Dobot Rigiet full review
Phone cameras and action cameras can now produce the sort of video quality that makes them perfect for home videos or even for shooting footage for your YouTube channel.
However, only a few phones and action cams have really good stabilisation. iPhones with optical stabilisation are pretty good, and the latest GoPro Hero 7 Black is a massive improvement over its predecessors
Even if your phone does have good stabilisation, a handheld gimbal can produce the kind of rock-steady footage you're used to seeing from drone footage and sometimes camera effects you see in movies.
I originally reviewed the Rigiet when it had been successfully funded on Kickstarter in May 2017, but have updated this review now that a revised version has launched and improves upon the issues the original had.
Dobot is a Chinese company based in Shenzhen that also makes robotic arms. The Rigiet uses some of the tech and expertise the firm gained from those products.
Dobot Rigiet: Price & Availability
In 2017, these gimbals were expensive. DJI charged £319 / US$299 for its Osmo Mobile and the Rigiet - when you factor in import duty and VAT - worked out to be around £240 / US$249.
Now, you can pick up the Osmo Mobile 2 for £129 and this has forced everyone else to drop their prices which means you can buy the Rigiet from Reichelt for £134.
Why buy it when the Osmo is cheaper? Well, the Rigiet comes with a nice carry case now and also an adaptor bracket which takes GoPro (and clone) action cameras.
Those in the US don't have such a dilemma as Amazon sells it for just $109. Oddly you'll pay £199 from Amazon UK, which is clearly a poor deal. Considering that it costs US$199 to buy the gimbal direct from Dobot, this is a great deal.
Dobot Rigiet: Design
The Rigiet has three motors which control roll, pitch and yaw – exactly the same as you’d find on a three-axis drone gimbal.
Phones up to iPhone ‘Plus’ size will fit in the clamp: you might have to remove it from its case though as 8mm is the maximum thickness. The thumb screw on the back is better than the spring-clips which most gimbals have. It's a lot easier to insert a phone into the Rigiet: you feel like you need three hands for other gimbals.
The major difference between the original version and the new 1.1 revision is that the middle arm's length is adjustable, not fixed. This is needed to balance a lot of newer phones which are taller and thinner than older ones. However, the Rigiet has the same problem as the Xiaomi Mijia: when you extend the arm it fouls the 'pan' motor so can't be folded up properly to be put in the case, so you have to undo the thumbscrew and slide it back in whenever you want to put it back in the case, and set it again when you next want to use it. It's lazy design on the part of both companies.
The cylindrical handle has a rubber grip and is slimmer than the Osmo’s handle. There’s a small plastic joystick which doesn’t feel as nice as DJI’s metal one, and the two slider buttons on the side are also plastic.
However, these are minor complaints: overall build quality is excellent and feels comfortable to use for extended periods. It's one of the slimmer, lighter gimbals at 480g.
On the left is a micro USB port which can be used to charge the gimbal and there’s a second port on the motor next to the phone so you can charge your phone from the gimbal. Except that you're unlikely to have a microUSB-to-Lightning cable (or whichever port your phone uses), so you'll have to buy that separately.
Dobot reckons the 3340mAh battery will last three hours. That's shorter than other gimbals, but the 18650 battery is removable and replaceable. They're not hard to find online for less than £10 / US$10, so you can carry a spare and swap it in when the first runs out.
One thing that Dobot hasn't fixed in the revised model is the location of the tripod mount. Inexplicably it's on the back of the handle rather than on the base as with most other gimbals. The photo below illustrates the problem: on a Manfrotto tripod the arm directly on top of the handle hits the tripod base.
The other annoyance is the single status LED. You have to use the manual – or remember the many flashing sequences – to figure out what it’s trying to tell you. Several labelled LEDs would have been better.
Finally, there is no trigger on the back of the handle. So unlike the Osmo Mobile you can't use it to lock and unlock rotation quickly, and there's no double-click to centre the gimbal. Instead you press the joystick as if it were a button.
The slider on the side has three positions. In the middle it locks the gimbal so it keeps the camera pointing the same way no matter how you move.
In this mode you can use the joystick to pan and tilt, or you can move the phone with your hand to the position you want.
The joystick is progressive, so moving it a small amount makes it move very slowly. Taking it to its furthest travel it moves quickly.
For automatic panning and tilting, you put the switch in the ‘up’ position (Yaw), while for Yaw + Pan you slide the switch all the way to the bottom.
Dobot Rigiet: App
Technically you can use the Rigiet without an app – that’s how it can stabilise a GoPro of course.
If you use an iPhone or Android handset you can install the Rigiet app which connects via Bluetooth and gives you extra shooting modes and allows you to use the start/stop button for recording video and taking photos. Some gimbals have a separate button for photos, but this is unnecessary when the purpose of a gimbal is to shoot video.
To select a shooting mode you use the lower switch which is sprung and returns to the middle. Pushing it upwards switches between the main and selfie cameras.
Aside from plain photo and video modes there are extras which make the gimbal a whole lot more useful.
One is panorama. There are three choices, but they all move the phone automatically to take a series of photos and then stitch them together. It works really well.
Another is motion time-lapse. This is relatively hard to set up, not least because – currently – there are no tutorials or first-time-use help within the app. You can set the interval time and number of shots between each position, but this flexibility means you can get the gimbal to move pretty smoothly between two or more points.
You can’t really hand-hold the gimbal in this mode, so you will need to use a tripod, which is when the awkwardly placed mount becomes annoying.
The slo-mo mode isn’t amazingly useful since you can shoot successful slo-mo videos hand held.
But one final trick is auto tracking. This is like DJI’s Active Track: you draw a rectangle around your subject and the gimbal will then turn to follow it as it moves. And as with DJI’s version, it works well until the subject moves too quickly and out of the frame.
If you’re walking and filming someone else, it’s great. And it even works on other things, such as pets and cars.
We found the app doesn't support any phone's additional cameras (zoom, for example), but you can hold the lower switch up or down for a couple of seconds to zoom in and out digitally on any phone.
Also, and annoyingly, all photos and videos are saved within the app itself. You can select clips and download them to your Camera Roll but there's no editing or capability within the app. Plus, it doesn't support File Sharing within iTunes for quick transferring of footage for editing on a PC or Mac.
Dobot Rigiet: Performance
The big question, of course, is how good is the stabilisation. And the short answer is: very good. Like other handheld stabilisers it can’t do much about the up-and-down motion as you walk or run (you’d need a proper steadycam for that) but it still manages to iron out a lot of it to give decently smooth footage.
Just as putting a top-quality camera in the hands of an amateur doesn’t mean they’ll end up with top-quality photos, it’s the same with a gimbal. You’ll have to put some time into practicing and thinking about how you want your shots to look in order to get really good footage.
In the ‘locked’ mode, for example, you can move slowly to emulate a ‘slider’ shot, while the pan mode is good if you’re walking around.
The video below shows the difference between an iPhone 6 (with no optical stabilisation - only software help) and the Rigiet. The unassisted version is shown on the left.
It's hard to beat DJI's Osmo Mobile 2, and the Rigiet is by no means a lot better. But it does have its advantages, such as the GoPro clamp, the cheap spare batteries and (in the US at least) the fact that it's cheaper.
Dobot Rigiet: Specs
- Three-axis gimbal