Review: Moza Air 2 stabilizer gimbal steps the game up for low-budget filmmakers
Moza's latest DSLR-sized video gimbal is a big step forward from the cheap, lightweight Moza Air we reviewed back in 2017. But while it offers superior performance, and some cool new features and neat touches, it does require a couple of sacrifices from filmmakers.
Ever since gimbal technology started spinning out from the drone world into hand-held camera stabilizers, the gimbal has become an essential part of the low-budget filmmaker's toolkit. Sticking your camera on these things offers you Steadicam-like smoothness in moving shots, making hand-held shooting possible in ways it's never been before.
In recent years, this has resulted in a furious gimbal war between a few major players – DJI, Gudsen Moza, Feiyu – and countless minor ones, all competing on price, performance and feature set. This competition has brought a proliferation of gimbals to the market. Moza alone now offers the Air, Air 2, AirCross, Lite 2, Lite 2P, and Pro – with a Moza Air X in the pipeline as well. And that's just their DSLR/mirrorless rigs.
The Moza Air 2 is on the prosumer level, and its specs are impressive if you're looking at working with DSLRs or smaller mirrorless rigs. It carries up to 4.2 kg (9.2 lb) of payload, with a 16-hour battery capability that'll take you through all but the most grueling days of shooting without worrying about charging.
Unlike the original Moza Air, the Air 2's roll motor is angled so it doesn't get in the way of your camera's rear screen. This is a huge advantage, meaning it's perfectly usable when your camera doesn't have a flip-out screen.
Another brilliant inclusion is the quick-release plate, which lets you pop the camera on and off without having to re-balance the gimbal. I experienced a powerful feeling of nostalgic euphoria when I realized the quick-release plate was designed to click seamlessly into my Manfrotto tripod heads, meaning I can go from tripod to hand-held to gimbal in seconds. It's not often these days that gear is designed to be interoperable, and that's the kind of thing I'm incredibly grateful for.
These two features alone would make the Air 2 a considerable upgrade from the Air, but there's more: a programmable scroll wheel and side wheel; three power ports capable of continuously supplying power to the camera and its accessories; the ability to connect to an external power source to keep the whole shebang running; and an auto-tune mode that wobbles the camera back and forth to get a sense of its weight and balance, and tunes the follow rates accordingly.
There's also an integrated follow focus, which not only allows one-man camera crews to manage focus manually as they shoot, but can also give you control of your lens's zoom ring if you want your DSLR to be able to zoom like a handycam.
So it's quite an update, but there are costs associated. One is a jump in price – while the Moza Air 2 costs the same US$599 that the Air launched at, you can now get the original Air for a significantly cheaper US$399. Another cost is weight – not only can the Air 2 carry more than the Air, it also weighs 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) against the Air's 1.1 kg (2.4 lb). What's more, it doesn't have the two-handed additional grip that ships with the Air, or the thumb controlled remote. These two factors add up to make the Air 2 a significantly heftier beast; we find we need to set it down more often to shake the old arms out and give the lower back a break.
While we're complaining, this thing definitely has a learning curve to it, as well. Moza's instruction manual writing could do with a tune-up, and while the Moza Master app enables an impressive range of functions, including full remote control via smartphone, we did find ourselves scratching our heads about how to make the damn thing work. Be prepared to seek out tutorial videos.
That said, in basic use, which will cover probably 90 percent or more of most people's shooting, the Air 2 is pleasantly simple and very effective. Setting follow modes is easy once you know how, and you can constantly use your thumb on the dial to control the speed at which your motions are followed. For very fast moving subjects or whip pans, Sport mode is a button press away, and flipping between regular and inverted modes is as easy as flipping the thing upside down, provided you do it in the right direction.
There's also "Inception mode," which lets you hold the thing out in front of you like a flashlight and tilt the camera 360 degrees so the world goes upside down. It's a key selling point on many gimbals, but to be frank, it's not a super useful way to shoot.
The trigger is the main control you'll need to get familiar with, and its functions are both simple and programmable. In the default mode, two presses re-centers the gimbal, three swivels it around to point back at you in selfie mode, and holding it down locks all follow modes to give you smooth slider-like motion in any direction without changing tilt, pan or roll. There's a further option to set it such that one press takes a still photo on your camera, and you can re-map the other commands as you please.
Like the Air, the Air 2 comes with camera control cables for a range of different bodies. These allow different levels of facility, with Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras apparently allowing control of a range of different settings. With our Panasonic GH5 and the awkwardly-twisted 2.5 mm control cable, though, we only have access to start/stop recording – but that's enough to make it worth plugging in.
The iFocus follow focus
The iFocus accessory is fiddly to work with. You need to screw a small arm into the quick release plate, which renders it useless on a tripod. Then you screw a rod into that arm, wrap a toothed belt around the focus or zoom ring, stick the iFocus on the rod and line up its small gear with the belt's teeth. Then you need a cable from the iFocus to the multi CAN port on the gimbal. Then you need to calibrate the focus with max and min points so it doesn't try to push the focus or zoom rings further than they'll go.
From that point, you've got manual control of that ring – albeit a touch laggy – via the knob on the side of the Air 2 gimbal handle. You can also then set zoom or focus points to move between. The iFocus also has wireless connectivity that allows it to connect to a wireless hand unit that's not included.
I suspect we'll be leaving the iFocus off most of the time. It's a hassle to mount, fiddly to use and the Android Moza Master app doesn't support zoom timelapses or iFocus control yet. On the other hand, it could certainly allow a few creative moves you couldn't get otherwise. I figure if you're a filmmaker, you'll know if you need one or not. It's a nice thing to have included with the Air 2 but not what I'd call an essential one.
The Moza Air 2 is a nice, smooth, configurable and fully featured camera stabilizer. We found it an easy and mostly intuitive tool to work with in terms of its basic functions, and we can see it forming a valuable part of our video production kit. We particularly love the fact that you can see the rear screen of most any camera, and the fact that it rolls with a quick-release plate that's compatible with our tripod heads.
Having said that, in the few months we've had it, we've had two of its four removable batteries fail, and in the last day or two it seems some of the buttons behind the scroll wheel seem to have stopped working, so we can't access menu functions. This is without it seeing heavy use, wet locations or harsh treatment. We'd put this down to bad luck and early production units, giving Moza the benefit of the doubt given the lasting quality of other Moza gear we've got that's still in use.
There's a short sample footage video below, featuring the magnificent Nick Lavars on finger guns.