Based on the gimbal and camera system of DJI’s $3,000 Inspire 1 quadcopter, the Osmo is the company’s first handheld camera solution, and, as a bonus, it gives video the same feel and buttery smoothness as a drone. At dimensions of 2.4×1.9×6.4 inches and a weight of only 221 grams (base model; it’s a bit more than a pound with all attachments), the Osmo is extremely portable, even including a tailored case for travel.
The three supported axes give you tilt (- 35° to +135°), roll (+/-30º) and yaw (+/- 320º) for even-handed swivel, with pitch available at up to 120º a second for insanely fast, yet extremely level panning. As it does with their flight-capable systems, the DJI GO app for iOS and Android provides controls for gimbal changes and settings. This is the only way to access many of these controls on the Osmo, as there’s no monitor, but WiFi communication will stream a live video feed to a nearby phone (82 feet), which is then recorded as an HD proxy on your phone for review and initial edit choices. A 116x30x34mm phone mount will extend from the Osmo handgrip to accommodate even the largest phones like an iPhone 6s Plus.
The Osmo handle mount houses a pistol grip with trigger, as well as a thumb-control joystick on the rear. A single tap on the trigger locks the camera down for controlling movements, while two taps secures the camera into place on the handle so it will point in the direction that you’re moving without capturing any shake. Useful for bloggers and interviews, there’s also a three-tap “selfie” mode that automatically turns the camera 180º to view the holder. The joystick can be used to maneuver the Osmo’s camera head, and the handle also can be held ergonomically in flashlight, low-to-the-ground or swivel mode.
For anyone looking for a drone system or for those who already own an Inspire 1, the Osmo is a no-brainer. The X3 camera system of the Inspire 1 (model FC350) can be used on the Osmo hand mount, which is also available at less than $300 as an Osmo handle kit, so you can go both handheld and aerial without needing to purchase the full camera solution version of the Osmo. You can’t use the Osmo’s native X3 camera (model X3/FC350H) on the Inspire 1, however. Though it does seem to have the exact same specifications on paper, DJI says there are several mechanical differences between the two cameras.
DJI is actively going after the GoPro market with the Osmo; however, it’s not waterproof or shockproof. Regardless, there’s a huge variety of mounts and rigging gear for everything from bikes to tripods to vehicles. A Universal Mount is also available for adding a microphone or light, ideal as the onboard stereo mic easily picks up the internal fan and gimbal sounds to the point where it even ruins ambient capture. A 3.5mm jack is housed on the Osmo, which, of course, doesn’t power external mics, and it won’t work with professionally balanced XLR options. DJI says the Osmo will last for 60 minutes on a single 980 mAh battery charge and up to six hours in stand-by. It takes an hour to charge the batteries; currently, extra batteries are only for sale on preorder.
File formats are captured in MP4/MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) with a max bit-rate of 60 Mbps. The Osmo includes a 16 GB MicroSD and will work with up to 64 GB cards. At 60 Mbps, 4K video eats up a 16 GB card in roughly 30 minutes. Also, thanks to such a small sensor, the ISO is an abysmal 100-3200 with video and even less for photos at a range of up to ISO 1600. Keep in mind that with the native Zenmuse X3 camera, the Osmo is capturing 4K to a diminutive 1/2.3” Sony Exmor R CMOS 12.4-megapixel sensor. In contrast to the more fisheye feel of most action cams, the nine-layer lens on the Osmo is a 20mm in 35mm equivalence, with a very non-barreling 94° field of view at ƒ/2.8, though with the 1/2.3” sensor, that translates to an ƒ-stop of ƒ/15.8.
The camera is still very versatile for its price, however. Frame rates are available in full 4K at 24/25 fps while UHD and 2.7K also offer 30 fps. High-definition frame rates in 1080/720 clock in at fps of 24/25/30/48/50/60p alongside a special slow-motion rate of 120 fps in 1080p. Optionally, the Micro Four Thirds-based X5 and X5R (which adds RAW video capability and is soon to be available) cameras are also compatible through a separate adapter. Both X5 cameras are capable of 16-megapixel stills, much better light sensitivity, and the same resolutions and frame rates on a sensor about eight times bigger than that of the X3.
Time-lapse and interval shooting are also offered, though specs aren’t available on that. The camera includes a few supplemental features, as well, such as an automatic 360º panorama mode, long-exposure photos at up to two seconds, photo bursting in 3/5/7 fps and auto-exposure bracketing at 3/5 bracketed frames with 0.7 EV bias. ND8 and ND16 filters can be purchased separately.
While the Osmo system definitely has its downsides, at the same price point as a low-level stabilization system from Steadicam or Glidecam, you’re gaining a very capable camera that also can capture full 4K. While the specs don’t necessarily make it a good choice for an A-cam, by any means, the Osmo is certainly better in many ways than a GoPro or alternative action camera, especially as there aren’t too many live-view systems available with such hefty stabilization at this pricing at all. No doubt the next iteration will be even better. In comparison, DJI’s latest Phantom 3 4K quadcopter is literally miles ahead of the first Phantom release.
List Price: $649 (DJI Osmo); $2,199 (Zenmuse X5 camera; requires an adapter not yet available).
Visit the DJI website at dji.com.