ZHIYUN Tech’s Crane 2S Pro Kit – Gear Review

ZHIYUN Tech's Crane 2S Pro Kit Gear Review

Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out

-Martin Scorsese

The Crane 2S comes to us about 3 years after the previous model, the Crane 2. This next generation of gimbal in the Crane lineup has improved on nearly every aspect of its design and functionality over its predecessor, just as it should. It has reduced the overall weight while somehow still having motors powerful enough to handle large camera and lens combinations but not sacrificing the battery life. While we’re at it, this gimbal boasts a 10 – 12 hour battery life using 3 2600 mAh rechargeable batteries. Our first impressions have exceeded expectations, but now let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.

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Our Review

Crane 2S Package Contents:

  • CRANE 2S Handheld Gimbal
  • Quick Release Plate
  • Quick Release Baseplate
  • 3 x 18650 Li-Ion Battery
  • Triple Battery Charger
  • USB Type-C Charging Cable
  • Mini Tripod
  • Backing Base
  • Lens Support
  • Canon Camera Control Cable LN-MBUC-A01
  • Canon Camera Control Cable LN-NBUC-A01
  • Panasonic Camera Control Cable LN-UCUC-A01
  • Sony Camera Control Cable LN-UCUS-A01
  • 3 x 1/4″-20 Screw
  • M1.5 Allen Key
  • M2 Allen Key
  • M4 Allen Key
  • Storage Box

Modes:

The Crane 2S also comes with 6 shooting and 3 timelapse modes to choose from:

  • Pan Follow
  • Follow
  • Lock
  • POV
  • Vortex
  • Go mode
  • Timelapse
  • Motionlapse
  • Long Exposure Timelapse

 

Specifications:

  • Number of Axes 3-Axis (Pitch, Roll, Yaw)
  • Rotation Range
    • Yaw (Pan): 360°
    • Pitch (Tilt): -80 to 135°
    • Roll: -35 to 35°
  • Camera Mounting Screw 1 x 1/4″-20 Male
  • Ports 1 x USB Type-C
  • Wireless Protocol Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery Type 3 x 18650
  • Capacity (mAh) 2600 mAh
  • Battery Runtime 12 Hours
  • Battery Chemistry Lithium-Ion
  • Operating Voltage 9.8 to 12.6 VDC
  • Operating Current 160 mA
  • Operating Temperature 14 to 113°F / -10 to 45°C
  • Mounting
    • 3 x 1/4″-20 Female
    • 1 x 3/8″-16 Female
  • Weight 4.14 lb / 1.88 kg
  • Moving tracking deviation:
    • Max .: ± 0.3 °
    • Typical: ± 0.1 °
    • Min .: ± 0.05 °
  • Tracking deviation in static:
    • Max .: ± 0.04 °
    • Min .: ± 0.01 °
  • Tilt mechanical range:
    • Max .: + 155 °
    • Min .: -91 °
  • Balance mechanical range:
    • Max: 237.5 °
    • Min .: -57.5 °
  • Pan axis movement angle range:
    • Typical: 360 °

General Overview & Setup

The Crane 2S comes in a hard foam case. I personally don’t mind these types of cases but it’s a matter of preference. The big disadvantage of this case is that if you do end up purchasing the Pro Kit (more on that later), the additional accessories that you receive don’t all fit inside this hard case. You’ll have to get a different case or throw them into an existing AKS bag. It’s a shame that Zhiyun didn’t design a case that could accommodate all of the accessories.

If this is your first time having to set up a one-handed gimbal, or any type of camera stabilizer in general, it might seem like a daunting task. Luckily, Zhiyun has plenty of tutorial videos for you to watch and learn how to get your Crane 2S set up properly and efficiently. Once you’ve done it once, you’ll be able to do it again and again with ease, even on other gimbals. Trying to do the setup without the videos or reading the manuals is not recommended. It’s not the most intuitive gimbal for beginners so take advantage of these readily available videos as this will be a difficult first gimbal to learn. On the flip side, if you’re a gimbal veteran, you should be able to have this gimbal up and running in no time. 

One of the best parts of the Crane 2S is the axis locks. They work extremely well. You can set up and balance your gimbal at your office/house, lock it all in place, and arrive on set ready to go. Another fantastic aspect of this setup is that the gimbal is surprisingly great at functioning even when slightly improperly balanced. The motors are powerful enough to work with a roughly balanced camera. I almost forgot, something else to gush about is the quick release plate. Everything is attached to this plate so you can easily pop it off and attach it to a tripod for a few shots, then slap it back onto the gimbal and it will still be balanced and ready to go! There are also nice markings on the axis that allow you to match what you had for previous camera/lens combinations. Minimizing the build time yet again. Talk about efficiency! A slight disadvantage of balancing this gimbal is that you have to ‘break in’ the gimbal’s adjustment plates – the mounting plates and arms are quite stiff at first. Doing micro-adjustments out-of-the-box will be difficult, but will become smoother as it is more worn in. So, really just a minor inconvenience rather than a disadvantage. 

Another great utility of this gimbal is the ability to move your camera 90 degrees to a vertical shooting mode. While this may not be useful for everyone, this is very useful for social media videos. This flex mount system is an innovative additional feature even if it may not be for everyone. 

I’ll explain two of the shooting modes, Vortex Mode and Go Mode. With Vortex Mode, the gimbal will tilt the camera all of the way up allowing you to follow your subject while pointing forward. You can then pan and spin your camera creating some very creative and interesting shots. Go Mode, on the other hand, speeds up the response time on each axis. This is perfect for tracking quick movements, such as in action scenes or shooting sports. It can make all the difference when you choose the appropriate mode for the right shot. I suggest playing with and learning each of these modes so that you are prepared for whatever is thrown at you during your next shoot.

With all of these awesome utilities and conveniences, the Crane is a bit heavier than the competition out there. It may not be by much but it will definitely add up over the course of the day.

Now for those of you who are used to wearing a vest, or at the very least using two-handed gimbals, this may be an entirely new experience for you. It’s up to you to decide whether or not this piece of gear is right for your arsenal and your personal preferences as a filmmaker but if you’re in the market for a gimbal like this, this is a great tool. 

It should be said that there are third-party accessories available, although I have not tried them myself so I can’t recommend any.

Grip & Motors

Now, let’s talk about the gimbal itself. The grip has two 1/4-inch screw threads positioned on it. Allowing you to add additional accessories such as a monitor or even another grip. Some people may find the grip to be too large for them but I didn’t have any trouble when handling this gimbal. It has a carbon finish on it, which is a slick look, but unfortunately doesn’t add much purchase to it, like how rubber or a textured finish would. This can pose some issues after using it for a long period of time as it may become slippery. 

The grip has an easy to reach joystick plus additional navigation buttons and a control dial that you can program to be used for various tasks. As well as an OLED screen for menu navigation. Double pressing the trigger recenters the gimbal, hit it three times and the camera spins 180-degrees into a selfie-mode. It may not be for everyone but it’s a nice touch. Speaking of the trigger, it makes it incredibly convenient to swap modes on the fly, for example, from Follow Mode to the POV mode. Another handy feature is that bounce is prevented when reaching the rotation limits by buffering the extremities. It is also quick to react and can compensate properly during shooting.

There is ample room for bigger cameras – without getting in conflict with the motor but this does cause an unfortunate disadvantage – the main rear motor on the Crane 2S blocks the back display on your camera. So you can’t see it clearly when doing normal operating positions. There are 3 options you have to fix this:

  1. Use the smartphone mount and use that as a monitor or get a different external monitor;
  2. Remove part of the back motor, and carefully manage the cable that is inside;
  3. Get used to it.

Option 1 is my personal favourite as I like to use a bigger monitor anyway, but of course, having an external monitor isn’t something that everyone has. The rear arm, however, does make sense when it comes to keeping manoeuvrability. So, unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a win-win situation in this.

To explain the Zhiyun Crane 2S in short, it’s a low-cost gimbal to get you shooting at a professional level, especially when combined with the accessories that come with the Pro-Kit package.

App & Control

To experience the full range of what the Crane 2S has to offer, you have to use a camera that is compatible with the system. The good news is that most modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras are compatible. So you’re most likely in the clear with whatever you normally shoot with. Pair that with the Android and iOS AppZY Play, you’ll be able to utilize this fantastic piece of gear to its full potential. While the menu on the grip itself does have plenty of features that you can access, I do highly recommend utilizing the app.

Along with the gimbal itself, the app has a bit of a learning curve to it as well. It will probably take some time to get used to using it as it’s not the most straightforward thing in the world, but once you do get the hang of it, you’ll be able to navigate it with ease. Hopefully, Zhiyun improves the app in the future and refines it. Who knows, by the time you’re reading this review maybe the app has become more user-friendly. You can use the OLED screen (which is now bigger compared to previous Crane generations) to change some gimbal settings as well as your camera settings, if you’re using a compatible camera, but you will have to use the app to unlock the gimbal’s full potential. You can connect the camera via a USB Type-C connection. The screen will even warn you if your gimbal is unlocked or the batteries are low. Finally, another fun thing you can do with the app is control the axis remotely right from your phone. 

Pro-Kit

Maybe you’re wondering, is the Crane 2S Pro-Kit right for me? Well, I’d have to say for the majority of filmmakers, it’s worth the extra money. Especially if you’re the one-man army type of filmmaker. The craziest part of all this? You can get the Pro-Kit for the same price as the latest DJI RS 2 base model. Now, let’s stop delaying and get to what’s included in the Pro-Kit:

  • 1 x CRANE 2S – Base Model of the Crane 2S
  • 1 x CRANE 2S Sling Grip Handle – Provides an additional grip handle for the Crane 2S. Allowing you to pull off dynamic moves more comfortably and effortlessly. Plus it makes managing the load much easier.
  • 1 x TransMount CRANE 2S DualCam Extension Module – This extension allows you to add a second camera on top of your main camera. Get two angles for the price of one!
  • 1 x TransMount Image Transmission Transmitter 2.0 – Transmit your image to other devices. Greatly improved all-around compared to the previous model. Allows high-resolution monitoring across multiple devices.
  • 1 x TransMount Phone Holder with Crown Gear – Attach your smartphone to use as a monitor or to keep the app as close as possible, allowing you to switch settings on the fly.
  • 1 x TransMount Focus/Zoom Control Motor 2.0 – Add a focus or zoom motor to your lens. Remember what I said about being a one-man filmmaking army?
  • 1 x TransMount Handheld Mini Tripod – A tripod that attaches to the bottom of the grip. Great for balancing the camera or doing timelapses.

I bet you’re wondering about the most crucial detail of this whole product right now, the price. Here it is – the price of the Crane 2S is $599 and the Pro-Kit is $849. That’s only a $250 difference between the two kits. That may seem like a lot, but when you consider that the transmitter alone costs $199 that makes this kit a steal of a deal. I do highly recommend it if you can afford it. Especially if you are considering picking up some of these accessories down the line.

Crane 3S

Now, if you are trying to decide between a Crane 2S and a Crane 3S, I think it comes down to what camera you want it for. As I’ve said before, the Crane 2S is designed more towards the DSLR and mirrorless crowd, while the 3S is better for heavier cinema-style cameras. So that’ll come down to your preference and plans for the gimbal. At the time of writing, we haven’t done a review or used a Crane 3S. If we do in the future, we’ll be sure to update this section. 

Verdict

To explain the Zhiyun Crane 2S in short, it’s a low-cost gimbal to get you shooting at a professional level, especially when combined with the accessories that come with the Pro-Kit package. This gimbal is a fantastic accumulation of technological advancements in the gimbal world. While it may not be the lightest, have the best UI, or the most reactive of the gimbals on the market, for the price point it’s at, it’s hard not to strongly consider this piece of equipment for your next shoot. The stiff adjustment plates and issue with the case isn’t enough of a problem to shift my perspective on this. In my personal opinion, it’s at the forefront of where affordable one-handed gimbals and advanced filmmaking technology meet. The tech inside has greatly improved compared to the Weebill or the original Crane. Making it the perfect piece of gear for you mirrorless and DSLR shooters out there. Adding this to your kit will not bring any disappointment. There is room for improvement, as there is with any piece of gear, but this is definitely a great choice.

Check out Zhiyun Tech’s YouTube channel for more videos and tutorials:
https://www.youtube.com/c/ZhiyunTechGlobal/videos

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