tl;dr: I'm going with the Zhiyun Smooth Q Stabilizer.

A few months ago I started creating travel videos which you can check out on Facebook or YouTube, and so far I've created every video completely using my cell phone for both the video recording and audio voice-overs. While in Medellin, Colombia these past few months, I didn't have any other video equipment with me, but I did not let that stop me. However, I'm about to take a short trip to the USA in a few days, and while there, I'm going to upgrade some of my equipment. The three things that I think will make a big difference in my production value are a: 1) Stabilizer, 2) Unidirectional Microphone, and 3) Drone. Today's article is about finding the right stabilizer for my phone (which is a Samsung Galaxy S7).

By the way, if you're into travel vlogging, check out my article on 21 Things I Learned From Nas Daily About Travel Vlogging

Here's what I'm looking for in a cell phone stabilizer:

  • 3 Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: Gimbal stabilizers use brushless motors to keep your smartphone steady. Two-axis gimbals stabilize the Tilt and Roll, and three-axis gimbals stabilize Pan. I need the three-axis because I do a lot of pan shots of cities and landscapes in my videos.
  • Rechargeable Batteries: I don't want to have to buy batteries all over the world so I'm looking for a stabilizer with a built-in rechargeable battery (which most of the better ones have). Ideally the battery lasts 10+ hours so it can double as a battery pack and recharge my phone while I use it.
  • Android App: This goes without saying, but the stabilizer has got to have software that's designed to work with my equipment which is a Samsung Galaxy S7 and a Lenovo Yoga 910 laptop. Not all stabilizers work with every operating system.
  • Lightweight and Compact: Everything I own fits in one bag and I'd like to keep it that way. Bigger and heavier stabilizers work better because their weight acts as a balancing agent to keep your camera steady, so I might have to sacrifice a little weight or quality in one direction or another. I don't want to add 4 lbs to my bag but also want something that works well and can handle some wear and tear.
  • Equipment Versatility: Right now I'm using a Galaxy S7, but it'd be nice if I could use the same stabilizer when I upgrade my phone later this year to something with a larger screen. I previously used a Samsung Note and miss having the bigger screen, so I'm going to look for a stabilizer that can also handle a bigger phone like the Pixel 2 Plus.
  • Doubles as a Tripod: Makes sense right? I've wanted a tripod for a while which would be helpful in recording myself and also pan shots. So it'd be great if the stabilizer had one built-in.
  • Cheap to Mid-Priced: There's always the risk of losing/breaking equipment in transit or getting robbed while traveling. I have insurance on my laptop and cell phone, but this stabilizer won't be insured. So for that reason, I don't want to spend a fortune on a stabilizer. I'm looking for a happy medium between quality and price, which will probably be about $100-$150 based on my research.
  • Sold on Amazon: I'm on a time frame here and will have a limited window in the USA to get things delivered, so I need to rely on Amazon's 2 day shipping. This shouldn't be a problem though as I'd imagine the best stabilizers are sold on Amazon anyway.
  • BONUS: This isn't required, but I'd love it if the stabilizer had a built-in unidirectional microphone to record better sound than my phone. I can buy a separate microphone, but if it was built in, I'd know that the stabilizer is built to handle the extra weight.

And the winner is… the Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone, i.e. iPhone 7 Plus 6 Plus, Samsung S7 S6, Featuring APP Control, Vertical Shooting, Face Tracking
105 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone, i.e. iPhone 7 Plus 6 Plus, Samsung S7 S6, Featuring APP Control, Vertical Shooting, Face Tracking
  • Zhiyun Smooth-Q is a 3 axis gimbal stabilizer, suitable for smartphones up to 7.7 oz like iphone 7...
  • Smooth, Steady and Noiseless Videos powered by 3 brushless motors, 3 axis up to 360 degrees...
  • Allow easy switch of mounting direction, either horizontal or vertical. Control the shooting angle...
  • Enhanced camera functions such as camera record, zoom in/out, face tracking, panorama mode and...
  • A standard micro-USB charging port and built-in batteries support 12hrs operating time. Another USB...

Does the Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Gimbal meet my criteria?

  • 3 Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: Yes, it offers 3 axis up to 360 degrees unlimited rotation with one step balancing by adjusting the knob.
  • Rechargeable Batteries: Yes, via two built-in 18650 mAh Li-ion batteries for up to 12-hours of continuous recording (assuming my phone doesn't explode before then), and the battery is rechargeable from within the device. I can also use it to recharge my phone while shooting.
  • Android App: Updated APP-ZY PLAY APP supports Auto-Tracking, Time-Lapse and Filter Options.
  • Lightweight and Compact: The device weighs a total of 450 grams and is 14.7 x 6.1 x 2.9 inches.
  • Equipment Versatility: This device can handle a payload of 75g-200g. My Samsung Galaxy S7 is 152 grams and the Google Pixel 2 Plus is 143 grams so I'll be good to go for this phone and my future phone.
  • Doubles as a Tripod: Yes, on this particular listing, the seller offers a free tipod that connects to the bottom of the gimbal as a gift.
  • Cheap to Mid-Priced: Yes, this falls within the budget that I set.
  • Sold on Amazon: Yes, here's the link to buy on Amazon.
  • MIC (BONUS): No, it does not offer a built in mic, but I found some small smartphone attachment mics that I'm going to order for about $25.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Gimbal Reviews

On paper, the Zhiyun Smooth-Q looks like it will meet my criteria regarding technical specs, but does it work well? The reviews on Amazon were mostly positive via verified purchases which is a good start. Only a handful of people gave this gimbal a shitty review, but from what they wrote, I got the impression that they either didn't know how to use it properly or got a lemon, which happens with technology. I also looked to YouTube to see the gimbal in action.

What do you think? Have you used this gimbal?

If so, please share your thoughts about the Zhiyun Smooth-Q in the comments section below. Or if you have experience with a different gimbal that you'd like to recommend, feel free to do so as well.

Zhiyun Smooth-Q Alternatives: My Runners Up

Although I'm going with the Zhiyun Smooth-Q because it fit my particular criteria, I want to show you my runners up. These were the gimbals that I was also considering. Underneath each gimbal, I'll post the reasons why I went with the Zhiyun instead.

#1) Hohem Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer

Sale
Hohem Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer with Innovative Folding Design and Equipped with Charging Function for iphone 7plus/6S plus/6 plus Android Smartphones (Black)
1 Reviews
Hohem Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer with Innovative Folding Design and Equipped with Charging Function for iphone 7plus/6S plus/6 plus Android Smartphones (Black)
  • Visual auto-tracking shooting
  • Amazing APP interactions through bulit in bluetooth
  • Single click for 180°/360° panorama
  • Built-in power bank up to 3600mAh
  • Supports iphone 7plus/6S plus/6 plus,iphone 7/6S/6,iphone 5S/5/SE and Android smartphones between...

The Hohem Handheld Gimbal is 3-axis, highly rated, has a built-in battery that recharges your phone as you use it, is lightweight, works with my current and future phones, comes with an Android app, and is within my budget. Most of the items on my list were checked off with this one. The reason I did not go with this gimbal is because it doesn't come with a tripod or offer a tripod connection. It's mostly made for attaching to yourself or bikes and would be great if that were my intended use.

#2) Feiyu SPG 3-Axis Gimbal

Sale
Feiyu SPG Upgraded Version Splash-Proof Design 3 Axis Handheld Stabilizer Phone Gimbal for iPhone Huawei Samsung Galaxy Moto LG Xiaomi Smartphones
11 Reviews
Feiyu SPG Upgraded Version Splash-Proof Design 3 Axis Handheld Stabilizer Phone Gimbal for iPhone Huawei Samsung Galaxy Moto LG Xiaomi Smartphones
  • Splash proof Design: The upgrade version of spg achieves the splash proof function, which enables...
  • Smart portrait mode: Ideal motorized gimbal for live streaming on Facebook periscope meerkat,...
  • Intuitive user interface: Powering on, off and switching among various modes with just one button,...
  • Excellent craftsmanship: Enhanced finish with revolutionary unibody motor arm for sports camera and...
  • Perfect for one hand hold: Built from solid aluminum alloy, super lightweight and comfortable by...

The Feiyu SPG 3-Axis Gimbal was a close contender for me and I was seriously considering this one. It satisfies all my criteria above and it's highly rated. The only reason I went with the Zhiyun Smooth-Q instead is because it had a larger quantity of positive reviews, and the price was $60 less expensive than the Feiyu SPG at the time I purchased it.

#3) EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal

EVO Shift 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for iPhone & Android Smartphones - Intelligent APP Controls for Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking + Built in Phone Charging - Includes 1 Year US Warranty | Black
90 Reviews
EVO Shift 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for iPhone & Android Smartphones - Intelligent APP Controls for Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking + Built in Phone Charging - Includes 1 Year US Warranty | Black
  • The EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Gimbal for iPhone & Androids (regular & plus size) smartphones transforms your...
  • Record & Zoom Controls on Handle: When paired with your smartphone, the EVO Shift allows full...
  • Advance Stabilization Modes: Featuring 3 easy to use stabilization modes, the EVO Shift gives you...
  • Perfect Panoramas, Object Tracking & Time-Lapse: The SHIFT's intelligent control features allow you...
  • Up To 10 Hours of Run-Time with Built in charger and battery. The EVO SHIFT also has a Built-In...

The EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal is a popular and highly regarded gimbal as well. Similar to the Feiyu SPG, it satisfies my criteria for a gimbal, but was priced $50 more expensive than the Zhiyun Smooth-Q.

Best Selling Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizers

And lastly, if you're curious to compare my top choices with Amazon's best sellers, these are the top 10 gimbal stabilizers for smartphones.

Bestseller No. 1
Deco Gear 3-Axis Handheld Cell Phone Gimbal Stabilizer iOS/Android Compatible - GIM100BK
2 Reviews
Deco Gear 3-Axis Handheld Cell Phone Gimbal Stabilizer iOS/Android Compatible - GIM100BK
  • Capture moments to tell your story just like the pros! Fits phones with widths 5.5-6.1 inches and...
  • 3-Axis Stabilization. Simple Thumb Control. Quick Adjustable by Hand. One-Key Back Original...
  • Brushless Motors for quite operation. Front/Rear Camera Switch Button. Face Tracking.
  • Gestures Vertical Shooting. USB Charging with approximately 4 hour battery life.
  • IN THE BOX: Camera Gimbal | USB Cable | Removable Tripod Base | Instructions | Authorized USA...
Bestseller No. 2
Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone, i.e. iPhone 7 Plus 6 Plus, Samsung S7 S6, Featuring APP Control, Vertical Shooting, Face Tracking
105 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone, i.e. iPhone 7 Plus 6 Plus, Samsung S7 S6, Featuring APP Control, Vertical Shooting, Face Tracking
  • Zhiyun Smooth-Q is a 3 axis gimbal stabilizer, suitable for smartphones up to 7.7 oz like iphone 7...
  • Smooth, Steady and Noiseless Videos powered by 3 brushless motors, 3 axis up to 360 degrees...
  • Allow easy switch of mounting direction, either horizontal or vertical. Control the shooting angle...
  • Enhanced camera functions such as camera record, zoom in/out, face tracking, panorama mode and...
  • A standard micro-USB charging port and built-in batteries support 12hrs operating time. Another USB...
Bestseller No. 3
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone Like iPhone Xs X 8 7 Plus Android Samsung S9 S8,Gopro,Focus Pull/Zoom,Object Tracking,Phonego Mode,Timelapse(New Smooth Q Ver in 2018)
29 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone Like iPhone Xs X 8 7 Plus Android Samsung S9 S8,Gopro,Focus Pull/Zoom,Object Tracking,Phonego Mode,Timelapse(New Smooth Q Ver in 2018)
  • 【INTEGRATED CONTROL PANEL】Smooth 4 all new hot key design for instant controls can reduce your...
  • 【PHONEGO MODE FOR INSTANT SCENE TRANSITION】Smooth 4 can follow every single of your movement...
  • 【PULL & ZOOM CAPABILITY】By rotating its follow focus handwheel, you can smoothly zoom in/out the...
  • 【TIME LAPSE EXPERT】Smooth 4 give you all kinds of advanced shooting techniques, such as...
  • 【LONG USAGE TIME】Support Two Way Charging and Last Up To 12 Hours
Bestseller No. 4
MOZA Mini-MI 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer Applicable for Smartphone Wireless Phone Charging Compatible with X 8 7 Plus 6 Plus Galaxy S9 Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking
85 Reviews
MOZA Mini-MI 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer Applicable for Smartphone Wireless Phone Charging Compatible with X 8 7 Plus 6 Plus Galaxy S9 Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking
  • The World's First Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer with Wireless Phone Charging: Inductive charging...
  • Super Follow Modes: The Mini-MI features independent control system for each axis; Roll, Yaw, and...
  • APP for Android: https://www.gudsen.com/moza-mini-mi-downloads.html---The MOZA App Opens...
  • Multiple Subjects Detection for Fast Tracking: No matter when the subject is running, cycling, or...
  • Control the Camera with Ergonomic Buttons: Within a fingertip's reach are a joystick and dial wheel,...
Bestseller No. 5
Hohem Gimbal iSteady Mobile 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer for Smartphone, for iPhone XR/XS MAX/X/8/8P, for Android, Time Lapse, Auto Tracking (Hohem stabilizers)
12 Reviews
Hohem Gimbal iSteady Mobile 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer for Smartphone, for iPhone XR/XS MAX/X/8/8P, for Android, Time Lapse, Auto Tracking (Hohem stabilizers)
  • [STEADY AND SMOOTH HD VIDEOS] iSteady Mobile is 3-axis phone stabilizer. It can work...
  • [IMPORTANT INFORMATION] iSteady Mobile needs to be balanced before turning on, and for...
  • [ADVANCED VISUAL AUTO TRACKING TECHNOLOTY] Recognizing the face and automatically track for...
  • [HOHEM STUDIO APP] Allow easy switch of mounting direction, either horizontal or vertical....
  • [4000mAH BUILD-IN BATTERY] Support 12 hour working, and can charge for the smartphone...
Bestseller No. 6
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone Like iPhone Xs X 8 7 Plus Android Samsung S9 S8,Gopro,Focus Pull/Zoom,Object Tracking,Phonego Mode,Time Lapse Type-C Charging Cable
10 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone Like iPhone Xs X 8 7 Plus Android Samsung S9 S8,Gopro,Focus Pull/Zoom,Object Tracking,Phonego Mode,Time Lapse Type-C Charging Cable
  • 【INTEGRATED CONTROL PANEL】Smooth 4 all new hot key design for instant controls can reduce your...
  • 【PHONEGO MODE FOR INSTANT SCENE TRANSITION】Smooth 4 can follow every single of your movement...
  • 【PULL & ZOOM CAPABILITY】By rotating its follow focus handwheel, you can smoothly zoom in/out the...
  • 【TIME LAPSE EXPERT】Smooth 4 give you all kinds of advanced shooting techniques, such as...
  • 【LONG USAGE TIME】Support Two Way Charging and Last Up To 12 Hours
Bestseller No. 7
EVO Shift 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for iPhone & Android Smartphones - Intelligent APP Controls for Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking + Built in Phone Charging - Includes 1 Year US Warranty | Black
90 Reviews
EVO Shift 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal for iPhone & Android Smartphones - Intelligent APP Controls for Auto Panoramas, Time-Lapse & Tracking + Built in Phone Charging - Includes 1 Year US Warranty | Black
  • The EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Gimbal for iPhone & Androids (regular & plus size) smartphones transforms your...
  • Record & Zoom Controls on Handle: When paired with your smartphone, the EVO Shift allows full...
  • Advance Stabilization Modes: Featuring 3 easy to use stabilization modes, the EVO Shift gives you...
  • Perfect Panoramas, Object Tracking & Time-Lapse: The SHIFT's intelligent control features allow you...
  • Up To 10 Hours of Run-Time with Built in charger and battery. The EVO SHIFT also has a Built-In...
SaleBestseller No. 8
Yomito 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone and GoPro iPhoneXS/8/7 /7Plus /6 Samsung Galaxy S9/S8+/S8 /S7 /S6 /S5 GoPro Hero 3/4/5/6/7. Wireless Control Vertical Shooting Panorama Mode
8 Reviews
Yomito 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphone and GoPro iPhoneXS/8/7 /7Plus /6 Samsung Galaxy S9/S8+/S8 /S7 /S6 /S5 GoPro Hero 3/4/5/6/7. Wireless Control Vertical Shooting Panorama Mode
  • 【Easy to Operate】 New Design of Control Panel, Adjusting balance in one minute just like Plug...
  • 【Stable and Smooth Moves】The Handheld Smartphone Gimbal was built to film on the go. Just select...
  • 【3-Axis & 360° Panoramas】 Advanced software technology allows a user to setup the gimbal's roll...
  • 【Intelligent Object Tracking & Time-Lapse】You can frame the object you want to track on the...
  • 【1 Year Warranty 】and 24/7 Customer Services. Any technological feedback and voice are taken...
Bestseller No. 9
DJI Phone Camera Gimbal OSMO MOBILE, Black
261 Reviews
DJI Phone Camera Gimbal OSMO MOBILE, Black
  • Active Track technology, automatically keep your smartphone facing you as you move
  • Smooths and even cancels out the movements you make, stopping camera shake and turning every shot...
  • Motion time-lapse videos are an awe inspiring way to show the passing of time.
  • Share moments using YouTube Live inside DJI GO when mounted in the Osmo Mobile.
  • Take 1-second long exposures for light trails and dramatically blurred cars without a tripod.
SaleBestseller No. 10
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer Upgraded Phone Camera Video Mobile Filmmakers w/Focus Pull & Zoom Vertigo Shot for iPhone X 8 Plus 7 6 SE Samsung Galaxy S9+ S9 S8+ S8 S7 GoPro etc.
82 Reviews
Zhiyun Smooth 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer Upgraded Phone Camera Video Mobile Filmmakers w/Focus Pull & Zoom Vertigo Shot for iPhone X 8 Plus 7 6 SE Samsung Galaxy S9+ S9 S8+ S8 S7 GoPro etc.
  • Hot Keys Design for Instant Controls (Accessed without touching the phone screen): Smooth 4 features...
  • Smooth Zooming and Precise Focusing: By rotating its unique follow focus handwheel, you can smoothly...
  • PhoneGo Mode for Instant Scene Transition: By simply triggering the button on the back, you can...
  • Object Tracking: Smooth 4 supports object tracking with much higher precision and is compatible to...
  • Reminder: Temporarily, the APP of the Smooth 4 does not support some of the functions of some...

Where's your video examples Paul?

I'll update this post after I publish my next video recorded with the Zhiyun Smooth-Q. So look for that soon. Follow along on my Facebook to get updates.

UPDATE: I dropped the ball when I was in the USA in terms of getting everything on my list accomplished, and I wasn't able to get ahold of a Zhiyun Smooth-Q. A friend of mine is coming to visit me in Peru from the USA in April and I may have him bring it down for me then. So in the meantime, sorry about the shakey videos! I went ahead and published this post since it includes my research and my purchase decision – and perhaps in the meantime I can get some feedback from others about which gimbals they've had success with. I'll be sure to update again though after I get my hands on the Zhiyun Smooth-Q.

Last update on 2019-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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