Zhiyun Tech: A Story of Innovation and Vision in the Gimbal Market


  1. Steadicam Revolution, Democratized: Handheld gimbals are leveling the playing field, offering Steadicam-like smoothness to everyday users and revolutionizing filmmaking.
  2. China’s Tech Ascendancy: Chinese companies, like Zhiyun Tech, are leading the gimbal market with innovative and affordable solutions, democratizing filmmaking technology.
  3. Visionary Leadership: Zhiyun’s founder, Liao Yilun, is not a typical tech CEO. His unique blend of filmmaking passion and engineering expertise fuels the company’s innovative drive.
  4. Humble Beginnings, Meteoric Rise: Zhiyun started in a tiny workshop and rapidly grew to dominate the gimbal market, demonstrating the power of Chinese innovation and entrepreneurship.
  5. Relentless Innovation: Zhiyun’s focus on originality and user-centric design keeps them at the forefront of the industry, constantly pushing the boundaries of what gimbals can do.
  6. The Intelligent Future: Zhiyun is betting big on AI and software to transform gimbals from stabilization tools into intelligent filmmaking partners, promising an exciting future for creators.

In the world of filmmaking, a smooth and steady camera shot can make all the difference. It can transform a shaky amateur video into a cinematic masterpiece, drawing viewers into the story and immersing them in the action. For decades, achieving this cinematic smoothness relied on a revolutionary piece of equipment – the Steadicam. Invented by Garrett Brown in the 1970s, this large, complex, and expensive contraption allowed filmmakers to move the camera freely while maintaining a stable shot, creating iconic scenes in films like “Rocky” and “The Shining.”

However, the traditional Steadicam, while groundbreaking, remained largely inaccessible to the average user. Its bulky size, significant weight, and high price tag, often exceeding tens of thousands of dollars, made it a tool primarily for seasoned professionals. But as technology advanced, a new solution emerged: the handheld gimbal. Smaller, lighter, and significantly more affordable, these electronic stabilizers utilized gyroscopes and motors to counteract unwanted camera movements, promising Steadicam-like smoothness in a user-friendly package.

The rise of handheld gimbals coincided with another major technological shift: the explosion of mobile filmmaking and online video content. Suddenly, everyone with a smartphone had the potential to become a filmmaker, creating a massive demand for affordable and accessible stabilization solutions. Chinese companies quickly recognized this opportunity, stepping up to lead the way in gimbal development and production. Today, Chinese brands dominate the global gimbal market, offering a wide range of innovative and affordable products for everyone from casual vloggers to professional cinematographers.

At the forefront of this revolution stands Zhiyun Tech, a company that embodies the spirit of Chinese innovation. Founded in 2014 by Liao Yilun, a visionary leader with a passion for both filmmaking and technological advancement, Zhiyun has quickly become a leading name in the gimbal market, renowned for its cutting-edge technology, dedication to quality, and unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in camera stabilization.

Liao Yilun: The Visionary Leader

Liao Yilun, the founder and CEO of Zhiyun Tech, is not your typical tech CEO. A self-described “idea man,” Liao possesses a rare blend of engineering expertise, entrepreneurial spirit, and a deep passion for filmmaking. Before venturing into the world of camera stabilization, Liao honed his skills in a military industrial enterprise, focusing on radar and wind power generation technology. This background instilled in him a dedication to precision engineering and a thirst for pushing technological boundaries.

Liao yilun, the founder of Zhiyun

But Liao’s true love lay in the world of film. An avid filmmaker himself, he understood the transformative power of a smooth camera shot and the frustration of capturing that perfect take without breaking the bank. He had experienced firsthand the limitations of traditional stabilization tools: the cumbersome size and prohibitive cost of a Steadicam, the technical complexities involved in its operation. He knew there had to be a better way, a solution that could empower everyone, not just industry professionals, to create cinematic-quality video content.

Driven by this vision, Liao gathered a small team of like-minded engineers and embarked on a mission to develop a new breed of camera stabilizers – one that was both technologically advanced and accessible to the masses. He instilled in his team a culture of relentless innovation, encouraging them to “think outside the box” and challenge conventional wisdom. “We don’t make things that others already have,” Liao often states, emphasizing the importance of originality and pushing the envelope.

Liao’s leadership style is characterized by trust and collaboration. He believes in empowering his employees, encouraging them to share their ideas and contribute to the company’s growth. He is known for his down-to-earth personality and accessibility, preferring to be called “shuixiang” (water tank), a nickname stemming from his constant presence on the production floor and his deep understanding of every aspect of his products. He fosters a workplace where every employee, regardless of their position, feels valued and empowered to contribute their unique skills and perspectives.

Liao’s commitment to innovation is deeply rooted in his dedication to user experience. “A technology company must speak through its products,” he asserts, prioritizing user-friendliness and intuitive design above all else. “User experience is our ultimate pursuit,” he emphasizes, “not flashy gimmicks.” This philosophy, evident in every Zhiyun product, ensures that users can focus on capturing their creative vision without wrestling with complicated technology. Liao’s unwavering commitment to quality and user satisfaction has helped Zhiyun establish itself as a trusted name in the industry, a company that delivers not just products, but tools that empower creativity and storytelling.

Zhiyun’s Rise: From Humble Beginnings to Market Leader

Zhiyun Tech’s journey began in 2014, not in a gleaming Silicon Valley office, but in a modest 15-square-meter workshop in Guilin, China. The fledgling company faced an uphill battle. They were entering a market already populated with established players, lacking brand recognition and a proven product line. “We were a small company, a latecomer,” recalls Liao Yilun, “but we had one significant advantage: the technology in the existing market was not yet mature.” This gap in the market presented an opportunity, a chance to “overtake on a curve” by developing innovative and superior technology.

Zhiyun’s early team, largely composed of engineers with backgrounds in military industrial technology, embraced this challenge. They focused their efforts on three core areas: advanced stabilization algorithms, precise motor control, and innovative materials and construction. These areas of focus would become the pillars of Zhiyun’s success, allowing them to quickly establish themselves as a technological leader in the gimbal market.

One of Zhiyun’s earliest breakthroughs came in 2016 with the release of the Crane, the first single-arm gimbal for cameras. This revolutionary design, inspired by traditional Chinese steelyard balances, provided superior stabilization performance while being significantly lighter and more compact than competing products. The Crane quickly gained popularity among filmmakers, establishing Zhiyun as a serious contender in the professional gimbal market.

Zhiyun’s pursuit of lighter and more user-friendly designs led them to another industry first: the use of high-strength composite materials in gimbal construction. In 2017, they released the Smooth-Q, a lightweight and affordable smartphone gimbal featuring a sleek, durable composite body. This innovation not only reduced the gimbal’s weight and cost, but also allowed for a wider range of colors and finishes, appealing to a broader consumer base. The Smooth-Q became an instant hit, propelling Zhiyun to the forefront of the consumer gimbal market.

Never content with resting on their laurels, Zhiyun continued to push the boundaries of innovation. Recognizing the growing importance of artificial intelligence in video creation, they integrated AI algorithms into their products, enabling features like object tracking, intelligent motion control, and automated shot composition. This focus on intelligent features made Zhiyun products more user-friendly and versatile, allowing creators to capture complex shots with ease.

Further innovations included the incorporation of image transmission technology, allowing users to monitor their shots wirelessly on their smartphones or tablets, and the introduction of integrated lighting solutions, providing users with professional-grade lighting options without the need for bulky external accessories. Each new product release showcased Zhiyun’s dedication to solving user pain points and empowering creative expression.

The Crane 3 Lab, released in 2018, exemplified Zhiyun’s commitment to pushing the envelope. This groundbreaking gimbal featured a revolutionary design that allowed for both upright and underslung operation, providing unparalleled flexibility for filmmakers. It also incorporated an integrated image transmission system and touchscreen control, offering a seamless and intuitive user experience. The Weebill Lab, released alongside the Crane 3 Lab, brought similar innovations to the mirrorless camera market, further solidifying Zhiyun’s reputation as an industry leader.

In just a few short years, Zhiyun’s relentless pursuit of innovation transformed the company from a small startup into a global force in the gimbal market. By 2020, Zhiyun had captured a staggering 70% of the global market share, a testament to their commitment to user-centric design, technological advancement, and unwavering dedication to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in camera stabilization. Their success story is a testament to the power of vision, hard work, and a relentless pursuit of excellence – a true embodiment of the spirit of Chinese innovation.

Innovation at its Core: A Relentless Pursuit of the “Next Big Thing”

For Liao Yilun, being a market leader is not about simply being the biggest or the most profitable. It’s about setting the pace, constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and inspiring the industry with bold new ideas. “We don’t make things that others already have,” he states emphatically, “We strive for originality.” This philosophy is deeply embedded in Zhiyun’s DNA, driving their relentless pursuit of innovation, even when it means taking risks and venturing into uncharted territory.

Liao recognizes that staying ahead of the curve requires continuous investment in research and development. “As the industry matures, each small step forward requires significant financial resources and carries inherent risks,” he acknowledges. “Many of our competitors stopped investing in R&D after 2018. They’re content with iterating on existing designs. But at Zhiyun, we see those challenges as opportunities. We’re not afraid to take risks and explore new frontiers.”

This commitment is evident in the innovative features packed into Zhiyun’s latest products. The Crane 3 Lab, released in 2018, didn’t just refine existing technology – it redefined what a professional gimbal could be. Its unique ergonomic design allows for seamless transitions between upright and underslung shooting modes, providing filmmakers with unparalleled flexibility and creative control. The integrated image transmission system and intuitive touchscreen control further enhance the user experience, streamlining workflows and empowering filmmakers to focus on their creative vision.

The Weebill Lab, launched alongside the Crane 3 Lab, brought similar groundbreaking features to the mirrorless camera market. Its compact size and lightweight design make it ideal for run-and-gun filmmaking, while its advanced stabilization technology ensures smooth, cinematic footage even in challenging shooting conditions.

Zhiyun’s focus on user-centric design is equally evident in its products aimed at a broader consumer audience. The Smooth 5, released in 2021, caters to the growing community of smartphone filmmakers, providing professional-level stabilization and creative control in a compact and affordable package. Its innovative magnetic design allows for quick and easy mounting of accessories, such as fill lights and microphones, expanding its creative potential.

The Smooth X2, released in 2020, reimagines the smartphone gimbal as an all-in-one content creation tool. Its foldable design and extendable selfie stick make it incredibly portable, while its integrated tripod and advanced software features empower users to capture a wide range of creative shots, from time-lapses and panoramas to motion tracking and object tracking shots.

Each of these products exemplifies Zhiyun’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of gimbal technology, anticipating user needs, and empowering creators with tools that enhance their creative vision. The company’s relentless pursuit of innovation ensures that they remain at the forefront of the industry, setting the pace and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

The Future of Gimbal Technology: A Shift Towards Intelligent Solutions

The gimbal market is in a state of perpetual evolution. While the early days were dominated by hardware advancements, a new battleground is emerging: software and intelligent features. Liao Yilun sees this shift clearly, stating, “The future of this industry is undoubtedly intelligent.” He envisions a future where “human involvement in the creative process will become less and less, eventually leaving most of the work to algorithms.”

Zhiyun is actively preparing for this intelligent future, investing heavily in AI research and software development. Their goal is to create products that not only stabilize the camera but also actively assist in the creative process, simplifying complex tasks and making high-quality video production accessible to everyone.

One example of Zhiyun’s commitment to intelligent filmmaking is the ZY Play app, a comprehensive software suite designed to complement their hardware products. ZY Play goes beyond basic camera control, offering a wide array of features that streamline workflows and empower users to achieve creative shots with ease.

Among its many functionalities, ZY Play provides intelligent object tracking, allowing users to select a subject and have the gimbal automatically follow its movement, ensuring smooth and consistent focus. Time-lapse and motion-lapse modes simplify the creation of dynamic time-lapse sequences, automatically adjusting camera settings and movements for stunning results. Panorama mode seamlessly stitches together multiple images, creating breathtaking panoramic shots that capture the full scope of a scene.

ZY Play also simplifies complex filmmaking techniques like Dolly Zoom, commonly known as the “Vertigo effect.” This cinematic effect, often used to highlight a sense of unease or disorientation, requires precise coordination of camera movement and zoom. ZY Play automates this process, allowing users to achieve the Dolly Zoom effect with a few taps on their smartphone screen.

Beyond its robust feature set, ZY Play is designed with user experience in mind. Its intuitive interface, clear tutorials, and helpful guides make it easy for both novice and experienced filmmakers to harness its full potential. Zhiyun understands that technology should empower creativity, not hinder it, and ZY Play exemplifies this philosophy.

Zhiyun’s ambitions extend beyond hardware and software for filmmaking. The company is leveraging its expertise in motion control and AI to explore new avenues of innovation, including the development of music-related software. While details remain under wraps, this move suggests that Zhiyun is keen to expand its reach beyond the traditional video market, venturing into new territories where their technology can unlock creative potential and empower users to express themselves in new and innovative ways. This bold move exemplifies Zhiyun’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, constantly seeking out new challenges and opportunities to apply its innovative spirit and technical prowess.

Zhiyun Tech’s journey is a testament to the power of Chinese innovation. In less than a decade, the company rose from humble beginnings to become a global leader in the gimbal market, democratizing filmmaking by making professional-grade stabilization accessible to everyone. Their relentless pursuit of cutting-edge technology, dedication to user-centric design, and willingness to embrace new challenges have redefined the possibilities of camera stabilization, empowering creators worldwide. As Zhiyun continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible, their innovative spirit promises to further transform the landscape of content creation, making the dream of cinematic storytelling achievable for anyone with a vision and a story to tell.


  1. https://36kr.com/p/1722354728961
  2. https://www.sohu.com/a/251214970_114838
  3. https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/LQaeX5AD2uwJnoywOuoW2w
  4. https://m.sohu.com/n/475359193/

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