Filmmaker, gimbal ninja and YouTuber Brandon Li has been playing around with Sony’s new software for the A7S III mirrorless camera and the ZV-1 vlogging camera to see if can actually let us do away with gimbals for shooting video.
The cameras have an accelerometer inside them that allows the camera to record the orientation data of the camera while shooting video. The software on the desktop then reverses these movements in post.
The stabilisation tech in the software works similarly to how the SteadXP works, announced back in 2015. The data from the accelerometer is very specific, so there’s no guessing like there is with Adobe’s Warp Stabiliser or the stabilisation features in DaVinci Resolve. The software knows exactly where the camera is and in which direction it’s pointing from one frame to the next. So, all it needs to do is reverse and smooth out that motion.
Like other software stabilisation techniques, it does mean that the image is often zoomed in and then cropped to remove black borders around the footage. Using a gyrp is a lot more accurate, though. It’s also the way that many 360° cameras stabilise their footage today, like the Insta360 ONE R. Except, with 360° cameras, you don’t need to zoom and crop, because there are no black edges of the frame to cut out.
There are some caveats, though, as it’s not perfect. As with 360° camera stabilisation, you still have to take things into account like motion blur. If you’re moving the camera quickly with a slow shutter speed, you’ll see these judders when you try to stabilise in the software – the same as you would with Warp Stabiliser. So you need a lot of light, high ISO or a wide aperture so that you can shoot faster shutter speeds to eliminate motion blur at the speed you’re moving.
Can it replace a gimbal? Well, that depends what you’re shooting. Maybe yes, but maybe no. As Brandon’s video demonstrates, there are definitely times where Sony’s new stabilisation technique fails and a gimbal is absolutely the best way to go, especially if you want to maximise the entire frame and camera resolution. But Brandon also demonstrates a number of shooting scenarios where the software actually does equally as well or even better than the gimbal.
And, hey, there’s nothing stopping you from using both.
It’s nice to see this tech finally being built into interchangeable lens cameras.