Review: DJI Osmo Mobile

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 13 Comments

Before setting off for CES, Paul and I were looking for a way to produce higher-quality video without the need for lugging around a huge camera. Our search landed us with the DJI Osmo Mobile; a device that is a gimble for your phone.

There were several things that made the Osmo Mobile fit our needs, for one, it is quite small. It’s essentially a really smart selfie-stick but one that has a gyroscope built in that keeps your phone level when holding it. In short, what this allows you to do is to put your phone into the holder and then record smooth video that doesn’t have the ‘bounce’ when you walk or try to record videos with just your hands.

The device, which has a starting price of $299, can easily climb north of that once you add a few accessories. You mount your phone using the knob on the back which tightens a clamp on to your phone and then you turn the device on. The device will self-level but the first time you do use it, you are required to walk through an onboarding-calibration that helps adjust the balance of the Osmo.

There is an app that you can use that has a few neat features. There are the standard movie modes and you can adjust the framerate and resolution and also the ability to record time-lapse movies as well. But, the shining feature of this device is a ‘follow’ mode where you can draw a box around your face and the camera will follow as you move the stick around; it helps for making steady-shot movies by yourself.

I used the follow feature at beginning of our behind the scenes of CES movie (you can view it here) and it works quite well. It’s not perfect but as long as you are not running around or turning the camera rapidly, it makes it easy to keep your head in-frame while recording video.

The device is far from perfect and it does have some notable shortcomings that you need to be aware before purchasing.

First and foremost, if your phone has optical image stabilization (OIS) built into the lens (like iPhone 7 and many newer Androids) there is a big problem. When using the gimbal, it attempts to balance your phone and keep it level, OIS in the lens attempts to do this as well and what happens is that these two-stabilization mechanism fight against each other and this can result in a slight wobble to your video. To overcome this, you either need a phone without OIS (I took an iPhone 6 and Nexus 5x to CES) or disable the OIS on your phone if that’s an option.

Other issues include the fact that you charge the device with a 3.5mm headphone jack-to-USB cable, it’s quite odd. And the battery life is only stated at around 4hrs, which is roughly accurate based on my usage, so I did purchase two extra batteries and an external charger. And finally, if your phone has volume or power buttons where the clamp is on the Osmo, if you screw it down too tight it can activate these buttons (had this happen a few times with the 5x).

The DJI app is average, it’s not spectacular and one issue I had was that with the Nexus 5X, it crashed, a lot. The app worked much better on my iPhone 6 but honestly, most of the recording was done using the stock camera app on both phones which is the real benefit of this device.

Cameras on our phones are becoming quite good and this is why I bought Osmo Mobile. The gimbal is only for stabilization and every year when I get a new phone, I am able to upgrade the glass used to record our videos. Further, because it is a phone, I can then use Onedrive to transfer the content to my PC without the need to plug it into my laptop.

Check out the video above for more information and a few samples of the kinds of videos you can create with the Osmo Mobile.

The questions is if you should buy this or not. If you are okay with the shortcomings, namely the OIS issue, then this is a great tool and was immensely helpful at CES. The fact that I could use my older phones is a benefit too as I didn’t have to drain the battery on my primary device while recording which is another benefit.

The Osmo Mobile is certainly a good device but far from perfect; before you buy it, make sure to evaluate all the pros and cons thoroughly because some of the known issues can be a deal-breaker.

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