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A Review of the DJI OSMO 4K UHD handheld Steadicam

by on November 2, 2015
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Overview

From the same company that brought the world mass market high quality aerial drones and their excellent video recording capacities, the DJI OSMO is a natural step for the Chinese manufacturer to take given its previous product developments. After first mass producing its affordable drones, DJI also jumped into the business of putting together some excellent semi-native 4K UHD cameras for newer UAV models like the Phantom 3 and since all DJI drones for sale feature a highly stable gimbal assembly for the sake of clean shooting even with in-flight drone vibration, the OSMO was a natural outgrowth of these technologies.

With the OSMO, what you essentially get your hands on is a gimbal-mounted 4K UHD Steadicam rig but without the drone that such a shooter would normally attach to. Of course, this is also a bit of a simplification since the OSMO isn’t just a regular drone-mounted 4K camera and gimbal without the drone. Instead, it’s an entire hand-held system with its own specific features and controls which are completely customized for being taken around by hand by users who want steady, stable and crystal clear UHD and Full HD video in a hand-held device.

In this, the OSMO excels and in addition to its great shooting specs, offers a remarkably robust physical handling package.

The Good

DJI’s OSMO is definitely one of the more innovative new 4K video and photo devices to have come out on the market recently. Yuneec had already developed something very similar in the form of a handheld gimbal that comes as an accessory to their Typhoon Q500+ drones for mounting of the also included 4K UHD camera sphere which comes with that drone. However, this new video/photo rig from DJI goes well beyond the scope and specs of Yuneec’s more afterthought-like handheld Steadicam.

For starters the OSMO comes with some excellent shooting specs that include the ability to pull off True 4K video at 24 and 25p at a cinematic resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels. On top of that, it can manage a very rapid 120 frames per second at Full HD and thus also hand over slow motion video if that’s something you’re looking for. Aside from these video specs, the OSMO can also manage 12 megapixel JPEG or DNG RAW still photos that can be fired out in 7 shot bursts per second if that’s what you’re after. Photo stills can also be extracted from all 4K video shot with the OSMO.

Next up, there is the gimbal itself, which comes with a 3-axis stabilizing system and can be controlled (along with the camera) through the large and ergonomic steadigrip. Stability during wobbling movement and for hand shake is excellent and anybody shooting video while on the move under normal conditions can pull off some wonderfully firm, immobile 4K or Full HD video that looks fantastic thanks in part to the OSMO’s very solid camera, courtesy of Zenmuse.

Finally, the handle of the OSMO is a wonderful mix of practical functionality and solid design. It’s easy to control, can be manipulated in a number of different ways and offers a wide range of controls for the camera, gimbal and other maneuvers such as pan and tilt. There is also a WiFi link built into the handle for controlling the OSMO in more complex ways through the DJI GO app for Android and iOS on a smartphone or tablet.

Check the Price of the DJI inspire 1 Professional Osmo Handheld HD 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal phantom 3 parts on Amazon:

4.1 - 5 Reviews

The Bad

After a lot of initial promise, the OSMO finally went on sale to customers and in some ways at least, received rather lukewarm appraisal from some circles. Not all of this negative appraisal is what we’d call unjustified and just like any camera, the OSMO from JDI does have its flaws, particularly when you take into account the simple fact that this is DJI’s first attempt as an independent handheld Steadicam.

In very basic terms, the OSMO is simply not as satisfying a device as DJI’s drones and for the money that’s going to be spent on this rig, a drone offers superior value and flexibility and not to mention much greater experience in efficiency of design. Thus, unless you’re absolutely sure you need a robust gimbal-mounted handheld Steadicam for certain specific reasons, you might want to forego the OSMO or simply buy Yuneec’s Typhoon Q500+ drone, which also comes with an accessory Steadicam handle, albeit one that’s not as well equipped as the OSMO.

Other imperfections of the OSMO are also there to be found after a bit of use. For one thing, for some ridiculous reason, the OSMO’s camera cannot be used on DJI’s Inspire 1 drone. Whhile the drone’s camera can be mounted to the OSMO handle, we can’t understand why DJI didn’t allow the reverse to work as well. Beyond this, there is also the issue of the quality the camera itself is capable of managing. While the OSMO’s Zenmuse X3 camera is definitely a cool piece of work with some excellent resolution flexibility, it does also drop the ball on a few things. Most notably, it’s not the best performer in lower light conditions and especially so when used under indoor low light conditions, particularly with the zoom activated. In this case, noise builds up rapidly.

Finally, we’d also like to mention that battery life in the OSMO seems to be really poor. After only about 35 minutes of use, battery charge drops down to just above 50% and this only gets worse with more intensive operation of the whole rig. In part. The rapid battery drain is understandable when you consider that the battery has to power both the gimbal stabilization system and the camera itself (especially when recording 4K video at full resolution) but yes, if you’re using the OSMO in the field, spare batteries are a very good if annoying idea.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, we’d definitely recommend the OSMO from DJI if what you really need is a rock steady Steadicam rig for field shooting under conditions where this is important. However, if you want something more flexible, the GoPro Hero 4 is a better overall choice and if you want a camera that can fly as well as do some gimbal-controlled ground shooting, then your better investment is the Yuneec Typhoon Q500+ drone. DJI has done a great job with the OSMO and given it lots of 4K and HD shooting chops but there is still plenty of room for refinement on this device.

Specs

Camera Type: 4K gimbal-mounted steadicam
Video Resolution: 4096 x 2160 pixels
Sensor Type: Sony Exmor R CMOS; 1/2.3” 12.4 megapixels
Recording Formats: MP4/MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) For photos: JPEG, DNG
Recording media: Micro SD; Max. Capacity: 64 GB, Class 10 or UHS-1
Camera lens: Zenmuse X3
Display: none
Microphone: built-in mono microphone
Connectivity: 1 SDI Video output (10 bit 4:2:2), 2 Analog audio input, 1 Analog audio output, 2 channel SDI Audio output
ISO Range: 100-3200 (video);100-1600 (photo)
Electronic shutter speed: 8s - 1/8000s (up to 30s when camera is on M mode)
Frame Rates: UHD: 4K (4096 x 2160) 24/25p, UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) 24/25/30p, 2.7K (2704 x 1520) 24/25/30p, FHD: 1920 x 1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p, HD: 1280 x 720 24/25/30/48/50/60p
Dimensions (handle): 2.4 x 1.9 x 6.4 inches
Gimbal range: Tilt: - 35° to +135°, Pan: ±320°, Roll: ±30°

Accessories

As far as in-the-box accessories for the DJI OSMO go, there’s quite a bit included in this rig. Aside from the obvious inclusion of the Zenmuse X3 handheld gimbal, the camera itself and the handle, you’ll also find an OSMO phone holder, intelligent battery and intelligent battery charger in the box. Along with these comes an OSMO carry case that features a 16GB microSDHC card, a wrist strap, shoulder strap, UV filter, lens cap, Rosette protection cap and the standard 1 year warranties on the gimbal/camera, handle, battery charger and a 6 month warranty for the included battery itself.

Highlights

For starters, the OSMO is a great piece of video and phot stabilization technology. Since this is what it’s built for, this little declaration shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise but nonetheless, DJI did a great job at making the OSMO work great at its fundamental purpose. Thus, the gimbal and 3-axis stabilization should offer plenty of fun excitement to a lot of videographers and even photographers who need performance under rougher conditions in the field.

The gimbal on the OSMO uses the same basic mechanical principals as the gimbals of DJI’s drones to keep the camera level and pointing in a given direction as desired despite a wide degree of handle movement. With this in mind, a user can face in one direction and keep the camera shooting in that direction even as they move around. The same can be applied to a single specific focus point, such as your own face, in the camera’s “selfie mode”, while you walk and shoot with excellent stability. Of course, as our specs above show, the range of movement on the camera/gimbal is limited by physical design parameters but in comparison to the stability you could manage with ordinary hand-held cameras or even action cams like the GoPro Hero 4, the OSMO is a serious improvement.

The design of the OSMO is also great. This little rig is solid, tough and well-built with some great ergonomics while also being fairly light (the handle itself weighs only a nudge over 200 grams) and compact enough to fit in almost any kind of small backpack or similar carrying space. On the other hand, the OSMO is not a water-proof or even seriously splash-proof piece of hardware and thus isn’t the best device for more intensive outdoor action shooting environments. In this area, the GoPro Hero 4 beats it by a hefty durability margin.

Finally, we definitely like the combination of smartphone holder, WiFi connectivity and DJI Go app for your mobile device, which will let you control the OSMO to an even greater degree of precision while also giving you a view of what you’re seeing on the camera through your mobile device screen.

Check the Price of the DJI inspire 1 Professional Osmo Handheld HD 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal phantom 3 parts on Amazon:

4.1 - 5 Reviews

Overall Performance

On the whole, the OSMO gimbal is a well-designed piece of hardware and the video it produces is wonderfully smooth and stable, even under the massive resolution of cinematic 4K at 4096 x 2160 pixels and with zoom applied. Shooting under low light conditions isn’t as great as we’d like but action video and photo stills in decent lighting look wonderful.

Image Quality and Resolution

The images produced by the OSMO look very good though they lack some of the vibrancy and color range or high ISO clarity we’ve seen in a lot of other compact 4K/photo cameras. In other words, if you want superb photo stills, then go for a different device such as an actual full-bodied mirrorless or DSLR camera. However, if you’re looking for decent but not superb still shooting on an action camera, the OSMO performs at a level only slightly inferior to that of the GoPro Hero 4.

For 4K video, the same applies. There are some low light deficiencies to the quality of the vide produced by this recording rig and color isn’t as vibrant as we’d like but what the OSMO does really deliver and well is several grades of 4K and other UHD video along with very high frame rate Full HD video with an excellent degree of stability, smoothness and clarity. In other words, this is a solid piece of filed recording equipment even if it doesn’t offer the most aesthetically lovely level of footage quality.

On the other hand, if you want even greater video and photo shooting performance, you can also upgrade the OSMO's included Zenmuse X3 lens to a much more powerful Zenmuse X5.

Pricing

The DJI OSMO is currently selling on amazon.com for $649.00 for the complete basic package with a Zenmuse X3 camera/gimbal. There is also a “DJI OSMO Everything you need” bundle on sale for $908 with a number of additional accessories included in it.

Check the Price of the DJI inspire 1 Professional Osmo Handheld HD 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal phantom 3 parts on Amazon:

4.1 - 5 Reviews

Positives

• Wide range of video recording modes and resolutions
• Rock solid stability and handle flexibility
• Very easy to use
• Great video and photo quality for field use
• Highly ergonomic
• Smartphone app for extra controls and live video feed

Negatives

• Video and photo quality isn’t the best in low light
• Not waterproof
• Somewhat limited in its scope
• Weak battery life

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A-

 
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B+

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A-

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Bottom Line
 

The bottom line is that DJI has created a great Steadicam product with the OSMO and we highly recommend it for anyone who needs just this sort of shooting rig. However, if you’re not dead-set on a handheld Steadicam, feel free to just go for a full drone setup or a GoPro Hero 4 camera if you want a more robust and flexible field shooting experience.

Check the Price of the DJI inspire 1 Professional Osmo Handheld HD 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal phantom 3 parts on Amazon:

4.1 - 5 Reviews

 
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