We've already had our hands on the new DJI Osmo, a stabilised handheld 4K camera. Read our hands-on review.
Three axis gimbals seem to be the latest craze in digital video production, but DJI Osmo offers a slightly different proposition. It leverages the companies exitsing camera and stabilisation technology that is used in its class leading drones, and offers a consumer device that they claim will change the way we capture moving footage
The Osmo combines the DJI Zen Muse X3 camera with a handle that provides a battery and wifi connectivity. The result is a 4K camera with 3-axis stabilisation, all in a very portable and lightweight package. However, the Osmo has more than a few tricks up its sleeve.
As I said, as standard the Osmo uses the same Zen Muse X3 camera that has been developed for the Inspire 1 drone. It uses a Sony EXMOR 12-million-pixel, 1/2.3 inch sensor that is capable of recording video footage at a 4K resolution. There is also the option to record at 1080p at speeds of up to 120 fps for slow motion video.
The lens itself has a 94 degree field of view, which is the equivalent of around 20mm on a full frame DSLR.
The neat thing about the DJI Osmo is that it is compatible with all of DJI cameras for the Inspire 1 drone. This is exciting it means that the recent Zen Muse X5 and X5 Raw can be used with the Osmo. These two cameras have a Four Thirds sensor and a Micro Four Thirds mount, and DJI have told us that the Osmo can be used with the Zen Muse X5 cameras and the Olympus 12mm f/2 lens, as well as the DJI and Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 lenses.
With the Four Thirds sensor of the X5 8x larger than the sensor in the X3, it has a dynamic range of 13EV. Add to this the X5R is capable of capturing raw 4K video, and can also be used with the Osmo, which is a prospect that should really excite filmmakers.
There are a few caveats with using the X5 cameras. As the autofocus and aperture control of the lens are electronic, so must be changed via wifi on the app. Currently this isn’t possible, but the live view feed does work, as well as the image control. DJI assured me that they are working on full control of the aperture and focusing via the app, so watch this space.
It was also hinted during our meeting with DJI that they are looking at developing more cameras that would be compatible with the system.
The Osmo is controlled via the standard DJI app for Android and iOS, which it accesses via a wifi connection. Previously we have seen some very lagging connections between cameras and smartphones, but form our hands-on time with the product there seemed to be very little perceptible lag.
With the combination of movement control and image capture there are some pretty cool things that the Osmo can do. For example it has a 360 panromaic mode. Simply set the mode on your smartphone and press the shutter button and with the camera held steady and stabilised, the panning motor will rotate the camera around the axis taking 8 photos and stitching the together. However, this would appear to be just the start and DJI made it clear that they were looking at the other similar modes and ways that the Osmo could work.
By default the Osmo is set to stabilise and smooth out any movements, and it is set to a follow mode. This means that as you move the handgrip in a direction, the camera will also move, with the motors making sure any movements are smoothly made.
However, an advance settings mode within the app allows the speed and smoothness to be adjusted, just like on the companies Ronin stabilisation system. This opens up a number of possibilities for making the Osmo operate exactly as you want it. For example you could lock the tilt position of the camera, but keep the panning motor switched on, so the camera will remain level, but still follow side to side movements.
Currently there are two presets, fast and slow, that alter the speed of the movement, but if you have tweaked the settings to your preference it is possible to also save two custom settings, which can save a lot of time dialing in the settings for each of the three stabilisation motors.
Like other 3-axis brushless gimbal stabilises, the Osmo is powered by a battery in the handgrip. This enables around 60mins of 4k video capture and it takes around 60mins to be recharged. Usefully the batteries can be swapped out – they aren’t hard built in to the Osmo, so you can swap them out whilst in the field and continue recording.
Again, I was told that DJI is looking at a few options with regards to power to make things like longer timelapse sequences a possibility. A tripod with integrated power was said to be one option that is being looked at.
Having recently tested the Came-TV Single one of the fist things that struck me was just how light the Osmo is. With a camera and motors that are designed primarily for flight, it is extremely lightweight. Also the cylinidrical shape of the camera naturally works with the fact that the aim of the Osmo is to keep the camera steady and balanced on every axis. And, unlike other units where the camera isn’t specifically integrated in the design, there is no set-up time or balancing. Just twist the gimbal on, lock in place, and hit record.
In use, the handgrip is comfortable to hold, and the weight, or lack of it, means using the Osmo for a long period shouldn’t be an issue at all. If you do require additional support, then the cage that your smartphone sits in, on the side of the handle, actually uses a regular tripod accesory thread, so you can add an additional handle, tripod, monopod, clamp or articulated arm.
DJI have there own range of accessories for the Osmo which currently includes a tripod, extension rod, bike mount, universal mount and a straight arm extension. So if you want to add an arm to hold an LED light or an external microphone, then you can.
Speaking of audio, the Osmo has a built-in microphone, butalso an external microphone socket on the front of the handgrip.
The handgrip has a few other buttons, including, rather obviously, a video record start/stop button and a shutter button for the camera. On the front of the grip, in the trigger position, is a button that allows the camera position to be quickly switched. A quick double press of this button and the camera will reset itself to be level with the horizon, no matter what the position of the Osmo. Press it quickly three times and it will rotate through 180 degree to face you for those selfie or vlogging moments. It is a neat trick that makes the Osmo very easy to use. During my chat with DJI there was talk that they may introduce other similar features for this button as the product and software evolves.
Then there is the joystick. This little nub is reminiscent of the small cursor controls that you used to find on laptop computers. It sits just slightly raised from the surface of the Osmo, and by moving it using your thumb it is possible to position the camera. It is responsive to the pressure applied, so a slight push in one direction will move the camera more slowly.
Quite simply, the Osmo does exactly what is mean to do. It is easy to use, stabilises its X3 camera brilliantly, and the resulting footage looks fantastic.
Obviously it uses a smaller compact camera size sensor, so this will have its limitations in terms of dynamic range, but as an alternative to putting your phone or GoPro on a selfie stick and parading it around in front of you, it is certainly a far superior alternative that produces footage that has a cinematic feel.
As Michael Perry, Director of Communication at DJI, said to me,
The way we are thinking about it is that all those other systems are great for telling you what happened, but they don’t tell you what it was like. When you have stabilised video it is much more expressive, it is much more human as that is how you experience the world.
Of course there are other 3-axis gimbals on the market, and new ones seem to be popping up on an almost weekly basis right now. The DJI Osmo sits in a hybrid ground between the expensive systems designed for compact system cameras, and those for phones and action cameras.
The real difference is that integration of their own camera offers a lot more control over how the phone, camera and gimbal can interact and be used together, and that is what is going to make it stand out. And with an upgrade path with other cameras and accessories it is a system that should grow and develop.
We look forward to testing the device fully in the next few weeks and see just what the image quality is like.
UPDATE: DJI has just relvealed the pricing for the seperate components of the DJI Osmo
The DJI Osmo Handle kit (handle, battery, charger and phone holder) will cost £215 ($269 €299)
The Osmo Handle on its own will be £175 ($219 €239)
The camera itself, which is a version of the Zenmuse X3 camera, will cost £359 ($439 €479)