At NAB 2015, we stopped by the Ikan booth where we tested the Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer. Several manufacturers have been creating smartphone gimbals including Shape and Lanparte. Retailing for about $350, the Ikan Fly-X3 seems to hit the right price point for a small 3-axis gimbal.
As smartphones continue to advance their video recording capabilities, they will eventually begin to crop up in more and more professional shoots. Take for example the recent Sundance hit “Tangerine” which was shot on a few iPhone 5’s with stabilizers.
The Ikan Fly-X3 Plus comes in a durable hardcase bag with nylon straps, a charger, one battery, and counterweight for large phones. For a few more dollars you can get the GoPro mount attachment for flying the Hero 3/4. The grip has a comfortable rubberized coating and the gimbal itself has a sturdy, metal construction that feels like just the right amount of weight for flying a smartphone. Design-wise it would have been nice if Ikan had included some 1/4-20 threads on the grip both on the sides and below for mounting accessories.
Filmic Pro for iOS
Cinema FV-5 for Android
After unboxing the Fly-X3, I immediately paired it with both my Apple iPhone 6 and LG G3 smartphone. In order to move in and out of different lighting situations, I wanted to have more control over the manual settings. So I did some research on the web and discovered the two best mobile video apps for each platform – the $7.99 Filmic Pro for iOS and the $2.49 Cinema FV-5 for Android devices. While both apps theoretically do the same thing, the iOS Filmic Pro is able to record in 60p for slow motion in addition to manual control of the shutter angle. Unfortunately for the Android Cinema FV-5, the camera drivers on Android phones do not provide developers access to shutter control.
Depending on your phone, the Ikan Fly-X3 can have either very sharp and quick moves or more natural, fluid moves. As you can see in the video above, the iPhone 6 moves at a slower, more steady pace due to the aluminum Ztylus case that helped add some weight to the Fly-X3. The LG G3 is a very lightweight phone so the moves feel a little more abrupt and sudden. With a metal case to help add weight to the Fly-X3, the LG G3 should fly more fluidly. A heavier and larger phone like the Samsung Note 4 would probably require the counter balance.
Shooting outdoors on an Android phone without shutter control created a staccato-like effect. To solve this I made a DIY ND filter by taking a pair of plastic sunglasses, popping out the lens and gaffing it to the front of the G3 lens. While it isn’t pretty, this helped to bring down the shutter angle and create better exposure.
While shooting on a smartphone gimbal can feel a little weird, it’s much easier to get smooth, candid tracking shots in public places as it attracts very little attention. Most people think its just a holder for a smartphone. And because of it’s size, you can come up with some really inventive one take shots where you can fly it through small spaces and do hand offs. If you have any questions about the Ikan Fly-X3 Plus 3-Axis smartphone gimbal, hit me in the comments below.