[2024] Crane M2 Gimbal Review - All Pros & Cons

Discover the game-changing Zhiyun Crane-M2 Gimbal Stabilizer - a perfect blend of portability, high-performance stabilization, and versatile compatibility that's making every shot a cinematic masterpiece!

November 8, 2023
[2024] Crane M2 Gimbal Review - All Pros & Cons
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Ever found yourself capturing an epic skateboarding trick or a scenic mountain hike, only to be disappointed by the shaky, blurry result? I know I have. Gimbals are a game changer for such situations, and today, I'd like to talk about one particular model I've been using - the Zhiyun Crane-M2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer.

Product Specifications

The Crane M2, a compact device from the tech wizards at Zhiyun, is just the right size and weight (500g) for both your backpack and your hands. It's designed to work with multiple devices, including smartphones, action cameras, and even some mirrorless cameras, thanks to its decent payload capacity of 720g.

The Crane M2 boasts a fantastic battery life of 7 hours. The USB-C charging port means it charges quickly and can be juiced up with a power bank if you're out and about. It also has very similar brushless motors to the Movi M5.

Comfortable and Secure Grip: Film with Confidence

Lastly, the Zhiyun Crane M2 has a superbly designed handle grip. It's not only comfortable for long filming sessions, but it's also easy to hold, even if your hand is wet or cold. This ensures a firm grip on your gimbal, reducing the risk of accidental drops during use.

Travel-friendly: Perfect Companion for Vloggers and Videographers

If you're into travel vlogging or videography, the Crane M2 can be effortlessly added to your kit bag, taking up minimal space. The gimbal's lightweight nature also allows you to keep within your baggage allowance, saving you from those pesky excess baggage charges.

Locking Pin System: Securing Your Gear

Incorporating a feature that was well-received in their Weebill range, Zhiyun has added a locking pin system to the Crane M2. This system places several locking pins at various points on the gimbal, allowing you to lock all three axes in place, preventing possible damage during transit or accidental rotations.

Portable Dimensions: Carry It Everywhere

With dimensions of only 10.5 x 2.7 x 5.4 inches and a weight of about 1.1 pounds, the Crane M2 is incredibly portable. It can fit into a handbag, backpack, or even your pocket, making it an ideal travel companion.

Robust and Resilient: A Stabilizer You Can Rely On

Despite its lightweight profile, Zhiyun has taken great care to make the Crane M2 as durable as possible. It can handle the occasional knocks and bumps during transit and usage without suffering any long-term damage.

Features and Benefits

The Crane M2 is full of neat features that make it a handy tool for any videographer. Its three-axis stabilization system ensures your shots remain smooth, no matter the conditions. The gimbal also sports a unique locking mechanism to keep the device stable when not in use or during travel.

One of my favorite features is the intuitive OLED display that clearly shows the gimbal mode, Bluetooth & connection status, battery level, and various gimbal parameters.

Setup and Usability

Setting up the Crane M2 is a breeze. The user manual has a quick-start guide, and within a few minutes, you're good to go. The gimbal pairs with the ZY Play app, providing easy control and added features, like motion-lapse and panorama.

The device is comfortable to hold, even for extended periods, thanks to its ergonomic grip. The buttons are well-positioned and offer access to key functions such as start/stop recording, zoom, and gimbal modes.

Unpacking the Zhiyun Crane M2 Control System

Zhiyun has consistently been an innovator when it comes to the control system and user interface of their gimbals, and the Zhiyun Crane M2 is no exception. The Crane M2 is exceedingly user-friendly, making it a perfect choice for anyone buying their first stabilizer. However, it doesn't compromise on the advanced features that professional videographers may seek in their gimbals.

The Crane M2's control interface employs a standard design consisting of an LCD panel, a joystick, and several buttons. Unique to the Crane M2, a push slider has been integrated to the left of the main interface, offering easy and quick zoom control without requiring a cumbersome magic wheel, thereby preventing any additional bulk to the gimbal.

Navigating the Zhiyun Gimbal Menu

The Crane M2 employs the standard, easy-to-navigate Zhiyun gimbal menu, designed for quick and effortless browsing through the options. If you're comfortable using a modern smartphone, you'll have no trouble operating the Zhiyun Crane M2, given its straightforward design.

The LCD Panel and Joystick Experience

The LCD screen on the gimbal is bright and clearly legible, ensuring you can easily view all the relevant information, even in low light conditions. The push slider and joystick are highly sensitive and accurately register your commands even if your hands are wet or cold. A minor point to note, however, is that a few users have reported that their joystick cover is removable, although this doesn't seem to be a standard feature.

Performance

I put the Crane M2 to the test in a variety of scenarios - low light, action shots, and panoramas. In all cases, the gimbal performed admirably.

The stabilization is on point. Videos come out impressively smooth and stable, whether you're walking, running, or even jumping. And for those who love their action fast, the sport mode keeps up brilliantly with quick movements.

Versatility with Smartphones and Action Cameras

An often-overlooked aspect of the Crane M2 is its minimum load capacity. Anything under this threshold won't balance. With a 0.29-pound minimum load capacity, the Crane M2 can comfortably accommodate the majority of smartphones on the market.

However, if your primary device is a smartphone, I would recommend opting for the Zhiyun Smooth 4, a more budget-friendly option designed specifically for smartphones.

For those who wish to mount action cameras, the Crane M2 might pose some challenges due to most action cameras (and flashlights) weighing in under its minimum load capacity. To overcome this, you could encase your action camera in its waterproof housing before mounting it to the gimbal, effectively increasing its weight. Yet, if an action camera is your primary device, consider something like the Hohem iSteady Pro 2, which is a highly rated action camera gimbal stabilizer.

Adaptability for Intermediate Level Videographers

For intermediate videographers, vloggers, or social media influencers using a mirrorless camera like the Sony a6400 or Canon m50, the Crane M2 supports a range of popular camera setups. However, when it comes to mid to heavy mirrorless camera rigs, the Crane M2's maximum load capacity might be pushed to its limits, potentially leading to some vibration in the image stabilization it provides.

In such cases, you might want to consider the Zhiyun Weebill S as a more viable option. Specifically designed for mirrorless and DSLR cameras, the Weebill S has been lauded as one of the best 3-axis gimbal stabilizers on the market.

Design and Capacity

Zhiyun has proven their competence in crafting the Crane M2, delivering stellar performance without compromising its lightweight and compact design. The design principles of the Crane M2 ensure it remains portable, whilst providing the best possible image stabilization within its weight class.

Boasting a maximum load capacity of 1.58 pounds, the Crane M2 effortlessly supports all variants of the Canon G7X and Sony RX100 range. This even extends to the inclusion of an external microphone such as the Rode Video Micro, with no loss of image stabilization.

Zhiyun Smartphone App: A Valuable Tool in Your Toolkit

The Zhiyun smartphone app has had its fair share of challenges in the past, especially when it came to connectivity issues. However, things have changed significantly over the past year. The introduction of the Weebill range led to a complete overhaul of the app, which included fixes to the previous problems and the addition of necessary functionalities for the tracking systems of their latest gimbals. The app's navigation menu was also revamped, becoming much more user-friendly.

Currently, the Zhiyun smartphone app stands as a robust and efficient tool, making it a valuable accessory for any Zhiyun Crane M2 owner. It offers a wealth of functionalities, including acting as a wireless remote control for your gimbal. Moreover, it gives you quick and easy access to your Crane M2 settings, all at the tip of your fingers.

Battery Life and Power Management

Shifting focus to the Crane M2's battery life, the original Crane M outperforms the M2 by around five hours. However, this is a conscious trade-off to keep the M2 as compact and lightweight as possible. The M2 offers a decent seven-hour battery life and with the increasing popularity of high-output USB power banks among content creators, battery life is becoming less of an issue. When depleted, the Crane M2 can be fully recharged in only two hours using a wall-based power outlet.

Cutting-Edge Correction and Detection System

Zhiyun's correction and detection system ranks among the best in the market. Despite its smaller size, the gimbal sensors and motors in the Crane M2 are highly sensitive and able to detect even the smallest movements. These are processed by Zhiyun's rapid balancing algorithm, which then commands the gimbal motors to correct the movement.

Customization Made Easy with the App

While the default shipping configuration on the gimbal should satisfy the needs of most users, videographers who enjoy customizing their equipment will find the app particularly useful. If you're one to tweak your gimbal settings regularly, the Zhiyun smartphone app is a game changer. It enables you to modify settings within seconds instead of minutes, which can save a surprising amount of time during extended shooting sessions. So, for those who wish to have more control over their gimbal settings, the app stands as a solid companion.

Image Stabilization

The sample videos captured with the Crane M2 demonstrate its capacity for delivering outstanding image quality through professional-level image stabilization. Whether you're a videographer looking to impress clients or a vlogger keen to increase your subscriber count, the Crane M2 can help you stand out from the crowd with smooth, high-quality content.

Balancing

A common concern that many newcomers to gimbals have is the balancing process. However, with the Zhiyun Crane M2, there's no need to worry. For years, Zhiyun has been renowned for having one of the easiest gimbal balancing procedures in the market, and the Crane M2 continues this legacy.

Learning with Zhiyun: YouTube Tutorials

In addition to the manual, Zhiyun also offers a comprehensive video tutorial on their official YouTube channel that explains how to balance the gimbal. This visual guide walks you through the process, reinforcing the steps outlined in the manual.

Balancing Made Easy: Understanding the Process

The Zhiyun Crane M2 is straightforward to balance. The user manual that comes with the gimbal provides a simple, step-by-step tutorial on how to balance it. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, even for a first-time gimbal user.

Pros and Cons

The Crane M2 definitely has more pros than cons. It offers excellent stabilization, versatility, ease of use, and good battery life. However, it's not perfect. For instance, the ZY Play app sometimes lags, which can be frustrating when you're in the middle of a shot. Moreover, if you're using a heavier camera, the gimbal may struggle to balance it perfectly.

Customer Reviews and Feedback

Online reviews echo my sentiments. Many users praise the Crane M2's portability, performance, and value for money. However, some users reported compatibility issues with certain camera models, so it's always best to double-check before buying.

Pricing and Availability

The Crane M2 is priced around $269 and can be found at most online and physical tech stores. Given its impressive features and performance, it offers solid value for money, especially if you're just starting your videography journey.

The Zhiyun Crane-M2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer is a top-notch gadget that combines functionality, portability, and versatility. It's perfect for teens, beginners, and even seasoned videographers who need a compact yet powerful gimbal.