I’ve got a long history with motorized gimbals, dating back to the earliest prototypes with mere 2-axis stabilization, onward to the first 3-axis pistol-grip Filmpower Nebula 4000, then the stronger CAME-Single, Zhiyun’s downslung Weebill LAB, and even a miniature one that I customized to fly a virtual reality camera. Until last year, I had settled into the DJI brand with their modest and portable Ronin-SC, but when it broke down, I upgraded to their RS 3. Simply put, it’s a foregone conclusion to me now that the RS 3 is hands-down the best gimbal stabilizer on the market, so long as you’re not trying to fly a bulky cinema camera…but, what would be the point of that? Most of us by now have added a portable B-camera (or C-camera, etc.) to our kit, to complement our bulky A-camera, at about the same image quality but much more portable. For example, my Sony FX30 shoots video quality equivalent to (and easily blended with) my bigger Sony cinema cameras. If I’m going to fly on a gimbal, it’ll be whatever’s lightest, which always results in better composition and camera movement. Much as I loathe Sony’s attitude and price-gouging, their touchscreen- and A.I.-driven autofocus has magically simplified steadicam shoots: there’s no longer any need for big rigs with focuspulling gears and motors and remotes.
What’s the magic reason why the RS 3 wins above all? Mainly, this:
In my above YouTube Short (the only kind I can manage to spend time making these days!), I’m showing you how, when you power down the RS 3, it instantly tucks into a closed position and automatically locks all three axes. It might seem like a gimmick, but that overused adage applies: “it’s a real game-changer.” When you’re quickly packing up and moving from one location to the next, keeping your camera mounted so that it doesn’t lose its delicate balance, the last thing you want is your camera and all three axes flopping around in transit. Yes, on some but not all gimbals, you could manually lock each axis, but that’s wasted time, repeating those steps all day long, and your time’s better spent being efficient, not missing the shot (nor the sunlight, during a shoot when time is always the enemy — invaluable during my latest music video project shot entirely on the RS 3 with an FX30).
There are lots of other comparative wins for the RS 3 too, but again, it’s really a foregone conclusion here: that there’s no other choice for mirrorless and DSLR cameras. (DJI’s RS 2 offers slightly more weight capacity, but lacks the marquee Automated Axis Locks feature — sadly, same for the new RS 3 Mini.) So, the main point of this post is to share a few absolutely essential (and strangely overlooked) must-have accessories for anyone who owns the RS 3.
PGYTECH CARRYING CASE
A frustrating development in this whole industry, is that manufacturers are “cheaping out” on giving us storage cases to protect our gear. It used to (and still does) make lots of sense: after designing the product themselves, they’re in the best position at product launch to simply bundle a perfectly-fitting case or bag — which can have the nice side effect of protecting their fragile products and reducing warranty claims. Before these multinational corporations got more greedy, this was another kind of foregone conclusion. Now, they aren’t even interested in the smaller profit margins from separately selling us a custom case or bag, even though they’re in the best position to market one. Boo on them.
Enter PGYTECH, one of today’s most exciting third-party accessory-makers in this space, at a quality level well above companies like SmallRig. They did everything right in the above-pictured case, and while there’s not much competition, another third-party case (sold under numerous different names) has a fatal flaw: you need to un-calibrate your RS 3 by sliding all those carefully balanced measurements down to minimum size before being able to fit it into their case that they boast has “precise molding” — not a good thing. As seen in the above middle picture, PGYTECH leaves just enough room for various configurations, while keeping everything snug. PGYTECH also provides room for all the original accessories, along with their extra handgrip mount (discussed below), and anything else you can fit into the further pockets seen above at right, including pockets for small accessories, and a divider sleeve for a tablet or small laptop.
Best of all, it’s the most affordable of all the options, well under $50, especially when you use coupon code FOCUSPULLING for 10% off at this link direct from PGYTECH.
PGYTECH HANDGRIP MOUNT
One of the key innovations way back when Zhiyun launched their Weebill product line, was an additional rear handle for another point of contact, and for “underslinging” the stabilizer lower to the ground. My review didn’t find it revolutionary, just occasionally useful, but I eventually didn’t like it being completely integrated into the design, making the total size bigger and heavier always. DJI offers an oddly-named “briefcase handle” for their RS series that folds out, but you’d still never want to keep it mounted all the time. I prefer the flexibility of PGYTECH’s Handgrip Mount product, which uses a quick release connection to the NATO rail-like connector already on the RS 3, including a smart safety latch for insurance. Then, they let you decide whether to move the tripod handle from the base to screw into the 1/4″-20 mount hole on the Handgrip Mount, or to buy another handle — I simply repurposed the one that came with my broken Ronin-SC. But you could buy anything, and it of course doesn’t need the tripod function there. (I sprung for grippy leather on the Weebill years ago.)
This is a similarly affordable accessory, and much less that the worse DJI option, being well under $40, especially when you again use coupon code FOCUSPULLING for 10% off at this link direct from PGYTECH.
SMALLRIG QUICK RELEASE MANFROTTO PLATE
I’m usually not a fan of SmallRig, because of their clownface branding and their grabby pricing lately, but after scouring for alternatives, I couldn’t avoid their quick release plate designed for the RS 3. I even gave ANDYCINE a shot with theirs, but annoyingly, it claimed compatibility with the RS 3 but literally didn’t fit. Here’s why this accessory is so important: the quick-release system that DJI includes with the RS 3 is one goofy and needless combination of a Manfrotto 501-adjacent forward/backward quick release plate, and a second smaller left/right plate, that ultimately elevates your camera height. Raising the center of gravity on a gimbal is easily the stupidest thing to do when it’s unnecessary. But as seen in the above pictures, you can use this accessory as a replacement for both, skipping the extra height and extra plate; and the added bonus is that, compared to the DJI base plate, it’s fully compatible with most standard Manfrotto 501/701 quick release tripod heads. It also has that other key feature of the RS 3 that distinguishes it from the rest: you can use the knob pictured above at right, to engage the gears at the bottom of the plate to fine-tune the forward/backward axis balance. Simplicity without compromise! Always a winner. This is what DJI should have included with the RS 3.
PGYTECH ONEMO BACKPACK
It might not seem like a clear fit for the DJI RS 3, especially when focusing on accessory products, but this incredible backpack design includes a feature that is a godsend for steadicam work. To begin with, PGYTECH went straight down the line and engineered a camera backpack design that incorporates all the best features found in competing brands like Peak Design, and added more. It also reminds me of my favorite “onebag” choice for general travel luggage, the Aer TravelPack 3. (I’ll later be reviewing and comparing this with PGYTECH’s newest, larger update, their OneMo 2.) Much like the RS 3 case, it has minimalist design without garish branding like you’d find on other third-party products, and its material design is durable/sleek. Even though the dedicated case is ideal for travel and storage, the OneMo offers this feature that’s brilliant for temporarily stashing a fully assembled and calibrated gimbal like the RS 3: the expandable compartment seen below.
Into a sort of V-shape seen from the side, you can unzip a top expansion and then another zipped opening into which you can set a fully assembled gimbal stabilizer like the RS 3. The importance of this is massive, because otherwise, making room for such an odd form factor in the main compartment of any backpack would waste space, or become impracticable. So long as you don’t bang your back against anything (!), a temporary stow into this expansion compartment, when moving from one place to the next, is a huge time-saver. And remember, with those Automated Axis Locks, your gimbal isn’t flopping around in there. You’ll probably have to dismount your camera via its quick release plate, but then PGYTECH has you covered in the main compartment, including a separate dedicated camera case that you can also access from side compartments as seen below.
There’s even a clever battery storage system where each of the velcro closure straps has a slider you can use to identify which ones are going on empty, and which are fresh. Getting a durable, productive, and attractive backpack like this is an investment that pays for itself over time, and PGYTECH has priced their OneMo line much lower than competitors like Peak Design (because lattes and avocado toast cost a lot in the SF Bay Area!). Again, when you use coupon code FOCUSPULLING, that 10% discount really shaves a lot off already affordable price points at this direct link.
I think that covers it all! But let me know if there’s something else in the RS 3 world worth mentioning, and I’ll be excited to share. (Myself, I’m keeping an eye on the new Tilta Basic Ring Grip, along with the new MOVCAM FlexPro.) This kit has really revolutionized how I shoot, with freedom of movement and lots of saved time. We’ve come a long way since the Merlin.