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DJI RS3 Mini gimbal review: extra compact and very capable

The Fujifilm X-T5 with XF 16-55mm lens rides on the RS3 Mini
4 minute read
The Fujifilm X-T5 with XF 16-55mm lens rides on the RS3 Mini

You lose some features over its larger more expensive sibling, but the DJI RS3 Mini gimbal is still a decent option for anyone wanting to shoot mirrorless and travel light.

There are so many ways to test gimbals – on vehicles, on foot, or by putting N-trance’s seminal 1995 remix of Stayin’ Alive on at volume 11 and getting all the way down to the basement with our funky stuff.

DJI has been building devices intended to smooth out your correspondent’s unique variety of inexpert boogie for a while, so it’s no surprise to discover that the new, extra-compact version of the RS3, the RS3 Mini, is easy to get working straight out of the box. The difference in scale compared to its big brother, the RS3 Pro (which we looked at last July) is clear. That larger edition is a 1.1kg gimbal supporting payloads up to 4.5kg, and a little more than 400mm tall in a typical configuration. The RS3 mini weighs not even 800g, handles camera setups up to 2kg, and at under a foot tall it’s a compact little number. There’s perhaps something of a barrier broken in that the mini is small enough to throw in a normal backpack while leaving room for lunch and still going fairly incognito as we stroll through the airport.

DJI RS3 Mini gimbal with Pro

The Mini next to its Pro big brother

Mirrorless compatibility

Those capacity numbers imply the RS3 mini is a gimbal for the mirrorless generation. The company suggests that it will accommodate an FX3, which is after all a mirrorless camera, albeit one dedicated to movie production. Otherwise, the compatibility list includes the Sony A7 series and Canon EOS M cameras. It will naturally accommodate the extremely diminutive Sigma FP and all of the current Panasonic GH series. There wasn’t an S1H on hand to test, but while the weight might be within limits, the dimensions might not be. Generally if a gimbal on this sort of scale is having trouble accommodating even quite chunky stills cameras because it’s impossible to slide far enough in one direction, that tends to be an indication that it isn’t properly balanced in some other axis, but there are naturally limits.

dji rs3 mini with lens

Use large lenses with care. It works, but you need to be careful not to over torque the servos

The camera seen here is the new Fujifilm X-T5, which cooperates beautifully with the RS3 Mini when using the company’s own XF 16-55mm f/2.8 short zoom (the XF 50-140 will just about work but the length inevitably limits positioning, and the gimbal may complain about overloading). Of course, wide angle shots from a gimbal are something of a cliché at this point, and not necessarily that flattering to people, but it’s still a great way to swing around architecture or something a bit more mobile like a skateboarder. 

Of course, the real limit on all these things is personal physical endurance, and anyone who’s interested in the most energetic sorts of self-shooting shenanigans is probably best advised to go for a lighter camera on a lighter gimbal in any case. It’s not like we’re giving up that much imaging potential in small cameras these days anyway.

What you miss from the Pro

What we really lose in comparison to the Pro is integration with the accessories which turn a gimbal and camera combination into almost-a-Ronin-4D. The Transmission and Image Transmitter add-ons are too much for the Mini, and there isn’t any support for the Ronin-SC focus motor, as there was on the Ronin SC. It doesn’t seem massively likely that anyone was ever realistically going to apply those things to what’s intended to be a very small, portable, low-impact piece of gear anyway, especially given the huge performance of autofocus in compatible cameras. 

Losing the lidar focus option is perhaps more of a wrench, but again, that’s something which is only at its maximum effectiveness with more people around to operate it, which likely won’t be the case in the sort of situation the Mini is aimed at. About the only other loss, beyond the auto axis locks and sheer payload capacity, is that RS3 Mini’s touchscreen is even tinier than the one on the Pro. Menu navigation was a bit fiddly even on the Pro, and that’s compounded here with the mini’s 1.4” display. It relies on the idea that most of it is likely to be a set-and-forget proposition for most people, most of the time, though it’s perhaps a little easy to hit the touchscreen when thumbing the joystick.

DJI RS3 Mini gimbal touchscreen

The touchscreen works fine but its diminutive size doesn't make it that easy to use

So, larger gimbals like the RS3 Pro, with all their extra features, are probably built for ambitious shorts and bigger projects sneaking pickups in places they’re not supposed to be. The RS3 Mini, meanwhile, is for the upper end of ambitious YouTuber or documentarian who wants something better than an integrated-camera gimbal while still travelling light. The construction is solid. Something like this more or less has to be made of chunks of machined metal or it simply won’t work. Despite that, at £339 it’s hardly a fortune, especially since DJI is now effectively the brand name in this field.

Pocket-sized punch

It’s easy to become a scowling greybeard over the modern crew’s predilection for gimbals. On short films, they can be a bit of a liability, facilitating those long, single-take setups which people find so enticing but which can be very difficult to production design and to light with limited time and money. The look of extreme sports films in 2023 is more or less defined by the wide-angle, highly-mobile camera. In extremis there’s a workable argument to be made that in those situations, camera movement is being used as something of a crutch in what might otherwise have been a rather bland setup. 

As so often, though, the problems are really the technique, not the technology, and we can hardly lay that charge at DJI’s door. As we’ve said so often recently, putting a camera like the X-T5, or better yet an X-H2S, on a gimbal like the RS3 Mini is an almost comically overpowered option for pocket-sized camera departments. There are things gimbals won’t do, such as nice steady tracks behind nearby foreground objects, which tend to show up the bounce. In general, though, there’s only one downside: it becomes harder and harder to blame the gear if we don’t get results we like.

Tags: Production Gimbals