1min DJI Ronin-S Review:
DJI’s Ronin-S is arguably the most popular handheld gimbal of its time. When I handled prototypes at the NAB show, I knew right away, by its performance and quality of materials, it was going to be a contender. But I was unprepared for the amazingly low price it was introduced at, quickly making my one-year-old gimbal (which I paid more for!) a paperweight and pretty much worthless on eBay.
Such is life in the fast lane of technology, and I can’t fault them for making an excellent gimbal for the masses. Below’s video includes a short review and my top recommendations for accessories.
190410 Update: I’ve updated this article with the best finds for the best accessories for your Ronin-S. Enjoy!
190401 Update: DJI’s recently released Ronin-S Firmware Update 1.8.70 brings software-based focus pulling to Sony A7 users! It’s a start, but not ideal as I note in the video below as there are several “gotchas” when using the Ronin-S’s built-in wheel to control your Sony. You can read about all the goodies this firmware release offers to Canon, Panasonic and Nikon shooters here.
- the smoothest, strongest and best made handheld gimbal I have ever used.
- Unlike other gimbals made by others, my Ronin-S does not lose the horizon and does not need frequent calibration.
- Great battery life
- great iOS app (for easy setup, fine-tuning and calibration)
- trusted (and growing) DJI system of accessories available (like the follow focus motor I just ordered! Review coming soon …)
- price! Really good value for a pro-level piece of kit
- it’s HEAVY – the major gripe heard around the internet is the weight.
- There’s no denying the DJI Ronin-S is heavy! It’s so heavy I will often not bring it with me. It’s a bear for your forearms to hold it steady for longer than a few minutes, and I would start shaking pretty bad with the weight in the awkward positions that give me unique points of view. Thankfully, I’ve found a few accessories which make carrying, using, and getting unique angles with the Ronin-S a pleasure.
The Best DJI Ronin-S Accessories
Make your Ronin-S lighter: buy this cheap strap
Technically this collar and strap don’t lighten your DJI Ronin-S. But allowing your shoulder to carry the burden takes a lot of the load off your arms and forearms and makes keeping your gimbal steady easier for longer with no pain. Thoughtful additions to this simple but effective tool include rubber pads to prevent scratches on your precious gimbal and a neoprene strap material which stretches with your movement and is grippy to prevent inadvertent slippage. Using this strap has opened a whole new world of shooting opportunities. The payload feels so much lighter and having my shoulders as an added anchor point gives me more keeper footage with smoother moves. If like me, you’ve ever avoided using the Ronin-S because of the weight, this strap is a game-changer that lets you get shots that would be sore-inducing or impossible without it.
190410 Update: I’ve since switched to this handled Ronin-S collar. This handle allows you to carry the Ronin-S horizontally in what DJI calls “Flashlight Mode” for low-to-the-ground shooting. This was literally a huge pain before since the weight of the camera is so far in front of the built-in Ronin-S grip it made carrying the kit in flashlight mode a strenuous affair indeed.
This Ronin-S top handle positions the weight of your camera rig centrally below your carry position, reducing the strain on your forearms and back. Notably missing from this handle is a strap and points to connect it. But thankfully there are lots of nooks, crannies and mounting points from which you can use your creativity and solve this problem. You can check out the video below to see how I use paracord to add a strap attachement point.
Add a 1/4-20 Mount to your DJI Ronin-S: 1/4-20 thread
Not the sexiest of these recommendations, but adding this tiny piece of metal adds a secure and unobtrusive 1/4-20 mounting option to the Ronin-S. Screw on a simple ball head or Home Depot 90 degree hacked piece of metal and you can securely mount anything from a mic, audio recorder, to a 10-bit external monitor/recorder to your Ronin-S with minimal bulk and weight.
Increase Your Reach
I’ve used my gimbal atop extendable monopods, tripods and even light stands. But sometimes all you need is a bit of extra reach to capture that unique perspective. For those occasions, I recommend this simple carbon fibre extension rod. It’s lightweight, well-made, has a 1/4-20 female thread at the bottom to secure the Ronin-S’s included tripod and comes with both a 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 nuts. It isn’t adjustable which is a good, and bad thing – too many options and I find myself endlessly adjusting to find the Goldilocks spot that’s “just right.” And because it’s so light, there’s no reason not to throw it in your bag and bring with you. Sturdy, lightweight and with two standard mounting points, I’m sure I’ll find other uses for this simple and affordable carbon fibre extension rod.
What to Look Forward to
DJI Ronin-S Follow Focus Motor
When I first saw the Ronin-S at the NAB show, I was inspired and in awe of the follow focus motor they were showing off. Sadly it was nowhere to be found when the Ronin-S was first launched. I emailed and asked if their other focus motors were compatible on the Ronin-S and the answer was no. As a control freak who loves to focus manually, I’m very glad they recently put the Ronin-S focus motor on sale on their website. I’ve already placed my order and look forward to putting it through its paces and sharing my findings with you. [Nerd Alert update: it shipped!! Should arrive next week and I plan to put it through its paces and give a full review.]
The handheld gimbal has grown up quickly! From six figures to several hundred, it’s amazing how quickly and affordably such a useful cinematography tool has been democratized. And as of the writing of this article, with its better, smoother algorithms and stronger motors, it’s hard to deny the superiority of DJI’s Ronin-S regarding getting super-smooth footage. There’s a trade-off – with stronger motors comes more weight. But with the accessories I’ve shared here, you can use this amazing piece of technology and get shots that would at best tire you out or, at worst, risk injury.
If you own the Ronin-S, you should buy these accessories.
Did I miss something? What other accessories do you find useful for your gimbal? I’d love for you to share them here.