ZHIYUN WEEBILL LAB Review: The Future Of Filming is Now in Your Hands

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Since the introduction of handheld gimbals into the prosumer market, videographers of all levels have been able to create stunningly smooth and shake-free footage. Zhiyun-Tech has been a leader in this market and their wide range of gimbal products, like their Smooth series for phones and Crane series for cameras, have revolutionized the way people take videos. Zhiyun’s newest gimbal looks to continue the company’s legacy of innovation.

The Zhiyun Weebill Lab drastically redefines handheld gimbals. Certainly, it still holds true to what a gimbal is – a 3-axis stabilizer designed to remove camera shake through automatic adjustments – and the algorithm used to correct shake is surprisingly sharp for its price point. However, Zhiyun designed this gimbal with consumers and consumer use cases in mind.

The most noticeable innovation is the new form factor. The battery is placed above the handle, rather than being an extension of it. In doing so, Zhiyun effectively minimized how much space the gimbal would take up. Not only that, but this new design allows for a smooth transition from Upright to Underslung mode. By attaching the tripod to the battery compartment, the gimbal will naturally rest. This is more ergonomic and comfortable for the user, as it feels similar to carrying a briefcase or bag by the handle.

another big change is the axis locks. Simply stated, it’s surprising that this isn’t a more common feature; it made balancing the gimbal so much easier and kept the axis from rotating when traveling.

Zhiyun did incorporate some of the best features from previous models. The OLED screen is bright and intuitive. The button layout and joystick setup made it easy to transition from one of the 6 different capture modes. Each mode – Lock, Pan Follow, Follow, POV, Go, and Vortex – would also display on the screen, making it easy to tell what mode the camera is on.

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Design

The first thing you’ll notice about the Zhiyun WEEBILL Lab is how small it is when you take off the mini tripod. It folds down small enough for you to carry the gimbal in most bags. You’ll also notice that there is a big handle hanging off the grip which is a brand new design from Zhiyun. This is designed so that it can be easily used during underslung mode when you screw the tripod onto it. Extremely neat for anyone who does skateboarding or low angle work.

The Zhiyun WEEBILL lab is made predominately out of plastic which is different from the Cranes all metal construction. On the back of the Zhiyun WEEBILL lab, there is a similar control panel to the Crane 2. When a camera is plugged into the WEEBILL you are able to change multiple settings and focus depending on your manufacturer. At the front of the gimbal, there is a pistol trigger allowing you to quickly swap the gimbal back 180 degrees, or to lock the gimbal in a single position.

One of our favorite design elements of the Zhiyun WEEBILL lab is that it houses a dual plate that is compatible on Manfrotto and Arca Swiss heads. Across the WEEBILL lab there are locks that allow you to lock every single ax, so the gimbal doesn’t knock everywhere when you’re traveling. In addition, it makes it easier to set up later on too.

There is a small display on the back of the gimbal. It informs in what mode the gimbal, battery status, and image parameters are available in the case of compatible cameras. Below you can find the recording button (selected models of cameras work), POV mode, position control joystick and “round cross” to manage settings. By using the side switch, you can choose the Pan Following or Locking mode. In the front, there is a button with the help of which we enter the Following mode or rotate the gimbal by 180 degrees.

The external follow focus is small, lightweight and easy to use. You just hook it up to the gimbal with a cable and then you can control focus directly on the side of the gimbal. The motor is absolutely silent and doesn’t make any noise at all. With the follow focus motor you get a couple of rubber lens gears that you can use on lenses that don’t have pitch gears. These work reasonably well, you just have to make sure you have then tight enough around the lens so they don’t slip or move.

Usability

From a usability standpoint, this might be the easiest gimbal to set up and use. This is predominantly because the WEEBILL LAB has a number of lock mechanisms which hold individual sections of the gimbal in place. This is especially useful when you’re balancing the gimbal because it allows you to lock all movements except for the one you’re focusing on. For example, if you’re trying to balance the tilt you can lock everything in place so only the tilt section will actually move. The locks functions are also super useful for when transporting the gimbal in anything other than the original case. All movements can be locked, therefore there’s little risk of the gimbal moving and this prevents any potential damage to the gimbal or anything else you may be transporting.

One of the best features of this gimbal and definitely my favorite is the fact that you can attach a mini tripod to two individual sections of the gimbal. This is without a doubt the most useful feature I have ever used in any gimbal. The benefit of this is the fact that you can comfortably and easily switch from having the gimbal upright to underslung.

Zhiyun only provides one mini tripod which is reasonable, however, I recommend having a mini tripod attached to both sections at all times when in use. The reason for this is because having to switch where the tripod is mid-way through filming is a little bit of a pain. For this reason, having two tripods attached at all times means you can change from upright to underslung without needing to stop filming. The other benefit of using the mini tripod is that it drastically improves the ergonomics of the gimbal.

Ergonomics

The WEEBILL LAB has some of the worst ergonomics of any gimbal I’ve ever used so far. The compact design plays a big part in this and although it is a feature it’s also a drawback. The handle is difficult to hold because of its shape and also the fact that the buttons get in the way. Trying to use this gimbal without the mini tripod is extremely difficult. The buttons and will get in the way and affect the footage. The joystick is another thing that I really don’t enjoy using and I try and avoid it in most situations. The joystick isn’t precise or smooth and I highly recommend against using it.

The flat design means that trying to move the gimbal in any precise manner is very difficult or not at all possible. Although your thumb can rest on it relatively comfortably it slips a lot when trying to use it. The other issue is the control wheel; it reminds me of ones you’d expect on some really cheap entry level cameras. The control wheel is also not that precise and difficult to use too. Fortunately, when you attach the mini tripod to the gimbal many of these issues are minimized significantly. For this reason, I would recommend having the mini tripod attached to this gimbal at all times. Although this does increase the overall size and weight of the gimbal when in use, it is removable meaning that transporting the gimbal is still much easier than any other gimbal I’ve used. Overall the ergonomics are relatively bad but the included tripod fixes many of the issues making usability fairly pleasant.

Footage

This is obviously the most important aspect of any gimbal and the WEEBILL LAB does not disappoint. Footage produced from this gimbal is some of the best I have seen. Some gimbals that I have used in the past seem to produce footage with odd jerky looking footage or contain micro jitters. The WEEBILL is one of the very few gimbals that does not suffer from this. The only issue I have found is that it’s mostly unusable if you haven’t balanced it properly or correctly.

The footage will suffer greatly with odd movements and jitters when the camera isn’t balanced. This isn’t a major issue because of how easy it is to set up, however, I would have preferred the ability to film with this gimbal without the need to balance it every time I use it. There are occasions when I may not have the time to sit and perfectly balance the gimbal before filming and it’s those situations where speed is an extremely valuable feature. Even still, I don’t consider this to be a major flaw as most gimbals on the market require proper balancing before use. Only a select few are relatively fine if you don’t balance them correctly.

Battery

Gimbal on one charge will take about 9-10 hours, depending on how strong the stabilization engines will be used, which of course depends on you. I think that’s enough, especially that the batteries are interchangeable.

Connectivity

On the left side, we can screw the smartphone holder and launch the ZY Play application. The producer states that in the aforementioned cameras it is possible to take a picture using a smartphone, record a video, change the ISO, aperture, exposure time or white balance. The screen of the smartphone should be previewed camera image, which could improve comfort, especially when shooting shots from a lower or higher perspective.

After many unsuccessful attempts to connect to the iPhone X application with iOS 12.1, I gave up and decided to try Android. It turned out that at the time of the test (16/11/2018) the Andka version app does not support this gimbal model – it is not on the list of equipment to choose from. Detriment. The producer, however, informed me that they are working on the development of the application and a list of compatible devices will soon be expanded.

Extra Features

With the WEEBILL LAB, you can take panoramas, do focus timelapse, and motion time-lapse with select cameras. This can only be done by switching to the camera mode in the Zhiyun Play app. You can’t do it in video mode. All three of these functions are fairly easy to set up. This material is saved on your camera, not to your phone. For the GH5 at least, you need to have the camera in one of the still photography modes to use this feature, it won’t work if you have the camera in video mode. For the timelapse on the Canon, you have to set the camera to single shot, if you have it set for timelapse it won’t work. Unlike the GH5’s in-built timelapse feature, it doesn’t look like the Zhiyun Play’s app lets you save the timelapse as a movie once it is finished.

Verdict

The wireless video and app that allows you to monitor the images from certain cameras and make changes is still a work in progress and hopefully, Zhiyun can continue to improve it through firmware updates and updates to the Zhiyun Play app. The image quality of the wireless signal is decent, but it’s not great. Even though it’s not an overly complicated process, it does take a bit of time to get the whole app and wireless video thing up and running. The concept behind using your smartphone as a monitoring device and camera and gimbal controller is a nice idea in theory, but it needs to be really easy to use and reliable for gimbal users. While it does work reasonably well it’s not 100% reliable and you need to be aware that it could slow down your shoot if you are run into any issues.

In summing up I think Zhiyun have made a really good gimbal that certainly offers a lot of value for money. Its performance as a gimbal is great and the fact that you get so many included features is bound to make it a popular choice for shooters looking for a compact, easy to travel with a solution.

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