The Zhiyun Smooth 4 is a high-end gimbal designed for smartphones that look and operates like semi-pro DSLR camera equipment. Clearly designed to compete with and undercut the likes of the DJI OM4, Zhiyun’s Smooth 4 is less expensive.

It’s a significant effort, both in terms of features and in terms of physicality. The Smooth 4 is a very solid-feeling three-axis gimbal that can pan, tilt, and roll. It weighs 547g and stretches to 328mm in length. As a result, it’s ideal for stuffing into (and possibly strapping to the outside of) a camera bag.

A USB-A to USB-C cable for charging the Smooth 4 via a USB-C slot beside the control panel is also included, as is an amazing tiny tripod. Weighing 71g and measuring 114mm in length, it provides an extraordinarily strong platform for the Smooth 4 while also being simple to twist off and pocket. It connects to the Smooth 4 with a regular 1/4-inch thread.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Smartphone compatibility (65 to 82mm width)
  • 3-axis stabilization
  • 123x105x328mm is the dimensions.
  • 560g in weight
  • Battery life (approximately): 10 hours

IMPORTANT FEATURES

The Smooth 4 is a 3-axis gimbal that pans (albeit only to 300°), tilts, and rolls (both to 240°), though the smartphone payload it can support is fairly little. Sure, it can accommodate most mainstream smartphones, but at 210g, it excludes the absolute largest ‘phablet’ devices, such as the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (228g) and Samsung S21 Ultra (229g). That’s strange because they’re both smartphones that photographers and videographers alike, albeit several of the greatest phablets weigh less than 210g.

Although the Smooth 4’s click wheel lacks joystick-style functionality for manual movements, the control panel is otherwise great. It’s huge and spacious, with plenty of specific controls for pan-following, rapidly shooting a still photo, and locking the Smooth 4 so it can only be used as a tripod.

A tactile wheel on the left side of the control panel can be used to focus or zoom in and out, with a dedicated button to switch between the two. It’s quite easy to use. A rocker just behind the control button can be used to follow, or to do so faster in ‘phone go’ mode.

However, the Smooth 4 lacks one feature that it should have: face-tracking, which is a less expensive cousin, the Smooth XS, which provides for a lesser price. It’s not a big deal, but it’s surprising not to see it here.

PERFORMANCE AND APPLICABILITY

The Smooth 4 isn’t particularly simple to start. The small lock wheel makes it very easy to get a smartphone into a balanced position, but we had trouble getting the ZY Play app to connect to the Smooth 4 through Bluetooth. It eventually worked, though the second time we used it, the connection didn’t appear immediately; it’s all a little too manual for our tastes.

That app is impressively technologically advanced. It has a plethora of semi-professional capabilities such as time-lapse, hyper-lapse, long exposures, panoramic images, and an amazing motion time-lapse option. With HDR, filters, scene settings, a variety of manual modifications, and the ability to shoot in up to 4K 60fps, its interface is simple and quick to use utilizing the gimbal’s extensive control panel’s profusion of shortcut buttons. There is, however, a learning curve.

The Smooth 4 stands up to its name in use, assisting in the creation of fluid and stable video across all axes because of its trustworthy build quality. Special mention should be made to the wheel on the side of the column, which makes it simple to fine-tune a shot. Its function may be switched between focus pull and zoom using a click wheel shortcut on the control panel.

The Smooth 4 offers plenty of battery life, with its 2,000mAh lithium-ion battery ideal for a 10-hour shoot. That’s less to be concerned about, but it gets better. The Smooth 4 supports two-way charging, allowing you to connect the in-situ smartphone to a micro USB slot buried on the tilt axis arm. That allows you to charge both the Smooth 4 and your smartphone at the same time – most likely from a battery pack in your pocket – though why Zhiyun chose the outdated micro USB specification is a mystery.

VERDICT

The Smooth 4 is a low-cost stabilization system with a plethora of on-body controls, the most prominent of which is a wheel for focusing or zooming. The Smooth 4 is a tactile and simple-to-use camera that works with the great ZY Play app to make time-lapses, panoramic images, and motion lapses. This is a standout pick for any smartphone content creator searching for a prosumer DSLR-like gimbal experience thanks to its exceptional build quality and enviable ease of use.