The Drunk DJI Ronin M Review

We recently received the new DJI Ronin M, an electronic gimbal that is smaller and cheaper than the standard DJI Ronin. To put this stabilizer to the test, we decided to put it through a series of demanding tests... while drunk.

 

We began these tests by comparing footage from 2 Nikon D750 cameras, one stabilized and one hand held. I was using a Tamron 24-70mm lens locked at 24mm and Patrick was using a Tamron 15-30mm locked at 24mm. As expected the Ronin absolutely destroyed the hand held camera in terms of stabilization but something else also became very apparent, it wasn't super convenient to use. This isn't a knock against the Ronin M itself, it's more of a general observation about the stabilizing units themselves. Let me explain.

 

Traveling with this thing isn't easy

Simply driving 5 minutes to our first shooting location was a struggle. The camera had already been balanced and being that I personally am not very experienced in that area, I didn't want to dismantle the Ronin and then balance it all over again once we arrived. I've read online that once you get some practice, balancing the Ronin only takes a few seconds. Although I do believe that some people may be capable of that, I imagine it's going to take quite some time before I can balance it in less than a few minutes. Since the Ronin can't really be laid down (it needs to be hung from a custom stand), I decided to sit in the back of the car and hold it. Apparently the bumpy car ride was enough to screw something up and I was forced to recalibrate the Ronin before the first shoot anyway. 

 

You will draw a crowd 

Charleston is a very casual city. Photographers and videographers are everywhere and nobody really seems to mind. We went into a restaurant for dinner and my team filmed me setting up the Ronin on the table and a few seconds later the owner walked out and asked to see our "permit" to film. This would have never happened if we all had DSLRs and tripods. The Ronin, and other electronic gimbals like it, are always going to draw a crowd. Holding this thing makes you look like James Cameron filming the next Avatar. If you want to be the most popular guy in the bar, it's great. If you're trying to quickly grab a video clip (without a permit) it's going to be a problem.

 

Ronin M vs Steadicam

All of these complaints really have nothing to do with the Ronin M itself though. Let's actually talk about how the unit worked. Now I want to be perfectly honest and say that I have never used anything like the Ronin M before. The only thing that have to compare it to are the mechanical Steadicam and Glidecam systems that I've always struggled with. Steadicams, especially when they are used with the arm and vest, can be amazing, but they require a talented person to use them. A "Steadicam Operator" is a job title on movie sets for a reason. I would struggle to get perfect shots with a perfectly balanced system while a veteran would be able to make flawless moves. The Ronin M felt a bit more "foolproof." Without me really thinking about it, the Ronin was able to capture flawless pans and tilts (which can be fine tuned with the app). These moves require a bit more skill with a manual Steadicam system.

I feared that the battery life would be a one of the biggest negative aspects of this Ronin and I was wrong. A single battery can stabilize the camera for up to 6 hours! With 2 charged batteries you won't have any issue filming all day. 

 

Customizing the Ronin M

The DJI App that wirelessly connects your iPhone to your Ronin can calibrate, trim, and customize every aspect of the Ronin M. I was extremely impressed by how many different options there were. As I continue to use the Ronin for different types of shots I'm sure I'll appreciate these options even more. 

 

The included remote control

The Ronin M also comes with a remote control. The RC looks exactly like the controller of the Phantom and it works just as easily. If the Ronin M is on and the remote is off, the Ronin will perform moves on it's own (as you have set in the app). As soon as you turn on the controller, the Ronin M will stabilize the camera but any movements (pans, tilts, and rolls) will be controlled with the remote. Once you turn off the remote the Ronin immediately beings working on it's own. The remote can be used to quickly calibrate the Ronin (to find the "center") or it can be used while a camera operator is using the Ronin to actually frame the shot. I personally haven't used the remote like this yet but I'm very impressed that it was included in the price. 

 

Conclusion

Even though the Ronin M isn't always convenient to use, I have to admit that no stabilizer really is. As someone who hasn't gotten to try any other competitors, I personally love the Ronin M and I have a really hard time thinking of improvements (aside from some way to set it down without the stand). I can remember just a few years ago when the Movi came out for $15,000 and completely changed the game. Today you can get the Ronin M for just $1400! I haven't used the Movi systems but it's hard for me to believe they could possibly be 10 times better. Once again DJI has created a product that is so amazing and ahead of it's time (for the price), it feels like I am living in the future. This technology doesn't feel like it should be affordable yet. 

If you're the type of videographer that has the time to slow down and work toward capturing a few perfect shots, I can't recommend the Ronin M enough. If, however, you are the run and gun type, you may want to consider something a bit smaller. You aren't going to be sneaking around inconspicuously with the Ronin M or any other electronic stabilizer of this size. I know I have so much more to learn about the Ronin M and it's competitor. Maybe I will run into some major issues in the future and If I do I will update you, but as of right now, I'm a huge fan of the Ronin M and I'm excited to use it at my next video shoot. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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26 Comments

Matt Green's picture

Love this review. I just purchased a Ronin M a couple weeks ago and plan to add the GoPro gimbal as well. (for specialty shots -- just saw a video with the GoPro on a chesty mount being used for MTB footage -- it was amazing) Thanks for making a fun review that also includes useful information. Keep up the good work!

Kenn Tam's picture

This is fucking awesome guys. I was smiling through the whole damn video. Also, can we hire another Chelsey just for me? Just asking.

Austin Burke's picture

Great review and it brought out all the points I noticed when I used it last month for the first time on a shoot. Trying to change camera settings and focus was a pain in the ass because there is no easy way to set down the ronin with out it's silly stand which is just more to carry. It also draws attention for sure, specially when shooting from a truck while filming cars. And while filming cars any speed over 40 miles and you can forget it with the Ronin M unless you are shooting from inside a vehicle and not out a window as the wind will cause the ronin to spin like crazy.

Over all though its very easy to learn to use and only takes a little practice to get that "steadicam" walk down to make the ronin get some nice smooth shots, unlike the tons of practice a steadicam needs (Of course a steadicam has the extra axis of stabilization but most clients wont notice that).

Sadly I don't think I'll pick up a ronin due to the size and more importantly the fact you have to carry that stand around. I've instead invested in the Nebula 4000 Lite, a small hand held stabilizer. It's cheaper but only holds about 2.2 lbs so you are limited there. But being a single grip stabilizer (though I can throw on a two hand grip like the ronin or put it on a fig rig for extra stabilization) it's small and much more portable for one man crew shoots that I work on.

Awesome review though and fun to watch.

Really interesting and funny review. Like always ;) ! Good to see more Lee&Patrick articles the last days/weeks.

Re: the horizon drift towards the beginning of the video:

Was this Ronin-M upgraded to the recent firmware? I had a Ronin-M pre-ordered and when I got it it drifted for the first months or so I had it until that firmware update, which seemed to really fix most of the problems!

I'm going to try this right now

Christian Berens's picture

That was amazing and a great review (and entertaining)

I don't even do video but that made me want one haha

Chris K.'s picture

Great review! Think you need to do more drunk reviews ;)
Love my Ronin and am thinking about picking up an M for the smaller budget work I do-and will try to put the Carbon Fiber Weapon on it too once that comes out to save what's left of my back.

Also the way I keep the camera from changing it's balance while transporting it in the car is to use the velcro ties which came with the Ronin, or something similar, and put the already balanced rig on the included stand and use the ties to secure the rig to the stand to prevent it from moving around. And don't forget to use a sandbag or two to prevent it from falling over. Just turn it on and it's ready to go. Just hate being the one on set everyone's waiting for when I have to rebalance/calibrate it.

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Major flaw with your review: Patrick was wearing flip-flops. If he had opted for his Icelandic boots, the hand held footage would've been miles ahead of the Ronin M. Please retest.

Philippe Maurice's picture

i have the ronin m and the glide cam and i dont think ppl should compare them to each others for the very simple fact that have different look , Glide cam is great at running tracking shots , where you are following someone etc.. the camera looks like it's flying , Ronin looks like stabilized handheld , because it doesnt counter the up and down movement that happens when you move or run, so it's great for handoffs , mounting to jibs ,car shot anything that requires the 3 axis stabilization , not to mention if you are doing complicated moves like mounting it on a rope and shooting etc.. you need another person to control the cam , so just because they have a little bit of similarities doesnt mean one will replace the other.

also for the tilting prob just disable roll on the app.

Austin Rogers's picture

Did you guys paint the top of your camera white? ;) Where have I seen that before?

We put tape on the top of all of our cameras so that we can number them and then we change the file names they output as well. Camera 1 outputs files at 111_XXX. This makes it easy for us to find footage when we shoot on 6 different cameras.

Austin Rogers's picture

Ahhhh, so not a stylistic choice? ;)

Shaun cleary's picture

Thanks for the awesome review. Is there any ability to hookup a small monitor to the rig? I heard in other reviews it was very skimpy when it came to attachment points.

Seems like the top bar has a huge amount of space for stuff like that

Shaun cleary's picture

Just wanted to follow-up... purchased it with some end of the year cash and couldn't be more psyched with it. Very surprised how easy it was to get really cool useable footage with. Thanks for the review and the tips.

We mount a 7 inch monitor to ours with a clamp and mini ball head.

Shaun cleary's picture

Perfect. It seems so silly though that there are no dedicated connection points built into the frame.

Remus Roman's picture

This. This is what keeps me coming back to FStoppers.

I've always had an itch to grab a Ronin, but there is something uninspiring about how one goes about focusing. Shooting on primes wide open, sounds like an impossible endeavor without a Cinegear system.

It would be nice to see a review of this with a real camera (BlackMagic, Red, something with heft). The endless march of reviews of camera supports featuring SLRs is pretty tired at this point. Supporting a proper cinema camera is not the same as supporting a rinky-dink camera.

This is the M version which isn't made for big cameras.

For anyone wondering, we have successfully used a RED Dragon stripped down on the Ronin M, but i would consider that a stretch, although we do have it working.

Sam Renkin's picture

If you're using a "proper cinema camera" I don't think the Ronin-M is for you. It's designed for our cheap rinky-dink SLR cameras.

Nice review guys. The unit is a lot more robust than you would think. I just spent a week in a Jeep, 1000 miles of off road, and on, and was very rough on the unit in the process, laying it in the back seat over rough terrain, laying it on the rough terrain itself, holding it out the window at 40, generally just being hard on it by the nature of the trip, and it held up like a champ and didnt give me 1 problem over the course of the entire trip. Never used the stand other than to initially balance it before leaving. Paired with the fact it was balanced only decently, and I was changing focal length on the lens a whole lot, shifting weight around and never rebalancing, never had one performance issue. Camera on it was a GH4 with a 12-35.