Ever since DJI came out with the OSMO handheld gimbal, I’ve been seeing them everywhere, and not just the OSMO. Though it wasn’t first (game changing tech rarely is), it is certainly one of the best, and many copycats have popped up to try and catch that wave. The Polaroid Handheld 3-Axis Electronic Gimbal Stabilizer is one, and quite surprisingly, it’s a pretty good option for the cost.
“Designed specifically for small action cameras, the Polaroid handheld 3-axis electronic gimbal stabilizer provides a steady shot when it is needed the most. It has three independent motors that follow camera motion in real time, automatically counterbalancing handheld motion to eliminate any vibrations and undesirable movements.” – Polaroid Press Release
I’m going to say right off the bat that this is one of my favorite GoPro accessories, not only because it’s affordable, but it works, and works well. That’s not to say it’s perfect. Not by a long shot, so instead of me giving you a glowing review on it, I’m going to examine how Polaroid can make it even better. But first, let’s take a walk around the specs …
With three independent electronic motors powering every axis, the Polaroid Handheld 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer is really solidly built. It comes with three 3.7-volt rechargeable power cells that fit into the handle, and users can plug in them into the included charging dock to repower them.
Built to house the GoPro HERO3, 3+ or HERO4 with, or without an LCD Bacpac, and I presume the new HERO5 will work just fine. Sadly, I don’t see how it could use a Session, and Polaroid would be wise to offer an adapter for that purpose. While they’re at it, maybe offering an iPhone adapter or 1/4-20 adapter for a pocket camera would be a good idea as well.
To install your camera, you merely place your camera onto the camera plate and then slide on the mounting ring, screwing it in place. This is my first concern for the Polaroid Gimbal. The mounting ring requires screwing in of a tiny screw to hold it in place. I can already see a trip to Home Depot in my future to find a replacement screw when I lose this tiny screw. Still, the design works, keeping the camera securely in place.
You turn on the Polaroid gimbal with the touch of a button and it then self calibrates. When you do this, make sure the gimbal is as flat up and down as possible. Calibration only takes a second and and is ready to go, however, the gimbal operates within a 300 degree pan and tilt and a 90 degree roll, so if you’re at an odd angle, the Gimbal may lock, and you’ll have to merely use your hand to level it out so it can calibrate again.
The grip is very fine, made of sturdy aluminum, but at the camera’s price point, it’s a bit spartan and could benefit from a foam cover to keep it more ergonomic and comfortable. During use, the motors will dampen out unwanted vibrations from panning and tilting, promising a super smooth, gliding camera movement that is natural on the screen, almost like the camera is flying. Check out the video below:
The performance of the Polaroid 3 Axis Gimbal is smooth, as advertised, but it can get a bit confused if you’re over really bumpy terrain and end up with the camera at an odd angle, causing gimbal lock. But it’s easy to merely get it back to level and let the stabilizer recalibrate. Although it can be used with or without a GoPro’s BacPac LCD, the design seems to assume that you have an LCD screen on your GoPro with which to see what you’re filming.
Since most use the GoPro app to control their camera now, it would be great if they offered an additional mounting option to attach your mobile device so you can use it to view the image as you’re recording. There is a 1/4-20 tripod mount in the bottom that I suppose could be employed for this, but really, that would be ungainly to hold in my view and it really needs a side mount. Your mileage may vary.
Battery life is limited to 90 minutes of continuous use, which isn’t bad considering all the movement it uses. To recharge though, you have to bring along the included charging dock and remove the batteries to charge them. That means you have another part to keep in your pocket or backpack to keep track of. I’m also wondering if these are proprietary batteries or if you can use a third party alternative to get longer use throughout the day.
Additionally, I think that Polaroid has an opportunity here to make the gimbal even more flexible with an additional power option. If they could redesign the Gimbal battery compartment to be swappable, so you could add a flatter battery compartment, it could then be used on a drone. Most drones now have gimbals built in, but some don’t and this could be an affordable option where one minute you’re using it handheld, the next you’re attaching it to your drone to get that birds eye shot.
As I said, I really like the Polaroid 3 Axis Electronic Gimbal Stabilizer. For someone on a budget, looking for a good entry level handheld stabilizer for their GoPro, it can’t be beat and its design can only get better. And at a price of only $179.99, it’s a bargain. Find it here.
- Lightweight Electronic 3-Axis Gimbal that does a good job Stabilizing a GoPro HERO
- Smooth Panning & Tilting Motions Dampens out Unwanted Vibrations.
- Supports all GoPro HERO Cameras with or without an LCD BacPac.
- Lightweight at 12 Ounces
- Good value for the money
- Takes about 5 minutes to set up.
- Solid construction
- Limited to use for GoPro. Could use adapters for iPhone and pocket cameras
- The quick release adapter has parts that could be easily lost and need replacing
- Could use a way to side mount an iPhone to use as a field monitor
- Possibly proprietary batteries that you can only get from Polaroid
- Limited to charging batteries with the dock, meaning you have to bring that along and keep track of it.