Affordable Storm32 3-axis gimbal from HAKRC
You can have the best quadcopter camera of the moment but, without being accompanied by a steady brushless gimbal at least like this HAKRC Storm32, is very hard to capture some nice and smooth aerial videos.
According to the number of installed brushless motors, the camera gimbals can be categorized in 1, 2 or 3-axis gimbals. A 2-axis gimbal is not necessarily worst than a 3-axis one, both designs have their own pros and cons. 3D gimbals are more liked because they stabilizes videos on all 3 axis (tilt, pan and roll). In the same time, the weight of the 3rd motor is usually bigger and consumes more power than 2-axis models.
Roughly, a brushless camera gimbal has 5 main parts:
- Controller board;
- Gyro and acceleration sensor (like MPU6050);
- Brushless motors (1, 2 or 3 according to the number of motion axis);
- Connection cables;
- Carbon fiber, plastic or metal frame.
In order to control a 3-axis gimbal on all axes you will need 3 free channels on your transmitter. Professional aerial film makers often use two remote controllers, one for controlling the aircraft and one for the camera gimbal.
There are many 3-axis GoPro gimbals on the market, from cheap models like $70 to very expensive with price up to $400. Probably there are some functionality and definitely reliability differences, but frankly, why this price gap of 6 times!?
HAKRC Storm32 review
Last month I was contacted by Elliot from Gearbest on whether I’m interested in reviewing this lightweight 3-axis gimbal. I hesitated because I already owned two other GoPro dedicated gimbals. Finally, I accepted his offers because this HAKRC Storm32 gimbal features a universal mounting plate which allows to install almost any GoPro and alike cameras. In my opinion, with some small adjustments, this gimbal can be also used with other kind of small quadcopter cameras. For example, in order to capture some 3D aerial videos, I’m planning to install two RunCam2 cameras on it. What worries me is whether I can re-calibrate the gimbal to handle the about 20-25 g extra weight.
HAKRC Storm32 brushless gimbal highlights
- Works out of the box;
- Lightweight CNC aluminum alloy frame;
- Direct drive brushless motors (two pieces of 2206 and one of C2805-145KV);
- 4 pieces of anti-vibration dumping balls;
- 3-Axis control signals (roll, pitch and pan);
- Storm32 bruhsless gimbal controller (BGC);
- o323BGCTool GUI for configuration and firmware upgrade.
HAKRC Storm32 review – First impression
The gimbal was delivered in an “environment friendly” cardboard box that actually is a reused piece of carton folded into a box shape. Anyway, being a cost-effective product I didn’t expect for a fancy package.
Alongside the gimbal I found in the box some screws required to install the gimbals on the aircraft, few F-F jumper wires, a JST female cable and one page instruction guide.
Although we are dealing with a cheap gimbal, this HAKRC Storm32 has a quite robust design and it seems very well built, yet it would be unfair to say that it has the same professional look as my Feiyu Tech FY MiNi3D gimbal.
My only concern is around the wires passing through the motors. Without having any hardware brakes on the panning motor, this one can be freely rotated when is powered off. Maybe is fun to play this way but it can be risky. Because after few complete rotation some of the wires will be stretched to bursting.
The camera can be attached to the gimbal with a velcro tape that needs to be very tighten in order to prevent auxiliary vibrations.
According to the instructions, this gimbal can be supplied with 3s and 4s Li-Po batteries. First time I tested with a fully charged 2s Li-Po and appear to work properly with this one too.
This gimbal has 4 status LEDs (3 on the controller board and one on the MPU6050 sensor board) and two micro push buttons (“RESET” and “BOOT0”). The LEDs on the controller board has the following colors and functions:
- LED0 (green color) shows the current state of the gimbal;
- LED1 (red color) heartbeat monitor, it shows if the battery voltage is low or is missing the IMU sensor;
- BT LED (yellow color), this works together with the HC06 bluetooth module.
The Storm32 brushless controller board (BGC) offers some hidden features. It allows to connect an IR led in order to remote control a camera and near-distance configuration of the gimbal through Bluetooth.
HAKRC Storm32 review – Configuration tool
In order to configure this gimbal through my computer I needed a mini USB cable plus to install the STM32 virtual COM port driver and the o323BGCTool GUI (at the end of my review you can find all the required files; you can also download them from olliw.eu).
The OlliW’s o323BGCTool is a pretty cool open source application which allows to fine-tune the settings of the controller board and also to monitor the gimbal in real time. Through this tool it can also be updated the firmware of the gimbal. Because mine came with firmware version v0.70, which was released 10 months ago, I am planning to update my Storm32-BGC board with the latest v0.90 firmware.
HAKRC Storm32 gimbal test
Prior to attach the gimbal to my X380 Quad I decided to make some indoor tests. My plan was to build a PVC pipe stand for this but I didn’t managed to find the proper tubes, so I had to improvise something to install the gimbal on it.
In order to test the remote inputs of the gimbal, I used a cheap servo tester. As shown on my review video, the gimbal responded very well on all inputs (RC-0 “Tilt”, RC2-1 “Roll” and RC-2 “Pan”).
The gimbal, when is connected trough the JST connector to a power source (11.1-16.8v), starts to auto-calibrate. Very important, do not move the gimbal during this process which normally takes about 20-30 seconds. If the gimbal is shaken during the startup sequence the initialization will be much longer.
Friendly advice: do not turn upside down the gimbal when is powered ON. The pan motor will start rotating as crazy.
Just returned from my flying zone and I download the video form the camera installed on the HAKRC Storm32 gimbal. The video is decently stable, but there’s still some jello effect. Its source is not necessarily the gimbal. The propellers on my X380 quad are pretty used and it was also a windy day…I will repeat the test on a calm day after my new blades will arrive.
HAKRC Storm32 review – Final words
One of my friends just purchased a CX-20 quad and a Xiaomi Yi camera which together cost about $270. He asked me which gimbal would be suitable for him. Obviously, I could not recommend him an accessory that costs as much as the quadcopter itself. I recommended him to focus on cheaper gimbals like this HAKRC Storm32.
The biggest advantage of this gimbal is its price. It is probably the only 3-axis gimbal under $70. Until now, my only problem with this gimbal is regarding the boring initialization delay, but I need few more test flights to say yes to its quality. Those interested on some affordable gimbals, this one can be ordered from Gearbest. BTW, the STorM32-BGC, which is the heart of this HAKRC gimbal, was started as a hobbyist’s project not a commercial one.
What I liked
- Extremely affordable 3 axis gimbal;
- The cables are well organized;
- Can be remotely controlled on all 3 axis (tilt, roll and pan)
- Lightweight, about 197 grams;
- Reset button;
- Compatible with many GoPro clones;
- By adding some extra weight can be used with Mobius clones.
What I didn’t liked
- No hardware limit for the panning motor;
- About 20 seconds initialization delay;
- Mine came with outdated firmware version.
Some improvements I’m planning to make to this HAKRC Storm32 gimbal
- Firmware upgrade from v0.70 to v0.90;
- Adding secondary JST cable (female);
- Improvising a kind of hardware limit for the “Pan” motor.
Be aware, just found out that this gimbal is also sold under the “Spare 3 Axis Brushless Gimbal” product name at around $90. Apparently there are no differences except the significantly higher price.
Some useful Storm32 downloads