DJI OSMO - First Tests

Our First Tests with the DJI OSMO

The DJI OSMO has started shipping, and we got our hands on one with an opportunity to do a few test shots over the weekend. 

At the moment the long and short of it is that it's pretty awesome, but in our initial tests it has some issues that have to be addressed. I should mention that this isn't a review of the OSMO. Rather it's just our observations about where it could fit into our professional and private lives along with some of our initial thoughts after testing it out.

As artists and filmmakers we are always looking for tools that make our job of creative storytelling easier. Since we film a lot of weddings and private events throughout the year we seek tools that allow us to stay as unobtrusive as possible. As soon as we saw the OSMO design we were confident that it could be a great tool for capturing steady footage on our projects in an unobtrusive manner so we bought in.

We are quite familiar with 3 Axis Gimbals as we have been using them for quite some time. We started with the DEFY G5 at it's initial offering, which worked well for the larger camera systems we were using at the time. However, as technology evolves the cameras are getting better, while the size of systems keeps shrinking. When we started working the Lumix GH4 for it's 4K capabilities, form factor, small lenses, and light weight the DEFY wasn't working out any longer as it performs best with heavier cameras, so we moved into the DJI Ronin-M.

For the past year the Ronin-M has been our go to system for steadicam footage and it's worked incredibly well. However, as with all larger systems they complicate assignments because it creates more gear to maintain, carry, and keep secure. Our initial thoughts were that the OSMO could change all of that.

Our OSMO arrived a day prior to a weekend in NYC where we would be filming and photographing a new fashion line I have been creating from my fine art paintings. So, it was a great opportunity to put it through the paces and figure out how far we could push this little unit.

The Zenmuse X3 Camera and Gimbal

The DJI X3, while not our camera of choice, actually managed to surprise us. The X3 performs much better than we expected from a camera with such a small chip. At ISO 800 noise is clearly present, but it isn't ugly by any means. I expected to get back and say "NO WAY" to using the extreme ISO footage, but it actually isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I can't see us using ISO 3200 on client assignments with the X3, however, there is no doubt I would use it as part of our stories here on Together In Style. We aren't looking to win an Emmy here, we are just telling stories, and the OSMO is just a format at the end of the day. 

The Zenmuse X5 Camera and Gimbal

We got the DJI X5 camera in from B&H only to learn that it didn't fit onto the OSMO. So, we researched the DJI site and saw in small print that an adapter is needed to make them work together. The adapter isn't available yet sadly, and an email from DJI stated that the firmware isn't ready either. So, here we were stuck with a $1600 camera that we couldn't use yet with no information about when the adapter would become available.

The OSMO Battery

The downside of the OSMO is the battery life. The OSMO battery life is supposed to give about an hour of record time, and we would say that is fairly accurate based on our walk around the city. It re-charges in about an hour as well, so it's manageable, but if you plan to do any extensive work you will need several batteries.

The Look of the Footage

We can't obviously speak for the X5, but the X3 footage was very sharp and similar in look to a goPro or other brands of action cams. There is no depth of field to speak of as everything is in focus due to the small chip size. However, we found the color to be superior to the goPro, and felt the footage was still a bit nicer as well. We can only expect that the X5 looks a gorgeous as other M/43 cameras. Had the adapter been available, we would have loved to see. We can say that the build of the X5 was impressive. It's quite heavier than the X3, which is why we assume it will be more of a drain on the battery. However, this is speculation on our part so take it with a grain of salt.

The OSMO Monitor / Phone Holder

One of the best parts of the OSMO is that you can use a mobile phone as a monitor and touch screen to control the device. Also, one of the worst parts of the OSMO is that you have to use a cell phone as a monitor. It's just one more thing to have to keep charged, and in a professional environment that isn't ideal. On the plus side, the iPhone / Android phone holder is very well engineered, solid, and sturdy. The best part is that it swivels with ease, which allows the camera operator to see the image regardless of angle. This is far superior to larger 3 Axis Gimbal scenarios in terms of seeing the shot at any angle taking some of the guess work out of filming.

The OSMO Grip

The OSMO Grip is comfortable to me, even when walking with the unit around the city for a couple of hours. All in all, the buttons performed as well as expected, and the handle felt as though it was well made.

The DJI GO APP (4K Didn't Work for us)

We own and pilot a DJI Phantom 3 professional, so the DJI GO App was very familiar and connected the the OSMO with ease. However, on our initial boot of the unit it wouldn't play back on the iPhone in real time. I went online and noticed there was a firmware update. After the update the lag time was gone and everything seemed to work fine. Then, once we started filming in NYC the 4K kept cutting out on us. I tried turning the phone off completely and rebooting thinking that might help. We still haven't resolved shooting in 4K on the OSMO. However, 2K and 1080p is working quite well. We can only assume this is a firmware issue, but we haven't been able to make 4K work with our iPhone 6.

OSMO Panoramic Photographs

One of the big surprises was how much fun still photography can be with the OSMO especially in regards to 180 and 360 degree panoramas. Simply hold the gimbal still, put it in 360 pano mode and the camera will do the rest taking several stable photographs from multiple angles and then stitching them together. It also transferred the Panos to our iPhone photos app automatically, which was a nice surprise. Since this happens automatically, this is the first WIFI enabled camera we've used that does this, and it makes sharing seamless. The DJI GO app is also brings in your videos, and you can edit them in very cool ways right in the app. You can even set your edit to music and share on social media since your phone is connected. I wish all cameras had this feature so seamlessly integrated. Hats off to DJI for putting efforts into the software side of things.

Summary...

All in all, we expect that the OSMO has incredible potential to impress once the bugs are cleared out of the system. We aren't being too hard on it, simply because even as is, the OSMO still impressed us. The price point is quite reasonable at $649 with the X3 camera, and it will make certain creative shots much easier to achieve. 

However, after sitting on the unit for a couple of days, we ended up sending the OSMO back for a refund along with the X5 camera. We loved the OSMO, but our fear is that the X5 will be an even bigger drain on the battery than the X3. An hour of shoot time isn't too bad, but compared to the Came-TV single which lasts 10 hours, it seems a little odd. 

We have ordered the Came-TV Single now to do some tests with that hoping it will bridge the gap. It will also allow us to use our Lumix GH4 systems and film with their beautiful and proven LOG profile. RAW is available on the X5R from DJI which hasn't become available as of yet. However the price point of the X5R at $5400 is simply too high considering a LOG profile on the GH4 comes in below $1300. While it's not RAW it's most certainly remarkable, and the next best thing.

The OSMO is a cool camera, at a good price point that produces some remarkably steady footage. It's a big step in the right direction. We just aren't sure it's ideal for our personal strategy at the moment considering battery life, and lack of LOG on the X3 and X5. While it was very tempting to keep the unit, we can't see us using it enough if the Came-TV single proves to bridge the gap. We will make sure to post on our experience once we get the Came-TV single in.

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Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.