2-axis vs 3-axis — How to Pick the Right Camera Gimbal

When shopping for a drone, you will inevitably reach a stage where you have to decide on what type of camera gimbal to choose from. Drones with camera gimbal systems typically come with 2-axis or 3-axis brushless gimbals and which type of gimbal you choose depends on what you plan to use it for.

A 3-axis gimbal is not necessarily better than a 2-axis gimbal. Saying a 3-axis gimbal is better is like saying a car is better than a motorcycle simply because it has more wheels. Both 3-axis and 2-axis gimbals have their own pros and cons.

Walkera G-3D gimbal and iLook+ camera.

Walkera G-3D gimbal and iLook+ camera.

3-axis gimbals generally provide better video stability than 2-axis gimbals. This is because 3-axis gimbals stabilizes your video on all 3 axis (yaw, pitch and roll) while 2-axis gimbals stabilizes only on the pitch and roll axis. Jello, or jittery horizontal movement, is more obvious in videos taken using a 2-axis gimbal due to the lack of stabilization in the yaw axis. 3-axis gimbals are able to greatly reduce and sometimes completely eliminate jello due to a third motor that helps absorb unwanted movement in the yaw axis.

However, 3-axis gimbals are heavier and more expensive than their 2-axis counterparts. They also draw more battery power due to having more motors. To illustrate this point, Walkera’s G-3D gimbal (3-axis) is about 48g heavier and costs roughly $50 more than its 2-axis sibling.

Helipal.com has an excellent video that demonstrates the differences between the DJI H3-2D (2-axis) and H3-3D (3-axis) gimbals. Both gimbals had GoPros installed and were attached to two different Phantom quadcopters which were attached to a larger hexacopter. The hexacopter was then flown in different flying conditions to show the differences in video quality from the two gimbals.

 

For Filmmakers and Aerial Photographers

If you plan to do professional aerial photography, you will definitely want to go for a 3-axis gimbal. Despite its weight and cost penalty, a 3-axis gimbal produces far better video than a 2-axis gimbal. Video stability is crucial when producing documentaries or Hollywood-grade films which is why 3-axis gimbals are the favorite choice of professional aerial photographers. Using 3-axis gimbals will result in shorter flight times so to solve this problem, simply bring along extra batteries when you go out flying.

For even more impressive video stabilization, pair a camera that has built-in stabilization with a 3-axis gimbal. Any video shake that has not been eliminated by the camera gimbal is taken care of by the camera’s own video stabilizer.

Besides providing better video stability, 3-axis gimbals are excellent if you have a separate operator for your camera. When flying with two operators, two radio transmitters are used — one for piloting the drone and the other strictly for controlling the camera. With a 3-axis gimbal, the camera operator can freely pan the camera without having the pilot to pan the drone. This cannot be done when a 2-axis gimbal is used which requires the pilot to pan the drone in order to move the camera angle along the yaw axis.

It is also important to note that 2-axis gimbals can perform as well as their 3-axis counterparts when it comes to taking still images. The only thing that really sets these two gimbals apart are videos. So if you focus strictly on taking still images from the air and hardly do any videos, a 2-axis gimbal will do just fine especially when you have a tight budget.

For the FPV Enthusiast

If you want to fly your drone in first-person-view (FPV) for the sheer fun of flying, you will want to choose a 2-axis gimbal which provides 2 advantages due to its lighter weight — longer flight times and a more agile drone. The heavier your drone, the less agile it becomes so every gram you put on your drone counts. There is no doubt a 2-axis gimbal makes for a lighter drone than a heavier 3-axis gimbal.

Although 2-axis gimbals tend to produce more horizontal shake in your video feed, it is not significant enough to affect your flying. Generally speaking, FPV enthusiasts prefer to fly without any gimbal, mounting the camera directly onto the frame. This setup allows for a far more agile drone but if you must have a gimbal when flying FPV then go for a 2-axis gimbal.

The Yuneec Q500 Typhoon has one of the best 3-axis camera gimbal system in its class (photo by Yuneec).

The Yuneec Q500 Typhoon has one of the best 3-axis camera gimbal system in its class (photo by Yuneec).

For All Those in Between

A 3-axis gimbal is the ideal choice if you’re planning to do a little bit of both. It provides excellent video stabilization when you’re out shooting videos for professional use and is not too bad if you’re flying your drone just for thrills. Just remember to bring extra batteries along as a 3-axis gimbal can drain your battery slightly faster than a 2-axis gimbal.



Adrin Sham

Adrin Sham is a designer and photographer turned drone enthusiast. Since buying a drone for aerial photography some years ago, he has since developed a passion for UAVs and all things related.

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12 Responses

  1. John Stockton says:

    You should be able to turn off and lock the pan motor.

  2. Charlie Ross says:

    Thanks for the video with 3 cameras mounted at once. Excellent. I was going to get a cheap 2 axis gimbal to at least start learning how to use them for video from my motorcycle, but seeing that comparison and what you wrote later about video vs stills, I can see it would be a disappointment right away.

    Now for questions: I have an action cam (WASP 9901) that is like a Gopro in physical form. I see sources of gimbals that seem pretty fussy about which exact Gopro is mounted. I thought you could shift them around a bit to get them balanced with the motor’s center. Not so much?

    As soon as possible, I want to use my consumer camcorder – Canon Vixia. I haven’t found gimbals for that range of camcorders. All I find is ones for GoPros and then the expensive ones for full size DSLRs. Any ideas?

    • admin says:

      Hi. I’m glad you found the video helpful. The video was actually produced by Helipal.com, an online RC store.

      Most gimbals require your camera to fit exactly into the holder/bracket. The WASP 9901 does not look like it has the exact same form factor as a GoPro Hero 4, so it probably won’t fit any gimbal that was designed specifically for the GoPro.

      Some gimbals are a bit more flexible and come with camera mounts that have key slots at the bottom so you can mount cameras that have a standard tripod screw mount at the bottom. The camera is then fastened using a velcro strap or some rubber band to further secure it. Here is one example:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/251684996149?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

      This is a DIY approach and you do need some knowledge of electronics and wiring to pull it off.

      For your Canon Vixia, you probably have no choice but to go for those gimbals meant for DSLRs. However, for casual biking I wouldn’t recommend using the Vixia since you’ll probably end up with a very large and complicated setup that’s usually meant for professional film making.

      Most bikers will probably be happy enough with a GoPro/SJCAM mounted on a Zhiyun Z1-Rider gimbal.

  3. Mateo says:

    I know this is a dumb question but I am working on a drone and i don’t know if all gimbals are rotatable. Can you do pan shots during flight? What would you say is the best 3 axis gimbal out there in the 250 dollar area. Or higher or lower I really don’t know.

    Thanks

  4. admin says:

    Most 3-axis gimbals can pan. However, some have a motor for the pan axis but do not allow panning. The motor is used for dampening vibrations on the pan axis only.

    If you have $250 to spend, I suggest getting the DJI Zenmuse H4-3D. This is a class-leading 3-axis gimbal and provides excellent stabilization. It is also compact and lightweight and can carry a GoPro.

    Here’s the link:

    http://amzn.to/246phcP

    This gimbal is compatible with the DJI Phantom 2. If you’re using it on other drones, you need the Ground Control Unit which costs $150.

    http://amzn.to/246pYCY

    If you need an affordable 3-axis gimbal for a DIY drone, then I suggest getting the Walkera G-3D which costs less than half the price. It’s not as good as the Zenmuse performance-wise but still provides great value and resonably good performance. Here’s the link:

    http://amzn.to/1Xuo6j1

  5. Graves Leo says:

    Dear Manager:
    This is Leo from Aibird Co.,Ltd. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our product to you with the hope to cooperate with your company. Our Uoplay product is the 3-axis brushless gimbal which can match with tripod and our wireless control can help you experience the Uoplay better.

    Features:
    1.Unique vertical video mode(all the modes can work in vertical mode).
    2.Compatible with both Smartphone and Gopro.
    3.One key operation with built-in bluetooth make the operation more convenient and simple.
    4.LED indicator light can easily help you to distinguish 3 different modes of uopaly.
    5.Manufactured by Foxconn which also produce the iPhone’s product.
    6.Aluminum Alloy body with Brushless motors.
    7.Intelligence caliberate system without connect to computer.
    8.Replaceble handle sleeve which include wooden,black,red,green and blue.
    If you are interested in our product and want to know more about our product details please contact me directly.
    Here is our product in Youtube wish you can have a look
    https://youtu.be/N2wyH7rJv58

    Best wishes have a nice day!
    Yours Graves leo

    Emial:leo@aibird.com
    Mobile/WhatsApp:+86 182 7216 3660
    Skype:Graves leo

  6. Mark H says:

    Hi I have just recently purchased a Hubsan x4 Pro drone with a 1 axis gimbal can anyone tell me if an aftermarket 3 axis gimbal can be fitted to it? If so is it a difficult process or just plug and play? I’m knew to all of this so any help is a bonus cheers

  7. tom balmes says:

    Id like to talk to u about drones Im looking at can u call me or i can call u.

    Thanks Tom 847-514-7876

  8. Mark says:

    Such a great comparison! Thanks for the effort ; )

  1. October 26, 2016

    […] 2-axis vs 3-axis — How to Pick the Right Camera Gimbal – The Drone … […]

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