I got my shaky hands on Hohem iSteady X, a motorized gimbal for mobile phones from Hohem. A gadget that is half the size of DJI Osmo Mobile 2 (bought for £129 at launch in China), the gimbal I have been using so far to shoot b-roll footage for most of my reviews. If you never played with a motorised gimbal before, once you turn shaky hand-held videos into smooth cinematic motion, there is no going back. What does the $70 get you? Well, a pocket-sized gimbal to begin with.
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Even DJI realized that compact size matters and fold their latest gimbal in two since I only have an access to unwieldy Osmo Mobile 2, I’ll be comparing these two. Hohem iSteady X does fit inside the pocket, which is something you will appreciate a lot. I no longer have to take my bag, or a backpack if I intend to shoot videos.
I have to admit, retracting the gimbal first time was confusing as heck! It took me a moment to figure out which part to twist in what order, but once you get a hang of it, it gets obvious. The box includes a charging cable, the gimbal itself, a very handy 3 leg tripod extender and small ouch to carry it all. Extra points for USB-C charging and the 3 leg tripod, which was an obvious omission on the DJI.
Despite the budget price tag, the gimbal feels solid in hand, it could probably take a hit or two as well. The controls are fully featured, but I do miss the extra port that I could use to charge the phone as I go. There is a joystick to control the gimbal’s movement, zoom controls that double as focus slider (nice addition) and 2 buttons that come with shortcuts for mode, orientation and control pre-sets. Unfortunately, the labelling on the gimbal isn’t crystal clear and you will have to memorise which button does what.
Hohem iSteady X: no more shaky hands
Hohem iSteady X can be used in 2 modes. You can mount the camera, fire the gimbal up by holding the power button and use “dumb” controls with any camera app of your choice. The hardware buttons will act as expected, switching gimbal orientation, motion modes and taking the snapshots.
The advertised use of gimbal is with the Hohem Pro app. It will enable extra controls and features, and ideally, you want to have this installed as well. I will talk about the app in a second.
Hohem iSteady X is on par with everything else I used so far. Pitched against DJI, or even Xiaomi FIMI Palm, the level of stabilisation provides a very nice smooth motion across all the axis. The biggest advantage of the gimbal, and probably the biggest weakness too, is the peculiar mount. It takes a degree of careful manipulation to clamp a phone in a balanced location without pressing on any phone’s buttons. Thanks to a slanted design, Hohem iSteady X doesn’t get in the way of the wide-angle camera, unlike the DJI.
Thanks to various settings, you can get the gimbal to follow in all directions (or lock individual axis) to get the footage you want. The gimbal will rotate the camera automatically when needed, so switching to hands or lowering the shooting angle can be done without interruptions.
Lastly, I found the stepper motors to be fairly strong. I’d say it takes more force to overcome the torque and flip the camera than on the DJI, so the footage should not be as prone to wind as on the DJI.
Sadly, the app drags its feet a little. By far, the biggest limitation is camera settings. My 4K 60FPS phone is capped at 30FPS and I don’t get to say which camera the app should use to shoot videos. It gets stranger, as I could pick a selfie camera in options on my Pixel 3. This option was not present for Xiaomi Mi 9(review). The app store reviews are rather poor, but other than issues listed below, I had no issues with the app or gimbal in operation.
Motion themes (Moments) are fun to play with for a moment, but far too limiting in scope. Templates come with basic settings only, so each shot made using these will look alike. On top of this, they come with pre-baked music, which you can’t change. The photo mode lacks advanced options like panorama or automatic sphere.
The redeeming features of the app are face and object tracking, simple hand gestures and separate timelapse mode with guide points. Face tracking could be more responsive. I found that the gimbal lets the face move too far to the edge of the frame before chasing it. Object tracking has better range than DJI, you can get much further away without loosing the track, but once the object is lost, you have 50/50 chances to acquire it again.
There are 2 hand gestures that do the same thing, start the recording and face tracking at the same time. It’s a very handy feature if you don’t have anyone to control the gimbal for you. If only resolution allowed faster framerate!
At $70, I can’t argue, this is a very good upgrade to take with you on holidays. Sure the app is lacking, but the stabilised footage will be well worth it, even if shot with another app. Hohem iSteady X is small, portable and inexpensive. Plus ever since I got it, updates already addressed a couple of minor issues with the app! I hope to see more progress in that area as well. Interested? Let me know in this Reddit thread.