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DJI RS 3 Combo review

With the new DJI RS 3 you can make your camera glide, tilt and pan (and even control it remotely via your smartphone)

DJI RS 3
(Image: © George Cairns)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The DJI RS 3 may not be an essential buy if you already own the RS 2, but you may be attracted by the latest model’s extended battery life, the new physical mode switch and the auto locking and unlocking axes feature. If you don’t already own a heavy-lifting gimbal but want to make your DSLR or mirrorless camera float, pan, and tilt like a Hollywood steadicam then the RS 3 will do the job nicely.

Pros

  • +

    Up to 3kg payload

  • +

    Touch screen

  • +

    Physical mode switch

  • +

    Bluetooth shutter button

  • +

    Cog wheel to tweak balance

Cons

  • -

    Unbalanced by changing lens length

  • -

    Long lenses may not fit

The DJI RS 3 is a new gimbal from DJI, a company long synonymous with civilian drones. In 2014 it also introduced the Ronin range of gimbals to help professional camera operators stabilise their handheld footage and perform a range of smooth moves such as tilts, pans and tracking shots. 

We tested the RS 3 Combo kit, which ships with a carry case and accessories such as an attachable rear support arm and a focus motor so that you can pull focus on a DSLR lens using a knob on the gimbal. DJI has also released an RS 3 Pro Combo kit with more accessories and a gimbal that can carry a heavier payload (up to 4.5 Kg). We’ll look at the Pro version in a separate review. 

Specifications

Weight: 1.3kg
Payload: Just under 3.0kg (6.6lbs)
Tilt Axis: -112 ° to +214 °
Roll Axis: -96 ° to +240 °
Pan Axis: 360 °
Battery Life: 12 hours

Key features

The free DJI app enables you to control the gimbal remotely using an onscreen joystick. (Image credit: George Cairns)
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The RS 3’s 1.8-inch OLED full-color touchscreen has an increase of 80% surface area when compared to the previous RS 2. (Image credit: George Cairns)
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Balancing a gimbal can be a time-consuming operation. A physical knob helps you fine-tune the balance of the tilt axis. (Image credit: George Cairns)
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If you’ve used the DJI RS 2 then you’ll find the RS 3 will be familiar enough for you to get up and running quickly. However, it boasts some very welcome new hardware additions such as a cog that enables you to move the camera back and forth in small increments to get a perfect balance on the tilt axis. 

A major issue with all gimbals is that you can forget to unlock one of the three axes. This will cause the gimbal to shudder and shake and even fall asleep on the job, which can waste valuable shooting time. The RS 3 has an auto lock/unlock feature that solves this problem forever. Simply power up the gimbal and the tilt, pan and roll axes unlock and the gimbal is ready to use. Press the power button again and it will fold and lock the axes for safe transport. 

The RS 3 has a larger touchscreen than the RS 2 (it boasts an 80% increase in surface area). As with the RS 2, you can can use the touchscreen display to switch between modes such as PF (Pan Follow), PTF (Pan Tilt Follow) and FPV (where the gimbal will roll as well as pan and tilt). 

The RS 3 has an additional physical button that lets you toggle between these three modes more easily and ergonomically, so you can change modes without fiddling with the touchscreen. A Bluetooth shutter button enables you to start/stop recording on compatible cameras without the need for a cable.

Build and handling

The RS 3’s physical switch provides a more ergonomic way of changing the gimbal’s shooting modes. (Image credit: George Cairns)
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For extra support (and two-handed manoeuvres) the RS 3 Combo kit ships with an attachable rear handle. (Image credit: George Cairns)
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Unlike the plastic build of DJI’s consumer range of smartphone gimbals (with the DJI OM 5 being the latest in that line), the DJI RS 3 has satisfyingly sturdy metal arms and motors powerful enough to support a hefty DSLR and lens combination. 

To make it easier to manoeuvre you can clip a supplied rear handle onto the gimbal. This enables you to support it with two hands (which is very welcome on a long shoot where the gimbal seems to get heavier over time!).

Performance

The RS 3 was able to support our Canon EOS 650D with a hefty Canon Zoom EF 24-70 lens attached. However, when we extended the lens to full length we found it harder to balance the camera as its rear bumped into the gimbal’s roll motor. If we changed the len’s focal length then the camera had to be re-balanced. 

By swapping to a stubbier 14mm Canon prime lens the camera fitted perfectly on the gimbal and we only had to balance the kit once. By long pressing the gimbal’s trigger and M button we could calibrate the gimbal to make it happier with its payload. Callibration helps improve the gimbal’s performance and reduces wear and tear on the motors. 

What really boosts the RS 3’s performance is the free DJI smartphone app. You can use this to perform additional diagnostic tests such as checking the camera’s balance. The app also enables you to control the gimbal remotely using an onscreen joypad (instead of using the physical joystick on the gimbal’s rear). The app’s Force Mobile mode lets you really show off! When you tilt and pan your smartphone the gimbal (when mounted on its stand) follows your moves remotely. The Force is strong with this one. (Sorry!)

Verdict

The RS 3 Combo kit ships with a focus motor and rod to help you pull focus manually via controls on the gimbal. (Image credit: George Cairns)
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The DJI RS 3 builds on the solid pedigree of the Ronin range to provide a reliable heavy-lifter that will enable you to perform handheld tilts, rolls, pans and tracking shots with your camera and lens combination (up to a payload of 6.6lbs). The new auto-locking feature will help you avoid the common pitfall of failing to unlock one of the three axes (which can cause unnecessary stress and shooting delay when using other gimbals). Check out our test video to see the RS 3 in action.

Read more:

Best camera gimbal
Best video tripods
Best microphones

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George has been freelancing as a photo fixing and creative tutorial writer since 2002, working for award winning titles such as Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N-Photo and Practical Photoshop. He's expert in communicating the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as producing video production tutorials on Final Cut Pro and iMovie for magazines such as iCreate and Mac Format. He also produces regular and exclusive Photoshop CC tutorials for his YouTube channel.