EVALUATION

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 Review: The Best Budget Gimbal for Instagram Reels and TikTok

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Zhiyun Smooth Q3

8.00 / 10

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At its core, the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 provides a budget-friendly gimbal with everything you want. It's lightweight, supports many popular phones, offers a rotatable fill light, and a modernized button layout to simplify usage. Whether you're after a casual-use stabilizer or professional support for Instagram Reels and TikTok, the Smooth Q3 provides what you need if you can deal with a few bumps along the way.

Key Features

  • Lightweight gimbal (0.75 lbs / 340 g)
  • 180° Rotatable LED Fill Light
  • SmartFollow 3.0 (ZY Cami)
  • Single gesture control (ZY Cami)
  • Instant Dolly Zoom (ZY Cami)
  • MagicClone Pano (ZY Cami)
  • 3-axis gimbal stabilizer with multiple modes
Specifications

  • Brand: Zhiyun
  • Selfie Stick: Not included, but can be attached via standard tripod screw
  • Class: Smartphone
  • Maximum Payload: 0.6 lbs (280 g)
  • Smooth Motion: 3-axis (pan, tilt, and roll)
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2
Pros

  • Increased payload from the Smooth Q2 (previously 260 g)
  • Lightweight despite internal battery
  • Touch responsive rotatable fill light with three brightness levels
  • Easily swaps between shooting modes and horizontal/vertical shooting
  • Minimum and maximum payloads cover a wide range of phones
Cons

  • Some functionality restricted to ZY Cami App
  • ZY Cami app glitches
  • Fill light gets obstructed when using front camera in portrait mode
  • Battery can be finnicky
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With the release of the Zhiyun Smooth Q3, Zhiyun has instituted some heavy design changes from the Smooth Q2. As always, these are meant to streamline and better fit the current climate of smartphone video shooting. However, the question remains are these changes worth investing in, and are there any notable trade-offs.

Read along to see if this smartphone gimbal suits your needs, then enter our giveaway at the end of the article for a chance at winning your very own Zhiyun Smooth Q3.

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Zhiyun Smooth Q3 Design

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 ergonomic grip

For past users of the Smooth Q2, the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 has moved away from its predecessor's design. Rather than continue forward with the aluminum alloy build of the Q2, users are instead given a lighter-weight, two-tone matte plastic build. In terms of its body design, it felt like it took lessons from the Smooth XS while attempting to improve on what it did well.

With the Smooth Q3, there's a focus on grip ergonomics. Rather than deal with an unwieldy cylindrical grip, the formed plastic at the rear of the handle comfortably fits four fingers while leaving your thumb free for joystick and button operation. The contrast between light and dark gray also guides your eye to all the important buttons, USB-C port, and zoom rocker too.

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Zhiyun Smooth Q3 pocket placement

For those after a travel-friendly gimbal, the Smooth Q3 design does allow for a quick, slidable pack-up. While not as pocket-friendly as the Smooth XS, it can still stick close. If you don't want to keep it on you, it also stows away easily for transport.

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 Technical Specifications

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 record button use

In terms of numbers, the Smooth Q3 offers improvements in two major gimbal areas: weight and payload. Thanks to its plastic body, it's managed to drop down to 340g from the 380g of the Smooth Q2 (without its battery inserted). The Smooth Q3 also boasts an improved max payload of 280g from the previous 260g.

When in transit or stored folded up, the Smooth Q3 measures 45 x 154 x 180 mm. When fully expanded, the Smooth Q3 measures out at 90 x 127 x 279 mm.

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Smartphone Support and Stabilization for the Smooth Q3

Smooth Q3 phone camera placement indicator

As with all of Zhiyun's products, it's advisable to check their gimbal's compatibility list online before making a purchase. While it doesn't cover all smartphones, it covers most major brands. Otherwise, you'll want to keep in mind the payload restriction and the smartphone thickness support of between 7 to 10mm.

To test the improved payload of the Smooth Q3, I explored its compatibility across three smartphones. For the test group, I wanted a good range of sizes and weights, so I used a Samsung Galaxy S7 with a weight of 152g, a Google Pixel 3 XL with a weight of 184g, and the Infinix Hot 10S with a weight of 211g.

As all the phones fit the parameters, the Smooth Q3 had no problem balancing them. If you do have a heavier phone, keep in mind that if you do mount any external lenses also affects your payload limit. In terms of Bluetooth, I also encountered no issues connecting nor maintaining the connection.

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Amongst the test group phones, the Infinix Hot 10S measures out at 171.5 mm x 77.5 mm x 9.2 mm, so it's a longer smartphone than on average. At points, it would sometimes rub too close to the tilt axis or the vertical slanted arm of the gimbal. Even with this being the case, if you're mindful of your positioning then you can typically anticipate it in advance and correct your shooting pattern.

Smooth Q3 low shot underslung mode

When you know you have a phone that fits, balancing is a relatively easy affair. Once your phone is placed between the rubber phone clamps, adjust your phone’s position to the left or right whilst in landscape mode until it's steady and level to the ground. Then in portrait mode, move the phone clamp attached to the roll axis to the left or right until the phone is steady and again almost level with the ground.

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You can similarly do this all in just landscape mode as long as you pay mind to how the phone tilts or falls while making the appropriate adjustments. Even if you don’t get the balance perfect, the Q3 motors will compensate under most scenarios albeit at the cost of more stress and greater battery drain. However, if you do notice any irregularities where the motors don’t cooperate with the shot, this can usually be resolved by cutting the Smooth Q3 off and making a small balance adjustment.

Once you do have everything working, however, the Zhiyun Smooth Q3 offers a mostly stable experience.

At some intervals, however, I would notice where the Smooth Q3's motors did have to catch up and there’d be some jitter while shooting. Generally, I ran into this more when doing faster-paced motion shots or sweeping pans. Rather than ever really registering as a detriment, it mostly made me conscious of how I was shooting.

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So you can still get cinematic-quality footage with the Q3, but it just takes a little more work to achieve it.

Battery Life and Charging With the Zhiyun Smooth Q3

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 mode indicator lights

With the Smooth Q3's swap to an internal battery, how does it perform? In terms of operating time, it has a standard battery runtime of seven hours with a potential maximum of fifteen hours. Depending on the intensity of use and stress on the motors, it also may drain faster.

In one testing period, I ran the Smooth Q3 for seven hours in a split between mostly low-stress operations with bursts of higher intensity use. During the low-stress period, I just left the gimbal on with the pre-balanced Infinix Hot 10S. While I'd occasionally adjust the pan, it largely sat idle.

During the high-impact periods, I went outside to shoot for intervals of thirty minutes to an hour while utilizing the assorted features of the gimbal. Over the course of the seven-hour back-and-forth, the Smooth Q3 only dropped one single bar (so roughly 25% of its battery).

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Once you do drain your internal battery, the Smooth Q3 charges via USB-C. While charging, the Smooth Q3's indicator lights light up in sequence to show its recharge progression. If you want to keep tabs on your battery life during stabilizer operation, you can also tap the power button to display the current charge.

With this all said, I did notice the Smooth Q3's battery could be finicky at times. If I left the Smooth Q3 powered off for two-to-three days with the battery charged, then it would sometimes not power on and act as if it were dead. I'd only be able to reawaken the battery after plugging it in to charge and waiting a short while.

However, if I was actively using the Smooth Q3 or at least turning it on daily then no problems of this nature occurred.

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Using the Fill Light on the Smooth Q3

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 LED fill light brightness

As a new addition, a lot of attention is on the integrated light. This 180° rotatable LED fill light can help circumvent the need for a ring light in some shooting scenarios. So if you're needing to add some light to your face, you don't need a separate accessory.

To turn the light on, touch the light icon for 1.5 seconds at the very top of the gimbal. To prevent accidental presses, you'll need to press at the very center of the icon for it to register. Until you're used to it, this may result in you needing to press it an extra time or two for your touch to register.

Once it's on, you can cycle between the three brightness levels by tapping the icon again. The three brightness levels offer a fairly distinct level of light, so I really had no problems adjusting to my need.

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My only complaint with the light is you can't use it in every position, such as when using the front camera in portrait mode.

Smooth Q3 Modes and Button Restrictions

Zhiyun Smooth Q3 pan follow

There are six different shooting modes with this gimbal. The first five—Pan Follow, Lock, Follow, POV, and Vortex—can all be activating with a single press or by double-pressing the mode button to advance or go back between your selections.

 

If you press and hold the trigger button at the front of the Q3, this will put you in PhoneGo mode which will let your pan and tilts following the gimbal movements at faster speeds.

Of the typical modes, it's worth noting that Vortex Mode is different on the Smooth Q3. There's a roll axis limitation when shooting in Vortex Mode where you can't achieve a full 360 degrees. While you can still shoot the vortex effect, it's a little disappointing in actual practice.

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As far as other restrictions go, if you aren’t using the ZY Cami app, the record button and zoom rocker won’t work. You also won’t be able to do the single trigger tap to enable/disable Smart Follow.

 You can, however, recenter your phone by tapping the trigger button twice.

There's also the option to quickly swap between landscape and portrait shooting by tapping the trigger button three times.

Using the ZY Cami App

Smooth Q3 ZY Cami video shooting

The ZY Cami app is a mixed bag in terms of quality. It's still a great starting place for newcomers in theory, but there's also an expected amount of bugs and glitches that come with its ambitions. On the positive side, beginner-friendly features like beauty mode, smart templates, and the clone panoramic work extremely well.



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On the downside, the improved Smart Follow can just be buggy or not keep up. Like before, it can pan off to another subject or lose tracking if a fast movement occurs. If you match your pacing to the Smart Follow box and try to move with it in mind, you're less likely to run into these issues, but they will still occur occassionally.

As such, Smart Follow works better with selfie footage where this is more controllable. If you do lose your subject matter, however, you can relock to a new one by tapping the trigger button a single time.

There's also the option to use gesture controls; the ZY Cami app won't always recognize you. Sometimes you'll have to repeat the same gesture multiple times, so it can be a test of patience at this interval.

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Dolly zoom also suffers a bit from the tracking box, but you can control it similarly by reducing visual noise.

Should You Buy the Zhiyun Smooth Q3?

With all these things in mind, should you purchase the Smooth Q3?

If you’re after a lightweight, budget-friendly gimbal that can go with you then the Smooth Q3 is an excellent choice. However, bugs, frustrations, and some restrictions with the Smooth Q3 need to be weighed against the various improvements made. Many of these stem from optional ZY Cami app implementations, so you can opt out of those if desired.

Overall, it depends on how much you value its usability improvements and the benefit of an adjustable light source for your shots. Still, for many, the Smooth Q3 will offer an enticing, accessible package, albeit not a perfect one.

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