Are Pistol Grip Gimbals the Next Wave?

by Hugh Brownstone3 Comments

It seems everything else is getting smaller, lighter, faster, and cheaper – so why not 3-axis gimbals? At the urging of one of our planet5D readers, we took a 50,000 foot look at pistol grip gimbals, and have some answers.

It may have died down a bit – just a bit – but gimbal fever is still running high. As we’ve written a number of times recently, the 3-axis gimbal market pioneered by Freefly’s MōVI has become very crowded with increasingly viable, lower cost alternatives from such players as CAME-TV, Defy, Gudsen, and DJI (especially with their new Ronin-M [B&H | Amazon]).

planet5D reader Jake wrote to us about pistol grip gimbals, looking for something even less expensive and smaller than the two-handled gimbals we just mentioned above.

Message from planet5D reader Jake:

I am a long time reader of planet 5d. The past few months I have been in the market for a pistol grip gimbal that can hold a GH4 and preferably a 5d mark iii. I knew about the nebula 4000 but it wasn't quite what I wanted yet.

Thanks to you guys I learned about the Pilotfly H1 and the new Cametv gimbals. Learning about them on your blog has been super helpful. I wanted to let you know that I have come across another one. It is called the Beholder MS1.

I found out about them about a month ago and have been in constant contact trying to figure out exactly what their gimbal will have. It was just released and at a great price. I have not used it yet so I can't speak on how good it is. I know Dave Dugdale is working on a review of the product right now.

The MS1 is only 8 bit which I don't care for but they are releasing a larger version very soon that will support a 5d mark iii and will be 32 bit. I am much more interested in that version especially since it can cary a 5d mark iii.

I thought you might be interested in posting about it to let your readers know about this other option (especially since it is more affordable than the others)…

We get it.

The allure of a pistol gimbal is powerful, beginning with much lower cost but quickly moving to its inconspicuousness. Mount a mirrorless camera like my current favorite the Sony a6000 [B&H | Amazon] – or even its bigger brothers the a7 series [B&H | Amazon], or the Panasonic GH4 [B&H | Amazon]– to a one-handed gimbal and you’ve got the ultimate stealth rig.

But do you really?

We searched the web and focused on four.

1) A number of respected bloggers have gotten their hands on the Nebula 4000 (currently available at B&H for $769 with battery back).
2) Jake referred us to the Team Rebel Design (TRD) Beholder MS1, available in a variety of configurations to handle GoPros up to the Sony A7 series and Panasonic GH4 (from $199 to $499, available at in the U.S.; you can visit Team Rebel Design’s site to get a full list of where to buy around the world at
3) The guys over at CAME-TV – we like them — are showing a Panasonic GH4 on their web site mounted to their brand-new CAME-single. It’s available for pre-order at $888.
4) Gudsen Technology is showing the MOZA Mini for GoPro or Sony Action Cam on their site, but they’re not accepting pre-orders at the moment – nor showing a price. We met them at NAB and their stuff looked well-built, but more than that, we can't yet say.

I met Dave Dugdale for all of three seconds a couple of months back as we boarded a plane for Denver after attending NAB 2015. I think he does a great job generally, and he has reviewed both the Nebula (which he really likes) and a pre-production MS1. I encourage you to check them out.

But from where I sit – admittedly armchair quarterbacking, as I’ve held none of these units it my hands and can only go by what I’m seeing on the web – pistol gimbals for anything beyond smartphones just aren’t ready for prime time (I’m not sure they’re ready for prime time with smartphones either, but that’s another topic for another post).

Why do I draw this conclusion?

1) The pistol gimbals I’ve seen online block the view of a camera’s rear LCD even as they also block access to the side ports including, most importantly, HDMI out (for a monitor). This is, to my way of thinking, an epic fail from the outset.
2) Payloads are quite modest –- so modest that it probably doesn’t matter that they block the HDMI port. Dave Dugdale points to a weight limit on the MS1 of 800g, and 1000g for the Nebula 4000. His Sony a7 II with 28mm lens tipped the scales at 756g – too close for comfort for me.
3) And even if the Nebula and MS1 DIDN’T block the HDMI out port, either gimbal’s payload would be exceeded once you added even a lightweight 7” monitor like the Aputure VS-2 (which I like very much). With cable, battery and articulating arm, that combo adds another 876g on top of the camera and lens.
4) Even then — even if these two gimbals could handle the additional weight — the size of the monitor/camera/gimbal combo would make it conspicuous, defeating the entire purpose of a pistol grip gimbal.
5) There are other, basic flaws even in Dave’s Nebula (he found that there was no hard stop preventing the Nebula from rotating until internal wires simply snapped).

None of this means that pistol gimbals can’t generate great results in the right hands, and you may take exception to my conclusion. As always, your mileage may vary, and if you have had significant experience with this type of gear, we’d love to hear from you.

To learn more, visit these links:

· MOZA Mini for GoPro or Sony Action Cam
· CAME-Single
· Nebula (Dave Dugdale review)
· MS1 (Dave Dugdale review)

TRD Beholder Handheld Stabilizer MS1

Via AU Hobby:

3-axis Auto-stabilizing Gimbal for Mirror-less cameras

– Adjustable fits for various mirror-less cameras, such as Sony A7S, NEX series, Panasonic DMC-GH4 small lens, BMPCC, Etc.
– Light weight, high strength aluminium body provides pain-free shooting and enhance rigidity.
– Clean and neat design, no more tangled wires.
– Built-in 3-axis gyro system, smooth footage taken even when walking, cycling or even skateboarding.
– Durable brushless motors provide ultimate response to every move you made.
– No complex setting needed, ready to shoot out of the box.
– Rechargeable Lipo battery and charger included.

TRD Beholder Handheld Stabilizer MS1 image 1

Height: 268mm, 10.5 Inches.
Length: 168mm, 6.6 Inches.
Width: 123mm
, 4.8 Inches.
Weight W/O Battery: 641g, 1.4 Pounds.
Weight W Battery: 778g, 1.7 Pounds.
Unit with Packaging: 1300g, 2.9 Pounds.
Packaging Dimensions: 375x195x100mm, 14.8×7.7×3.9 Inches.
Maximum Supported Camera Weight: 850g
, 1.9 Pounds.
Supported Camera Models: Sony A7S, NEX series, Panasonic DMC-GH4 small lens, BMPCC, Etc.
Battery: 3* 3.7v Li-ion 18650 2600mAh

TRD Beholder Handheld Stabilizer MS1 image 2

Kit Includes: 

Stabilizer, Battery Holder, Three Batteries 18650, Battery Cap, Quick Release Plate, USB LED Light, Micro USB Cable, 1⁄4 Lanyard Screw.

Range of Motion: 90-180°
Yaw: 355°
Pitch: 355±180°
Roll: 355±60°
Battery Life: 2-3 Hours.

Learn more at AU Hobby.

(cover photo credit: snap from AU Hobby)


  1. Very interesting.  I always count on you chaps to bring the latest info on gear to my eyeballs.  Thanks again!

  2. All said and done, these gimbals help steady the footage in a big way.  Think of sony mirrorless cameras that can take any third party lens but cannot give you steady shot !  Instead of buying countless new OSS lenses, this gimbal (I think) is an intelligent way to use old lenses (Sony or other) on a6000 and similar cameras for stable video.  Yes balancing is an art and science.  So is any other craft.
    I am planning for a beholder MS1!

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