Gimbal vs Glidecam Stabilizer. Which Is Best, And Why?

DISCLOSURE: AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU, I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES. AFFILIATE LINKS ARE MARKED WITH #ad. "I" IN THIS CASE MEANS THE OWNER OF FILMDAFT.COM. PLEASE READ THE FULL DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

Even though a lot of DSLR and mirrorless hybrid cameras today come with good image stabilization, the image stabilization found in cameras can only do so much.

In order to get really smooth shots while moving around a lot, you need some kind of external stabilization.

But which kind of stabilizer is best? This is where the gimbal vs glidecam stabilizer debate arises.

The short answer is that there isn’t a short answer. The answer to the gimbal vs glidecam-type stabilizer debate is totally dependend on the kind of footage you want to capture, and where you’ll use it and for how long (e.g. do you have access to a power source?)

I’ve include a table at the bottom that compares the pros and cons of using a gimbal vs a glidecam-type stabilizer.

Glidecam stabilizers

Here’s a great video from Cal Thomson on how to balance your camera properly on a Glidecam-type stabilizer

Glidecam is a brand but has – like Steadicam – become synonymous with camera stabilizers that balance cameras with weights and don’t contain any electronics.

A glidecam uses counterweights to balance the camera on a short pole around a center axis.

The heavier the camera and lens setup you want to balance on top, the more weights are added to the bottom to keep it stable.

Also, the length of the center pole in relation to the handle is adjusted to keep the camera still during movement.

Glidecams use no electronic parts but relies entirely on gravity and movement of the user for a smooth shot. That’s why it takes some practice to get right.

How to use a glidecam-type stabilizer for best results

Here’s a great video again from Cal Thomson on how to use a glidecam.

You use a Glidecam by holding the handle in your hand, and the gently adjusting the angle and position of the center pole with your other hand.

This is a great way of controlling, because it allows you for a direct hands-on feeling with your Glidecam. This in turn allows for fast pans and tilts, than what is possible with a gimbal.

The lack of electronic motors also have some benefits to it.

First, it doesn’t run out of battery.

And second, you don’t risk getting sand or other kind of tiny dirt particles stuck in your motors. That’s great if you fx have brought your stabilizer to the desert or beach.

When you use a Glidecam-type stabilizer, it’s important to move with your legs bent and try not to bounce up and down to much. That way you’ll get the best results.

Pros and cons of using a glidecam

Glidecam-type stabilizers have a lot going for them. For example, they don’t have any electronic parts. So you won’t suddenly get stuck with a motor, that doesn’t work.

Also, they don’t need any batteries and don’t need to be recharged. So you don’t need to worry about suddenly running out of battery in the middle of an important shoot.

If funds are tight, you can make one yourself using PVC tubes, which you can read about here.

Gimbal stabilizers

Here’s a nice video from Armando Ferriera on how to properly balance a camera on any gimbal.

Gimbals are motorized stabilizers that need a battery and can be programmed to do lots of cool moves.

Now reading only this, it might sound like gimbals are the way to go. But not so fast. Because there’s a lot more to consider when choosing a stabilizer.

Gimbals use motors coupled with small arms to stabilize your footage. You place your camera on a small plate and balance it.

And when you move around the motors make sure to keep your camera balance and free from shakes.

Gimbals come in all shapes and sizes – from the small light-weight setup for your smartphone or GoPro, that you can hold with a single hand, to the big rigs for cinema cameras.

Gimbals are also found on camera drones like the ones from DJI to stabilize the video footage and photos in the air.

2-axis vs 3-axis gimbals

Gimbals are usually either 2-axis or 3-axis.

A 2-axis gimbal allows you to control tilting (up and down) and rolling (when you move the handle horizontally).

A 3-axis gimbal also lets you control the pan, i.e. the movement from side to side.

What you need is entirely up to you and the movement you need for particular video shoot.

If you want to learn more about gimbals intended for DSLR, mirrorless cameras, and smaller cinema cameras, you should check out our guide Best Gimbal Stabilizers For DSLR And Mirrorless Cameras.

How to use a gimbal for the best results

Here’s a great video from Parker Walbeck that shows you how to use both a gimbal and a glidecam properly and the different results they get when capturing the same scene.

You control a gimbal with a small joystick on the gimbal handle, and sometimes you can even program it via an app on your smartphone (great for hyper lapses).

Because a gimbal is controlled this way, a gimbal often produces a more mechanical movement compared to a Glidecam, where you can control the movement of the camera in a more hands-on kinda way.

To use a gimbal, you still need to practice or else your footage can easily suffer from a swimming-like look.

Like with a Glidecam, you need to bend your knees when moving around in not to get footage that bobs up and down.

If you want to learn more tips and tricks on how to use your gimbal have a look at my article 5 Pro Tips To Make The Most Of Your Gimbal For Your DSLR Camera.

Summary

As promised earlier on in this blog post, I’ve created this comparison table of pros and cons of gimbals vs glidecams. I hope you find it useful the next time you need to decide between one or the other.

Gimbals vs Glidecam-type stabilizersGlidecamGimbal
Pros• Hands-on control allows for faster tilts, twists, and pans
• No power source needed
• No risk of damaged engines
• Easy to get started with good results • Programmable modes e.g. for timelapses and hyper lapses
• Can often be controlled remotely
• Not as susceptible to windy conditions
• Can be combined into bigger rigs e.g. for car scenes
Cons• Takes a lot of practice to get right
• Can swing from side to side - especially when windy • No programmable features

• Easy to get started
• Needs a power source
• Risk of overloading the motors from bad balancing of your camera
• Risk of damaging the motors from sand
• Mechanical looking movements

So that’s it. I hope you found this post useful.

If you prefer to buy a gimbal have a look at the article Best Gimbal Stabilizers For DSLR And Mirrorless Cameras.

If you’re looking to buy a gimbal have a look at this article 5 Best Glidecams For Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras.

Which one do you prefer, and why? Let us know in the comment section below.


About the author:

Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He’s the owner of filmdaft.com and of the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

2 thoughts on “Gimbal vs Glidecam Stabilizer. Which Is Best, And Why?”

    • Hi Mark

      Thank you. I hope you found it useful.

      Nice catch with the link. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I should be fixed now!

      Best Regards,
      Jan
      – Owner of FilmDaft.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.