Review: Moza Mini-Mi is a smart, motion-tracking smartphone gimbal
Moza's Mini-Mi is a very affordable (US$109) mobile phone stabilizing gimbal, letting you shoot cinematic steadicam-style shots using your phone camera. It's got a few tricks up its sleeve too, including wireless phone charging, hyperlapses, "inception mode" and some very cool but not-quite-there motion tracking capabilities.
It's simple enough to use for basic functions: clip your phone into the extending jaws with the camera poking out, then power the gimbal on to have it begin stabilizing. The majority of times you use the Mini-Mi, it'll be that simple. We didn't need to do any calibration or play with any settings, it boots up in yaw-follow mode which will handle the majority of what most people want gimbals for: walking shots with smooth, steady motion.
Using thumb buttons, you can swap between different modes. The standard yaw-follow, pitch-follow which lets you tilt the gimbal to pan up and down, all-follow, which combines the two, and all lock, which keeps the phone pointed in the same direction no matter what you do with it. You can also add roll follow into any of these modes, although I can't think of many situations you'd want it for. I do feel like this device is missing the trigger you get on, say, a DJI Osmo, which lets you freely move the camera, then lock motion with the trigger button on the fly.
All the follow modes in standard configuration smooth and slow motion nicely, right down to the point where the typical mobile phone camera sensor can keep up with your panning. But if you're tracking something that's moving quickly, and keeping it in frame is more important than avoiding rolling shutter and camera artifacts, you can speed it up into "sport track" mode with a double-click of the right hand button. This mode removes the jerkiness from the start and end of your pans, but lets you change direction more or less as quickly as you want to.
If you've got an Apple or Samsung phone with built-in wireless charging, good for you! The Mini-Me begins charging your phone as soon as you clip it in. If your phone doesn't support wireless charging, there's a 5V, 2A charging port you can use to do things quickly through a wire. Phone charging is a neat inclusion; video work can burn down the battery of a big smartphone pretty quickly.
The gimbal itself can be charged through its own charging input as well, even while you're shooting, so Moza has done a good job of eliminating battery issues with this one. It's also ready to party with other filmmaking gear, with 1/4-inch accessory mounts all over it in case you want to lift your game with LED lights, microphones and the like, or screw the Mini-Mi onto a tripod, slider or whatever else you might want stable footage from the top of.
If you want to get a little more clever with things, you'll want to jump into the Moza Genie app, which connects to the gimbal quickly and painlessly, and takes over from your standard camera app to control all your normal shooting settings and more.
With the app running, the center thumb button starts and stops recording for you, which is greatly preferable to poking at the screen. And you can quickly get into playback mode to review footage with the tap of the right side button.
The app is also where you can access one of Mini-Mi's coolest and most frustrating features: live motion tracking. Activate tracking, then draw a box around your subject on your phone screen, and it'll track around quite quickly to keep your target in frame.
And it works … sometimes. High contrast certainly seems to help; this is a visual tracking system, after all, so a darkly dressed person on a white background will be easier to track than something that blends in better with the background.
But sometimes it refuses to track subjects altogether, other times it wigs out for no apparent reason, and – on my Pixel XL, at least – it seems to completely do its 'nana and flip out if you try to track anything from the selfie camera. That's sad, because it means there's literally no way to set this thing up and track yourself. Which is probably one of the key things people would want motion tracking for.
On the other hand, it enables hyperlapse-style motion-tracked timelapse shooting, which looks super cool if you nail it. Set the app into timelapse mode, turn on tracking, select a cool-looking building, then go for a walk. The app will keep the tracked item in the center of the frame as you go, leading to some super-cool parallax effects. Unfortunately, there's no way to select anywhere but the middle of the screen for the tracked item, so you can't really compose shots per se, but you soon find ways to work around it, and I found it fun to do motion-tracked hyperlapses of my kid as he wandered around too. The sped-up footage really captured the chaotic nature of kid life.
Inception mode, accessed by triple-pressing the top button, puts the gimbal into a kind of flashlight mode with the camera facing straight forward when you hold the handgrip horizontal. As you move forward, you can then rotate it to mimic some of those seasick rotating shots in the Inception movie. I doubt it'll get used a whole lot to be honest, how many rotating shots does the average person really need?
In fact, that's my main concern about the Mini-Mi itself. It does what it does very well and for an excellent price. But if you want to get stabilized cinematic footage or sweet motion-tracked timelapses, the first thing you have to do is … bring the gimbal with you. Wherever you're going. In its kinda-portable-but-you'd-need-a-backpack carry case. Then you have to pull it out, get your phone into it, open up the app, connect the gimbal, then set up your shot and go.
That's a perfectly understandable process to go through when you're carrying bulky camera gear around and shooting something carefully. And the Mini-Mi is much, much easier to set up and get going than any camera gimbal I've used. But the whole process clashes pretty hard against the key benefit of shooting with a smartphone in the first place: it's right there in your pocket, and ready to shoot at a moment's notice. It's so portable you never have to even think about bringing it with you – you've always got it, everywhere. The Mini-Me is kinda big, and kinda cumbersome, and it doesn't fit in your pocket
So the best way to sum this gadget up is to say that the Mini-Mi does an impressive job of elevating smartphone footage to new levels, if you're prepared to carry it around with you. And at US$109, you might be able to get your money's worth out of it quickly!
Check out our sample footage below.
Product page: Gudsen Moza