Even if you haven’t been staying on top of the latest tech for shooting video, it’s been hard to miss all the excitement over electronic gimbals like the DJI Ronin and Freefly MoVi. These revolutionary electronic stabilizers work like the image stabilizers in your camera or lens, but they’re large enough to stabilize for much larger movements like walking with the camera or controlling vibrations from a vehicle. The gimbals effectively give your footage the “steadicam look” without requiring years of practice. I’ve become a huge fan of these tools and regularly use them on my video projects. There is one major issue, though: most of the popular gimbals are very large and require two hands to operate properly. That’s why I was excited to test the Beholder DS1, a small 3-Axis gimbal designed to be used with one hand.
While I often use a larger camera like a Sony FS5 for video work, small cameras with great image quality—like the Panasonic GH4, Canon 80D and Sony A7S II—are wonderful for use on gimbals. The Beholder DS1 is built for cameras like these, supporting a payload of up to 3.8 lbs. While the DS1 is listed as supporting larger DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mk III and Nikon D810, I found these cameras extremely difficult to balance, even with small prime lenses. I would recommend sticking to smaller DSLRs and mirrorless cameras with this device.
The Beholder DS1 is very compact, weighing in at just over two pounds with batteries installed. While I find it exhausting to use a larger DJI Ronin gimbal for more than a couple minutes, I could comfortably shoot with the Beholder DS1 for over ten minutes. The smart design of the DS1 also allows me to simply put the unit on any flat surface between takes, instead of putting it back in a custom support rack, which is the case with the larger gimbals. I also appreciate that the DS1 ships in a small case that can hold everything you need to take full advantage of the gimbal.
So the Beholder DS1 has a great form factor, but how does it perform? When properly balanced, the results were outstanding! I could not tell the difference between footage shot on the DJI Ronin M (which costs over twice as much) and the DS1. One thing to keep in mind is that the DS1 is so small, it can be easy to let the unit bounce when walking quickly. It’s a good idea to keep your arm close to your body to minimize vertical movement. I also love that there is a small joystick built right onto the handle. Several modes allow you to use your wrist movement, the joystick or a combination of the two to determine where the camera points.
The one major limitation of the Beholder DS1 is due to the the unit’s small size and weight. The motor is much weaker than what you will see on larger gimbals, and, as a result, balancing must be done much more precisely. You will want to dedicate the time to making sure everything is lined up perfectly before filming, or your results will be consistently poor. Fortunately, there are several tutorials online for balancing the DS1. Also remember that the weaker motor means your movements must be relatively controlled. A fast pan or tilt can sometimes overtax the motor, causing a jerky bump in your footage. Keep your movements subtle, and things will look great!
After a few weeks of using the Beholder DS1, it’s become an essential part of my kit. After filming the main components of a video, I love to throw my Sony A6300 on the DS1 and shoot some cool tracking shots for a few minutes. It adds a professional sheen to my work, and it’s fun to shoot as well! If you’re interested in the Beholder DS1 check out thecamerastore.com or owldolly.com.