The number one challenge when it comes to shooting video is making sure your footage is stable and not shakey. I mean, that’s why we use a tripod here in the studio instead of someone holding the camera. It’s the future man, machines are taking over human jobs! I mean.. Whether a tripod is a machine or not is debatable. Sorry if that offends any tripods out there.
If you have used any camera within the recent years, whether it was for photography or videos, then you’ll probably have noticed some form of optical stabilization. Whether it’s built into the lens or the sensor itself, it operates on the same principle. It uses a series of sensors to detect small movements, and a series of motors to help counteract that motion so that your end result is perfectly stable. But, that can only go so far. After all, you can see their physical limitations. You’ll get at most 1 or 2 millimeters of shake reduction. This is where gimbals come in. It operates in a similar way, except on a much larger scale. Here we have the DJI Osmo, a 3 axis gimbal stabilized action camera.
So what does it do? Well, think of it like an ultra stable GoPro. The Osmo has an ultra wide lens paired with a sensor that can shoot in 4K resolution at 30FPS or 1080p at 120FPS. At the top, you’ll find the camera itself which kinda looks like Wheatley from Portal 2. There’s a slot for a microSD card, and a microUSB port for… we’re not actually sure why. Anthony thought it might have been for updating firmware, but you actually do that wirelessly through the app. It’s not even mentioned in the manual either!
Moving on, you’ll see the three motors that provide stabilization in 3 different axises. Up-down, left-right, and side-to-side. When all three motors are working together, the end result is eerily stable footage. Seriously, you can run in a full sprint while holding this thing and your footage simply glides along like a ghost. Take a look at this example. We shot this clip using the Osmo and a non stabilized camera attached to the same handle. HUGE difference.
Underneath all the motors is a large locking ring that lets you take off the entire assembly. The Osmo handle is actually compatible with their Zenmuse X5 series of cameras. That’s their pro-grade stabilized micro four thirds sensor camera designed for their Inspire 1 Pro drones. But that thing costs over $2000. If you have an Inspire, then this would be a great accessory. If not, you’re probably better off investing in their Ronin series of stabilizers along with a dedicated video camera.
On the left, there is a smartphone holder so you can access a live feed and all the settings. This actually removable, and reveals a regular ¼ inch thread that’s compatible with things like tripods, car mounts, and even selfie sticks. At the back, there is a 3.5mm microphone jack and a trigger button. And finally, on the front, there’s a power slider, video recording button, photograph shooting button, and a joystick.
It’s all pretty simple, actually. In it’s default settings, the Osmo will always orient the camera to whatever direction you’re pointing in. You can then use the joystick to manually control the direction. Once you let go, the camera will now automatically orient itself to the that position. If you’re feeling fancy, you can also just use the joystick continuously so you have the most control over your shot. If you ever disorient yourself, or find the camera off center, then simply double tap the trigger and it will reset itself to its default position.
You can also disable the automatic centering, and have it in a fully manual mode if you prefer. Both the joystick and gimbal speeds are adjustable, along with acceleration and deadspace. After shooting around with it for a while, our favourite setting was a combination of 100% speed gimbal with 30% speed joystick. This gave us a very fast, responsive automatic gimbal while giving us smooth manual controls that didn’t suddenly jolt our footage.
And that’s pretty much it. DJI made it so easy to shoot straight out of the box that you almost don’t even need to read the manual. But.. there are two amazing features that might not be immediately obvious. First is the panorama mode. You simply put it in panorama mode, and press the shutter button. It will automatically rotate and shoot enough sections to stitch together either a 360 degree or 180 degree panorama of your choice. I know even smartphones have a panorama mode now, but they require you to pan at a perfect speed while keeping the phone perfectly level… easier said than done for a lot of people.
Next is the selfie mode. Yes, selfie mode. Whether you love it or hate it, this is an absolutely amazing feature for any vloggers out there. Especially ones who like to travel. You simply press the trigger on the back three times, and it will instantly swivel 180 degrees to face backwards. Press it 3 times again, and it will swivel forwards again. This feature is so much fun that we easily killed half the battery life just by doing it over and over again.
As you can expect with so many different sensors and motors, battery life is a bit limited. Depending on your settings, you’ll get anywhere from 60 minutes to 90 minutes of continuous use. That may seem low compared to a dedicated video camera like a Panasonic GH4, but it actually records longer than a GoPro Hero 4. If you ARE travelling with it, then you’ll either need to plan your shots carefully or carry a few spare batteries around. Luckily they only cost $35 each, and you can easily swap them in and out at the bottom without having to disassemble anything.
The biggest downside we found was the built in microphone. Now, there are technically two microphones that come with the Osmo – one that is built into the back of the handle, and an external one that plugs into the microphone jack. Our sample has been to quite a few trade shows and was missing the external one, but we’ll put a picture up on screen HERE.
Because of the cooling fan on the back of the camera, it creates a lot of noise when you use the built in microphone. And it’s not that convenient for you to have to always plug in an external one. It’s something we’d like to see better addressed in the next version. For now, it’s just something you’ll have to deal with if audio is a big part of your videos.
Overall, the DJI Osmo is a very interesting action camera. While it may not be as small and waterproof as others, it offers professional grade video options that no other camera out there can do at this price point. With an MSRP of $650 US, it’s actually quite reasonable as well. For comparison, a Hero4 Black edition costs $500, the Canon G1X costs $800, and the Sony RX series ranges from $500 to $950 depending on the edition. And none of those will give you usable footage while you’re running, on a rocky boat, or in a car off road.
While it may not be the perfect camera for all your shooting needs, it is easily one of the best out of the box solutions for capturing ultra stable footage. What do you guys think? Is the Osmo perfect for you, or would you prefer a traditional video camera?
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