ZHIYUN CRANE-M2S: Must-have gimbal for vlogging and travel

CRANE-M2S gimbal tested with Canon M50 mirrorless, GoPro 10, iPhone 12, and Samsung S21

Zhiyun Crane M2S

ZHIYUN’s latest all-around vlogging gimbal, the CRANE-M2S is positioned between the Crane-M2 and the Crane-M3. The M2S has a great balance between camera compatibility, features, and price. High-end smartphones like the iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with built-in image stabilization (OIS) that promises close to tripod-level stability. So why do you still need a gimbal when you have a ‘cinema camera’ in your pocket? Let’s find out from this review!

In-body stabilization (EIS or OIS) is useful for subtle movements like a handshake from breathing or your heart rate, but for walking shots it doesn’t do the same job as a gimbal can. These days, even hobbyist content creators are using multiple types of cameras. I think the ideal gear duo is a smartphone for on-the-go vlogging and a mirrorless camera for high-quality video shoots and stills. The CRANE-M2 S can handle both and even action cameras if needed.

desing

Core features and technical specifications

  • Super light and strong (only 549grams);
  • Compatible with various cameras (smartphones, action cams, and mirrorless  cameras);
  • In-body 1000 lumens LED light with adjustable intensity and interchangeable color filters;
  • Quick-release plate with dual safety looker;
  • 0.66” OLED status screen;
  • Wireless connectivity and APP remote control;
  • Six shooting modes (Pan Follow, Follow, Lock, POV, Vortex, and GO);
  • Up to 10:35 hours battery life.

ZHIYU CRANE M2S gimbal review

Disclosure: I received this camera gimbal as part of a product review collaboration with Zhiyun-Tech. Product specs and quality may vary according to the manufacturer’s reliability, so I cannot guarantee that you will get a stabilizer that performs the same as seen in my review.

Unboxing

The CRANE M2S gimbal si offered in two package options: standard and combo. I had the luck to receive the ‘Combo’ kit with the following accessories: backpack, universal phone clamp, camera plate with tripod screw, mini tripod, 4x light filters, 2x camera data cables (Type-C to Type-C and Type-C to Micro USB), and a Type-C charging cable.

Body, design, and controls

The CRANE-M2S has been slightly redesigned compared to the original Crane M2. Now, the body has grey and black colors, instead of just boring black. Excepting the gimbal arms, most of the parts are made of plastic. It has tiny red lock and silver clamps for each axis. The control layout (buttons, switches, joystick, and OLED display) remains about the same. It also has two tripod mounts, one on the bottom and one on the left side.

Front panel

The biggest change from its predecessor is on the Tilt motor. For the delight of the vloggers, it comes with an integrated fill light. Light color can be customized using one of the included magnetic filters (blue, red, orange, and yellow). The zoom in/out switch is red and allows control of the onboard fill light (turn on/off and intensity of the LED).

Fill light

On the front panel, under the OLED status display, there are a 4D joystick, Shutter, and Mode button. The ‘M’ button allows toggling between 6 different working modes. Press once for Follow/Pan Follow/Lock or twice for POV/Vortex/Portrait modes. You can enter GO mode by long-pressing the smart trigger.

Smart trigger

The Crane M2S power switch sits on the right side of the handler, right above the Menu button. On the back, there is a smart trigger for repositioning and toggling between normal and selfie mode.

dual-lock safety mechanism

Its newest quick-release system uses a dual-lock safety mechanism for easy and secure camera swap. This attachment system is used by Zhiyun flagship gimbals.

Overall, the Crane M2S looks good but is not as beautiful as the Zhiyun Crane M3.

User experience

Size-wise, the M2S is considerably smaller than other gimbals, making it a great option for many content creators who like to be on the field looking for new adventures. The ‘combo’ kit includes a comfortable and stylish bag that allows easy transportation. I like that I’m able to use the same gimbal for my smartphones, GoPro, and mirrorless camera. Fitting any camera or phone is easy with a single click fit base plate that attaches directly to the camera’s base and then into the gimbal itself. The Zhiyun M2S allows you to do a 360° pan, 320° roll, and 320° tilt.

Despite the fact that the OLED screen is quite small, it gives you direct access to options and settings, as well as it is fast and easy to navigate. The built-in light is surprisingly powerful and can be operated directly from the gimbal. Its 1000 Lumens is approximately equal to a 75-100w incandescent bulb. Zhiyun includes a series of colored filters in the box to support your creativity. The side tripod mount allows the installation of additional accessories such as a microphone. Battery life is excellent and you are able to capture almost all day long.

Balancing

If you have ever balanced a gimbal, you will have no issue with the Crane-M2S. Each axis comes with its own lock and adjustment level for easy balancing. The included mini-tripod also helps in the process. Always balance with all the accessories you plan to use with the camera. When you are using it with mirrorless or DSLR cameras, re-balancing may be required when you change from one type of lens to another.

Firstly you need to balance the tilt motor in both directions, vertical (lens facing up) and horizontal (normal camera position). Next is the roll axis. For this, lock both the pan and tilt axis. Lastly, you need to adjust the pan axis following the image below.

Balancing guide

For fine-tuning is recommended to perform ‘Auto calibration’ that adjusts motor torque according to the weight of the camera. The wrongly balanced gimbal can increase battery usage and make your videos shaky. If the gimbal fails in Vortex mode, the calibration process needs to be repeated or your setup (camera + lens) is too heavy.

1. Crane M2S with Canon M50 mirrorless camera

Zhiyun does not reveal the max payload supported by the Crane-M2S, so I decided to test it first with my smaller/lighter backup camera. The Canon M50 Mark II with EF-M 15-45mm lens weighs about 520 grams. Officially, the M2S is compatible with most popular camera brands and models such as Canon (EOS R, RP, M50, M6, 200D, PowerShot G1X, G7, and SX720Hs), Sony (Alpha α7M2, α7R2, α7S2, α7R3, α7M4, and more), Sigma (fp), Panasonic (DG-G100, DMC-GH4, DMC-GH5, DMC-LX100m@, and more), Nikon (Z50, Z5, Z6, Z7, and more ), and Fujifilm (X-T20, X-A7, X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-S10, and X-T30). Before usage, it is recommended to check both camera body and lens compatibility.

Crane M2S with Canon M50

As the Canon M50 has USB ports on the right side, you can’t connect the camera to the gimbal. You will need to start/stop recording from the M50 and not from the M2S. Otherwise, everything worked well, I had no problems with the weight of the setup.

2. Crane M2S with iPhone 12 and Samsung S21 smartphones

The CRANE-M2S combo kit includes a phone clamp that allows mounting smartphones of almost any size. I test it with my Samsung S21 and my wife’s iPhone 12, both worked with no issue. The fill light is helpful for selfie mode, where the phone’s light can’t help. Unfortunately, the APP does not have smart features such as subject tracking.

3. Crane M2S with GoPro 10 action camera

Gimbals have problems with payload in both extremities, ie if it is too light or too heavy. Some of them require counterweights to handle lightweight action cameras. The Zhiyun M2S worked smoothly with my GoPro 10 enhancing the in-body Hypersmooth 4.0 electronic image stabilization.

Crane M2S gimbal with GoPro Hero 10

Compatible with the majority of action cameras, the M2S also makes it easy to add accessories like microphones and lights using the side thread mounts. Another example of convenience is that you can power the action cam through the gimbal, extending its working time.

APP control

You can control the Crane-M2S remotely via Bluetooth using the ZY Play APP (available for iOS and Android devices). It’s very easy to connect the gimbal as the APP automatically finds the gimbal. Opening the APP for the first time, I had the impression that somehow is unfinished, no wonder why the average review score in Goggle Play is just two stars from the possible five.

Firmware update

You can use the app to pan, tilt, and roll, select all the different modes and make motor adjustments. There is also the possibility to control the gimbal movements with motion control by tilting your phone. If your camera is fully compatible, you can start and stop recording. You can update the firmware of the gimbal via the app as well.

Zhiyun M2S: Working modes

  1. Pan Follow mode (PF): The tilt axis and roll axis motors are locked and the camera rotates with the handle while panning horizontally. Push the joystick up/down to control
    the tilt axis angle, and push it left/right to control the pan axis of the camera;
  2. Lock mode (L): All three motor angles are locked and the camera orientation will not move with the rotation of the handle. Push the joystick up/down to change the tilt angle of the camera and left/right to change the horizontal orientation of the camera;
  3. Follow mode (F): The roll axis motor is locked and the tilt axis and pan axis motors follow the rotation of the handle. Push the joystick up/down to change the tilt angle of the camera and left/right to change the horizontal orientation of the cameral;
  4. Point of View mode (POV): All three motors move when the handle is rotated;
  5. Vortex mode (V): The tilt axis motor rotates upward by 90° and the tilt axis, roll axis, and pan axis motors follow the rotation of the handle. Push the joystick to the left/right to control the rotation of the pan axis;
  6. Go mode (GO): The roll axis motor is locked and the tilt axis and pan axis motors quickly follow the rotation of the handle;
  7. Portrait mode: The tilt axis motor rotates upward by 90° and the pan axis rotates by 90°. You can enter this mode for vertical filming.

Price, availability, and options

The Crane M3 can be found at zhiyun-tech.com with a starting price of €299 ($269) for the Standard kit. The ‘Combo’ pack, for an extra €80, includes the must-have phone clamp and stylish backpack. Additionally, for €95.20, you can purchase a universal quick-release plate. Most ZHIYUN gimbals are also available on their Amazon store.

Review verdict

  • Price/performance ratio
  • Design and build quality
  • Video Stabilization
  • Battery life
  • Camera compatibility
  • App Features
4

Expert's ratings

The Zhiyun Crane M2S is made with transportability in mind. It is small and compact, which means carrying it around all day is easy. Regardless you’re shooting films on a mirrorless camera or quick TikTok videos on a smartphone, the Crane-M2S will be a great gimbal for you.

Pros

  • Compact and powerful;
  • Built-in LED light with adjustable intensity and 4 light filters;
  • Suitable for a wide range of camera devices (Mirrorless, Action, Smartphones);
  • Great battery life.

Cons

  • Not fit for all sizes of phones and cameras;
  • Only a few cameras can be controlled via the gimbal;
  • Poorly developed APP (lacks in features).
Sending
User Review
4.5 (2 votes)

Crane M2 vs M2S vs M3

Zhiyun Crane series comparison (M2 vs M2S vs M3)

  Crane M2 Crane M2S Crane M3
Size 267*69*138 240*68*150 280*75*157
Weight 500g 549g 700g
Tilt axis range 310° 320° 309°
Roll axis range 324° 320° 333°
Pan axis range 360° 360° 360°
Camera plate Quick-release Gen 1 Quick-release 4.0 Quick-release 4.0
Battery Capacity 1100mAh 1150mAh 1150mAh
Battery Life 7h 10h35min 8h
Fill light N/A Built-in temperature fill light Built-in dual color temperature fill light
Featured Buttons WT Zoom Light control lever Light control pulsator
Release date 2019 2022 2021
Price $179.00 $269.00 $369.00

3 Comments

  1. Raymond June 8, 2022
  2. Parker June 1, 2022
    • Robert Neil June 1, 2022

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