This little single-axis gimbal lets you shoot wider cinematic footage on racing drones
With most drones that have built-in cameras with stabilisation, we typically see fully motorised 3-axis gimbals that can compensate for just about any movement of the gimbal and keep the camera locked onto the subject. For those that don’t have built-in cameras and gimbals, most people typically attach something like an Insta360 ONE R, GoPro or DJI Osmo Action and rely on electronic image stabilisation and horizon levelling.
But horizon levelling has one big issue. It has to zoom in and crop when it’s off-axis. Can a single-axis gimbal solve this issue and always allow your camera to see the full, wide field of view of which it’s capable? According to Nurk FPV, yes, it absolutely can. And in this video, he shows us why with the Quark single-axis gimbal.
Quark appears to be primarily designed as a selfie gimbal, rather than for drones. You put it on the end of a selfie stick or mounted to your vehicle of choice, attach your GoPro and it keeps it level for you. But from watching Nurk’s video above, it seems ideally suited to racing drones, due to its small size and weight. FPV racing drones are really tiny and really can’t handle a lot of weight at all. If you add even a relatively modest 3-axis gimbal on there, a separate battery to power it and then the camera, they’re often too heavy to fly in the way you want to fly them, or they may not even be able to take off at all.
But why only a single axis? And is it worth stabilising just a single axis? What’s wrong with the EIS and horizon levelling features built into most action cameras these days? Well, the issue is caused by the fact that these cameras shoot 16:9 video. In order to correct for the horizon to keep it level, it has to rotate that 16:9 frame and then re-crop it to keep the aspect ratio 16:9 and then scale it up to fill the resolution you’re saving out. This means that if you’re turning and leaning a lot, or tracking sideways with moving subjects, you’ll see a lot of zooming in and out of the footage.
The Quark single-axis gimbal gets around this by physically keeping your camera oriented towards the horizon regardless of the roll angle of the drone, so the camera never has to zoom in and crop the footage to a tighter shot. So, that zooming artifact of the crop never happens, and you get to retain your wide field of view.
In theory, it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal – especially after you watch the 2-axis stabilised footage from the original DJI Spark – but when you see some of the sample footage in Nurk’s video, the difference it makes is pretty huge.
Quark isn’t an inexpensive gimbal, though. When you consider that handheld 2 & 3-axis devices like the Zhiyun Smooth X, Hohem iSteady X and Moza Mini MX come in at around $60-80, $199 for the Quark (which is currently on pre-order) does seem pretty steep. But it is the only one of those mentioned that can easily mount to a small FPV drone. So, if you want to stabilise your racing drone footage, it’s well worth a look.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.