A quadcopter gimbal is a camera-stabilization device
which helps smoothing out the video you shoot from your quadcopter. A video shot with a gimbal will have no jello and will be extremely smooth.
Gimbals come in all shapes and sizes, and can cost anything between $50 to$300 and up.
What does a gimbal do?
To put it simply, a gimbal counteracts the quadcopters rotation by rotating the camera in the opposite direction.
For this to work the gimbal has 2 or 3 axis around which it can rotate the camera. Gimbals use either simple servos or brushless motors for the rotation.
Just like quadcopters, gimbals get their information from the gyros built into the gimbal controller.
There are simple vibration dampening mounts on the market which call themselves a gimbal (for example this one from GoolRC). While these are not gimbals, they are still good at reducing the jello, the jelly-like effect of your videos.
Most gimbals can be controlled from the transmitter too, and you should be able to hook up them to your FPV goggle’s tilt and yaw sensor through the transmitter’s trainer port. While the gimbals are usually too heavy for FPVracing (check this pan-and-tilt solution for FPV), they are still great to look around when the quad is up in the sky.
Quadcopter gimbal types, pros and cons
A gimbal’s performance improves as you move from servo-based gimbal to a brushless motor based one, then move on from using two axis to using three axis.
2 axis gimbals with servo
are good for basic aerial photography and FPV flying. While these gimbals do not offer high performance, they are cheap, and most flight controllers support them out ofthe box, so no additional controller is needed. The gimbals can work as pan-and-tilt systems for FPV flying too. There are quite a few videos on youtube on setting up the flight controller and the gimbal – for a basic guide check out this one.You can find servo gimbals on Amazon, click here for the price.
To control these gimbals from your transmitter, you can either directly connect the servos to the receiver without stabilization, or use your flight controller’s built-in gimbal support. For more information check this reddit discussion and the Cleanflight mixer documentation.
2 axis gimbals with brushless motors
are intermediate level solutions with better performance than the servo based gimbals.
These gimbals use a special gimbal controller to drive the brushless motors smoothly, using softer signals than what the motor controller for the propellers use. The gimbal controllers have an external sensor board which moves together with the camera, so the feedback is very accurate.
As the outrunner motors have a huge torque, smooth movements are a non-issue for these setups.
3 axis gimbals with brushless motors
are professional systems for very high quality aerial photography.
As these gimbals have one more motor and one more axis so they can compensate for the quadcopter’s yaw too. Compared to the 2axis systems they weigh a bit more, so getting extra batteries for your quadrotor drone is a great idea.
For best results choose a gimbal designed for your camera. This way you will not have to care about balancing the gimbal (it should not rotate under the camera’s weight), nor PID tuning, as the manufacturer has already done these for you.
Controlling a brushless gimbal from your transmittter is possible too,you will have to connect the output from the receiver to the gimbal controller, and set up the gimbal controller to properly use the input.
Which gimbal to choose for your quad?
When choosing a gimbal for your quadcopter, keep it simple first. If you are just starting out with gimbals, a simple 2 axis unit is more than enough. Choose a gimbal that’s designed for your camera, so you can skip balancing and PID tuning.
Servo based gimbals are only good for basic photography, and will require a deep dive into your flight controller software, so just get a 2 axis brushless gimbal.
are the cheapest, they do not require PID tuning, and can work even when a bit imbalanced. Getting the basics to work is easy with these gimbals. However you will need a deep understanding of your flight controller software to control these from your transmitter while the flight controller takes care of the balancing.
This gimbal comes without servos and camera, and weighs 72 grams.
is a great entry-level brushless quadcopter gimbal. It was designed for the Gopro Hero 3 / iLookseries of action cams. The gimbal supports pan and tilt control from your transmitter with a software upgrade, hooking it up to an FPV goggle’s sensor is possible too. It’s recommended for beginners and is priced very competitively.
The Walkera plastic gimbal weighs 136 grams, you can drive it directly from your 3S Lipo battery.
is another great brushless gimbal from Walkera. Compared to Walkera’s 2-axis plastic gimbal it offers more stability as it can compensate for the quadcopter’s yaw movement too. The Walkera G-3D is compatible with the Gopro 3 and iLook action cameras, and can tilt and roll based on input from the receiver. It works directly from a 3S Lipo, all you have to do is power it up. Weight is 188 grams, and transmitter control is supported too.
is a high-performance 3 axis gimbal designed for the DJI Phantom 2 and the GoPro Hero4 Blackaction cam.
This gimbal is only compatible with the Hero4 Black, and will become imbalanced with other cameras, so use it only with a Hero4 without filters.
While the gimbal was designed for the Phantom 2 it’s usable with other quadcopters too, if you get the gimbal control unit for it. The gimbal weighs 167 grams, and theGoPro is 87 grams, you will need a 350 size or larger quad to lift it.You can use your 3S Lipo as power source for the GCU, the GCU supports tilt angle control from the transmitter.
Choose this if you are looking for a professional solution.
is another great brushless gimbal. It supports Hero 3, 3+ and Hero 4 action cams and has a both an FPV mode for simply smoothing out the video, and another mode to tilt and roll it from your transmitter. This is a good alternative to the DJI Zenmuse.The gimbal weighs 178 grams, and you can simply hook it up to your drone’s battery.
Building your own gimbal
is possible too. There are quite a few gimbal controllers, gimbal motors and frames on the market today, so you can just build your own if you enjoy putting things together. There are even gimbal controllers which support automatic PID tuning, for example the BaseCam SimpleBGC controller, so you’ll only have to do the building and the balancing. Other systems you may want to checkout are the EvvGC and the Virtual Robotix gimbal. You can also get gimbal motors and controllers on Amazon too.