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DJI Ronin SC Review with Sony A7iii

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

DJI Ronin SC Mobile Gimbal Paired with the Sony A7iii Mirrorless Camera

Here's the deal.

I own the Sony A7III camera, I've invested into some decent lenses, and I currently love using the Zhiyun Crane 2 Gimbal. Then when DJI released the new portable, inexpensive Ronin SC Gimbal, I had to try it out.  One main hang up that I've had about my large gimbal is that it's really hard to carry with you when you go to a shoot. The Crane 2 has a very large payload like the original Ronin S, but it's bulky and has some small inconveniences.

Why I bought the DJI Ronin SC:

  • Portability
  • Smaller Size
  • Price
  • Cool Functions Like follow, time lapse, etc.

What I love About Zhiyun Crane 2 Gimbal:

  • Easy to balance
  • Powerful and Holds large payloads
  • Great Batter Life
  • Quick Setup
  • CONS - Portability & Apps / Features

Everything I read

Sony Lenses I Tested with the Ronin SC GImbal:

  • 16-35 MM f4 Zeiss.
  • 24-70 2f2.8 G master
  • 85mm 1.8 Sony

Here's the List of the compatible Sony A7iii rigs on the DJI Forum here.

Ronin SC Compatibility with Sony A7iii and Sony Lenses:

Small Lenses should work fine, but the large lenses, including my 16-35 F4 Zeiss and ESPECIALLY the 24-70 2.8 G Master, create big time problems and seem to be too much for the Gimbal to handle WELL. (it will handle it, just not really well.)

According to DJI, I should have had no problem with my larger zoom lenses, particularly the 16-35mm F4 Zeiss, and the 24-70 2.8 G Master lens.

  • DJI Ronin SC Claiming it works with 24-70 Gmaster here.
  • Claims equally bulky 16-35 2.8 G Master will wok here
Gif Showing it works with 2.8 24-70

Main Problems with Sony a7iii and the Ronin SC

  • No Underslung Mode with Larger lenses
  • Expanding the Gimbal to fit the large loads means you cannot fold it back up, which means you'll be spending more time messing around to balance
  • Lower Capacity Motors have less margin for error, meaning you have to dial it in perfectly where larger gimbals don't require such accuracy
  • The Larger the Lens, the more work to balance
  • Extra spacer with the plate means extra points of change
  • Underpowered for 16-35mm F4
  • Had to take eye piece off for most lenses

Watch the Video for a Good Summary and Breakdown of What I learned.

Watch the Video:

Facts:

  • Ronin SC is more portable because it breaks down easily
  • It holds up to 4.4 pounds, which is enough for most Sony a7iii setups
  • .
  • The Ronin SC is rated to hold 4.4 Pounds, which will hold most combinations of Sony A7III and Gmaster Lenses like the 24-70 2.8, and 16-35 F4 Zeiss and 16-35 2.8 G-master.

Video Transcript:

Alright well hey everybody, if you own the Sony a7iii and you’re thinking about getting a new travel gimbal, particularly the DJI Ronin SC that came out in late 2019 here, then this video is definitely for you because after using my zhiyun crane 2 gimbal with my sony a7iii for the last couple years, I spent a week with the DJI Ronin SC and my a7iii setup.  I don’t want to overhype my own video, but I’d say that if you’ve been watching reviews of the Ronin SC and you’re thinking about buying it, I wouldn’t buy it until you watch this video, at least if you’re going to be using it with a Sony a7iii, because I have some very specific feedback and insight that I thought was relevant…. 


Now, I truly love gimbals, and i’ve been using the Zhiyun crane 2 a ton over the last 2 years, which means I’ve got a laundry list of gimbal best practices, likes, needs, wants and requirements that I Know I’m looking for in a new gimbal.


And after using the Ronin SC for a about a week, I came to the conclusion that Youtube really needs this video because in my honest opinion, it seems youtube is missing the perspective that I found myself holding about the a7iii and the Ronin SC, and it seems like the reviews are either done by the big youtubers that DJI sent promotional units and those guys are either way more patient, way more skilled, or just flying through their content schedule and it seems like they kind of missed some of these things in their review of the gimbal…. 


Our… Besides the big youtubers,the other reviews seem to be done by other well meaning youtubers that seem to have a rose-colored perspective of the SC, and I think it MIGHT be tainted with a little bit of confirmation bias…..  All these videos look better than mine, are done by smarter people than me, and I’m simply saying that, I feel like after watching 20 - 30 reviews of the SC, I was surprised about some specific things when I fnially brought it home to try it… and usually there aren’t this many surprises in my gear after doing lots of research… 


So, I felt like I had to make this video


Alright, let me be clear, the DJI ronin sc is a good gimbal, it is definitely going to work with your sony a7iii or similar camera, and here’s my top level observation about the gimbal and camera setup -  I think that the attempts DJI made to keep the gimbal small, means that full frame cameras are really pushing the capacity of the gimbal…… both in size, and in weight, which negatively impacts the portability, usability, and even the functionality of the gimbal - particularly when you add in some small design misses when paired with the Sony….


Now, if you’ve been doing your homework, you’re probably aware that the SC will hold up to 4 pounds, and that most configurations of the Sony a7iii are going to fall far under that weight limit.  But the reason why I say that these cameras are pushing it’s limits is the combination of the front heavy lens tendencies of the sony mirrorless cameras and the overall size of the full frame setups.


Specifically, here’s some of the beef that I have with the setup when it comes to the size and weight pushing the overall limits of the gimbal… and one quick thing,, DJI, if you’re looking for feedback about what would have made this a truly dominant gimbal in my eyes, stay till the end and I have a suggestion that I think will help you make a better travel gimbal next time….


First off, the gimbal has a smaller margin for error when it comes to balancing, and I found myself taking quite a long time balancing the setup,  and besides taking a long time, I found myself having to balance the gimbal many more times throughout a shoot because of some particular design flaws. 


The main flaw is that since the gimbal needs to be “opened all the way up” for the larger camera, and slid all the way to the back for the heavy lenses, you end up losing some functionality…. 


Specifically, when you’re trying to balance the roll axis, you find yourself shifting the camera left to right in order to get it balanced… Well, the position I found myself was that it had to be moved so far over to the side, that the USB cable would stick out too far, and it actually prevented the camera from going into inverted mode!  And for me, when you’re using a gimbal, one of the coolest shots you can get is a low angled shot from the inverted mode.  And I ran into this problem when I was balancing both the 16-35mm f4, as well as the 24-70 2.8 G-master lens…..


The next difficult thing is that in order to get these front heavy lenses balanced, you’ll find that the camera is pushed so far back, that you’ll face one of two situations, either you’ll be unable to do flashlight mode at all with a really large lense, or you’ll have to take off the eyepiece to get the other lenses balanced. I found myself constantly trying to figure out the eyepiece thing… Now removing the eyepiece isn’t the end of the world, but I already find myself spending too much time looking for adapters, gear, cords and baseplates…..and throwing it in a pocket isn’t bad, except now you run the risk of breaking it in your pocket, and that’s just annoying…


Despite the problem of large setups either losing the ability to go into flashlight OR, requiring you to take off the eyepiece to make it BARELY work, the gimbal works really well because it’s perched so high, that short of doing straight flashlight mode, or inverted, the functionality was pretty good despite the clearance problem. 


Another quick thing to note here, is that I think if you had a much lighter lens, you would be totally fine here.  But I found myself wondering what lens I would even want to use, that would be high quality, and yet light enough to work really well on the gimbal, and I wasn’t about to head out and buy another lense just to use on this specific gimbal….  I heard that some tamron and sigma lenses would be an option, the 18mm batis, or maybe some of the lower quality lenses out there.


The bottom line, even after checking lots of forums and other websites and social media pages - IF You are planning on using a high quality lens, you’re going to be losing flashlight mode, inverted mode, and probably being unable to use it at all with much larger setups…. So that’s just kind of frustrating - but it doesn’t make the gimbal bad - just not really something for me...


One thing that made this a little more irritating, was that if you go to DJI’s website, you’ll see that they have a “List of supported and tested lenses with the sony a7iii”, and not only that, they have videos played of the gimbal using each lens.  Sure, the 24-70 2.8 g master eventually works with the gimbal, but just barely and it doesn’t inform you that you’ll lose some funcitonality….. DJI makes you think everything is fine and dandy for configurations with the heavy lenses, but my recommendation is to change your expectation that it will only work with some of the very small prime lenses for the full frame cameras. 

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Alright, couple more things…. So as of now, my sony a7iii with a 16-35 f4 couldn’t really do flashlight mode well and it was totally blocked from doing inverted mode.


The next thing that really bugged me was that the setup is really inconvenient if you plan on taking the base plate off at all, OR changing lenses with it, or changing the center of gravity by zooming in or out with a lens. 


You see, the base plate that the SC uses is a high quality Arca-Swiss plate type, and DJI has even placed a little market so that you can mark off where you’d slide the plate, onto the gimbal… but there’s an interesting problem that I found myself facing because there’s two pieces to the mount.  The arca-swiss base plate is coupled with a riser, and it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was a little bit of a bigger headache than I anticipated.


First off, having two pieces for the arca swiss plate is problematic, there’s the little riser plate, along with the actual arca swiss plate, and then along with the the slide lock on the gimbal AND the height setting… means that you have 4 points that you need to change, and if I changed lenses, pulled the plate off, or altered the center of gravity, I found myself needing having to make more adjustments than I would have wanted to. 


 In other words, that extra little riser plate for the base plate made the included marker slider kind of obsolete and I found myself rebalancing too often, and then spending too much time every time I had to rebalance…. It just made it less of a pleasure to use than I’m used to with my crane 2 from Zhiyun. 


Now, lots of people won’t find themselves needing to rebalance as often as I found myself, but if you plan on switching lense, zooming with a zoom lens, or taking the base plate on and off again, you’ll find yourself not only rebalancing things, but then needing to do the balance test and the subsequent auto-tune every time.


If you don’t run the autotune function after chagning the center of gravity or payload of the setup, you need to run the autotune function, which is different than the balancing test… which was kind of interesting and something I had to learn…. I was having wobbly footage even after it was balanced with an excellent score…. So after scouring the forums, I found out something that DJI doesn’t tell you in the youtube video, which is that anytime you change the payload or setup, not only do you need to do the balance test, but you also need to go into settings and perform the auto-tune... It wasn’t a big deal, but I had wobbly footage before performing that test….


I think I would have been fine sticking with ONE lense and not adjusting it much, but the kicker for me was knowing that anytime I took the base plate off, I’d find myself take a little too much time aligning things, and then  jumping through a rebalancing and autotune routine…. It wasn’t super inconvenient, and while I ended up returning the SC, I still think it’s a capable and great gimbal that’s particularly attractive because of the size and low price…. 


But anyways,, here i found myself…. no inverted mode, no flashlight mode, too much messing around to get it balanced, and extended amounts of screwing around whenever I take the base plate off… 


So here's the next little criticism and observation I had…


The original reason I purchased it was because it looked like it would be MUCH more portable than my crane 2, and it was priced really low…. But the main thing was to have a gimbal that I would be MORE Likely to carry with me… but…. In my opinion, it wasn’t all that more portable than my crane 2 for some reason… 


You see, I do think it’s great that the gimbal breaks down and you can get it into three smaller pieces, so you could throw it in a backpack really  easily.  But what was weird is that the piece with the gimbal on it, was a very inconvenient size….. That piece was strangely awkward to get into a modern photography bag like the one I have from think tank or even my larger bags…. Again, it’s great to throw in a gym bag, but it was really hard to get into a typical photography partition meant for lenses of cameras - which is the type of bag I carry around. 


I found that it’s just awkward and doesn’t fit.  It’s taller than most lenses, and it’s much wider than a camera is… which meant  it didn’t fit photography partitions in bags…. After it was all said and done, breaking it down wasn’t really all that more convenient for me than leaving it together and then stashing it in a side pocket of my mindshit bag.


Now, this was my particular situation, and I know lots of people will see it as significantly more portable than a typical gimbal ...I just found myself inconvenienced with my particular setup and decided not to buy any additional bags or gear to make this inexpensive one optimal. 


Another thing to be aware of is that since MIGHT find yourself struggling a little bit with getting your camera and larger lenses balancing perfectly and working well at all, utilizing the tracking feature with the phone mount on top of the camera will add even more messing around. This feature is something you’ll probably only use if it’s sitting still on a flat surface, but again, adding more weight to the setup seemed to add more complication… 


Another quick criticism was that I don’t like the large battery handle compared to the individual batteries from Zhiyun.   The Zhiyun batteries are individual batteries about the size of 2 double A batteries, and you can easily carry extras.  The SC base with the battery isn’t huge, and you could keep a spare, but it’s obviously more expensive than most of the gimbal batteries from Zhiyun and it’s more expensive….


The last thing piece of criticism I had with Ronin SC was that it periodically had wobbly footage…. It was just a strange wobble every once in a while and I eventually found out that if you ran the auto-tune featured through the app, it corrected most of the wobble problem.  That being said, it still occurred periodically, and I think that it’s just because the setup with the a7iii and 16-35 f4 is still heavy, and pushing the limits of this gimbal..


Well that’s it.  Let me know if the comments section if you think I’m way off here OR if you’ve had similar experiences at all…. And if you like content about entrepreneurship, digital marketing or amazing gear - then subscribe to the channel!!!!