When it comes to handheld gimbals there is a world of choice and knowing which one to go for can be a daunting challenge.
First of all, I guess it would be helpful to understand why you might want to use a handheld stabiliser. Essentially they allow you to expand your filming style and you can easily add lots of production value to your footage, creating smooth and dynamic shots which would be previously have been impossible handheld. Most gimbals will give you either a 2-axis (pitch and roll) or 3-axis (yaw, pitch and roll) stabilization. While the 3-axis gimbals are usually a lot heavily (and more expensive) they do eliminate the bobbing / jelly motion sometimes found in 2-axis footage due to that 3rd motor absorbing any unwanted motion from the yaw.
Now being a keen vlogger and general social media junkie, I decided it was time to leave my wobbly, bobbing smartphone footage behind and take the DJI Osmo out for a spin.
While this wasn’t my first time seeing Osmo, I do have to admit that I’m always a little taken aback by its design. If there’s one thing DJI know how to do, it’s to produce good looking products, which has been proven by their range of drones. If you’re a first time user, you’d be forgiven for thinking the unusual styling might make for complicated or awkward use, but that shouldn’t be a reason to put you off! I actually find it just adds to its charm and once you get playing, it’s very intuitive.
Once I got Osmo in my hands, I discover it’s actually the ideal size and very ergonomic to hold. Weighing in at 422g it’s comfortable to use, and for a weakling like me, one handed operation is actually possible! On the side of the grip you’ll find the power switch, and once in hand the joystick control for the gimbal and record buttons are well placed for hands of all sizes. There is also a trigger located on the front of the grip, perfectly placed for index fingers which allows you with 1 tap to lock the gimbals position, 2 taps to level it back up and 3 taps to flip it all the way around to capture the perfect selfie.
One of my favourite things about the design is that it’s a modular system. Meaning you can swap out the Zenmuse X3 motorised gimbal and camera that comes as standard, for the more advanced X5 or X5R. These both then offer you a higher resolution along with the Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount, a convenient option if you already shoot Olympus or Panasonic.
But that’s enough about the design, let’s talk about image quality. The X3 is DJI’s base model and if you’re familiar with their drones, you’ll also be familiar with the fact that this is the same gimbal that comes on the Inspire 1. Housing a Sony Emor R CMOS ½.3” 12 megapixel sensor, Osmo allowed me to capture some fantastic 4k video at 25fps as well as having multiple frame rate options in full HD, including 120fps – Which I found perfect for capturing that atmospheric slo-mo that’s becoming so popular nowadays. With a 94 degree field of view (20mm equivalent), I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of distortion on the edges of the frame. A focus range of 1.5m – infinity gave me the freedom to capture a whole range of shots without my usual awkward timewasting of ‘is it actually in focus?’. The only slight disadvantage of this, is that if you wanted to utilise the ‘selfie’ mode, which is somewhat crucial to my style of vlogging, you’re going to need some mighty long arms to make certain that you’re sharp and in focus. Seeing as arm stretching isn’t a likely option, DJI did think of a solution. There is an optional stand available with a tripod thread on the base so you can either stand Osmo up or attach it to a tripod if you need the extra height.
When it comes to the audio recording I would suggest using an external microphone as the inbuilt mic will definitely pick up the cooling fan and motor vibrations. I opted for the Rode VideoMic attaching it to the smartphone cradle with the DJI universal mount. If I’m being honest, it made the device a little bit trickier to use, constantly trying to frame my shots without the edge of the shotgun microphone becoming visible but that’s just user technique that I’ll eventually pick up over time.
I feel it’s important to note that I found the set up process far easier than any other stabiliser I’ve used in the past and if you’ve used one of DJIs aerial platforms before, such as a Phantom, you’ll find it identical. If you’re connecting your smartphone to the DJI Go app (which I’d highly recommend) you get access to all of the cameras settings, controls and a speedy live view connection which I found incredibly responsive with no lag in display, making filming life that much easier.
After a day’s shooting, the only limitation I found was its battery life. Roughly getting about an hour’s recording time with one fully charged, it was definitely a good idea to pack the spares! The DJI Go app is also ridiculously power hungry, so it could also be worth carrying a power bank around with you too!
Well, it’s safe to say that I have fallen in love with Osmo. Not only is it incredibly easy to set up and use straight out of the box but it also enabled me to film in a way I had thought only previously possible with a professional jib rig set up.
If you head over to our YouTube channel you can see a compilation of some of the footage captured.