Even if the most recent smartphones offer video stabilization, it can be good to equip yourself with an additional accessory. This is even more true when using an older terminal. Thanks to a loan from the PNJ brand, I had the opportunity to test the Gimpod X1 , a 3-axis stabilizer for smartphones and action cam cameras. Here is what I thought about it.
When you open the box, you discover a thermoformed plastic mold, the top of which is protected by a foam “cover”. By lifting it, you will discover the perfectly stored contents of the box. These two elements ensure good protection and stability of the device when traveling.
In addition to the Gimpod, you will find a small micro-USB cable, a wrist strap and a little documentation. This is the minimum but given the price charged, it is difficult to ask for more.
If you have never had a stabilizer in your hands, I invite you to leaf through these few pages. It is not useful for mounting the smartphone because it is intuitive but it will be used to discover the functions of this accessory. If you are already familiar with this type of device, you will get to grips with it in an instant.
The Gimpod X1 is a 3-axis stabilizer for smartphones. It is equipped with brushless motors and offers the following stabilization angles: 330 ° for panning, 325 ° for rotation and 160 ° for tilting.
It has a 3.7V 4000mAh battery which gives it an autonomy of 9h to 12h .
The PNJ Gimbal application compatible with Android and iOS allows its owner to control his smartphone and access, for example, stabilization and zoom functions. The device will communicate with the smartphone via bluetooth.
It has dimensions of 105 x 102 x 300 mm for a weight of less than 500g (approximately 480g).
The PNJ Gimpod X1 stabilizer has a fairly classic design in the sense that it is similar to other stabilizers or gimbals on the market. It consists of a handle and three arms carrying motors that stabilize the smartphone. The latter being placed in a clearly identifiable location. I will come back to this a little later. The set is completely black.
At the end of the handle, there is a screw thread. This is super useful if you want to place the stabilizer on a tripod. Isn’t the goal to film with it while moving? Of course it does, but it can be used for something else, especially since the device offers a Face tracking function.
At the bottom of the handle, there is something to pass the wrist strap, a solution to prevent the device from falling during use. We notice that just above, the handle has been designed to accommodate the fingers. Another material would probably have been more suitable for a better grip but it’s always good to take.
If we go up the handle, we come across the main buttons: the power button on the left, the Mode button on the right and the joystick corresponds to the most imposing button.
Two leds take up position above this joystick. One will tell you the battery status while the second will give you status info. It is also at this level that the brand has positioned its logo, visible in all circumstances.
We will stay on the handle but by rotating it, we find two other buttons: a cursor for the zoom (on the right) as well as a shutter button for taking pictures (on the back of the handle). The latter is well located since the index falls directly on it when you take the Gimpod in hand.
Finally, on the left side of the handle is the location for the micro-USB and USB sockets (under a cover). The first will be used to charge the stabilizer and the second to charge your smartphone. You read correctly. The Gimpod X1 can serve as an external battery for your terminal. In this regard, nothing prevents you from charging your stabilizer with an external battery.
After going around the stabilizer, we can emphasize that the whole is well designed and that the finishes are good.
Before talking to you about the application dedicated to the stabilizer, we must underline an important point: the start-up of the stabilizer is simple and fast . As indicated in the documentation, remember to charge the device before its first use. Then everything is very simple and even if the doc will be useful for you to understand certain features, installing the smartphone and using the Gimpod X1 is simple and intuitive.
The first step is to install the smartphone between the two clamps fitted with foam. Your terminal does not risk anything once positioned. The system holds the terminal well and the foams prevent scratches.
Please note, the Gimpod only accepts smartphones with dimensions less than 16.5 x 7.5 cm. Then, even if you hesitate, I advise you to remove the shell from your smartphone before installing it. The latter will be much better maintained.
As soon as your smartphone is installed, the second and last operation before turning on the stabilizer is to balance it. Again, nothing too bad, just move a screw to distribute the weight well and achieve balance.
Small precision that may be important for some (s), the Gimpod X1 allows you to shoot horizontally as well as vertically and if you still use the same smartphone, you will not need to repeat the operation balancing every time.
Finally, before talking about the different functions, know that even if the Gimpod X1 comes without a tripod, it stands upright when it is placed on a flat surface . Indeed, the lower part of the handle is flat. Obviously, it will be better installed on a tripod but this design can help.
If you’re in a hurry to use your stabilizer, you can step outside and test it out without actually installing the PNJ Gimbal app. On the other hand, you will miss the piloting of certain functions accessible from the handle of the Gimpod X1.
Before going any further, I remind you that the application is free on Android and iOS . You can go there with your eyes closed, it does not require a lot of space and will allow you to take advantage of several features.
Via PNJ Gimbal, triggering and stopping the capture without touching the screen of your smartphone becomes possible, as does the choice of video mode: standard, slow motion, video self-timer, automatic panorama or even detector and face tracking. For your intro sequence, you can even program a trajectory. I had not specified it until now, but it is obviously possible to switch to selfie mode to film yourself.
The usefulness of such an accessory is to make the most stable videos possible by suppressing or reducing vibrations as much as possible and to exploit its functions through the various modes available. On the Gimpod X1, the mode button allows you to switch between motion tracking, horizontal mode or locked mode.
Once you have selected the appropriate mode for your project, all you have to do is jump in and use the available commands. The stabilizer responds well : the slightest intervention on the joystick is materialized by a movement of the stabilizer. It won’t be responsive enough for some nor fast enough to rotate and follow a fast moving object or person but other than that it does the job perfectly .
The face tracking feature is really cool and works well, but don’t rely on it when moving fast. The stabilizer will not follow. This also works if you want to film while circling around the “subject”.
Regarding the handle, everything is well thought out except for the zoom function located on the right edge. When you are right handed, you tend to use the Gimpod X1 with your right hand and in this case it is difficult to use this button. This forces you to reposition your fingers and it is not very practical.
After this period of testing, I noticed that the stabilization could be improved. Indeed, we still observe some movements during travel. Even if it is light we see on the video captures, small “shocks” related to the approach.
The Gimpod X1 has a 4000mAh battery . On paper, PNJ announces an autonomy of 9 to 12 hours. In fact, this is true. We can actually count on about 9 hours of use before having to plug it in. Obviously, the autonomy will also depend on your use but there is clearly something to have fun with. In this regard, remember to balance the Gimpod well to prevent the motors from being too stressed because this will consume more battery.
The left LED on the handle indicates the battery status: it is blinking blue when the stabilizer is charging and it stays blue once it has reached its full capacity.
I remind you that to bring this accessory back to life, you have only one thing to do: connect the micro-USB cable supplied in the box. I hope that the next model will adopt USB-C because micro-USB is still becoming increasingly rare.
You will still have to wait about 5 hours before you start again in the video capture. Even if the usage time is about twice as long as the charging time, the latter is a bit long for my taste, especially since the battery is not removable. It is therefore impossible to acquire and use a spare battery.
By going to the page dedicated to this stabilizer, you can also acquire accessories such as a pole, an adapter for using “action cam” type cameras or even a protective case. For your travels, the latter will be more practical than the original box.
The price is a strong point of the product because it allows those who are embarking on the video to equip themselves at a lower price.
The PNJ Gimbal X1 is accessible stabilizer. It is by its price lower than 100 € and by its simple operation to understand. To this, we can add good battery life, quiet operation and practical functions such as face tracking. The most rigorous will highlight a lack of stabilization for certain movements.