DJI has been pushing the boundaries of camera stabilization technology for some time now, and their latest product, the OSMO, does so in a both fascinating and sometimes frustrating way. The OSMO effectively fills a niche in the market for a small, stabilized camera that can be easily used to get good looking B-Roll.
Build Quality and Menu Layout
The OSMO is solidly built, can be operated by left or right hand (though most likely by using your right hand due to screen position) and provides good overall ergonomics for use in the field. There are only a few buttons at the top of the handle that you have to worry about as most of the controls are found in DJI’s GO app. You connect the OSMO to a smartphone and view the image being captured via a direct WIFI connection generated from the OSMO. The smartphone sits securely in a solidly built cradle that folds out from the OSMO handle. It can easily be adjusted to fit most smartphones, even up to an iPhone six plus without a case on it.
Setting up the OSMO with a phone can be tricky if there are a lot of WIFI signals around. On a recent shoot in a location that had around 10 different WIFI connections in the building, I was able to get my iPhone 6 to find the OSMO without difficulty initially, however upon powering it down to save on the battery and trying to connect later, I found it took several minutes for the phone to find the WIFI from the OSMO. By going closer to the entrance of the building and being around less WIFI signals, the iPhone found the OSMO WIFI signal faster. Once the smartphone is connected to the OSMO, there doesn’t seem to be any issue with interference or drop outs. Whether this inability to quickly find the OSMO WIFI signal in congested WIFI areas is an iOS issue or an OSMO issue, it’s hard to tell.
The DJI GO app offers all of the needed functions for adjusting and updating the OSMO. You can adjust the speed at which it rotates with the thumb pad, select from a variety of frame rates and resolutions up to 4K. DJI’s most recent firmware update adds significant features to the OSMO via the DJI GO app such as: being able to power off and enter a sleep mode via the DJI GO App (hopefully this eliminates having to reconnect via WIFI each time), exposure parameters that you can adjust while recording, audible prompts when updating the firmware.
USING THE OSMO IN PRODUCTION
We’ve used the OSMO now on a couple of commercial shoots, mainly for B-Roll. One thing we instantly liked is that setup is super quick (barring WIFI interference), taking no more than a minute. There is no camera pre-balancing that needs to take place. You simply unlock the camera by twisting it from the locked positions on it’s three axis and you’re ready to go once connected to your smart phone.
The camera on the OSMO does have a fixed field of view and if you get too close to something you’ll get a wide angle type of distortion. Stay back about two to three feet and it looks fine. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll quickly see every doorway, divider, or screen as something to do a reveal from. Focusing can be done via the phone, but in general it does a great job of auto detecting what you’re filming and keeping it in focus.
It does take some time to get comfortable filming with the OSMO. You will probably notice the camera drifting a bit when you first start working with it. You can and should calibrate the camera in the DJI GO app. This allows it to quickly reset the gyro’s and balance out to the horizon to make sure things are even.
Battery life is decent at about 25-35 minutes. If you know you’re going to be shooting for a day, it’s good to get two or three more batteries. It comes with a charger so you can easily have a battery charging while you shoot with another. Three should be enough to allow you to always have one in the camera and one on the charger going as needed. The battery is inserted into the handle of the OSMO, so you don’t have to remove the smartphone to make a switch out to a new battery.
The footage is recorded to both a micro SD card inside the OSMO and to your smart phone at the same time. You can quickly review footage with a client right from your phone, as well as, edit or share it as needed. This is really handy compared to using a camera on a gimbal system where you’d have to have an operator set down the camera, put it into media mode, and then review the clips either on the gimbal rig or via wireless transmitter to a client monitor.
Again, it’s important to remember that you’re viewing the image you capture via a smartphone which means effectively your phone can act as a wireless HD transmitter to some degree. This means it’s fairly easy to let someone operate the OSMO (blind) while the phone is held by a second operator who adjusts the settings. This works great for situations where there’s a lot going on around the operator or they have to navigate obstacles. An example would be a recent music video shoot we did that had choreographed dancers and stairs. One person followed the dancers and managed the stairs, while a second person operated the controls of the OSMO.
Another thing worth mentioning is the case. The small hardshell case fits the OSMO and the smartphone cradle. There isn’t room for any additional batteries or charger, but it is a well built case. It almost looks a bit like a musical instrument case which can come in handy if you prefer not to have people know you’re carrying around a camera.
Suitable Types of Production for the OSMO
Like any camera technology, there are certain areas where the OSMO really excels and other areas where it’s just not the right tool for the job. Types of productions we see the OSMO being great at:
- Product Videos where you want to move around an object.
- Real-Estate Videos or Walkthroughs
- Some action material from a steady vehicle.
- General B-Roll in dynamic situations where there are people or objects moving around. (classrooms, conventions, factories, sporting events, concerts, etc.)
- Music Videos
- Travel Videos
- Weddings or Events
- B or C Cam for interviews provided you use a LAV. (fan noise can be an issue, so something to be aware of and test.)
One of the quirks of the OSMO is that it requires a smartphone to be able to view what the camera is seeing as well as make adjustments to critical parameters such as white balance, aperture, and ISO. This also means that the quality of the screen on your phone plays a integral part in how you interpret things like focus and exposure. It also means you need to make sure you have a phone that is fully charged. You may have multiple batteries for the OSMO, but you’ll need some kind of battery set up for your phone as well if you want to shoot with the OSMO for several hours.
HOW DOES THE FOOTAGE LOOK?
Overall we’ve been extremely pleased with the footage out of the OSMO. Like all small sensor cameras it has issues with low light, so keeping the ISO down will always help to achieve a cleaner looking image. The footage in general is clean, sharp, and easy to match with a C100 or C300. You can grade it a little bit, but you won’t be stretching it too far in post so getting proper exposure in production is crucial. There is a setting via the DJI Go app that allows for a type of LOG mode so the image is flatter, but the limitations of the camera sensor aren’t going to make this a standout feature.
Aside from the quality of the footage, there is also the aspect of whether it is fluid from having been moving around while you filmed. In general the OSMO footage is very smooth. You do have to be careful how your arm is positioned when holding the OSMO to avoid getting a bobbing up and down result if you’re walking quickly. Bending your arm slightly and letting the shoulder and elbow work as natural stabilizers works much better than holding the OSMO with a straight arm. You can always run a little stabilization on it in post which we honestly do with MOVI or Ronin material as well most of the time.
UPGRADES and UPDATES
DJI was extremely smart in enabling a future upgrade path for the OSMO. The camera can be easily unlocked from the base handle and newer cameras attached. With the release of the Zenmuse X5R which is a micro four thirds camera, you can quickly upgrade to 4K RAW up to 30 FPS. This can give you up to 13 stops of dynamic range (real world testing results might show it to be a bit less), and produce footage that is much more gradable. This is a great option to have and makes investing in an OSMO even simpler decision as it means you’re not locked out of future upgrade possibilities.
- Quick to set up (easy if there isn’t a ton of WIFI around).
- Clean image that is overall smooth.
- Simple onboard controls
- Ability to remotely view camera sensor and make adjustments
- Good ergonomics
- Lite weight
- Can easily review footage on smartphone
- Upgradeable to other camera set-ups
- Hardshell carrying case
- Needs a smart phone to view screen at all times
- Fan noise can be loud (but with update it now shuts off during record on X3 Camera)
- WIFI interference can potentially delay setup
- Battery life is okay, but not great. (25-35 minutes)
- Need a clearer way of seeing when the OSMO is recording
Here’s a video that has an abundance of OSMO footage both with the X3 and X5 Camera.
The OSMO works great for a lot of our simple shoots and adds an element of enhanced production value for our clients. It can be upgraded further down the road as necessary and DJI continue to add features and refine performance with updates to the DJI GO app. Overall it’s a very solid camera/stabalizer system for commercial use on small and medium budget projects. For higher end budgets, we’d still spec out a Ronin system, but would certainly have the OSMO on set as well for additional material. The OSMO isn’t an industry game changer, nor is it a revolution in gimbal technology. However it is a perfect hybrid for getting quality footage that will enhance your overall production time and again.