Review: DJI Ronin RS & RSC 2
In a nutshell, a gimbal is a device that allows you to capture smooth camera movement. It removes a lot of the shakiness of handheld shooting, even with quick movements such as walking or running. It is generally considered an essential tool in the modern filmmaker’s kit.
Chinese company DJI is very well known for its drone technology, but it is also highly regarded for its handheld gimbal cameras and camera stabilisation systems. In 2014, DJI revolutionised the handheld stabilisation market by releasing the Ronin, a handheld electronic gimbal that was not only streets ahead of the competition but also affordable to the average filmmaker.
Today, we take a look at the latest offerings in the Ronin series: the pro-level RS 2 ($1299) and the more affordable RSC 2 ($699).
The two devices
The DJI RS 2 is the premium option that sports all the bells and whistles. It is aimed at the professional filmmaker who needs versatility and pro level control of their camera system.
On the other hand, the RSC 2 is the compact option, aimed at the “run and gun” filmmaker who requires quick setup and easy operation on location.
The premium choice
Let’s start with the RS 2. It’s the direct upgrade to the hugely popular Ronin S and brings with it some great new improvements such as a touchscreen OLED and lightweight construction compared to the original.
However, the standout feature over its predecessor is that the payload has been increased from 3.6kg to 4.5kg, which means it can support a heavier camera and lens combo.
Also, the arms are now made from carbon fibre, so the weight of the unit is only 960g – that’s a 42% decrease – which makes it a much more comfortable experience to operate.
A 1.4-inch colour touchscreen has been added, which improves the user experience by making the functions more accessible and the menus more intuitive. It also has a modular design so it can be used in a variety of ways and can even be rigged to a jib, slider or vehicle mount.
The compact choice
The RSC 2 is similar to the RS 2 in function but also has the ability to be folded down to a very compact state. Of course, this does come with some compromises. While it does have an OLED screen like the RS 2, the screen is smaller and not touch sensitive, which makes navigating the menus a little more difficult in use.
However, the unit is smaller, weighs only slightly more (1.2kg) and has a smaller payload than its big brother (3kg), which may make it a smarter choice for photographers or videographers using mirrorless or smaller cameras.
If you need to travel light, this is the best bet.
Within seconds of connecting my Panasonic Lumix S5 to both gimbals I was able to operate many of the camera functions, such as focus, aperture and the record trigger, directly from the gimbal controls. It’s apparent the software has been improved, with a new algorithm for even better stabilisation.
There are many built-in functions such as Active Track 3.0 (this gives you the ability to lock your camera onto a chosen target), Force Mobile (this allows the gimbal to copy the movements of a connected smart device) and Portrait Mode (this option will rotate your camera into portrait orientation, which I can see as being particularly useful for those delivering content for social media).
A great addition to both systems is the dual layer mounting plate (Arca Swiss and Manfrotto compatible), which allows you to quickly switch between the gimbal and a tripod.
And finally, the extended battery life (14 hours on the RSC 2 and 12 hours on the RS 2) certainly takes the stress out of needing to charge batteries on-set.
It is great peace of mind to know that a 15-minute charge will give you two hours of operation – just in case you get caught out.
Before you attempt to balance your gimbal for the first time, I would recommend watching a tutorial. However, it is very easy to do once you understand the process. Each axis has a locking function (which the original Ronin S did not have) and this really simplifies the process.
As a bonus, the locking feature is also helpful for safe transportation of the device. Once you have the camera balanced, you can activate an auto-tune feature in the software, which will dial in the stability perfectly.
Finally, you can run a diagnosis test on the Ronin app that will tell you if your calibration has been successful.
There are some exciting add-ons to both kits for serious filmmakers. A geared focus motor is available, which allows manual focus directly from the gimbal dial.
Raven Eye is an image transmission module that allows you to monitor your camera image, as well as control camera functions and Ronin features, from a smart device.
I find this a great addition because it means I can use the 6.5-inch display on my iPhone, instead of relying on the smaller screen of my camera’s rear LCD.
And just released is a 3D focus system that utilises infrared beams to control the focus of any lens, and even a manual lens. I didn’t have a chance to test this addition myself but word on the street is it works a treat.
Traditionally, gimbals have been difficult to calibrate and awkward to operate. This is certainly not the case for the latest Ronin products.
For performance, connectivity, ease of use and portability, I highly recommend either, and both offer tangible improvements over the Ronin S – tailoring the experience for different types of users. ❂
HANDLING ★ ★ ★ ★
The Ronin feels great in the hand and not excessively heavy. The briefcase handle and extended grip allow for some flexibility in
its operation. The controls are ergonomic and feel natural to use.
FEATURES ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Paired with the Ronin app, these gimbals are jam-packed with creative features. There are some I would probably never use, but it is nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve for a rainy day.
STABILISATION ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The fundamental job of a gimbal is to stabilise your camera and they both do just that – very well!
USABILITY ★ ★ ★ ★
The portability of these units is fantastic. They still take some time to setup and balance, but once you find your feet this can be done in just a few minutes. The menus are easy and intuitive to navigate, however the advanced options could take some getting used to.
VALUE FOR MONEY ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
These gimbals are amazing value. The quality of the workmanship is excellent, and the price makes it accessible to the everyday filmmaker. The improvements to the design have been well planned and executed.
Wherever your filmmaking journey is taking you, the DJI Ronin has an option to help take you to the next level. All you need to do is decide which one is right for you.