Ronin-S

Ronin-S

DJI Ronin-S Review

By

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What We Love. The DJI Ronin-S is an undeniable beauty, with a nice matte black finish and a sleek, sturdy design that will make anyone look like a legit, if indie, filmmaker. But then again, anyone using this gimbal will definitely feel like one because while it's fairly easy to use and operate (at least once you've gone out a couple of times to test it), it delivers the kind of functionality that pro videographers use--from the different mounts to accommodate different DSLRs and mirrorless cameras up to 3.6 kg (that's almost 8 lbs) to its stabilizing capabilities. DJI has basically taken the complexities of a dual handle gimbal into a one-person operated rigging so that you can film your videos with a considerably more professional quality without having to lug around all that gear. And it's all powered with a battery that seems to last forever, even you've accidentally left the whole thing on for a couple of hours.  

What We'd Change. While the new firmware as improved compatibility, we'd like to see DJI be more aggressive with updating its apps for more camera systems. (During our testing, we had to make use of the infrared cable for the A7R III, which is less reliable.) Also, even though it's made to be portable--and compared to the Ronin 2, it is--it's still quite heavy and not meant for casual use, like if you want to use it to shoot your travel videos for your friends and family to look at. 

Pick This Up If... you're an experience or pro shooter who is used to lugging around heavy gear and is looking to improve your videography or filmmaking skills. Unfortunately, despite its ease of use and relative portability, this isn't gear meant for the regular consumers. And DJI isn't touting it as such. If you're a casual or beginner shooter, you'll want to stick to mobile gimbals like the Osmo.

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INTRO

Camera stabilizers are getting more and more accessible to consumers, especially with the surge of mobile or smartphone gimbals hitting the consumer market thanks to manufacturers like Zhiyun, Smove, and of course, DJI, which also just launched a miniature three-axis gimbal with its own camera, called the Osmo Pocket.

Still, even with the more portable gimbals like the Ronin-S, it's important to remember this isn't a mass-market tool. Yes, the pricing makes it affordable for many aspiring filmmakers, but mastering gimbal filmmaking will require hours and hours of practice, both in honing your skills with the setup & balancing process, and then learning how to multi-task to frame and focus your shots as you smoothly move through time and space. 

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Still taken with the Ronin-S and Sony A7R III

And did we mention that it's heavy enough your arm is essentially getting a workout and that it's a pain to set up?

That said, if you have the money and you have the time to invest in utilizing it to its full potential, even if you don't plan on doing anything with your videos, it's an amazing equipment to own. Find out why below.

GEAR USED

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To test the DJI Ronin-S, we shot our videos with a Sony A7R III using the Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 and the Sony FE 24-70mm F4 lenses. If you're curious about what this full-frame mirrorless camera can do, please check out our camera review. And stay tuned for our individual reviews of the two lenses.

KEY FEATURES

  • Superior 3-Axis Stabilization
  • 3.6 kg Tested Payload Capacity
  • Camera Control
  • Pro Accessory Compatibility
  • Fine Focus Control
  • Automated Smart Features
  • Angled Roll Motor
  • Max Operating Speed: 75 kph
  • Battery Life: 12 hours
  • Operating Temperature: -20°C (4°F) to 45°C (113°F)
  • In the box: gimbal, BG37 grip, camera mounting plate, RSS IR control cable, MCC cable Type-C, MCC cable Type-B, USB-C cable lens support, camera riser, extended grip/tripod, 24W USB power adapter, accessories box, Allen wrench, hook-and-loop strap, storage case

SET-UP


We're not even going to start describing in detail how to set-up the DJI Ronin-S. This is one of the few reasons why this tool meant more for professionals than enthusiasts. Before you can properly use this gimbal, an arduous and possibly long (not to mention frustrating for beginners) process is involved to set-up and balance your camera on it. 

Assembling the gimbal is admittedly easy. You simply attach the battery and the stand to the three-axis system, and its ready... for the camera balancing.

(This is the hard part.)

Camera balancing is, in and of itself, a fine art. It involves not only a whole lotta loosening and tightening of screws, adjusting the axis arms back and forth, testing to see if your camera stays in place on its own, and then readjusting everything over and over again in millimeter-sized increments. The journey is arduous for the novice, but the goal is simple -- balance the camera in such a way that you can position it anywhere you want, and it won't tilt and tumble out of said position. 

If the Ronin-S is your first gimbal-balancing experience, we recommend watching a boatload of YouTube Videos on the subject to see the balancing first hand. And, if you're using multiple cameras and lens combos over and over, make sure to jot down the balance settings to save time later. Oh, and one last tip from our time watching experts set Ronin-S gimbals up during our Nikon Z6 review, give yourself ample setup time for balancing before scheduling actors or models. 

Once your camera is mounted and balanced, you just need to attach the cable and pair the whole thing with the DJI Ronin app on your smartphone to test balance, auto tune, and configure your settings--motor parameters, remote setup, and axis modes--to your liking.

BUILD QUALITY

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As we mentioned above, the DJI Ronin-S is a beauty, with its sleek, all-black look. But it's more than just cosmetically ideal. It's also got a battery grip with rubber finish that allows for an amazing hold and a steady three-legged stand that keeps the whole thing in place--camera and all--even when you're in a moving car. 

The Ronin-S certainly feels like it's made of quality materials and a sturdy construction, which is a good thing as this thing might take a beating when you're out in the field, you're setting it up, or you've forgotten to turn it off and you accidentally pick it up by one of the axis arms. The only thing is that the arms can easily get dented or scraped so keep that in mind when you're balancing your camera or using the gimbal.

ERGONOMICS

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Once you've got everything set-up and your camera balanced, the DJI Ronin-S is easy to figure out and use. Granted, it might take a couple of test runs, especially when using the joystick and the Focus Wheel. The joystick can be a bit tricky to use when you want smooth movements and angle changes, so it's best to configure it on the app based on what you're most comfortable with.

If you have used mobile gimbals before and you're used to that one-hand operation, you might be disappointed. This is a heavy setup and to properly control that joystick and seamlessly switch from one operation mode to another, you're going to need both hands--one to operate, the other to hold it and keep it steady.


Panning with the DJI Ronin-S while handheld is easy and yields smooth results.

Because it is heavy, your holding arm will get a proper workout, especially if you're using it for a few hours. That also means that this isn't something for casual uses like shooting your vacation videos to show to your friends back home or your kid's 5th birthday party, unless, of course, you're into doing more work than necessary. 

Additionally, while this gimbal does do a pretty great job of preventing shakes and creating stabilized videos, there will still be noticeable bobs and bounces if you're not walking or running properly. We recommend bending your knees, walking slow and evenly, and rolling your steps from heel to toe.

PERFORMANCE


Operation. The DJI Ronin-S' single-handed inspired design may not be quite the one-hand operation folks are hoping for, but it's certainly a lot less complicated to use than its dual-handed cousins and that has a lot to do with its simple and intuitive controls. 

With its smooth Focus Wheel, you will ideally have more control of which subjects to focus on the entire time you're shooting, even better than if you're only shooting with your camera. Unfortunately, at the time of our shooting, the A7R III wasn't supported yet so we had to resort to using the IR cable, which limited our use of the gimbal to the joystick, the M button, and the record button.

The joystick is not only easy to control, but it's also incredibly responsive. So much so that you will have to tweak it a little on the app, especially the speed and acceleration (accel) to achieve better results with your panning, rolling, and tilting. But once you have adjusted the settings to your liking, you'll have an even better time shooting your vids.



With the gimbal's joystick, you can switch from panning to changing directions and angles seamlessly.

The trigger button in the front, which you press twice to re-center your camera, three times for selfie-mode, and hold down to keep the camera pointing in one direction, is pretty responsive as well, not to mention intuitive to use and easily accessible with your control hand. 

The M and record buttons aren't as reactive, however. It might just be our review unit, but we needed to press these buttons a couple of times before we could get them to switch user profiles or stop recording. 



Cara Morrison, Sonoma-Cutrer's Chardonnay winemaker, describes how they make Chardonnay. Shot using the DJI Ronin-S.

Stabilization. Thanks to its solid motors, which by the way are part of the reason why the Ronin-S is as heavy as it is, as well as DJI's excellent algorithm, the stabilization on this thing is pretty impressive. We love the smooth and pretty even video clips we shot with this gimbal (although, to be fully transparent, our expertice on this site is more stills-oriented).

That said kind of disappointed that it doesn't always eliminate the camera's bouncing and bobbing when you're walking/running normally while shooting. For that, you'll have to still resort to bending your knees and walking awkwardly, and perhaps using wider angle lenses when you know you'll be doing a lot of walking and dollying. 


The DJI Ronin-S' three-axis setup doesn't prevent the bobbing movements when you're walking while shooting.

However, other than that, we've got zero complaints. This compact rig will let you shoot beautifully steady and buttery smooth footage even if you forgo the use of the joystick and rely mostly on your own movements.

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Panoramas and Timelapses. Using the app, you can shoot a few different techniques automatically, including panoramas, timelapses, and motion-lapses. The panorama worked pretty well, and the app gives you the flexibility of adjusting different settings including the overlap, delay, and angles. Once you have chosen your settings, all you need to do is click on the app's shutter button and the gimbal will do its thing. 

You would still have to do a bit of work, however, once the shots are taken as it won't make your camera stitch together the images for you. Because of this, we didn't take the time to stitch together the images.

We were mostly interested with the timelapse function. While we weren't able to get a great timelapse clip while in motion (like in a moving car), we were able to set this up very early morning to shoot the sunrise colors over a vineyard. Considering that it was very cold that morning and we had this set up on bumpy soil, it turned out pretty well. The cold didn't affect its performance, and despite the unstable surface, the resulting video looks pretty steady.



Timelapse shot using DJI Ronin-S and the Ronin app.

Again, the app itself won't automatically tell your camera to stitch the shots together in one video. You'd have to do this yourself on Photoshop.

PROS & CONS

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Pros
  • Intuitive controls
  • Ease of use
  • If camera not supported, the IR cable is a good, working alternative
  • Great performance
  • Excellent design and built
  • Impressive battery life
  • Customization using Ronin app
Cons
  • Limited camera and lens compatibility
  • Pricey
  • On the heavy side
  • Not best for casual shooters

FINAL THOUGHTS

The DJI Ronin-S isn't a nifty little gadget for selfie-takers and home movie makers. You can't just take it out of the box, slap a camera into place, and run off to recreate the long one-takes from The Shining.

The Ronin-S is a hefty piece of kit, rugged and powerful enough to hold and stabilize the large mirrorless and DSLR camera bodies. It's a serious tool for serious videographers and filmmakers... or folks willing to take the time and effort to learn how to balance and operate professional-quality filmmaking gear. If you're looking to start vlogging or documenting family trips, stick to the Osmo Mobile 2 or the new Osmo Pocket.

But if you put in that time and effort, learning to balance, mastering on-the-fly focus-pulls while framing on the go, the Ronin-S will elevate the creative potential of all of your videos. If you want smooth, professional, and steady, this is an easy-to-use, rugged, affordable option. Or, if you're already a working pro or an experienced shooter and you're looking for a compact gimbal for when you're not using a full Cinema-rig, the Ronin-S is a worthy investment.

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