For those who are crazy about aerial photography, or high quality FPV videos, you might want to consider using camera gimbals. Camera gimbals could be driven by brushless motors or servos. The choice between brushless motor, or servo based gimbals ultimately depends on what you have and what you need. Although brushless gimbals are very popular right now I still think there is a place for some of the servo based gimbals. So we will discuss the pros and cons of each type of camera gimbals for quadcopters, and other multicopters.
What is a Camera Gimbal and How does Gimbal work?
When quadcopter is flying, in order to to maintain balance either automatically or manually, the motors changes speed to adjust roll/pitch/yaw angles. Therefore even with the best balanced aircraft, you will still see some level of shakiness in your video. By using a cemera gimbal, it compensates the change of roll/pitch angle, and leaves the camera steady so you have perfect images.
Camera gimbals can remove some of the shakiness by stabilizing all three axes (Pan, Tilt, and Roll or sometimes just 2 axis) with the help of brushless motors or servos, and sophisticated sensors and micro controllers. You can freely move around with your camera and the Gimbal will keep it steady.
Also vibration from the motors could translate to the gimbal, if the copter shakes up and down that camera will shake up and down as well. When the shaking is in sync, it’s not as bad as they will cancel out. But when the shaking frequency is not the same (out of sync), it will result in terrible image, what we call “jello”.
Do I need a Camera Gimbal?
If you don’t care about video quality and it doesn’t bother you, you don’t need one.If you want one, your options are basically servo driven or brushless motor driven gimbals.
Servo Gimbals are generally cheaper, and lighter. Most flight controllers can handle servo gimbals so additional controller and sensor are not needed for this type of gimbals. However Brushess Motor gimbals give you better result, smoother image quality. I will try to explain further in the following article of the goods and bads of both types of gimbals.
First impressions of the Servo based gimbals are, cheap, and light weight.
However they give amateur looking results, you can still see some jittering in the video due to overshooting movements. It’s a mechanical limitation of the servo. They are also slow to react because of the fundamental structure of a servo. More complex servo and Digital metal gear servos might be better, but then it gets expensive.
The light weight feature is very good for RC air-planes and quadcopters, also many flight controllers support servo gimbals, so you can just plug the servos directly to the FC, and don’t need to worry about additional controller board. Brushless gimbals usually require a separate control board, and sensor.
I personally like using servo gimbals for my FPV cameras where video quality is not essential. When I just want to be able to turn the camera horizontally and vertically using my radio transmitter, so I can look around in the air.
Brushless Camera Gimbals
Apart from being the opposite of the above, you cannot deny the video quality offered from a brushless gimbal is better. The reaction is fast, and the movement is very smooth.
However if you only mainly shoot photos then you can save some money and weight to use a servo gimbal.
Overall I would suggest that you go for a brushless motor gimbal if you plan to shoot aerial photography type of video, whenever you can. ‘Weight’ is one of the most important factors with multicopters, you can flight longer for every gram you save. Take a look at the experiment I did earlier about weight and flight time.
Both types of camera gimbal work, the question is which one do you need. I can see there is a decrease in the price of brushless motor gimbals, some can be as low as $60. If you ask me is a $120 gimbal better than than the $60 one? The answer is most likely to be “yes”. But is it twice better? Probably not.
No matter what gimbal you use, balance it before power on. It makes a HUGE difference.
Anyway, many people consider camera gimbal as a “luxury upgrade” than a “necessary upgrade”. In exchange of getting better quality recording video (hopefully), you will lose something in return. It doesn’t make flying easier, safer, or more fun, but adding extra weight to your aircraft, shortened flight time, and will cost you quite a bit of money. Not to mention in the case of fatal crash or fly away, you would lose more $$. So there are quite a few things to consider before clicking the “buy” button.