2 is impressive. It packs in loads of features at an excellent price, however, there are some issues.
Firstly the build quality is good but not exceptional. The moulding and quality of the plastic is all good quality, but the depth of design stops at that single material. The grip is formed and plastic not rubberised for better grip.
The buttons all feel up to the job but again they’re plasticy and light in construction, there’s nothing outwardly wrong with them, they just not as high a quality as you’d expect.
But, then you come back to the price and actually this build and lack of material diversity sits well as this price point.
Then there are the bugs with the iOS App. During the test, there have been updates but as yet the MotionLapse issue is one that still exists.
Let’s look at the Gimbal 2 as a whole, consider the price, and what this small device actually does.
You have to step back and think, the Gimbal 2 offers an insane amount for the price. The compatibility with the SJCAM SJ8 Pro, the App features, the control with the joystick.
For around £80 it’s a bargain, forget the small bugs, this is SJCAM they’ll get those sorted in time. If not just throw your iPhone in the bin and switch to Android for the full experience.
The SJCAM Gimbal 2 is an exceptional device for the price. If they could iron out the small bugs with the App for iOS then this would easily be a must have and highly recommended product.