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If you’re a cinematographer, buying a Ronin M might actually be even more important than buying your first drone. If you aren’t a cinematographer but you still like making aerial videos, or maybe you’re getting paid to do it, having a handheld gimbal can really make your videos stand out from everyone else if you combine ground shots and aerial shots together.
The Ronin M is about 5 pounds (7.5 pounds with my GH4 mounted), making it relatively light compared to the original Ronin which weighed almost 10 pounds. Most of the parts are made from magnesium, carbon fiber and aluminum keeping it light but also very strong. Even the motor shafts are large hollow tubes instead of a small shaft, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it bending unless you plan on dropping it.
A 4S Lipo battery is what comes with the Ronin M. It charges in about an hour, and when it’s done, it slides perfectly into the back side of the gimbal, acting as a counter weight. Battery life on the Ronin M is simply unbelievable. If you go out on shoots where the gimbal and camera are off for 50% of the time, then you won’t even need to buy extra batteries. I’ve been out for over 8 hours shooting video and still came back with 25% battery left over.
Getting the Ronin M balanced is actually quite easy. There are four ways of adjusting the Gimbel to get it balanced just right. No tools are required, although DJI does include wrenches if you want to adjust the tension of the quick release latches.
I try to keep the gimbal as balanced as possible in most situations, but sometimes when you have to quickly change lenses, you don’t have time to rebalance and calibrate the gimbal. The good news is, as long as your lenses are somewhat similar in size, you can getaway with changing lenses without rebalancing or tuning. I have a Rokinon 50mm f1.4 and a Canon 17-35mm f2.8 and both lenses will work with the same settings, however, My tiny Olympus 17mm f1.8 is so small that the gimbal needs to be rebalanced.
One really cool thing about the ronin M is that you don’t even have to own a large camera to use it. So far, I’ve mounted a Canon 550D, GH4, GoPro and even an iPhone 6 plus to the Ronin M and it works great with everything. That’s something that you could never do with the original Ronin.
Before talking about the setup, I just wanted to mention that for some reason there’s a full size USB port on the bottom of the gimbal. It’s probably for Updating the firmware with a USB drive, but I was able to charge my dead Phone with it!
For tuning and modifying settings on the Ronin M, all you do is turn it on and connect it to your iPhone through Bluetooth. Alternatively, you can also connect it to a computer (OS X or Windows), or use the brand new thumb controller that was just released.
For me, the iPhone app is the easiest way of doing things without buying the thumb controller. There are a few tabs in the DJI assistant app, but the most important one is the Gimbal tab. Under the Gimbal tab, tapping on the motor button will take you to the tuning page. On this page, you will see settings for manually tuning the gimbal, and a button called Auto Tune Stability which will handle everything for you. If you don’t know how to tune the gimbal, Auto Tune seems to work good enough in most cases, but I often find that tuning manually will produce better results.
After tuning the Ronin M, you then go to the SmoothTrack page, which is where you can adjust various settings to get the gimbal performing how you want. It took me about a day or two to get the gimbal to react to my movements the way that I wanted, but now I’m very happy with how it works and I don’t find myself having to go back and change things very often.
The Ronin M might look like something that takes a massive case to transport around, but when you take the handles off it’s really not that big. Everything that came in the Ronin M box will fit into my Lowepro Transit 350 AW backpack with no problem. I just put the main gimbal in first, then cover it with bubble wrap and put the other parts on top. Then I attach the tuning stand to the side like a tripod.
Another really cool thing about the Ronin M, is that you can set it up and turn it on even when it’s upside down. This means that you don’t have to bring the tuning stand with you if your traveling light. Usually if I’m just going to an event where I’ll be holding the gimbal most of the time, I’ll leave the controller, charger and the tuning stand because it’s less weight to carry around.
setting up the Ronin M is pretty strait forward. You just mount the camera, balance if needed and turn it on. Adjusting camera controls can be challenging at first when the gimbal is in over-slung mode, but you slowly learn how to use the camera upside-down. Keeping things in focus with fast aperture lenses can also be tricky, but I’ve found that setting the focus before the shot and staying the same distance from the subject generally works better than trying to refocus constantly. For outdoor shots, you can just close the aperture and then forget about focusing all together, (unless you want a shallow depth-of-field).
There are three main ways of holding the ronin. The first is under-slung mode which is the default. The second is over-slung mode (my favorite). In this mode you can hold the camera Upside-down to elevate the camera to eye level and above. The last mode is called briefcase. In this mode, you hold the gimbal from either of the side handles and it will automatically adjust, going into a more slim profile.
Even though the Ronan M is relatively light, it can still be straining to use for hours at a time, so make sure that you stay hydrated or you will start to feel very tired. I originally thought that it would hurt my arms after a while, but really it’s your back muscles that get the biggest workout. Briefcase mode is the least strenuous, followed by over-slung and then under-slung.
So far, I’ve had three issues with the Ronin M and I have to cover them for the sake of the review, but they’re not that bad.
The first is that sometimes, the roll axis will drift off a bit. This can be a problem with a lot of gimbals. Luckily you can just restart it (which takes about 6 seconds) and it will go back to normal.
In general, the Ronin M is extremely good at holding it’s position without twitching or swaying back and forth, but It seems like the pan axis has trouble if I’m running fast and using larger EF lenses. On the other hand, If I put a smaller MFT lens on, it works great no matter how fast I run.
The last issue is something that might only apply to my specific unit. Basically, if I go from over-slung to under-slung mode a few times, the arms that attach to the main handle will become slightly loose (just to the point where I can notice it), but it only happens after a while of use and I can easily tighten it back up with my hands and keep shooting.
The Ronin M has it’s upsides and downsides of using it,but overall I have to say that I’m in love. It produces really smooth shots, the battery life is great, it’s easy to setup and balance, it looks very professional and I don’t think I’ll be going on another video shoot without it.
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