Ronin-M

I recently bought a Panasonic GH4 in order to capture better quality movies for personal use – mostly family and hobby related. I had always had an interest in photography, but for whatever reason, video was never an interest of mine until recently. Strangely enough, it was the acquisition of a Phantom 3 drone and a powerful Alienware desktop that spurred my interest in videography after seeing how easy it is to edit high quality movies these days.

Since I was already invested in the Micro Four Thirds system, and the Full Frame Sony A7S II would require not just the acquisition of a new body, but also new lenses(!) I decided to get the Panasonic GH4. It shoots 4k video, records internally, and has a very good codec. All the major boxes were checked. It is also being regularly improved upon via Firmware upgrades, which I always find commendable.

After this, I started to look into stabilization. I really wanted to do some “run and gun” type video with my children. With them playing in the yard, going out places, etc.

Here is the kind of video I was hoping to capture with the Ronin. Keep in mind this is the very first thing I shot after balancing the unit, and my very first time out with the GH4 as well. A lot of operator inexperience going on. Oh, and I have a background in photography, not video! No color grading was done – this is the “Standard” color profile, mostly because I still haven’t touched any of the color profiles better suited for color grading. It is still more neutral than the other more punchy color profiles.

I have to say that I was very impressed with how “cinematic” (whatever that is!) the shots can feel, even with my novice level abilities. For the most part, the shots when moving are pretty stable. I need to dial in my pan control on the Ronin (done via app, or direct USB connection to the unit itself) because there was a bit too much lag for tracking on that axis. Those are all things that will take time to get right, based upon the kind of thing you are wanting to shoot.

Here are some close ups of the Ronin-M. There are three brushless motors that stabilize the camera, which you can see below:

These motors counter any of the rotational forces that the operator puts upon the camera. The camera then appears to “float” on the gimbal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Camera balanced on the gimbal.

Unfortunately, the difficult part in setting up a Ronin-M is balancing your camera on the gimbal. If you have a Zoom lens, make sure to set it to the focal length you will be shooting at before it goes on the gimbal. Also make sure that all accessories are mounted on the camera (including, for instance, a shotgun mic), and make sure the battery and the memory card are in the unit. You basically do not want to add even an ounce of weight that changes the weight distribution after you balance the camera on the gimbal.

It took me over an hour to balance the camera my first go-around. Lots of frustration, and trying to figure out how on earth this could possibly be done in a timely fashion. After going to bed, and trying it out a second time the next day, I found that it only took me about ten minutes to get it balanced. I expect the next time will be quicker still. DJI says it should take about five minutes to setup and balance. Assuming that your camera configuration doesn’t change much between setups, that’s probably a good estimate for an average user.

These are a couple of the areas where you will have to balance the camera. At times, I found it quite finicky to make precise motions. Note: The Gimbal will still work if the camera is not perfectly balanced, however.

At times I found it quite finicky to make precise adjustments while doing the balancing. Note: The gimbal will still work if the camera is not perfectly balanced, however for optimal results, and improved battery life (and I’d assume motor life, thinking long term) you will want to make sure that it is balanced.

The Ronin-M weighs about five lbs, plus your camera and lens combo. This is not a light piece of gear. There is no backpack or harness either, so you will have to bear the weight yourself. I am just starting off with this piece of kit, so I will write more updates in the future as I get a chance to. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions in the comment box below.

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