With the immense popularity of small sized action cameras among consumers, gimbals, which are the equipment dedicated to ensuring that the camera remains stable, are gaining plenty of traction among the masses. Numerous unknown Chinese manufacturers have displayed their products on Amazon. However, a majority of the gimbals on display there are either designed inappropriately or they will not be able to provide you the solution to your requirements. For example, some of the products do not include a mount for the handset that is preferred by consumers interested in viewing live video streaming.
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There are also myriad gimbals that utilize handheld mobile gadgets as cameras but so far I have not come across any of such products which boasts really remarkable reviews. The devices existing in the market at present appear more of a part of a problem rather than a solution because of their complex calibration techniques and below par stabilization features. So, until and unless you have had hands-on experience with a certain gimbal and are confident that it will function well with your handheld mobile device, we would strongly suggest you to opt for a dedicated gimbal for the camera.
When it comes to feature-rich gimbals boasting top-of-the-line capabilities, we currently only have a couple of really enthralling options. The first option is the Aetho’s Aeon which makes use of a GoPro action camera and provides its own display. However, it is yet to be released.
The second compelling alternative that we are left with is the DJI’s Osmo which has been launched by the manufacturers recently. The gimbal includes a 4K camera module that is similar to the one integrated on their leading drone, the Inspire 1. It has the ability to accommodate your handheld mobile device as a viewfinder on one side. Keep in mind that the charm about this amazing gizmo is not restricted to the hardware only. Similar to the drones manufactured by DJI, Osmo DJI also comes with a fully-loaded highly customizable app. Let’s take a look at this prolific device and decide for ourselves if it is worth its price.
- Fabulous stabilization features
- Decent video quality on the whole
- Easy to grasp
- Fully-loaded companion app
- Battery’s life span is a bit too short
- Videos can catch a lot of noise
- Unable to transfer videos of Ultra High Definition to smartphone
- Microphones are not as responsive as they should be
This is perhaps DJI’s first ever endeavor to manufacture a handheld portable gimbal. As it turns out, it is far ahead of others and is one of the best ones out there in the market. Even if skeptics disagree, we strongly believe that it is a pretty decent gadget. It offers very smooth stabilization features, a feature-rich and user-friendly app and it is very comfortable to transport from place to another. All in all, it is a great bundle for the consumers.
The Osmo camera comprises four components namely a Zenmuse X3 three-axis gimbal alongside a camera, a handle that allows for a comfortable grip loaded with tons of control keys, a 10.8Wh battery and clamp that lets you mount your smartphone. According to our observations, the whole assembly weighs almost 538 grams (1.19 pounds). Considering the fact that you are still to mount your mobile device onto the DJI Osmo, the assembly is quite light in weight. However, if you detach the phone clamp, you can get the weight reduced to 422 grams (0.93 pounds). Bundled together with all this gear is a lens cap in addition to a wrist strap for precautionary purposes. Moreover, the lovely looking carrying case can easily befool your friends into believing that you are carrying an adorable little violin with yourself.
If you are one of the passionate drone enthusiasts who own the mighty DJI Inspire 1, they need no introduction to the Zenmuse X3 three-axis stabilization gimbal. The Osmo DJI camera is a fan-cooled gizmo that is powered by Sony’s 1/2.3 inch 12-megapixel sensor that is capable of recording video footages at resolutions up to Ultra High Definition (4K) ranging from 4,096 x 2,160 pixels at 24 frames per second or 3,840 x 2,160 pixels at 30 frames per second or 24 frames per second. What’s more the optimum video bitrate that is permitted is a massive 60 Mbps.
For those of you who would not get satisfied but with a more fluid video, they can for a higher frame rate of 60 frames per second at 1080p or 720p resolution. You can try out slow motion video recording with 120 frames per second at 1080p. In similarity to the Inspire 1 camera, the Osmo DJI comes with a 20mm f/2.8 lens while simultaneously offering a whopping 94 degrees Field of View.
The gimbal is located where a microSD card is inserted. But the card has to be of Class 10 category or conform to the UHS-1 standard at the very least. It goes without saying that a faster writing speed is obviously going to be preferable when it comes to video recording at such a high resolution. My package came with a 16GB Panasonic microSDHC UHS Speed Class 3 card and I’ve been quite satisfied with my bundle, I must confess!
The stock gimbal-camera module on both the DJI Osmo and DJI Inspire 1 share the same nomenclature, but here’s a fun fact: one cannot mount the Osmo’s gimbal-camera module onto the DJI Inspire 1. However, it does function quite well the other way around. Quite amazing, isn’t it? According to a press release by DJI, the primary difference between the two modules is that the one for Osmo DJI has been engineered considering the ergonomics for hand-held usage. Some of the features that have been especially focused to facilitate its hand-held usage include the flattening of the Osmo camera for storage purposes, the way its tilt motor has been designed and other minuscule variations inside the camera and the gimbal.
Quite similar to the DJI Inspire 1, the Osmo camera also supports the more advanced Zenmuse X5 and X5R gimbals for some Micro Four Thirds action. However, you will be required to purchase an additional adapter for these devices.
The removable, metallic phone clamp extends towards the left side of the handle through a screw thread mount. It gets clamped onto your handheld mobile device by way of a couple of corners on one side and the middle of the other side. All the three locations where the smartphone makes a contact with the handle in addition to the components in contact with the rear end of the gizmo boast a soft plastic padding. Hence, you should not worry about your smartphone being scratched by the phone holder.
Oppo R7 Plus with a 6-inch display screen was the biggest device that I was able to place in the phone clamp. This mobile phone is 158mm in length and 82mm in width. Hence, the iPhone 6s which boasts a similar length but is slightly lesser in width should be slid in quite easily. Having said that, I can’t issue any guarantees if your iPhone 6s is encapsulated in a thick protective casing.
At this point in time, I would also like to bring into your notice that DJI have also introduced a wide array of auxiliary products for Osmo DJI, which include an extension rod, a tripod and straight extension arm. Moreover, they have also released accessories such as universal, bike and car mounts or clamps. You can slide in your DJI Osmo into these holders in the same way as the phone mount.
Now comes the turn of the handle! The handle contains a stereo microphone, a 3.5mm headphone jack for a lavalier microphone, a screw clamp at the top for the stabilization gimbal, a battery that can be inserted from the underneath, a number of keys and two LED indicators located just around the thumb and index finger areas. Owing to the ergonomic grip and a beautifully designed curvature, the Osmo DJI is one of the most, if not the most, user-friendly and comfortable hand-held gimbals available on the market. When you grab the gimbal in your hand, your thumb can comfortably access the slider for power, a well-designed joystick to manage the camera and separate keys to trigger still photographs and capture video footages.
Located on the opposite side is a toggle button that is responsible for carrying out three tasks. Firstly, it can be used to hold down to fixate the camera’s direction. Secondly, by double tapping on it, the gimbal can be re-centered. Thirdly, a triple tap can rotate the camera full 360 degrees for a selfie. Of course, it can turn into the most expensive selfie stick in the world. You can carry out a few manual adjustments and modifications in the gimbal if required. Bear in mind that if handle the gimbal recklessly, you can end up getting it locked up. This is not an issue that you need to sweat over a lot though. All of this has been explained in detail in the app’s instructions manual. With this, it’s time to move onto our next topic of discussion in our in-depth review.
DJI Osmo: DJI Go App
The Osmo DJI can function decently if you are in a mood to try some new things out and rely on your own logic intuition. Of course, making the Osmo camera work without the DJI Go app for both iOS and Android will require you to bank on your instinctive skills and you can end up losing out on a number of features in a bid to do so. The DJI Go app lets you configure your photo aspect ratio, video resolution and video frame rate. Moreover, the app also provides you with the ability to customize a number of gimbal features and re-adjust it as and when required. To get your app connected, just switch on the DJI Osmo, synchronize your smartphone to the gimbal’s WiFi hotspot and then open the app.
As soon as you access the camera view, you can easily switch between the still photograph and video recording user interfaces. These interfaces are equipped with general options such as white balance, ISO and exposure adjustment. By tapping on the display screen, you can set a reference point for the base exposure. Similarly, gimbal can also be manoeuvred by holding down a finger on the display screen and moving it around. Besides, the users can also get access to mode-specific options such as slow-motion switch (1080p at 120 frames per second) in the video user interface.
In the still camera’s user interface, you can switch among a number of shooting modes such as single, multiple, interval, panorama (360 degrees and 180 degrees) and time-lapse. Having said that, whichever user interface you are currently in, you can switch over to the desired capture mode by simply pressing the buttons located on the Osmo DJI.
The DJI Go app also lets the users skim through, transfer and even modify the content captured with the help of Osmo camera. However, the file transfer function only provides support for the JPEG images and videos shot at 1080p resolution. This implies that the users will have to transfer their video footages captured at 2.7K and 4K resolution in addition to RAW images directly from the microSD card. Keeping fingers crossed for a future update that can get rid of this mess! Now, let’s get back to the editing features integrated into the Osmo DJI.
When it comes to photographs, the users can apply tools such as cropping, rotation, contrast, brightness, saturation and even add filters as and when required. As far as the videos are concerned, the users can compile a simple video using multiple six-second clips. The movie can then be subsequently edited with the help of a similar set of editing tools and filters while you get to add some music in the background as well from the available music templates. I must confess that once I got acquainted this video editor, I rather enjoyed working on it. It provides a nice fun experience; it is quite user-friendly and helps you spend some quality time. It probably reminds me of HTC Zoe’s Video Highlights feature. Once your videos or photographs are ready, you can always share them across loads of social media platforms using by virtue of DJI’s Skypixel platform.
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DJI Osmo: A Peek into its Performance
Considering the fact that DJI have really upped the ante in terms of camera stabilization, it was no surprize whatsoever that I was able to capture some breathtaking video footage with the help of Osmo DJI. I came to the conclusion that the device was at its real best whenever I held it still as if the gimbal has been placed on a tripod stand. Owing to the incredibly high resolution, a video that does not include too much commotion will bamboozle you into believing that it is a still photograph. It will be only until you identify the gradually moving elements when you get a hang of the fact that this is actually a video. All this stuff is not novel, I know! But when it is related to a hand-held device, it certainly is a huge improvement.
The gimbal performed admirably as I moved around with it. I would even go onto bet that some rocky or hilly terrain cannot even undermine this marvelous invention by DJI. However, in the video footage, you might be able to observe slight vibrations in the video caused as I walked around. Hence, we would suggest you to not depend entirely on the Osmo DJI’s stabilization capabilities and try to walk as carefully as possible with the gimbal in hand. When it comes to sensitivity, the gimbal was able to keep up with my tiny, super-excited toy poodle as it encircled me during the video recordings.
Bear in mind that this is a wide-angle lens. Hence, you should expect to witness some softening around the frames edges. However, it is not that obvious. When the lighting is good, the video quality is quite unbelievable especially when the videos as shot in daylight. As one moves indoors, the videos tend to attract a little bit of noise while getting gradually worse at night time. But credit has to be given to DJI since the color accuracy remains constant as can be viewed in the video footage covering my nighttime excursions. When it comes to the still camera’s performance, there is nothing much different. However, if you capture photographs in RAW format, you can always go back and edit them as per your requirement and preference.
Having said that, there are a couple of areas where I feel that some room for improvement exists. Firstly, the audio levels in the video footages that I captured with Osmo were quite low and there was no way to adjust the mic’s responsiveness in the DJI Go app. I sincerely hope DJI can come up with new controls to manage audio levels in their next upgrade. However, a good thing is that you can connect an additional microphone into the gimbal.
Secondly, I believe that a battery life span of one hour is just a wee bit too short. I would wish for a battery that provides a longer experience. But I presume that’s the last thing DJI would want to do for the fear of getting their battery pack to become too heavy. So, if you are someone as me, you will have to suffice by buying an additional pair of batteries for $35.
A Look at the Competition
Well, here are my candid views! The competition in the market at the moment is not that great! Almost all the other gimbal options out there are simply hardware alternatives for your smartphone or GoPro action camera while there aren’t many which boast a comfortable grip. One of such devices is the $300 Big Balance Husky HY3M in the illustration to the left. The gimbals boasting a straightish grip are slightly lesser priced. However, there’s a big question mark when it comes to reliability and durability for these machines.
In contrast to all the other options, the DJI Osmo is way more intricate, boasts far more advanced features and comes with a fully-loaded app for both iOS and Android. Moreover, if you are a professional grade photographer or cinematographer, you can always go on to upgrade its camera to suit your more professional requirements.
At first glance, a price may appear to be a bit distracting, it, as a matter of fact, is quite realistic for those who are trying it out for the first time. For example, if you purchase the much more cheaper HY3M and you end up needing a camera with a wide-angle, you will still have to spend more money somewhere in the range of at least $200 for a basic GoPro action camera with WiFi (the Hero+), or about $300 for one with an integrated display (Hero + LCD or Hero4 Silver), since this gimbal does not include a phone holder for you to use it as a viewfinder.
As an alternative option, you can always go back to using your smartphone camera but from the experience that I’ve had with HY3M, its stabilization capabilities are only good for small sized smartphones. Especially, it is better when it comes to smartphones with screen sizes lesser than 5 inches. Well, this is becoming much of a rarity in the world of Android powered smartphones.
Actually, it all boils down to what you currently have and what you want to achieve. I would also like to share with you that if you are in possession of a DJI Inspire 1, you can quite comfortably go on to purchase the $269 or £215 Osmo DJI handle kit and utilize it alongside the drone’s camera. The kit includes a battery, charger and a mount for your smartphone. Hey, that’s a pretty good way to make the most of your huge $1,999 or £1,849 investment on the DJI Inspire 1.
I would definitely bet on my life to assert that DJI in addition to being Drone Kings are definitely Gimbal Experts! The company bided their time and did plenty of research work to identify the actual lacunas. However, their opponents instead of doing some extensive research work hurried into producing unfinished products that left a lot to be desired. To put it simply, Osmo DJI is the ultimate package that is equipped with stunning features and is quite user-friendly. Are we claiming that is perfect? No, no way! We would certainly be a lot happier if the video footage captured in dimmer lighter conditions and especially at nighttime are a lot clearer.
Similarly, better still photographs, enhanced microphones and an improved battery life are what DJI should be looking to integrate in the upgraded versions. Nevertheless, the DJI competitors are still way behind and have a lot of introspection to do!
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