Camera and Electronics Reviews

Gear Review: FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal for GoPro HERO5/4/3

The FreeVision VILTA is a 3-axis gimbal designed for use with the GoPro Hero 3, 4, and 5. I've been using the FreeVision VILTA on most of my latest hikes, and will focus this review on applications for hiking, trail running, and backpacking. 

The FreeVision VILTA is a 3-axis gimbal designed for use with the GoPro Hero 3, 4, and 5. The standard operation of the VILTA is by use of a handheld joystick. The VILTA also has a removable base to allow for wearable operation modes. There are separate batteries in the base and handle that combine for a solid 9 hours of battery life when used together. I’ve been using the FreeVision VILTA on most of my latest hikes, and will focus this review on applications for hiking, trail running, and backpacking.


Buy The FreeVision VILTA: BH Photo Video


FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal


Gimbal Specs, Build, and Operation

Size and Weight

The FreeVision VILTA weights in at 19.92oz (565g) with my GoPro Hero5 attached. The handle has rubberized grips on both sides to prevent slipping. The VILTA is a little over 10in tall, which allows it to fit easily in the chest and side pockets of my hydration vest.

Battery Life and Charging

As seen in the photo above, the gimbal base detaches from the handle via a side mounted “PUSH” button.  The handle battery is a 2000 mAh unit, and the base battery is a smaller 400 mAh unit. Together, they can give users 9.5 hours of action. I’ve never really been able to push that limit, because my GoPro can’t make it that long even with my 2 spare batteries. When using the base only, the 400 mAh battery will give you around 1 hour of battery life.

The FreeVision VILTA charges via a USB 2.0 type A port. My GoPro Hero5 uses a USB 3.0 Type C, so they can’t use the same charging cord. A full charge of the FreeVision VILTA takes around 3 hours.

Movement

The FreeVision VILTA has a rotational pan axis of 360°, a tilt axis of -45° to 100°, and a roll axis of -40° to 40°. The max rotation speed is 500° a second, which is more than fast enough for any hiking and running most of use will likely do.

Gear Review: FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal for GoPro HERO5/4/3

Build

The build quality of the FreeVision VILTA is pretty solid. The handle is mostly plastic, whereas the base and gimbal components are mostly metal. The grip feels very nice in the hand, and all of the dials and knobs are laid out well. I’ll get more into the operation of the VILTA in the performance section below.

My GoPro Hero5 slides into the camera dock and is secured via a lock wheel. Those with a Hero 3 or 4 can use the accessory cage that comes with the VILTA. Only the GoPro’s shutter and mode buttons can be accessed while in the camera dock.

Gear Review: FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal for GoPro HERO5/4/3

Operation

The operation of the FreeVision VILTA starts from it’s lock position. The tilt lock is located on the camera dock housing. You just tilt the dock towards the lock icon on the base to secure the camera dock from tilting. The roll lock is operated in the same fashion. The pan lock is a flip switch on the handle. To begin using the FreeVision VILTA, you need to unlock the pan movement by flipping the switch to green, unlock the tilt and roll, then power up the gimbal using the buttons above the joystick.

At the top of the base you’ll see a power button (left), a shutter button (right), and an LED status bar between the two buttons.

  • Power Button Operation: 
    • 2s long press to turn on/off
    • 7.5s long press for forced shut down
    • single press to sleep/wake
    • double press in wearable mode for controls
  • Shutter Button Operation:
    • single press for photos
    • double press for selfies
    • long press to initiate video, then another long press to save
    • single press during recording to tag video
    • 6s long press for pairing
  • LED Light Operation:
    • red blink for warning
    • green blink for busy
    • yellow solid for semi-follow
    • red solid for follow
    • green solid for lock

Gear Review: FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal for GoPro HERO5/4/3

The FreeVision VILTA can be used in manual mode via the joystick, but all of the fun is using the automatic stabilization. FreeVision has designed the VILTA to work around 4 different trigger commands:

  • One pull for semi follow: This is my favorite setting for hiking and trail running. The tilt and the roll are locked on from the positioning of the trigger pull, with the pan movement following your handle. Most of the footage you’ll see in the video section below use this one trigger pull mode.
  • Two pulls for follow: This mode I use a while standing still, as the roll movement is locked while the pan and tilt follows the handle.
  • Three pulls to center: This mode centers the FreeVision VILTA to it’s forward facing default, just as if you’re powering it up for the first time. I find this very useful as a location reset when using the joystick for manual controls.
  • Four pulls for lock: This is a full lock mode for the movement of tilt, roll, and pan. The FreeVision VILTA will keep the positioning fixed from the moment you pull the trigger four times. I don’t find this mode very use for video, but it has proven to be really nice for taking photos.

Gear Review: FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal for GoPro HERO5/4/3

Detached Base

The base of the gimbal is really useful for those that engage in action sports and/or have GoPro attachment accessories. I prefer to use the FreeVision VILTA on it’s provided handle, but for those that would like to mount the base on a helmet, tripod, dog harness, skateboard, etc, the VILTA is very easy to setup.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 3.22.26 PM

Apps and Connectivity

The FreeVision VILTA and the GoPro Hero5 play nice using smart connect. This is what allows the shutter button on the handle grip to initiate exposures of photo and video on the GoPro. On the GoPro Hero 5 you need only open your settings then click: Connectivity > Connect New > Smart Remote.

FreeVision also has a standalone app for the VILTA that is separate from the GoPro app. The app allows you to take photo, video, and time lapses, which is not really any different than the GoPro app. Where the app is useful is for selecting the Denoising and Performance Denoising modes. The FreeVision VILTA gimbal motors are right next to the GoPro Hero5 mic, which can cause a lot of audio issues. I will address this and a few fixes in the video section below.

*Noise pick up does not appear to be a problem for the Hero4 or Hero3


Performance With Sample Photos and Video

Performance

The video stabilization performance of the FreeVision VILTA has been stellar for hiking and trail running. I’ve used the VILTA on a quite a few outings now and will use footage from the ridge route on Potato Mountain for this review.

As I mentioned above, the VILTA can be used in manual mode, semi-follow, follow, and locked via the trigger on the base. The trigger accuracy has been fast and accurate, and the only time it misfires is when my finger doesn’t provide an accurate amount of pulls. The semi-follow mode is my favorite as it allows for a very natural and balanced amount of stabilization. The follow mode works well when tracking a subject, like my running dog. The lock mode works well for photos, but not much else. The joystick manual mode is great for positioning the camera for a shot, but the movements are too stiff and mechanical. A standard pan looks pretty good using the joystick, but I wasn’t a fan when combined with the tilt features.

While being stored on my pack, I can lock the roll, tilt, and pan of the VILTA. Only the pan lock is solid though as it utilizes a flip switch. The tilt and the roll just use a twist lock. While trail running, I find that the tilt and roll locks can become unlocked on rough terrain. This can present a challenge when the gimbal is stored in a side pocket or strapped to the outside of my bag.

The smart connect feature is really nice on the FreeVision VILTA, as it allows me to take photo and video straight from the handle. The only issue that I’ve found is that it takes a long time (~10 seconds) to establish a link when powering up, and there is a short lag when recovering from sleep. The reason this is an issue is that I have to power off the GoPro via the gimbal to conserve the GoPro’s very poor battery life. When I want to power up to get a shot, I have to wait for that lag before shooting.

Photos

Gimbals aren’t really made for taking still photos, as still photos are easy to stabilize by hand. Still, maintaining a still hand after hiking up a steep hill can be a bit of a challenge. I’m not going to get into the quality of these photos, as that’s better left for a GoPro Hero5 review. I’ll just say that the FreeVision VILTA stabilizes still very well, and the handle shutter button makes them very easy to take.

Video

The video stabilization of the FreeVision VILTA is what most people reading this view will want to see. I’ve put together a video below to demonstrate the VILTA’s stabilization abilities. The video clips used here have undergone no post-processing and have only been trimmed and clipped for time.

The one thing you’ll notice in this video is that there isn’t any audio from the GoPro5 mics. The reason is that the mics on the GoPro are picking up the FreeVision VILTA’s motor noise. You can see what I mean in the video below. Unfortunately, the adaptive recoding of the Hero5 amplifies this noise. To mitigate the effect of the noise pickup, I’ve put together a few solutions:

  1. Download the app to modify denoising mode. There are two modes Denoising and Performance Denoising. Performance Denoising is the default and and sacrifices audio for maximum stabilization. If you don’t require maximum stabilization, you can opt for Denoising to improve audio quality.
  2. Access your GoPro Hero5 settings by swiping left on the main screen. In the manual audio controls, select Wind Only.
  3. Keep the VILTA in lock mode using four trigger pulls to minimize motor activation

*Noise pick up does not appear to be a problem for the Hero4 or Hero3


Buy The FreeVision VILTA: BH Photo Video


Closing Thoughts

At $279.00, the FreeVision VILTA is a high value GoPro gimbal at a pretty competitive price. The GoPro Karma Grip gimbal retails for $20.95 more at $299.95. Before the use of gimbals, my post processing routine was very difficult. I either had to live with shaky footage, or wait to render out clips using Adobe Premiere Pro’s warp stabilizer filter effect.  Being able to import stabilized clips for quick hiking videos makes my life a whole lot easier. The mechanics and functionality of the FreeVision VILTA leave little to complain about. My only pause on a full recommendation endorsement is for those with a GoPro Hero5 that require high quality audio recording. If you only need high quality stabilized video, this gimbal is tough to beat.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Smooth stabilized video
  • Multiple tracking options
  • Base can be used with other attachments
  • Battery life

Cons:

  • Movement locks don’t hold with severe movement
  • Really bad motor noise with GoPro Hero5

Disclosure: All product links provided in this post are affiliate links. Purchases made using these affiliate links go to support the content created here at Trail to Peak at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

I'm Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

2 comments on “Gear Review: FreeVision VILTA 3-Axis Gimbal for GoPro HERO5/4/3

  1. I’ve been considering one of these. I’ve been a bit concerned about the quality of the less expensive ones, and have resorted to using the Hyperlapse app playing back at 1x speed which accomplishes a similar affect using software. There are obviously several downsides to this method and the most predominant is it has a difficult time working out the shock of each step when hiking.

    I also wonder how well these would work with Yi’s 1st gen action cameras.

    • I too was concerned with the quality of the less expensive options. Nice to hear that you’re able to get a similar result using an app. What I like about this handheld is that it stays super smooth even when I’m running hard downhill and uphill. It’s amazing how nice the footage is in these situations.

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