Ronin S and Crane 2 – read this review to choose wisely

Clash of the titans seems to go in favor of the DJI Ronin S

The Ronin S and the Crane 2 are among the most popular professional gimbals. Their manufacturers, DJI and Zhiyun, respectively, are the two behemoths fighting for dominance over this market. Designed for mirrorless cameras and smaller DSLRs, both gimbals can be operated single-handedly. In many respects, they are quite similar and offer a lot of the same benefits.

In fact, the Ronin-S was introduced a year after the Zhiyun Crane 2 and came into being in response to its triumph. DJI’s earlier model, the Ronin-M, was bulkier and more expensive, which made it a poor competitor to the Crane 2. The Ronin S, on the other hand, caters to the audience looking for something relatively compact and reasonably priced.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to test the two gimbals together and thoroughly compare them. In this article, I will share my findings and observations, hoping they will be helpful in making an informed choice between the two.


Stabilization and tracking: Ronin-S wins 🏆

I tested both gimbals with my Nikon D850 and didn’t find much difference in terms of stabilization quality. For every instance of the Ronin S footage looking smoother, there was a contradicting example in favor of the Crane 2. Even then, the difference was very subtle, barely noticeable even to a well-trained eye.

However, the gimbals were not the same when it came to object tracking performance. The Ronin gimbal did a better job in this respect. That’s not to say the Crane 2 completely fell short. However, I had a hard time keeping up with my dog playing fetch.

Weight load: Ronin S wins 🏆

The Zhiyun Crane 2 is compatible with devices of up to 7lbs (3200g). The DJI Ronin S has a slightly higher capacity of up to 8lbs (3600g).

Both of them should be able to support most of the DSLR setups without any issues. However, the Crane 2 somewhat restricts your choice of accessories. This is an important thing to note, if heavy lenses, mics, and gimbal monitors are an essential part of your routine.


Build and design quality: Ronin S wins 🏆

Both gimbals have stout metal bodies. The heavier Ronin-S feels more solid, but this is more of a subjective impression. As far as I know, there were no large-scale complaints about either of these models’ build quality, so none of them is likely to fall into pieces while shooting.

In terms of ergonomics, these two are pretty much on par, but the Ronin S is marginally better if you ask me. Its grip is a bit more convenient to hold. Meanwhile, the Crane 2’s grip is a plain cylinder that feels the same from all sides. As a result, you can’t tell by touch if you are holding it straight.

The Ronin-S also has a better mount design. It’s set at an angle that allows full access to the back of the camera. As for the Crane 2, it actually blocks the camera’s screen, which might be a serious inconvenience.


Weight and size: it’s a tie

If you are always on the go, you want your gimbal to be as light and compact as possible. These factors also come into play, if your filming sessions tend to be long.

The Crane 2’s weight is 2.76 lbs (1.25 kg). Meanwhile, the Ronin S weighs 4.1 lbs (1.86 kg). As you can see, the superior payload capacity comes at a price. Undoubtedly, the Crane 2 can save you some strength over long periods of time. However, the difference is not as overwhelming as it might seem. It’s also important to keep in mind that the gimbal is not the heaviest part of the setup, and the overall mass is going to tax your stamina in any case.

For all that, the DJI Ronin S is superior from a portability standpoint. The possibility to unscrew the gimbal head from the grip is no small matter when it comes to packing.


Compatible cameras: it’s a tie

Both gimbals are able to work with any cameras that meet the size and weight restrictions. However, proper compatibility is more than that. If the camera is fully supported, its features are integrated with the gimbal controls.

Initially, the Ronin S didn’t support Canon DSLRs, but this has been revised in later firmware updates. The Crane 2 is also making progress, now being compatible with Nikon Z6 and Z7.

If you look at their compatibility lists, you won’t find much difference at the moment.

Accessories: it’s a tie

Both gimbals are compatible with a great number of accessories. DJI and Zhiyun offer various accessories of their own and also allow to use of third-party gear.

Originally, the Ronin-S lacked a follow focus system. This tool is important for many videographers: it physically pulls the lens focus ring, significantly expanding your focus control. Zhiyun with its Servo Follow Focus accessory had an advantage on that score. However, DJI did release a similar accessory of its own later.

Personally, I didn’t test these. To me, the results were good enough even with autofocus. However, if you are more technically oriented, you might want to look further into each gimbal’s focus options.


Battery Life: Crane 2 wins 🏆

The Crane 2 has three batteries with a total runtime of 18 hours in a row. It’s also nice that they are removable. If you buy a spare set, you’ll be able to quickly replace the batteries in case you need more juice. This way, you won’t have to worry about the charge level at all.

As for the Ronin S, it can only last for 12 hours. This is enough for most situations, but the battery is built-in. This means you won’t be able to prolong the shooting time in case of an emergency. On the positive side, you won’t have to take the batteries out and put them back in each time you charge the gadget, which is the case with the Zhiyun Crane gimbal.


Price: Crane 2 wins 🏆

At the time of writing, the Crane 2 is a better deal. The gimbal with the focus accessory will cost you about $500.

The Ronin-S is more expensive than its competitor. The cheapest package is the Essentials Kit, which includes a plastic tripod and no focus unit. To get the Standard Kit with a metal tripod and a focused accessory, you’ll have to dig deeper into your purse.


Having thoroughly tested both gimbals, I’d rather go for the DJI Ronin S. It felt more robust in my hands, and the grip was more ergonomically designed. Due to snappier object tracking, it did a better job of capturing rapid action. The higher load capacity makes it better-suited for seasoned filmmakers who constantly use bigger cameras with heavy cine lenses.

Despite all that, there’s much to be said in favor of the Crane 2 gimbal. Above all, it’s cheaper and much more powerful in terms of battery life. As for the payload, it’s not going to be a problem if you’re looking for a mirrorless gimbal. So, if you think it better fits your needs, by all means, don’t hesitate to buy it, especially at a bargain price.

Read about the  best DSLR gimbals here

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