Hey gang, Valkor here. This year, TOV officially turns 20 years old. And it's been one hell of a ride. What does the future hold? Who can say? However, there are many things I want to try out or build upon as TOV moves forward. Let's focus on Zhiyun now, who is returning to the val-cave with their newest smartphone gimbal, the Smooth 5S Combo; This is the one for you if you're a content creator or would like to try your hand at filming with the newest cellphones!
Previously, I reviewed the Smooth X, which was a smaller, more portable gimbal. However, the Smooth 5S is a different beast entirely. At the outset, the Smooth 5S, has way more functions than the Smooth X; Professionals and amateurs alike have access to a wide range of options when they download the companion app, ZY Cami. At the center of the gimbal, you have the focus/zoom wheel and focus/zoom switch. On the right side, there's the Menu button (works with ZY Cami), a joystick for controlling the gimbal, mode switch, mode switch, and adjustment wheel. On the left side, there's the charging port (uses a USB-C connection) and a trigger button to enable axis mode or to enter Go Mode. Finally, in the front of the gimbal, you have the power button followed by the FN button, which is used to reset the Bluetooth and works in conjunction with the StaCam app. I should also point out that the Smooth 5S includes a tripod, which is used to both film solo videos and balance your phone with the gimbal.
Use of the Smooth 5S has something of a learning curve; This is a gimbal more for the advanced user rather than a newcomer. But if you're new to gimbals, you're in good hands with the Smooth 5S as you may not have a need for most of the buttons and switches, but you'll learn more about them the more you use the device. You kick things off by calibrating your phone with the gimbal so that it stays balanced whether it's in standby mode or you're moving around. It's a simple process of setting the gimbal vertically while moving the slider at the back, left to right, to ensure the phone is balanced with your device (For this review, I'll be using the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra). Once you've paired your phone with the gimbal, you're ready to film. And you have two companion apps to choose from alongside the gimbal–ZY Cam and StaCam. ZY Cam is for general use, while the StaCam is more for professional use.
A "firmware needs to be updated" alert popped up after I turned on the gimbal and linked it to my phone, which made getting started a little challenging. Going through the upgrades took some time. But once I had, I could begin filming. I started taking simple pics to get a feel for the Smooth 5S. Thankfully, all of the controls that I needed were easily accessible, which made filming a breeze. I love how smooth the gimbal handles panning and tilting. And you can adjust the speeds through the ZY Cami app. And if you're filming solo, you'll love the following feature of the gimbal. Again, a smooth and fun feature. Check out the video sample below.
The Smooth 5S has a few drawbacks; First, it's bigger and much heavier than the Smooth X gimbal I had tested. Although it doesn't make it any more uncomfortable, you will feel it if you hold the Smooth 5S for a while. Next, because I'm using a larger phone, I need to re-calibrate the gimbal each time I use it. If I don't put the Smooth 5S away, then I won't have to. But for the most part, I'll have to go through the process of resetting the device. Next, I noticed that this gimbal doesn't play as well with my phone as the Smooth X. The Smooth X was more of a grab-and-go gimbal and works right from the start. However, with the Smooth 5S, I've had to reset the Bluetooth to pair my phone to the gimbal a few times. Or I'd find that none of the switches and buttons would work. Some worked like the zoom feature in the ZY Cami app, but the pan and tilt feature would not. However, after a simple reset, things went back to normal. Yet, I noticed that after I turned off the gimbal and started it up again, I'd have to begin the process again. Maybe this works better in an iPhone environment? From what I've seen online, most users of this gimbal seem to use it with iPhones with no issue.
I've spent a lot of time with the Zhiyun Smooth 5S Smartphone Gimbal, getting to know the ins and outs of the device. And, I have to say, there is a learning curve, especially for newcomers. However, when in use, it feels just right. It's easy to set up and just as easy to get started shooting with the ZY Cami app. I've run into some issues, but overall the Zhiyun Smooth 5S smartphone gimbal is worth the investment. If you're a content creator or into filmmaking, then I highly recommend picking one up. And out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving the Smooth 5S a 4.5.