DJI Ronin-S vs Zhiyun Crane 2: Which Compact Handheld Stabilizer is Right for You?

DJI Ronin-S vs Zhiyun Crane 2: Which Compact Handheld Stabilizer is Right for You?

The Zhiyun Crane 2 and the Ronin-S are two professional gimbal systems that can be operated single-handedly. They offer a lot of the same benefits. Here is what you should know to help you decide which one is right for your kind of shooting.

DJI currently dominates our video stabilization collection. With the popularity of single-handed gimbals, we can barely keep the Ronin-2 on the shelf. To keep up, we’re offering more and more variety, including products from Zhiyun. DJI and Zhiyun are both based out of China and are leaders in creative stabilization tools for videographers.

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Is One Better?

They excel in different areas and it’s mostly personal preference. Many beginners find setting up the Crane 2 to be a lot more intuitive while both beginners and experienced shooters find the controls interface of the Ronin-S to be faster and clearer. The roll axis of the Ronin-S is designed to sit at an angle that allows full and easy access to the back of your camera. The Crane 2 also provides easy access, but it does block more of the back of the camera. The Ronin-S can do a barrel roll, if you need that kind of shot. The Crane 2 only rolls to 45º on either side.

The Ronin-S has a slightly higher payload but with that comes almost uncomfortably heavy operation for single-handed use. But that also comes with the kind of build quality and professional feel you’d expect from DJI and many find that the grip is otherwise very comfortable and ergonomic.

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Zhiyun-Tech-vs-Ronin-S-Review-Comparison-Rentals-BorrowLenses

Compatibility

The Ronin-S enjoys the benefits of DJI’s longer history in the field – the ecosystem is robust and there is healthy brand loyalty thanks to their many other product options. Their long history in the drone world allowed them to adopt some of the tried-and-true ergonomics of their controllers and put them into the Ronin-S. But the Crane 2 does have an optional follow focus unit that greatly expands your focus control with both cinema lenses and photography lenses without gearing.

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Zhiyun has gained a reputation for being a reliable tool for smaller cameras in run-and-gun situations. It packs down quicker than the Ronin-S – a boon for traveling videographers. But the Ronin packs down more completely. In other words, it takes longer to disassemble but will ultimately pack smaller.

Both gimbals have similar partial compatibility with a variety of models but the Ronin-S is only fully compatible with Panasonic, where it has full interfacing with cameras like the GH4 or GH5S but can only START-STOP with Canon. The Crane 2 provides full interfacing with Canon and START-STOP with Panasonic and Sony (as of this writing). The Ronin-S has effectively no compatibility with Sony, as it requires a special IR cable with inconsistent results. See DJI’s compatibility list here (updated as of 9/2018) and Zhiyun’s here (or visit page 11 of their user manual). Overall, users prefer the Ronin-S for its larger payload, which lets you work with larger DSLRs, small cinema cameras, and heavier cine lenses. With the Crane, you’d be mostly working with mirrorless systems.

Side-by-Side

 Ronin-SCrane 2
PayloadUp to 8 lbsUp to 7 lbs
Dimensions23.23" Tall x 11.54" Deep x 10.08" Wide17.72" Tall x 4.65" Deep x 8.27" Wide
Weight4.1 lbs2.76 lbs
RangeYaw: 360°
Pitch: 280° (-95 to 185°)
Roll: 360°
Yaw: 360°
Pitch: 320° (-135 to 185°)
Roll: 360°
SpeedPan: 360°/s
Tilt: 360°/s
Roll: 360°/s
Pan: 120°/s
Tilt: 120°/s
Roll: 120°/s
ConnectionsUSB Type CUSB (Micro B)
Power1 Built-In 2400 mAh Battery (12 Hour Runtime)3 External/Swappable 2000 mAh (Combined) Batteries (18 Hour Runtime)
InterfaceProfile LED Indicators, Battery Level IndicatorsStatus/Parameters OLED Display
Usability FeaturesFocus Wheel, Built-In Tripod, Removable Camera Mounting Plate, Joystick, BluetoothFocus Wheel, Built-In Tripod, Removable Camera Mounting Plate, Joystick, Bluetooth
Included in Rental
  • • DJI Ronin-S 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer
  • • Camera Mounting Plate with 1/4"-20 Mounting Screw
  • • Lens Support
  • • Camera Riser
  • • BG37 Grip with Built-In Battery
  • • USB Type-C Battery Charging Cable with 24W USB Power Supply
  • • Detachable Tripod Feet
  • • Focus Wheel
  • • RSS IR Control Cable (for Canon 5D II-IV, Sony a7S II/a7 III/a7R III/a6300)
  • • USB-C Camera Control Cable (for Panasonic GH5/5S)
  • • USB Micro-B Camera Control Cable (for Nikon D850, D5)
  • • Carrying Case
  • • Zhiyun Crane 2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer
  • • Camera Mounting Plate with 1/4"-20 Mounting Screw
  • • U-Shaped Lens Support with (2) Thumb Screws
  • • (3) 2000mAh 18650 Lithium Ion Batteries
  • • 3-Position Battery Charger
  • • Detachable Tripod Feet
  • • Focus Wheel
  • • USB to Micro USB Cable
  • • ZW-Mini-002 Cable (for Canon Cameras with Mini USB Interface Port)
  • • ZW-Micro-002 Cable (for Canon Cameras with Micro USB Interface Port or Nikon D850)
  • • ZW-MULTI-002 Cable (for Sony Cameras with MULTI Interface Port)
  • • ZE-CTIA-002 Cable (for Panasonic GH3, GH4, GH5/5S)
  • • Carrying Case
  • Rental Price$53 for 3 Days$56 for 3 Days

    What to Choose for Certain Kinds of Shoots

    These subtle differences start to matter when it comes to specific subject matters. For something that produces a lot of shake, like a car or motorcycle, the Ronin-S motors are stronger and would fare better against the wind speeds of a moving vehicle compared to the Crane 2.

    Ronin-S Built for Speed

    This is where the edge on speed, payload, and general grip comfort that the Ronin-S has really matters. When your footage absolutely needs to be as stable as possible at higher speeds, then out of the two the Ronin-S is the better option. The Crane 2 will sometimes exhibit unwanted sway and throw off composition with high-speed subjects.

    Zhiyun-Tech-vs-Ronin-S-Review-Comparison-Rentals-Crane-2

    Zhiyun-Tech-vs-Ronin-S-Review-Comparison-Rentals-DJI

    Crane 2 Ideal for Events, Travel

    However, if you’re shooting a wedding, the Crane 2 is preferred for its overall smaller build, lighter weight, and swappable batteries, which is handier for very long events than having to recharge the internal-only battery of the Ronin-S. Not that you’re likely to need to swap out batteries, since they last up to 18 hours. The Ronin-S lasts around 12 hours – which is also certainly suitable for most events. Plus you can connect the Ronin-S to an external battery pack via USB-C. So as far as power goes, both are fine options.

    Both are equipped with removable tripod feet. These act as extensions for the hand grip but, again, many shooters report preferring the feel of the Ronin’s feet. But these ergonomics might not matter to you in the face of dealing with the extra weight of the Ronin-S. You’re saving over a pound with the Crane 2, which makes a big difference during a long day. The Ronin-S also requires more breakdown to fit into bags and cases than the Crane 2, which is an important point for event shooters (less important for narrative shoots on a set). However, the Ronin-S – when fully broken down – will pack tighter than the Crane 2 does.

    Conclusion

    In short, we recommend the Ronin-S for complicated scenes that normally would benefit from larger gimbals but require the use of something much more travel-friendly than a Ronin 2 or MoVI Pro. We also recommend the Ronin-S to Panasonic shooters.

    We recommend the Crane 2 for those looking for the smallest and lightest possible solution for events or for vlogging without sacrificing much on performance overall. It’s also recommended to Canon shooters. Let us know your experience with one or both of these handheld stabilizers!

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    Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. She is a Marketing Coordinator for BorrowLenses.com and also writes for SmugMug. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Previously, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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