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Old March 25th, 2015, 09:38 AM   #1
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DJI Ronin Epic Fail

I haven't been on this forum for a while, (usually in other areas of discussion) but my recent experience with DJI's Ronin left me feeling the need to share for others in the market for a gimbal to add some production value to their projects.
I recently was approached to shoot a series of science docs, which the producers wanted to include a high production value and consistent 'look' to in an effort to tie the episodes together. Our first shoot was nearly 3 weeks coast to coast in India. We settled on a couple of production tools, the popular (and reliable) Redrock Micro OMC, and the new DJI Ronin. The Ronin in particular was going to add some new dynamic options to our visual signature. I purchased the Ronin from a local video supplier, believing I would have additional support knowing from experience with DJIs Phantoms that customer support is not one of their strong points. I had some 'glitches' in the initial set up and balance of the Ronin, and a lot of issues with the app required to operate it. (using an Android platform which was relatively new) I did feel I got 'most' of the glitches resolved, however the Ronin still did some weird things on it's own, frequently losing 'center' and other odd movements, but I chalked it up to the learning curve. Eventually I got to the point that I thought it was working well, however I frequently had the app crash and had to reload it.

After arriving in India, the very first day we attempted to utilize the Ronin I got it perfectly balanced, and fired it up. After a few seconds, it immediately started vibrating VIOLENTLY, shaking my C300 like it was on a paint mixer. This is no exaggeration! I immediately shut it down and contacted the store I bought it from. After losing a day of shooting with it due to the 12.5 hour time difference, the reply was 'the stiffness settings are too high, just lower it and it will be fine'. Encouraged, I tried to fire it up the next day and the same thing happened. I quickly lowered the stiffness settings in all 3 axis, to no avail. The Ronin continued to vibrate with enough force that if left unattended on the table, it would have walked itself over the edge. I tried again that night in an attempt to salvage our shooting with the Ronin, and it continued to do this even with the stiffness settings set to '0'. What's more, the vibration would come in pulses of about 15-20 seconds followed by a brief intermission, then repeating the vibration. This would continue for a couple minutes, then the Ronin just shut itself down. Another attempt the next day had the same result, only this time I shut down the Ronin as soon as it started vibrating. With the power totally shut down, the gimbal sitll had significant tension in the motors. This was extremely wrong, at power off there should be NO tension whatsoever. Even after removing the battery the tension remained. Clearly, the Ronin had not survived the transport of the trip.

At this point, it was clear that the Ronin was DOA, and I now had to break the news to 3 very pissed off producers. They had after all, paid significant baggage fees to cart this now dead weight to India, and now we were stuck with having to also pay to drag it along the rest of our trip.

After my return, I attempted one last time to get it up and running, and once again the exact same result complete with tension in the motors with the battery removed.

This Ronin was purchased specifically for the series I am now working on, and it was going to set the stage for a style we wanted to carry out through all the different episodes. Since we were unable to use it in the first episode, that particular style element has now been dropped from the rest of the shows. As it clearly was incapable of being transported without becoming inoperable, it was useless to me in any other capacity, as I rarely shoot without travel to some destination. There was no evidence of mishandling, no gouges or treadmarks on the case, and all the other 10 cases of equipment were just fine. My Redrock Micro OMC operated flawlessly as usual, and all the rest of my gear was unaffected. My conclusion is the Ronin was just not up to the rigors of commercial airline transport, despite the rather impressive custom fitted case it comes with. It did, after all, seem to work relatively well before I left. (albeit with a few minor glitches) I even took it to the store I purchased it from and set it up in front of their Ronin expert, to confirm all my steps for balancing and operating before departing on the shoot.

Now, as I prepare to return the Ronin which was nothing more than a pain in our rear for the entire shoot, I am informed that I can only return it with a 20% restocking fee! Seriously? We did not get a single shot out of it, and now are faced with another $500 or so on top of all the transport fees to ship the thing around. I am told that they would attempt to fix it, or replace it, but that it can only be returned with this restocking fee. I'm incensed. I wasn't going to mention the store, but now I think I will, since I realize if I had purchased this from B&H as I originally intended, they would have allowed return within 30 days for a full refund. So, TV Specialists of Salt Lake City, Utah, shame on you. I have always preferred to do business locally to support my community, but no more.

Moral of this rambling saga? While I know many have had great success with the Ronin, this to me is not quite ready for prime time, at least not if it involves shipping somewhere. This was my third DJI product, and two out of the 3 failed miserably. I no longer have any faith in the consistent reliability of their products, at least not under the normal rigors of field use.

I'm sure many of you will regale me with their extensive travels with the Ronin and no issues whatsoever, and all I can say is good for you. You have been lucky. But it appears to be a roll of the dice, and for those of you who don't like taking chances and need reliability over all for a successful shoot, consider the other options here... I have no experience with the Movi or other competitors, but from what I have read the Movi is worth the extra money. Lesson learned.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 10:18 AM   #2
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

The pricedifference between a Ronin and a Movi would probably be because Freefly has better control over the quality of all components used and how they are assembled, there are many new Chinese suppliers making components for all type of gimbals and it almost looks like a new product appears every week, not sure how high standards these suppliers have when it comes to quality control and it might be that parts are ordered form different suppliers which can cause reliability issues.

I am using a mini 3 axis gimbal for a gopro and am receiving a nebula 4000 this week for my gh4, I have had issues with my mini stabilizer and have read about users posting here about the Nebula as well where the electronics also caused a total failure. Yet there seem to be many users that have no issue at all.

I know I won't do you a favor by telling you this, but for such an important shoot where it was imperative to get steadicam shots I would have taken a "normal" steadicam with me as well as backup as that is failsafe. I plan to use the nebula 4000 for paid shoots but for once in a lifetime shots I"ll happily take my small blackbird steadicam instead. If I can repeat shots I still will be keeping my blackbird in the trunk of my car, just in case I need it.
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Old March 25th, 2015, 10:35 AM   #3
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Hi, Noa
I would agree with the thought that the quality control is probably erratic at best with many of these Chinese products. I have experienced this before with LED knockoffs, and have never gone back to that particular scenario. I agree that you get what you pay for. That said, I don't think a full on Steadicam would have worked for us... for one, I'm not a Steadicam operator, so that would have required another person on the already stretched budget. Second, I can't imagine shipping a full on Steadicam over there, the appeal of the Ronin (and it's competition) was to be the relatively small footprint, and the ease of setting it up. In this instance, I think something like the Movi would have been the more reliable choice. Like I said, lesson learned. (which I should have known from my experience with the knock-off LEDs!)
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Old March 25th, 2015, 09:57 PM   #4
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Thanks for the heads up on the Ronin Derek... I was thinking about picking one up, but I was trying to rent one first, and couldn't track one down. I don't need a rig often, but I was thinking about incorporating one into my work. Now I won't even bother renting a Ronin to find out.
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Old March 26th, 2015, 10:02 AM   #5
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Ken - Dylan Couper (a mod on here) owns a gear rental shop in downtown Vancouver and has a Ronin available for rental, if you wanted to try one out anyway.

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Old March 26th, 2015, 12:53 PM   #6
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Thanks Shaun,

I didn't know Dylan had a Ronin there. I may try one after all. I usually end up buying most of the stuff I need because though I'm only 20 miles or so from downtown Vancouver - it's all water... and shipping is a pain. I was trying to get Dylan to open a little branch office over here. Not sure it's worth the trouble though.
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Old March 26th, 2015, 02:36 PM   #7
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Dylan's is in a flight case so throwing it on air freight shouldn't be a biggie... Give him a call. He's a pretty cool guy. The Indie guys here in Vancouver would have a significantly harder time getting stuff done if it wasn't for him...
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Old March 26th, 2015, 03:01 PM   #8
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Diewert View Post
Thanks Shaun,

I didn't know Dylan had a Ronin there. I may try one after all. I usually end up buying most of the stuff I need because though I'm only 20 miles or so from downtown Vancouver - it's all water... and shipping is a pain. I was trying to get Dylan to open a little branch office over here. Not sure it's worth the trouble though.
I don't need an office on the island... I need a 1000hp speedboat!
Problem solved.... LIKE A BOSS!
:)
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Old March 26th, 2015, 03:06 PM   #9
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Quote:
Originally Posted by Derek Reich View Post
Hi, Noa
I would agree with the thought that the quality control is probably erratic at best with many of these Chinese products. I have experienced this before with LED knockoffs, and have never gone back to that particular scenario. I agree that you get what you pay for. That said, I don't think a full on Steadicam would have worked for us... for one, I'm not a Steadicam operator, so that would have required another person on the already stretched budget. Second, I can't imagine shipping a full on Steadicam over there, the appeal of the Ronin (and it's competition) was to be the relatively small footprint, and the ease of setting it up. In this instance, I think something like the Movi would have been the more reliable choice. Like I said, lesson learned. (which I should have known from my experience with the knock-off LEDs!)
Hey Derek
I rent these things out, so am familiar with the hairpulling process that you found yourself in. Here's the truth about the Ronins.

RONINs ONLY LIKE HEAVY CAMERAS.

I've had exactly the same problem as you did with light cameras in the C300 range... popped a Red on there, problem solved. I'd wager if you added a 5lb weight to it, it would have whipped back in shape perfectly. Now of course, that's no excuse for it not working, as you should be able to change the settings to take a camera as light as a 7D on it (people with A7s' still have issues). So I think the problem may have been more its ability to reset for the light weight. You've done all the reading about stiffness settings I'm sure, so I won't repeat those. But yeah, I know what you mean.

Also, the 10 second pulse 3-4 times and then going dead, usually happens when there is no weight on it, but should be less crazy with a camera on it. It goes dead after 3 or 4 tries to protect the electronics.

I know this is all much too late to be helpful, just didn't want you to think you were the only one out there who the Ronin didn't work for. We've spent hours in the shop re-setting them after people tune them to whatever they are using, then freak out when we power them up with something else.
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Old March 27th, 2015, 09:46 AM   #10
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Hi, Dylan
Thanks for the input. I know there are people out there who have had no issues, and the place I bought mine said they've sent many out for similar shoots with no problems. But here's the thing which really set off my 'red flags of reliability': I practiced balancing and setting up the Ronin for a week before my departure, with the exact same set up that failed on location. A C300 with a 16-35 f2.8L lens. In my 'training' sessions, I never had this occur, and it always auto tune balanced well. The C300 was stripped of the LCD, hand grip, handle, and eyepiece to make it as small of a footprint as possible. I am very familiar with the stiffness settings, and on my final test back home before returning the unit, found that I had to set the stiffness settings to below 5 on the tilt axis to get it to calm down. At that point, it had wildly lost 'center', and when I tried to auto tune stabilize, the problem immediately returned. (presumably because the stiffness settings were reset) But how can I auto tune the stability, if the settings it selects are wildly wrong? Also, why did this never occur before leaving? Finally, twice when I went to pack it away, there was a significant level of resistance in all 3 axis with power cut and the battery removed. That for sure indicates something seriously off.
I returned the gimbal yesterday (and got docked for the restocking fee, however the store said if it does prove to be defective and is replaced by DJI, they're refund that which is fair) I was told at the store that sometimes the motors get 'twisted' and need to be manually reset.... I don't know what this means, but obviously not something covered in the manuals, or on DJIs resources.
The bottom line for me is if something is not reliable, I have absolutely no use for it. My first DJI Phantom was also defective, and was replaced by DJI. The second one was okay, but two out of 3 DJI products failing is not a comfortable track record.
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Old March 27th, 2015, 10:18 AM   #11
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Not a message you want to hear, but especially not with respect to aircraft.
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Old March 27th, 2015, 12:11 PM   #12
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Derek - This comment is coming from someone who owned a successful retail store for many years where we sold stereo equipment (Pioneer, Teac, Dual, JBL, etc.), car decks, cameras. This was back when quality control of products was no where as good as it is today. We would almost literally bend over backwards to keep a customer happy with their purchase because you can't buy a good reputation.

In the situation you experienced, with VOIP, Skype, and iChat, where one can actually show what is happening, the retailer could provide input as what to adjust. If they couldn't, then their supplier should have stepped in to help, or the importer, or even the factory. If it was a Chinese product, many college and university graduates in China speek English. In fact as an aside, the large companies in China use English as their primary means of communication because of the different Chinese languages. I was surprised to find this out!

The problem of not having it operable on the first shoot is obviously a problem but if they could have hustled to get help maybe it could have been resolved.

Unfortunately, after reading Dylan's post it appears to be a "local knowledge" problem and you couldn't have fixed it anyway. Adding insult to injury, though, is having to lug that piece of dead gear around everywhere you went.
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Old March 27th, 2015, 06:57 PM   #13
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

Derek, I believe you 100%! I've had the "freak out" issue in between swapping one camera for a nearly exactly the same camera for no real reason, so that doesn't surprise me at all.
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Old March 28th, 2015, 07:34 AM   #14
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

It's very interesting to hear of others who have experienced the same problem. It echos my experience with my first DJI product (a Phantom) which had a 'fly away' issue that I thought was unique to me until I started reading posts here. I quickly found out that the problem was widespread. At that time, I chalked it up to being an early adopter, and the price you pay for not having the bugs worked out. Now it's appearing to be possibly a bit more of a pattern of behavior with DJI.

John, it's funny you mention Skype.... I actually suggested this with the store salesman I was dealing with (who was appreciatively concerned and did want to help) but we both rather quickly realized that the combination of time differential and pathetic internet capabilities in our first location would make this next to impossible. I would have attempted to contact DJI, but again the time change and connections paired with an abysmal customer service record left that option out of the question as well.

What's particularly helpful to me here is the fact that this is not an isolated incident. The store where I bought it gave me the 'this has never happened before' line, and while that may be true for them it clearly is not a totally rare incident. So if DJI attempts to play that game, I'm not going to take that. Thanks!
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Old March 28th, 2015, 07:42 AM   #15
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Re: DJI Ronin Epic Fail

One thing I have not heard if anyone else has experienced is the tension in the motors after power has been shut off and the battery removed? I was guessing it might have been a capacitor issue of some sort. Anyone who has had the vibration problem seen this as well?
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