A budget-friendly selfie stick stabiliser for your smartphone.
- Compact size
- Competitive price
- Creative shooting modes
- 2-axis stabilisation is limiting
- ZY Cami app can be unreliable
- Limited manual controls for Android
No one likes shaky video footage, and while smartphone stabilisation has certainly come a long way, nothing quite matches the buttery smooth results of a gimbal. Dedicated three-axis smartphone stabilisers can, however, be both bulky and expensive.
Zhiyun’s new Smooth Xs smartphone stabiliser aims to pack the features of a gimbal into the product the size of a selfie stick. With two axes of stabilisation, a small, lightweight design and a competitive price tag, the Smooth Xs could be the ideal travelling companion for smartphone videographers.
Zhiyun Smooth Xs review: What you need to know
The Smooth Xs is a compact two-axis smartphone stabiliser that actively balances left and right, as well as rotational movement but not tilt (up and down). It has an adjustable smartphone mount, an extendable telescopic arm and a range of physical controls built into the grip.
Once paired with the companion ZY Cami app, the Smooth Xs can be used to film smooth, stabilised videos with tracking, create sweeping panoramas, motion time-lapse clips, and hyper-lapse footage. The app’s integrated smart templates also allow for clips to be quickly compiled into sequences for easy posting to social media.
Zhiyun Smooth Xs review: Price and competition
For £75 you get the Smooth Xs with matching miniature tripod, a wrist strap, and a soft storage pouch. Its predecessor, the Smooth X, comes in slightly cheaper at £70 with tripod and case, or £60 without the accessories.
DJI’s latest smartphone stabiliser, the OM4 is slightly chunkier and will set you back £139, but it offers three-axis stabilisation, a practical magnetic smartphone mount and can even be used as a power bank. The three-axis Joby Smart Stabilizer is even bulkier but, as with the Smooth Xs, has a telescopic extension arm for selfies and retails for £90.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are traditional selfie sticks available from brands like SYOSIN. You’ll lose the stabilisation and nifty app features but still get an integrated tripod, a Bluetooth shutter release, and up to 0.7m of extension for £14.
Zhiyun Smooth Xs review: Design and key features
Essentially, the Smooth Xs is a slimmed-down redesign of Zhiyun’s previous Smooth X. The Smooth X packs down a little smaller but requires a rather complicated sequence of twists and turns to unlock that leaves it feeling a little user-hostile. In contrast, Smooth Xs slides open in one simple motion. Collapsed, the Xs packs down to a just about pocketable 190mm tall and while fully extended it delivers an impressive 52cm of reach.
The panning stabiliser is located at the top of the telescopic arm, while the rotational stabiliser is housed behind the smartphone mount. Instead of having a third stabiliser for tilt movement, the Smooth Xs has a selfie stick style adjustable hinge that can be angled to suit what’s being filmed.
The entire device is made from various plastics and, in places, it feels cheap. It does, however, manage to maintain a reasonably well-balanced feel in the hand thanks to a rubberised grip on the front and sculpted finger rest on the reverse.
For controls, there’s a dedicated power button on the arm, while on the grip there’s a record button, zoom rocker, a four-way joystick and a mode button.
The stabiliser charges over USB-C, with a three-hour charge providing up to five and a half hours of runtime. Unfortunately, you can’t tap into the battery to recharge your smartphone like you can with some of the Xs’ rivals.
The Smooth Xs comes as standard with a soft carry pouch, a folding tripod and can be picked up in a range of four different colourways: Ivory White, Lemon Yellow, Pearly Pink, and Navy Blue.
Zhiyun Smooth Xs review: Performance
To get up and running, the Smooth Xs needs pairing with Zhiyun’s ZY Cami app. Setup is fairly straightforward, simply load up the app and pair over Bluetooth. The app is easy to navigate and gives access to a range of different shooting modes, along with some video tutorials.
When it comes to video performance, I’ll cut right to the chase. If you plan on filming while walking or running, you’re going to miss that third axis of stabilisation. While stationary, or gently pacing about, the Smooth Xs creates smooth, gliding footage but, as soon as you start walking, things get jerky.
Still, there’s plenty here that works well. The app’s in-built tracking function, for instance, is surprisingly effective. Again, that missing third axis of stabilisation means you’re limited to horizontal tracking only, but it works great for panning around objects, keeping your shot centred, or filming selfies.
Where the Smooth Xs really stands out, though, is in its ability to create panoramas and time-lapses. With one click the Xs can pan through 180 degrees and create a huge seven-shot panoramic picture, while in time-lapse mode you have the ability to pre-program a path for the Xs to follow while it records, producing striking results.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always smooth sailing. During my testing I ran into some software-related issues, including panoramas failing to process and lost Bluetooth connections, both of which required an app restart to resolve. Usually I’d be a little more forgiving with new releases as these bugs usually get ironed out over time but since the Xs uses the same app as the older X these are issues that ought to have been sorted out by now.
The level of control you have over your footage also varies depending on your phone’s operating system. The iOS version of the app allows for the manual selection of shutter speed and ISO, while Android users are stuck with using exposure compensation. The slow motion mode is completely absent on the Android version, too.
Zhiyun Smooth Xs review: Verdict
If you’re an active smartphone videographer looking for the be-all and end-all of smooth footage, this likely isn’t the device for you. The lack of tilt stabilisation means that it can’t compete with three-axis stabilisers while running or walking.
Instead, the Smooth Xs really needs to be approached as a feature-rich smart selfie stick. If you want the ability to create tracked panning shots, sweeping panorama and programmed time-lapses, all without the bulk, or cost, of a three-axis stabiliser, the Smooth Xs is certainly worth considering.
The only thing to watch out for is the ZY Cami app. Hopefully, Zhiyun will take the time to smooth out some of the software issues. As-is it’s not a deal-breaker, but it can, at times be frustrating.