Hands-On Review: Smooth Sailing with the DJI Osmo
by Josh Root
February 26, 2016 —
Steadicams and gyro stabilizers are amazing tools; they can make camera movements look as smooth as if they were done using a dolly or a crane. But, they are also bulky, heavy, and can be difficult to learn to use successfully. Perhaps worse, while high-quality cameras have gotten smaller—you can take a GoPro almost anywhere on Earth—stabilization rigs have generally not followed suit.
Enter drone maker DJI with their Osmo camera and stabilizer. Essentially, DJI has taken the camera, stabilization gimbal and smartphone app from their successful Inspire 1 drone lineup, and adapted them for handheld use, the idea being that you now have a high-definition, stabilized camera that is easy enough for anyone to use and can fit into a case the size of a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. The Osmo costs $589.
Front view of the Osmo.
The Osmo’s Zenmuse X3 camera and 3-axis gimbal are almost identical to those used on DJI’s popular Inspire 1 drone. In fact, Inspire 1 owners can purchase the $270 Osmo handle kit and move the Inspire 1’s camera and gimbal over to the Osmo. The Osmo camera cannot be used on the Inspire 1, however. Like the Inspire 1, DJI has given the Osmo the ability to switch the X3 out for their Zenmuse X5 camera and gimbal. The X5 has a Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount so the image quality is even better (though the overall weight of the camera/gimbal will increase as you mount larger lenses). If you want an even larger, more color-gradable file, DJI’s forthcoming X5R camera supports RAW video recording and a Log, or flat, color profile. Other Osmo accessories include a vehicle mount, bike mount, tripod, extension arm and cold shoe accessory mount.
The DJI Go app on your iOS or Android smartphone is used as the Osmo interface for anything beyond the physical control buttons. While its most obvious function is as a viewfinder, the app also allows for full control over camera settings, image/video playback, transfer and even some editing. A particularly interesting option is the ability to tap and drag your finger around the screen to control the camera direction as if you were using the Osmo’s joystick. This could be useful for situations such as remote mounting the Osmo onto the hood of a car, for example.
Back view of the Osmo.
Performance is generally very good. As can be expected with a wide angle lens, there is some slight softness in the corners, but it is nothing to be concerned with in my book. Outdoor and well-lit footage is sharp and brilliant looking. Low light footage can suffer from noise, which is to be expected with a sensor of this size. Anyone filming in extremely low light situations may be better served to look at the Zenmuse X5/X5R.
What We Liked
The Osmo’s light weight and compact design make it less work to operate and transport than any other stabilizer we have used.
What We Didn’t Like
How it Compares
Josh Root, a Washington State-based photographer, writer and editor, is also the former editor-in-chief of photo.net. He is passionate about his wife and two sons, fast lenses, fly fishing and loves a strong coffee.
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