There are two main things you want out of a compact stabilizer. You want the stabilization system itself, the three mounting arms connected to each other that keep the camera floating smoothly in space.
Then you want the ability to control it, to make it pan and tilt whenever and wherever you want.
Generally, in most compact gimbals these are packed into a single unit, to make for easier build, transport, and battery construction. In the new 300XM from Manfrotto, they've decided to split them up into two discrete units, which is something you'd generally need to go to a much larger gimbal to achieve.
Splitting this up opens up a whole universe of other opportunities with the camera that just weren't available before. The key here is remembering how limiting it is to have the gimbal stuck in your hands.
Yes, of course, there are amazing shots you can do with a gimbal in your hands, and by mounting the Manfrotto Gimbal 300XM remote unit directly to the stabilizer unit, you can do all of those shots with ease just like every other gimbal on the market. The fully integrated controls for pan, tilt, and focus all make it possible to achieve some truly invigorating and stunning results.
But where the gimbal really starts to shine is when you get into more flexible shooting situations.
Let's say you want to start using the gimbal as more of a remote head. You can stick it on a slider, on a tripod, on a car mount, even on a crane, and all of the sudden, you have a unit you can not only remote control, but you can also do it while the camera gets an extra dose of smoothness from the stabilization.
With a six-foot range for the remote control, you have a host of positions where you can set yourself up for operating safely while decreasing the likelihood that your movements are going to interfere with the shot.
One of the best uses for this is going to be on affordable "indie" type boom or crane shots.
Everybody wants the ability to get a sweeping shot that goes up and sees above the action, but the budget for a true cinema quality crane that keeps things smooth and stable is high.
Combining a unit like the Manfrotto Gimbal 300XM, which has stabilization power and low head weight, with an affordable crane is going to enable independent filmmakers to get shots they couldn't otherwise imagine.
The handle works as a seperate remote up to two meters away.
The 300XM also features a payload of up to 7.5lbs and lengthened arms over previous models to make it more flexible for working with a wide variety of popular camera formats.
You can now save A and B positions in the gimbal for quickly setting a move back to home or ever repeating moves. And the 300XM has balance position memory that should speed up balancing as you change between cameras and setups on the fly.
As a final bonus, when you mount the remote unit to the stabilizer unit for traditional operation, the two batteries combine power and can run for up to 10 hours of shooting, enough to get you through a long, intense day.
Even when working as a normal gimbal, the 300XM has features to make it attractive, but when you start paying attention to the options opened up by its flexibility, that's when the unit gets really exciting.
Check out more from our Manfrotto Week: Camera Movement coverage!