A week or so ago I looked at the new Zhiyun Crane M2S, designed for smaller cameras and smartphones. This time around it is the turn of the Zhiyun M3, and this is a more up-market version aimed at users of mirrorless cameras, action cameras and smartphones.
Priced at around AUD$650 (the M2S is $350), the Crane M3 has a crack at also being a fashion statement, coming packed in a stylish white small backpack with all the things you need tucked away in various pockets including a selection of USB cables, the manual, tripod base, quick release camera mounting plate and the gimbal itself of course.
Even the gimbal classy, finished a smart combination of black, white and red.
Weighing in at 735 grams, the M3 supports Bluetooth 5.0 and has an inbuilt battery of 1150mAh that supports quick charging by USB-C connectioin.
Of major interest and itself a great design is the quick release plate. This allows the camera to be removed from the Crane M3 and reattached without having to re-balance – a tedious job at the best of times and time consuming, especially in a run and gun environment. An additional benefit is that you can then switch batteries as needed without a rebalance.
Another feature, also on the M2S but not as sophisticated, is the addition of an LED light. Whereas the M2S version allowed steps of brightness, on the M3 you can control brightness and colour temperature. A set of coloured filters is also supplied as they are for the M2S.
As with all gimbals, balancing the camera is needed. This means the camera is placed on the quick release plate, attached to the gimbal, and then balanced in the vertical and horizontal planes and then a final pan balance made. Or in gimbal parlance, pan, tilt and roll.
The level of camera the M3 is aimed at is the class that includes models such as the Panasonic GH5, Sony alpha series, Nikon Z7 and so on. I used my Canon Powershot GX1 Mk 3 quite happily (sans camera control from the gimbal – see a complete list of compatible cameras here), but if you don’t have such a model, then you can also use a smartphone as an adaptor is supplied (again as it is with the M2S). Even the newer bigger phones (say the iPhone 13 Pro Max) will fit.
Similarly, I tried a GoPro Hero 10 and Hero 9 Black with no problems
With some models, clearance has been an issue according to some users, where for example the eye cap around the EVF impedes positioning of the camera to balance it correctly. I would suggest that if you are looking at purchasing an M3, then take your camera with you and check before laying out the dollarydoos.
The touch screen LCD interface on the M3 is a delight to behold. It is in glorious full colour and a snip to navigate. The different modes are easy to find and use, and manufacturers of other similar devices should take note.
When following action, it is an easy task to switch from mode to mode such as follow tilt and follow pan, plus vortex, lock, and portrait. The trigger on the front of the M3 switches to a more responsive mode again, and the joystick can also be used to control camera movement.
The joystick and buttons are all well placed for easy access, and it only takes a few uses of the M3 to become au fait with all its operations.
A major factor is that the M3 is light meaning you can use it for long(er) periods without wrist fatigue. This I especially found important as after my wrist operation a couple of years ago (carpal tunnel), I certainly don’t have the strength or stamina these days for long sessions like I used to be able to do.
I liked the Zhiyun M3 a lot. I’ll concede it is not as easy to balance as say the DJI Ronins which have the benefit of (guessing here) ball bearing based arms to make things nice and smooth. But while it may take a little longer, I didn’t find it too taxing. I have certainly played with far worse.
It is nice and light, the controls and menu system are excellent.
If you want a gimbal that is light, easy to use, has loads of functionality and not too expensive, then the Zhiyun Crane M3 is well worth the a look.
You can get more information and full specifications at https://www.zhiyun-tech.com/en/product/detail/479