DJI Osmo Mo­bile

Tech Advisor - - Contents - Jim Martin

Smart­phone cam­eras get bet­ter each year and the very best are ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing ex­cel­lent pho­tos and videos. Some even have op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion, which gives much less jerky video when pan­ning or walk­ing. But none com­pares to mount­ing your phone in a three-axis gim­bal such as the DJI Osmo Mo­bile.

Just like the gim­bals on its drones (such as the Mavic Pro), the Osmo’s gim­bal is able to ro­tate in three axes and keep your phone point­ing in ex­actly the same di­rec­tion even while you walk around. It also elim­i­nates shaky hands and – once you’ve got the hang of us­ing it – can pro­duce cin­e­matic shots that peo­ple won’t be­lieve were taken on a phone.

De­sign

The Osmo Mo­bile works with iPhones and An­droid phones that are be­tween 58- and 85mm wide. To give that con­text, the iPhone 6 Plus (and the iPhone 7 Plus) are 80mm wide, so most phones with screens up to 5.7in should fit fine.

The lim­i­ta­tion to iOS and An­droid de­vices is sim­ply be­cause it re­quires you to use the DJI GO app, which is only avail­able on those plat­forms. And the need to use the app is down to the fact that this is what you’ll use to record video and pho­tos. Plus, without the app, you can’t use the Osmo’s but­tons to start and stop video record­ing, take a photo or use the trig­ger to keep the gim­bal in a cer­tain ori­en­ta­tion (it has other func­tions, too).

Without a phone, the Mo­bile weighs 501g. It can feel a lit­tle heavy for long ses­sions, but there are var­i­ous ac­ces­sories avail­able such as a base for ta­ble use (£7) and an ex­ten­sion pole (£43).

You’re not lim­ited to us­ing the Osmo up­right ei­ther. You can hold it hor­i­zon­tally like a torch, or even up­side down for a low point of view.

It talks to your phone via Blue­tooth and can be charged from a USB port, so can be charged on the move from a USB power bank. The bat­tery lasts up to 4.5 hours and you can buy spares for £38.

Build qual­ity is ex­cel­lent and there’s some ad­just­ment if your phone doesn’t bal­ance well in the mount. A large dial on the rear al­lows you to quickly clamp and un­clamp your phone, and rub­ber in­serts keep it tightly in place. We found we could use an iPhone in its case, though de­pend­ing on your hand­set and ex­act case, you might have to re­move it to use the Osmo.

Al­though the han­dle is in essence the same as the more ex­pen­sive ver­sions of the Osmo – it even has the same mount­ing point where a phone would nor­mally be at­tached as a viewfinder – the Zen­muse M1 gim­bal is not re­mov­able.

One of the ben­e­fits of the pricier Osmo mod­els is that you can re­move the gim­bal (and cam­era) and up­grade it in the fu­ture. In the­ory you shouldn’t need to do this with the Mo­bile ver­sion as you can use your new phone in it when you up­grade. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi ei­ther – just Blue­tooth.

Per­for­mance

The DJI GO app will be fa­mil­iar to any­one who owns one of DJI’s drones, but the in­ter­face is much sim­pler when you con­nect an Osmo, be­cause it’s re­ally just a cam­era app.

You can dive into the set­tings to cal­i­brate the gim­bal and minutely ad­just gim­bal roll to en­sure the hori­zon is level, and you can choose how the joy­stick works, re­vers­ing the di­rec­tion if the de­fault of up-totilt-up­wards isn’t in­tu­itive for you. You can also limit the gim­bal to mov­ing in only cer­tain di­rec­tions.

Us­ing the app you can also shoot time-lapse video and panorama. With the former, the gim­bal will smoothly (and very slowly) move be­tween two points, so it’s best to mount it rather than hold­ing it, and the lat­ter au­to­mat­i­cally ro­tates the phone and takes nine pho­tos and stitches them to­gether for a wide, high-res­o­lu­tion im­age.

It’s pos­si­ble to use your smart­phone in por­trait mode and take pho­tos (this works well with

Hold­ing down the trig­ger to keep the gim­bal in place is great for track­ing shots and with prac­tice re­ally makes it look like your phone was on a dolly

the panorama fea­ture), and a triple-press of the trig­ger but­ton puts it into selfie mode, where the rear of the phone faces you – this is be­cause the rear cam­era tends to take higher-qual­ity images. You can also use the sta­bil­i­sa­tion to take long-ex­po­sure pho­tos, al­though we didn’t get a chance to try that in our short time with the Mo­bile.

When we used it with an iPhone 7 at a wed­ding, it pro­duced won­der­fully smooth footage. We cer­tainly didn’t see any prob­lems due to Ap­ple’s hand­set hav­ing op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion of its own.

Plus, footage was con­sid­er­ably more sta­ble and cin­e­matic than when sim­ply hold­ing the phone in our hands and try­ing to be as smooth as pos­si­ble. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion is no sub­sti­tute for a proper gim­bal.

Of course, there are other tricks that make the Osmo worth the price (and the has­sle of us­ing it com­pared to just whip­ping your phone out of your pocket and shoot­ing). One of th­ese is Ac­tiveTrack, a fea­ture Phan­tom 4 own­ers will be fa­mil­iar with. You draw a rec­tan­gle around some­one (or just their face) and the Osmo will fol­low them and at­tempt to keep them cen­tred in the frame. This works well, un­til you move (or they move) too fast. It’s great if you’re film­ing some­one mak­ing a speech, but less so when you’re try­ing to film chil­dren run­ning around.

An­other ‘trick’ is to hold down the trig­ger to keep the gim­bal in place. This is great for track­ing shots and with prac­tice re­ally makes it look like your phone was on a dolly.

Ver­dict

The Osmo Mo­bile is per­fect if you use your phone to make home videos and want them to look more pro­fes­sional or for vlog­gers that want to do the same. It per­forms well and isn’t ridicu­lously ex­pen­sive, al­though if you al­ready have a phone with good op­ti­cal sta­bil­i­sa­tion you may not see a mas­sive im­prove­ment in some shots. Of course, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that video qual­ity is only as good as your phone’s cam­era.

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