Asus ZenGimbal review: Stuck in the past

(Pocket-lint) – When smartphone gimbals first hit the scene, they were a bit of a game-changer for mobile filmmakers – and we’ve seen plenty of developments in the technology since.

With its ZenGimbal stabilizer, Asus is looking to get into that action. But, since built-in image stabilization improves with each generation of smartphones, is a gimbal as necessary as it once was?

And can Asus take on pioneers like DJI, which has released no less than six iterations of its OM gimbal?

We tested the ZenGimbal and all of its many features with the aim of finding out.

Our quick take

The Asus ZenGimbal is well designed, relatively compact and easy to use. The inclusion of accessories such as the hard case is much appreciated and overall it looks like a quality product.

Unfortunately, however, it faces fierce competition. Its price isn’t the most competitive, and its design feels outdated and outdated compared to DJI’s offerings.

The lackluster vertical video support and rudimentary joystick controls don’t help much either.

If unlimited pan rotation is a major concern then the ZenGimbal might be a good choice, but for most people’s needs there are more compelling options on the market.

For
  • Sleek minimalist design
  • Full 360 degree rotation
  • Accepts a wide range of smartphones
  • Folds up quite small
  • Follows faces well
Versus
  • Not great for vertical videos
  • Tracking isn’t up to the competition
  • Joystick control needs improvement
  • Impossible to do a good timelapse photography

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Design

  • Folded: 162 x 103 x 50mm
  • Unfolded: 240 x 109 x 115 mm
  • Weight: 466g
  • Includes carry case and mini tripod

The ZenGimbal makes a great first impression, packaged in a compact hard-shell carrying case that makes it easy to take with you on your travels.

Inside, you’ll find the flipped gimbal, its mini tripod, and a counterweight to compensate for heavier smartphones.

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If the hard case is too big for your needs, Asus easily provides another drawstring pouch for carrying, as well as an optional wrist strap and USB-C charging cable.

The gimbal itself has an attractive, minimalist design, which might not be too ergonomic, but it feels quite nice in the hand. It’s a bit hard to figure out at first, but once you learn the dance routine, it’s very quick and easy to get set up and put away.

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On the grip, you’ll find a joystick, mode button, zoom slider, and a multifunction power and record button. There are three LEDs that help verify which mode you are working in, which is handy if you are using the gimbal with a third-party camera app.

On one of the motors there is an LED indicator light that lights up when the phone is recording. This mainly comes into play if you’re using the rear cameras to record a selfie, as you won’t be able to see the screen, and we thought that was a good idea.

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Its closest competitor is the DJI OM 4 SE, which is often found at the same price.

Comparatively, the ZenGimbal is a bit heavier and folds down into a slightly bulkier form factor, but not to a degree that most users would mind.

However, the OM 4 SE gets pretty wild with its design and use of magnets, while the ZenGimbal is much more reserved. In fact, the design is very reminiscent of the original DJI Osmo Mobile, so you might even call it old-fashioned, at this point.

Performance

  • Maximum payload 260g
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • 360 degree unlimited pan, 330 degree tilt, 140 degree roll

The majority of our testing was done with the Google Pixel 5 mounted on the ZenGimbal, which offered a nice lightweight setup that was convenient to take on the go.

However, we also made sure to test with the biggest and heaviest phone we had on hand, namely the Black Shark 5 Pro.

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The larger phone required the addition of the counterweight, but once in place the gimbal worked just as well as with the lightweight Pixel. We have no doubts about its ability to handle the most popular heavyweights like the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Once properly balanced, the ZenGimbal does a great job of stabilizing motion. It performs smooth and predictable pans and tilts in follow mode or POV shooting. A good range of motion is also offered.

Flipping the gimbal around for low angle shots is extremely easy, thanks to the huge range on the tilt axis, and you can rotate endlessly on the pan axis. These are two advantages over its main rival, which is much more limited on both axes.

We found the options when using the joystick to be limited. There are three speeds to choose from in the app, slow, moderate and fast – but for us they’re all faster than we’d prefer.

There’s no analog control either, so it runs at the same speed no matter how gently you push the joystick. You also cannot move diagonally, just up, down, left or right. For us, this rendered the joystick effectively useless, as its movements are far too robotic for our liking.

That’s not to say the gimbal can’t move slowly and precisely, just that you’ll need to be in one of the follow modes to enjoy it. Some people prefer to shoot this way, so joystick control might not matter so much, but it could definitely be improved.

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A lot of content saved on smartphones these days is destined for a platform like TikTok or Instagram, where the vertical format is king. Unfortunately, on this device, vertical shooting seems like a bit of an afterthought.

It only works when holding the gimbal horizontally in a flashlight-style grip, and movement is much more limited than when using the device in its standard configuration. Therefore, stabilization is also less effective in this mode.

One problem we’ve encountered with all gimbal stabilizers is that unless you’ve completely perfected your Steadicam operator ninja walk, you’re always going to see some bouncing up and down as you move.

The same is true here, and with the in-camera stabilization getting so good on modern smartphones, the improvement you get from using a gimbal is in the 10-20% range. Whether that’s good enough for you depends on your goals, but for casual users it’s often not worth it.

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Battery life is advertised at 10 hours and it will recharge in 2.5 hours.

That’s better battery life than the more expensive DJI OM 5, but less than that offered by the OM 4. Anyway, it was enough for our needs and will last longer than most shoots.

Software and Features

  • Asus Shot app for iOS and Android
  • Whirlwind mode
  • Wide angle mode
  • Object and face tracking modes

The gimbal connects to an app called Asus Shot, which lets you access many of its features. The app is intuitive and easy to use, but lacks some of the polished and more advanced features of its competitors.

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There are new additions like the ability to create a cart zoom vertigo effect and filters to add stylistic color to your shots. There are also beauty filters that are pretty basic and just blur your skin and brighten your face.

More interestingly, the app lets you access tracking modes and you can select face tracking or object tracking. Face tracking works very well and combined with the gimbal’s 360 degree panning capabilities, it allows for versatile self-filming.

What we didn’t like so much, however, is that the gimbal centers your face in the frame, giving a lot of unnecessary headroom, and there’s no way to adjust that.

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The object tracker works the same way but is a bit less reliable. If you select a large object with a contrasting color it will work fine, but don’t expect it to keep track of a pet or anything fast moving.

You can record hyperlapses in the app and set points for automated motion, which we were happy to see. This is one of the ways we have most enjoyed using gimbals in the past.

Unfortunately, there’s no proper time-lapse option. It’s video-based rather than photo-combining, so you can’t record any light trails or motion blur. We would really like to see this added in future updates as it is only the software that limits it.

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The gimbal can do something Asus calls Vortex mode, in which the gimbal is held horizontally and the camera rotates 360 degrees.

It’s a neat effect, similar to the one seen in the movie Creation, but once the novelty wears off, its usefulness is limited. Interestingly, it worked perfectly with the heavy Black Shark phone, but didn’t work with the lightweight Pixel 5.

Finally, there’s a wide-angle mode, which flips the phone over to prevent the rolling motor from interrupting your footage. It’s a great addition, especially since wide-angle shots tend to be smoother than longer focal lengths, further improving stabilization.

We couldn’t access the wide-angle cameras from the Asus app on either phone we tested, so we had to switch to the standard camera app.

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To recap

The Asus ZenGimbal is easy to use, stabilizes well, and is a decent first try for the brand. However, it’s not particularly cheap and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. For these reasons, it is difficult to recommend it to the competition.

Written by Luke Baker. Editing by Conor Allison.

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