With a flood of gimbals on the market, it’s difficult to weed out the best tool with the best design for you. The allure of silky smooth motion without limitations is quite strong. There are gimbals for smartphones, action cameras, and even for the largest cinema cameras. In this review, we’re talking about the how the Ikan EC1 Beholder performs, its limitations and its value in the marketplace.
Released in September of 2016, the EC1 costs 850 dollars. It offers full 360-degree rotation along all three axes. With a 32-bit controller and 12-bit encoder, it supports cameras between two and four and a half pounds and gives you three follow modes: auto-inversion, lock mode and auto. Control the point-and-lock mode from its OLED display. It has a quick-release base plate, and for 80 dollars you can get a dual grip handle that screws into the base via a 1/4"-20 accessory mount. With the dual grip you are able to use two hands for control and can set it down when you need a rest.
The first review unit we got from Ikan was defective — the batteries wouldn’t charge more than 15 percent. When we brought it to Ikan’s attention they promptly sent us a replacement. When the replacement arrived, the new unit did not have the same problem.
While examining the EC1 and looking into the battery, we thought it would be valuable to know what replacement batteries cost. At 31 dollars for replacements, we’d recommend you have at least one backup set. On top of that, the batteries are quite specific. This could be an issue if you need one in a pinch.
The grip has grooves for your hand — however, it’s made of metal. For some this won’t be a problem, but for those of us that get sweaty palms while operating a gimbal, it gets a bit slippery. We would have liked to see some rubber for a better grip.
Words to the Wise
Many new gimbal shooters blame their gimbal for having shaky footage. While some shake can come from the tool, in most cases, working on your operation techniques will go much further than a difference in equipment. With that said, micro vibrations introduced by the gimbal motors keeping your camera level are something to concern yourself with. If you are getting vibration from the motors, it means they’re struggling. This can be from improper balance or too large of a payload. Regardless of the weight of your system, if the center of gravity can’t be balanced, the gimbal won’t function properly.
The Setup is Key
What camera you have and what lens you use will be key to setting up and using this gimbal. The first camera we balanced for use was the Nikon D7500. Starting with attaching the quick release plate, the screw for the plate has a smaller than normal slot for tightening. The EC1 comes with a small flathead screwdriver for this purpose, but we found a dime worked fine to tighten it down. There is a little pin to press in when mounting and removing the quick plate. It seems long and has little room to get a finger in and press it. Once we got the hang of it, the plate required some firm force to get onto the unit. Once done, the hard work was over — that is, for that camera. The adjustments for balancing the camera were easy to turn and made small or large adjustments simple to perform.
The next camera we mounted on to the EC1 was the Canon 5D Mark IV with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. The camera body weighs 1.76 pounds and the lens is 1.47 pounds, totaling 3.23 pounds — more than a pound under the weight limit of the gimbal. However, because of the center of gravity of this setup, we were unable to balance it properly and get it to stay at horizon. We also had the same issue with the Canon 77D with a Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. The longer your lens, the more you should be concerned with this. A tip for buying a zoom lens for any gimbal is to make sure they are internally zooming, otherwise you will change the weight balance every time you change your focal length. Lastly, we successfully balanced a Panasonic GH4 with a Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH. POWER O.I.S.
A tip for buying a zoom lens for any gimbal is to make sure they are internally zooming, otherwise you will change the weight balance every time you change your focal length.
Once we had a camera lens combination that could balance properly, the process was simple. However, we didn’t like how, instead of pressing the button to move to the next mode when switching between the different operating modes, you had to press it two times for mode two and three for three and four for four. This is helpful if you’re switching between modes and don’t know what mode you are currently in, but there’s a screen for that. We didn’t find the mode selection process to be intuitive.
There’s a joystick on the handle that you can use to pan and tilt your camera. Use it in combination with moving the gimbal itself and you can get a nice parallax type of movement. Although the joystick was nice to use and operated properly, we would have liked to see it be pressure sensitive for deeper control.
One of the most usable features for the EC1 is its ability to invert quickly and easily. Going underslung with your camera will allow you to get a lower angle shot. Another nice option is the status screen. It tells you what mode you’re in and your battery life. Lastly, there are three different mounting points, one on the bottom and two on the side, to expand its applications.
The battery life is going to greatly depend on the amount of work the motors are doing and how active you are while shooting. Ikan states a 20-hour battery life is possible. However, if you are going to rent one, they suggest limiting your planned shoot time to 8 to 10 hours. This reviewer has found it quite difficult to operate a one-handed gimbal for a long period of time anyway, so this coupled with the fact that the batteries are inexpensive means we’re not too dismissive of a 8 or 10 hour battery life.
As stated in the opening of this review, the market for gimbals is huge. As a rule of thumb, the cost goes up as the payload goes up. Basically, the heavier your camera, the larger the price tag to support it. Let’s look at three gimbals that are in the same space as the EC1.
The Pilotfly H2 3-Axis Gimbal costs 1,050 dollars. It holds cameras up to 4.9 pounds and has a 32-bit controller. It also has a joystick, 360 degree control and touts a 26 hour battery runtime. Like the EC1, it also has mounting points for extended applications.
Next up is the DJI Ronin-M a 3-axis gimbal that costs 1,000 dollars. It has a much larger payload capacity supporting cameras up to 8 pounds. It can be controlled via a remote and bluetooth interface for setup. Lastly, it has silent mode for quiet operation.
Finally, let’s look at the Zhiyun-Tech Crane v2 Gimbal with a cost of 650 dollars. It offers 360 degree rotation along all three axes and supports cameras up to 3.9 pounds. It Includes a lens support for long lenses and a 4-Way Stepless Joystick. Zhiyun says it has a 12 hour runtime.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
The Ikan EC1 Beholder is a great choice if you have a small camera and plan on using physically shorter lenses that zoom internally. Ikan was very quick to replace the unit that did not function properly, and we give them props for that. It’s easy to balance and use, if your camera meets the weight requirements. If you have a mirrorless camera and smaller lens, the EC1 is worth your consideration.
- Small cameras are easy to balance
- Some camera and lens combos don’t work
The ikan EC1 is a gimbal that you can use with one hand. Although it has a larger payload, some cameras within its weight limit won't be able to balance due to their center of gravity. It’s a good fit, however, for small mirrorless cameras.
- Indie Enthusiast filmmakers
- Event, corporate and commercial Videographers
- Journalists & Travel videographers
Load Capacity: 2 – 4.5 lb (0.9 – 2 kg)
- Yaw: 360°
- Roll: 360°
- Pitch: 360°
Tripod Mount Thread: 1 x 3/8"-16
Accessory Mount Thread: 2 x 1/4"-20
Battery: 3 x 18650 model Li-ion batteries included (3.7 V)
Battery Charging Time: 3-4 hours
Operating Temperature: 14 to 158°F (-10 to 70°C)
Dimensions: 14.2 x 7.24 x 3.1" (36.0 x 18.4 x 7.9 cm)
Weight: 2.6 lb (1.2 kg)
Chris Monlux doesn’t lift weights; can you tell? He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.