Hands-On Review: FlashPoint’s ZeroGrav 2-Axis Digital Gyro Stabilizer
November 25, 2015
Gyro-stabilized camera gimbals have jumped to the top of the stabilizer market in recent years due to their ease of use and high-quality results. Freefly’s MōVI started things off in 2013, and new players have appeared at just about every imaging and electronics trade show since. The Flashpoint ZeroGrav 2-Axis Digital Gyro Stabilizer is aimed squarely at the DSLR filmmaker market with its $1,000 price tag. Adorama’s VP of Global Sourcing, Abe Ehrenfeld, makes it clear that the ZeroGrav’s price point was intentional: “The ZeroGrav Gyro fills a critical need in the industry, that is, a highly functional and durable stabilizer at a price that most productions can afford.”
The Flashpoint ZeroGrav 2-Axis Digital Gyro Stabilizer has a carbon fiber frame with aluminum hardware. It weighs 4.2 pounds and can support up to 5.5 pounds of camera and lens. An 11v lithium battery pack powers the brushless motors for up to an hour of shooting. Balancing adjustments are either tool-less, or require a single (included) Allen wrench. A quick-release plate allows for easy camera mounting. The stabilizer offers two operation modes: Standard, where the camera is kept level at all times, and a pitch-follow mode, where the camera lens follows the operator’s movements on the pitch axis. As the name indicates, it operates on two axes—pitch and roll. Unlike some of its competitors, it does not stabilize on the yaw axis.
What We Liked
Without a doubt, the best aspect of the ZeroGrav stabilizer is that its learning curve is far easier than more traditional stabilizers. Yes, like other stabilizers, you must set up and balance the unit, and understand what it can and can’t do. Yes, you will still need to practice with the unit in order to get the most out of it. But unlike traditional stabilizers, you will be up and running much faster. And once you’re up and running, the footage you capture will be impressive and smooth. The difference between an hour of practice with the ZeroGrav and an hour of practice with an older stabilizer is stark. Even absolute beginners can start to make smooth camera movements with just a little work.
The unit’s construction is solid and adjustments are easy to make. While there are only a few dedicated accessories available, the ZeroGrav’s ability to easily mount an optional monitor is both welcome and necessary. In our case, we used the Flashpoint 7-inch LED field monitor. Having a monitor significantly increases the accuracy of your framing. Being able to keep your eyes forward instead of trying to look down at the camera’s LCD will both help you stabilize as effectively as possible and enable you to be more aware of your surroundings while operating the unit.
What We Didn’t Like
While ultimately straightforward and logical to set up and calibrate, the ZeroGrav’s included instructions could have been better. It came with a helpful video on a CD-ROM, but this requires finding a computer with a CD drive, something not everyone has these days. A printed manual and a location online where videos and other support materials could be viewed and downloaded would have been helpful.
Some of the same things that keep the ZeroGrav’s price down can also be viewed as drawbacks, depending on your filming requirements. Switching operation modes requires pressing a recessed button with a pen or other pointed tool. Higher-end stabilizers offer Bluetooth connectivity for calibration and setup via smartphone. The ZeroGrav does not have an option for a second operator to control camera direction while the primary operator “flies” the unit. And the 5.5-pound weight limit means that larger video cameras are off limits.
How it Compares
The Flashpoint ZeroGrav 2-Axis Digital Gyro Stabilizer is a somewhat bare-bones stabilizer when compared to its peers. But the goal of the ZeroGrav isn’t to sit at the top of the stabilizer marketplace; it’s to give filmmakers an affordable entry to the ease and accuracy of gyroscopic stability. It does that very well.
But there is no avoiding the fact that its competitors offer features that the ZeroGrav doesn’t, even if those features come at a significant price increase. The most obvious of these is 3-axis stabilization. The ability to stabilize on the yaw axis not only creates smoother footage, but offers the ability to use yaw follow or yaw/pitch follow modes, giving the operator more camera control options. One cannot logically say that 2-axis stabilization is better than 3-axis stabilization. The real question becomes, “Is 2-axis stabilization good enough for your needs?” In all honesty, the answer is going to be “yes” for many professionals, particularly when competitors cost hundreds to several thousand dollars more than the ZeroGrav’s $1,000 price tag.
In comparison to the much pricier competition, its feature set may seem bare bones. However, for many filmmakers, the ZeroGrav’s capabilities will add a significant upgrade to their footage at a very reasonable price.