The Ronin-S is DJI's newest camera stabilization system, distilling the technology of the more expensive $900 Ronin-M, a two-handed stabilization system, into a more efficient single-handed model that retails for $750.

There are other, less expensive single-handed gimbals on the market, but the Ronin-S stands apart thanks to a number of features, such as its easy-to-use setup app and its offset roll axis motor, which is lowered down behind the camera so you can more clearly see the back of the camera as you shoot. DJI also says it uses the most powerful motors it's ever used in a handheld gimbal.

In addition to stabilization, the Ronin-S will connect to a range of popular cameras and allow varying degrees of control, from video start/stop all the way up to remote focus and zoom control.

Key specifications

  • 3-axis motorized gimbal head
  • Auto-tune feature for quick gimbal calibration
  • 3.6kg (7.9 lbs) load capacity
  • Integrated follow focus knob
  • Remote camera control (depends on model)
  • Button to switch between three sets of custom settings
  • Fully configurable using smartphone app
  • 12-hour battery life

Like other gimbals, the Ronin-S provides three-axis stabilization using motors that can counteract the movements of your camera, as well as create automated (or guided) tracking and panning camera movements. DJI recently released nine additional accessories for the Ronin-S, including useful items such as focus motor to facilitate remote follow focus on additional lenses.

Controls on the Ronin-S include a dedicated focus wheel, a joystick, a trigger, and three buttons on the grip: power, start/stop, and the 'M' button. The focus wheel system can be attached to either side of the grip using an Allen wrench using either of the two 8-pin ports on the side of the gimbal's base, and cables are included for follow focus and remote camera control.

Fully assembled Ronin-S including gimbal, handle (which houses the battery) and mini-tripod. The detachable tripod collapses to create an extended handle for two-handed support.

The gimbal is rated to support up to 3.6kg (7.9 lbs), nearly the same as the Ronin-M, and is capable of balancing fairly large zooms as well, including the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and the Sony E 18–200 mm F3.5–6.3 OSS LE.

In fact, the gimbal's weight limit is much higher than the one kilo (2.2 lbs) weight of the Panasonic GH5S camera and 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ASPH lens that I used for testing. Balancing the diminutive GH5S and 12-60mm kept each axis so close to center that I wonder if there's potentially a minimum weight restriction.

In terms of remote camera control, the Ronin-S supports a number of cameras from Canon, Panasonic, Nikon and Sony. Only certain camera and lens combinations will support full camera communications with focus pulling, but DJI continues to add additional support through firmware updates. An evolving list of compatible cameras and lenses can be found on the Ronin-S support page. (Look in the 'documents and manuals' section.)

...the Ronin-S stands apart thanks to a number of features, such as its easy-to-use setup app and its offset roll axis motor, which is lowered down behind the camera so you can more clearly see the back of the camera as you shoot.

DJI also provides a sliding attachment plate to mount the camera to the gimbal, which is compatible with the Manfrotto 501PL type quick-release plate, letting you transfer from the gimbal to some tripods without dismounting the camera. However, you can't use a Manfrotto plate on the gimbal. DJI’s plate is proprietary, no doubt on purpose.

Balancing and setup

Broadly speaking, balancing a camera on the Ronin-S is similar to most other gimbals, though it handles some situations particularly well.

DJI has mitigated some of the pain in the balancing process by including bright white position scales on each of the adjustable bars for recording the perfect balancing positions of favored setups. With proper annotation, this process only needs to be performed once for each camera and lens combination.

Most of the setup and configuration process for the Ronin-S is conducted from a smartphone app. The gimbal connects easily and quickly (faster than most cameras) via Bluetooth. There's a balance test available through the Ronin App (iOS or Android) to check and score each axis by its center of gravity. This helps you optimize balance, which helps minimize the amount of effort the gimbal has to make to keep the camera steady.

Balance is achieved by balancing each axis of the gimbal, working from the camera outward. Once balanced, the Ronin app can be used to run the Auto Tune function that configures the motor behavior. Each adjustable part includes helpful index lines, making it easy to record precise positions for a particular camera and lens combination.

By my second day of use I had developed a good feel for how the cameras and lenses would balance, and I could switch back and forth between the Panasonic GH5S and a much larger Canon 1D X Mark II within just a few minutes. DJI’s recommended process for balancing is based on a sequential approach by axis working from the camera outward, though I ended up going off-book, slowly centering gravity by weight, locking off each axis from the outside-in.

Once balanced, the Ronin app has an Auto Tune function that configures the motor behavior. It gives you a choice of three levels of 'aggressiveness,' depending on how extreme the motion you're correcting is. This avoids the need to learn how to configure the motor behavior (though you can do so manually if you wish).

As well as making the whole setup process easier, Auto Tune also makes it easy to quickly re-calibrate the gimbal. Instead of using the app, you can also hold the trigger and M button down simultaneously for four seconds. The Ronin then vibrates (rather alarmingly, sometimes) each of its movement axes, to test its setup.

As well as making the whole setup process easier, Auto Tune also makes it easy to quickly re-calibrate the gimbal. Instead of using the app, you can also hold the trigger and M button down simultaneously for four seconds.

DJI says the use of strong motors mean that Ronin-S can cope with slightly mis-balanced setups, which is especially useful when working with zoom lenses. Small changes in weight distribution as you zoom in and out can be corrected-for, without having to re-position and re-calibrate the gimbal.

SmoothTrack

With the camera balanced, it's worth investigating the 'SmoothTrack' settings in the Ronin App. These let you dictate how you want the gimbal to respond to your movements. There are three customizable parameters: 'Deadband' sets the threshold for how much user movement it should ignore before interpreting the motion as an intentional input. 'Speed' defines how quickly the motors move in response to that input and 'Sensitivity' lets you control how much additional acceleration should be applied if you make an extreme movement.

You can set up three SmoothTrack presets, each of which holds separate settings for each axis, so you could set up a slow preset that only responds to big, intentional movements, another that is faster and more responsive and a third that only responds to input in one axis (just panning, for instance).

The Ronin app allows you to adjust the gimbal's SmoothTrack settings, which let you dictate how you want the gimbal to respond to your movements.

Three sets of these parameters can be defined and then selected from the gimbal. Each parameter sets allows you to configure different responses for each axis, letting you create presets to suit a range of shooting styles.

The presets also let you choose whether an axis will respond to you pushing the camera around, so that you can physically over-ride the motors.

Operating the Ronin-S

Once your camera is balanced, and any cables connected, you're ready to start shooting. The controls on the Ronin-S provide a simple user interface that makes it possible to perform multiple functions quickly and easily at the tap of a button or nudge of the joystick.

Pressing the M button while you're using the Ronin will cycle through your three SmoothTrack presets, with numbered LEDs indicating which you're currently using. Having three presets makes it much easier to react to situations on-the-fly as you're working, something that would be especially useful to documentary filmmakers.

A fourth setting, the Sport Mode, can also be found by holding down the M button until the indicator LED turns yellow. Sport Mode provides the maximum responsiveness possible from the gimbal in order to accommodate and counteract extremely rapid movements, ideal for tracking subjects that move around quickly or unpredictably.

The 'M' button on the grip of the Ronin-S allows you to quickly cycle between three groups of settings; holding the 'M' button switches to Sport Mode, which is useful for tracking fast moving subjects. The joystick can be used to independently control camera movement.

The joystick on the handle gives another way to re-direct the camera when you turn it, and again you'll probably want to play with the settings until it responds to your liking. I found the default parameters to be too sensitive; a little flick of the joystick would move the camera too quickly for a refined camera move.

Finally, the trigger on the front of the handle serves multiple functions. Holding it down will lock the camera in the direction it's pointing, cancelling all user movement, while a double-press of the trigger will recenter the camera if it drifts. I found this to be a very quick way to reset the camera to its default, centered position when switching from one shot to the next. A triple tap will reverse the camera 180º for a selfie POV shot, useful for the vlogger generation, I’m sure. Finally, four taps and a trigger hold will unlock joystick-drift corrections.

It's also worth noting that the rubberized grip on the handle is comfortable and easy to hold, and the shape insures that you can tell which way it's oriented at any time even without glancing at it.

Remote camera control

One of the most useful features on the Ronin-S is remote camera control, using either the MCC (multi camera control) or RSS (remote start/stop) cable, both of which are included with the gimbal. With the Panasonic GH5S that meant I was able to pull focus electronically using the focus wheel, as well as start and stop recording, capture photos, or trigger autofocus with the button on the handle. Support for remote control varies depending on your camera/lens combination, so I recommend reviewing the current list of compatible cameras and lenses found on the Ronin-S support page.

MCC (multi camera control) and RSS (remote start/stop) cables facilitate remote operation of the camera using the Ronin's controls, though support varies depending on camera model and lens. With the GH5S I was able to use the Ronin's follow focus knob, which worked smoothly and allowed for very precise adjustments.

Beyond this, the Ronin app contains a series of extra functions, beyond basic stabilization and camera control. Even a cursory dig into the controls unlocks an absolute litany of versatile camera movements, including options like barrel rolls, 360º of spin, head-over-heels, tailspins, and seemingly endless combinations thereof.

In use

At the base of the handle there are two female 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 threads for additional supports and tripods. An included mini tripod screws into this base, and it's very helpful when rigging your camera. The mini tripod can also act as a second handhold when folded.

The folded mini-tripod provides a boom-like extension for overhead shots, low-to-the-ground shots, and generally provides a better handhold than the handle alone.

The folded mini-tripod provides a boom-like extension for overhead shots, low-to-the-ground shots, and generally provides a better handhold than the handle alone. I also found the mini tripod could be used to prevent fatigue by using it as a belt rest. That’s good, because at 1.9kg (4.1lbs), the Ronin-S looks lightweight on paper, but adding any weight at all to a camera setup increases physical stress for even the most experienced gimbal operators. It's much less of a workout than trying to manhandle the larger Ronin-M for any length of time, though.

The Focus Wheel worked very well when adjusting focus on my GH5S, and when racking focus I found it easy to make very subtle changes with focus peaking enabled. It's possible to move this wheel to the other side of the handle if that works better for you ergonomically.

The front of the gimbal includes the trigger and USB charging port; the follow focus knob can be mounted on either side or removed completely. The base of the gimbal connects to the battery with a very solid lever.

The 2400 mAh battery promises roughly 12 hours of use on a two hour charge, and I found these estimates to be more or less in line with my experience. One gripe is that you have to charge the battery through the gimbal's USB-C connection, meaning the battery and gimbal have to remain fully assembled in order to charge. If you want to charge the battery independent of the gimbal you'll need to purchase DJI's $39 Ronin-S Battery Adapter to do so.

In addition to providing exceptionally smooth camera movements, the Ronin-S has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Features like Panorama, Hyperlapse, Track, and CamAnchor allow time-lapses, panoramas, and programmed tracking shots from the Ronin App. Using the internal intervalometer, moves can be programmed in precise, repeatable patterns, with up to five keyframes that can create a segmented motion path for time-lapses and multi-shot panoramas for later stitching.

My overwhelming sense with the Ronin-S was just how easy it was for a novice to get going with it. With just a little thought given to the kinds of motion you want to make (and which you want the device to correct), it was pretty easy to get to the point where I could just start shooting and learn how to move with it.

The offset roll axis motor on the Ronin-S sits below the camera at an angle rather than being directly behind the camera. This design makes it much easier to monitor the rear screen on a camera when shooting.

Using a gimbal for the first time is something of a challenge to your inherent sense of spatial reasoning: the device over-rides some, but not all of your attempts to move the camera. But after a little time spent looking like you're inventing your own Tai chi moves, you get a feel for how you need to move your hands and body to communicate your intentions to the gimbal. Using the app to create different SmoothTrack presets makes it easy to experiment and fine-tune the Ronin to perform different types of motion for different circumstances.

The verdict

Due to its small size and impressive performance, the Ronin-S should appeal to a variety of users ranging from filmmakers to wedding videographers.

For those not accustomed to working with a stabilization system, the Ronin-S may initially appear daunting, but it can deliver professional looking camera moves with surprisingly little experience. I think most shooters who need this kind of solution for their work are going to look at it as a no-brainer compared to many other options, and with a bit of practice even beginners will be able to get great results.

I think most shooters who need this kind of solution for their work are going to look at it as a no-brainer compared to many other options, and with a bit of practice even beginners will be able to get great results.

With the plethora of available stabilization kits in the market, DJI has done an exceptional job of setting the Ronin-S apart through clever engineering and, most importantly, heightened toolsets at a similar price point to many other, far simpler stabilization kits. More advanced movements will require a bit of time to master the programming, but can result in great looking shots. For those who are novices to gimbals and stabilization systems, DJI has done a really great job in balancing the complexity of the device with simplified, ready to go, out of the box operations.

What we like:

  • Easy setup and calibration
  • Remote camera operation, including follow focus (depending on camera model)
  • Very effective at creating smooth, steady video

What we would like to see improved:

  • Battery charging adapter included with purchase
  • Support for additional camera models and lenses
  • App-based instructions as to how each axis interacts