The Crane M2S folds easily, packs up quickly and can be purchased with a carrying case, so you have somewhere to stash tripods, tripods, and cables between the buds. In addition to saving space, the Crane M2S promises more than 10 hours of battery power, so it’s perfect for those tougher shooting days.
Features and design
- 3 axes gimbal
- 4 directions manual control
- LED fill light
- Tripod included
As with the Crane M2 and its older brother – the Crane M3 – the main selling point of the Crane M2S is its versatility – it is designed to work with a wide range of devices, but of course, there are some limitations.
It’s helpful if Zhiyun keeps a list of supported cameras on their site so you can see if your mirrorless device is supported, although you may run into problems if you mount some large and heavy lenses. Oddly enough, unlike other Crane models, Zhiyun does not publish the maximum weight of the machine which means you will need to check this list instead of weighing.
The Zhiyun-branded clamp included with the combo assembly attaches to the mount with a quarter-inch screw, and can extend to approximately 90 mm (3.6 in). This should suffice for most phones, although if you have a large phablet wrapped in a chunky case, you may have to look elsewhere.
I had some problems balancing my Google Pixel 6 during the setup process, because it’s a big phone. Removing the phone cover helped, but the lack of protection made me a little nervous. Maybe if the included quick edit panel was a little bigger, it wouldn’t fit quite right.
On that note, you’ll probably want to have separate clips and panels for everything if you’re the type to target Zhiyun, for example, and have a lot of devices that you want to switch between quickly. It will save time just disassembling the hardware already installed on the quick release plates instead of having to disassemble and reinstall everything.
Once everything is balanced, a thumbs-up on the Crane M2S sees it snap in quickly, before letting you know it’s ready to use; If you don’t balance it correctly, it will beep and flash “Axle Lock” message to you. If you ever see this, turn it off, rebalance, and start over.
Controls, shooting modes and application
- Three standard modes
- Four specialized modes
- ZY Play app gives you a remote control
By default, pressing the ‘M’ (Mode) button on the Crane M2S cycles through three standard modes, Pan Follow (PF), Lock (L), and Follow (F). Pan-Follow locks the tilt and roll axis as you move the camera while rotating. The lock keeps everything locked, letting you tilt and pan manually with a joystick, while the next option gives you a little bit of both, letting you automatically rotate the camera while still letting you manually pan and tilt. There is no way to manually adjust the spindle in any of the Crane M2S modes.
It’s easy to get acquainted with all the modes, but double clicking on the mode button opens a different layer of settings; Point of view (POV), vortex (V) and vertical (P) modes.
The POV mode doesn’t lock the camera to any particular axis, and basically allows you to shoot more freely than other modes, and can come in handy when shooting fast-moving subjects.
Vortex, as the name suggests, is a fun mode that sees the camera rotate in a circle when you hold the joystick right or left. When held horizontal, you can record roll-type clips, or, with the axis held upright, point the camera toward the sky or earth to record an “eyes of the storm” clip.
Portrait mode is intended for shooting with smaller devices that are not phones. It is designed for shooting video content in portrait mode, whether it is for Instagram, TikTok, or something else.
In order to shoot in Vortex mode, I had to rebalance the Pixel 6, which necessitated some subtle adjustments before it would work properly. Frustratingly, in order to use the portrait mode, the clamp must be rotated 90 degrees, or else your device will point directly at the ceiling. This requires rebalancing your phone, something we haven’t seen on other gimbals: you balance the device once and it works in both landscape and portrait modes.
Finally, there is the Go mode, which can be accessed by pressing and holding the Power button. This essentially secures the tilt axis while allowing rolls and pans to run smoothly. It’s the motion mode, designed to allow you to keep track of fast-moving objects. This takes a bit more getting used to, and it feels like keeping your finger on the trigger is restrictive at first.
The trigger, like the mode button, is a multi-purpose control. A double tap on the trigger will return the gimbal to its default position, while a triple tap will see it perform a 180-degree pan, ideally setting you up for a camera cut.
Getting used to all the double and triple taps required to carry out quick pans and mode switches can be confusing, but the ergonomic shape means that it shouldn’t take long before you literally tackle things.
Other physical controls at your disposal are the record button (for use with compatible cameras), a red switch for the fill light, and a menu button. The LEDs are a useful addition: they are reasonably bright and you’ll have some fun, including colorful gels. Crane M2S menu is very simple; There are calibration options and options to adjust the motor speed and joystick sensitivity, and that’s your lot. The screen is also not very bright, which may cause problems when shooting on sunny days.
The ZY Play app lets you turn your phone into a Bluetooth remote control, which comes in handy for situations where you need to keep the Crane M2S steady, possibly because you’re trying to take shots of your cats surreptitiously, though the controls here are overkill. sensitive. The first few times I used it, I inadvertently sent the pan around in circles when all I wanted to do was smooth a 90-degree pan.
- Battery with a capacity of 1150 mAh
- Promise 10 hours of power in PF . mode
- Close to seven hours when using multiple modes
Zhiyun says you’re supposed to get 10 hours and 35 minutes of battery life from the Crane M2S, but that number is based on keeping it in PF mode, using a Sony A7C with a Sony E F4 10-18mm lens.
After several days of playing with the Crane M2S I get somewhere between seven to eight hours per session, but I rely on a lot of that to get to grips with the thing, switch between and test all modes, use it with my Pixel 6 via Bluetooth and other things that don’t necessarily Natural for real-world use. I would say a more realistic expectation is somewhere around seven hours.
The good news is that from almost empty, the Crane M2S charges fully in under two hours using the supplied mains adapter, thanks to 12W PD fast charging support.
Price and availability
The Zhiyun Crane M2S is available to buy directly from Zhiyun’s UK store for £259, which includes all cables plus a tripod, or as part of a £329 combo kit which includes all of the above plus a carrying case and clip.
Buyers in Australia can also get the standard set from Zhiyun for AU$469, but at the time of writing, it is not available for purchase from the US Zhiyun Store.
Amazon UK has both the standard and combo pack available to buy now at the same prices, and Wex Photo Video also stocks both the Zhiyun Crane M2S alone and as part of a combo deal.
Amazon US has stock of the standard Crane M2S combo kit, for $269 and $349, as is Amazon Australia, where you can get the Crane M2S for £427 and the combo kit for $539.
For alternative recommendations, see our roundup of the best gimbals.
The Zhiyun Crane M2S has a lot to offer, especially if you choose the combo kit, which gives first-time videographers plenty to contend with. Battery life is good, and despite some initially confusing menu options, the Crane M2S is easy to identify with.
You are likely to have problems when shooting with larger phones, and larger and heavier cameras with long lenses are likely to have the same problem, as there is not a great deal of clearance between the Crane M2S base and the quick release plate.
People who’ve been around the block a few times might prefer to look at the more expensive (but more capable) Crane M3, which supports more mirrorless cameras, and features a touchscreen. On the other hand, it’s much more expensive than the Zhiyun Smooth Q3, which costs just £90.
Zhiyun Crane M2S: Specifications
- 3 axes gimbal
- Weight: 549 grams
- Dimensions: 240 x 68 x 150 mm
- Mechanical Tilt Range: 320°
- Roll mechanical range: 320°
- Pan mechanical range: 360°
- Battery Capacity: 1150 mAh
- Battery life: 10 hours 35 minutes
- Charging time: 1 hour 41 minutes (with 12W PD fast charging)
- ZY Play (iOS, Android)