REVIEW : DJI Osmo +

 DJI OSMO + with 3.5x optical zoom 4K camera

DJI OSMO + with 3.5x optical zoom 4K camera

As we all look to add more video to our repertoire..wait you aren't?  Oh man, that's a problem because the only aspect of digital content creation that is growing in demand is video.  Anyhow, as we all look to add more video to our repertoire, the desire to do so easily and without a lot of heavy gear surrounding us is very important.  We don't want all our stuff to look like it was shot on a shaky cam after two pots of espresso.  The uniqueness of footage shot on ultra wide action cams is no longer unique and all the bending of straight lines is to be blunt, amateur night.

Not all video can be shot from a tripod.  I have shot FPV video with a GoPro attached to my motorcycle or my helmet, and the footage looks smoother, but it's all so very bendy because, let's be honest, the GoPro lens on my unit is pretty crappy.  I was going to replace it with a Sony ActionCam, but then Sony stopped doing any updates, which further convinced me that the whole action camera space was turning into a narrow dirt road to nowhere.  This led me to consider the  idea of handheld video, shot with a better lens and sensor, but in a stabilized platform.  I have seen other folks use their smartphones on the original OSMO, but I don't think much of the smartphone video quality from my aging iPhone 6+ and have no interest in spending more money when I mostly use the thing for email and shocker, phone calls.

I have done a fair bit of drone work, (with permits as I live in Canada where you really cannot fly anywhere without a permit at this point) and have been pleased with the quality of the DJI cameras, that are using predominantly Sony sensors, so when the opportunity arose, as often happens through the courtesy of local photo store manager Lindsey, I opted to go with an OSMO+.  This unit is an OSMO, but with DJI's own camera, X3 gimbal and a 3.5x optical zoom lens.  You still control it from your smartphone, but it uses a dedicated sensor to record the video.

Every year I attend motorcycle shows, and I've shot enough stills to realize that in the crushed show floor, that is horribly lit, the stills are frankly pretty lousy unless I bring a lighting rig.  Walking around carrying all that stuff for five hours or more isn't fun.  The OSMO+ is small, relatively light and should give me different perspectives, and be able to do stills as well as video.  Make sense?

I opened the device and got it set up.  It immediately wanted a firmware update which was very smooth with no cables needed..  It came with a 16GB MicroSD, so I replaced that with a 64GB one, just to be safe, fully charged the battery and had the iPhone on charge in the truck on the way to the show with my brother and his wife.  Marcia has been looking for a new bike for a bit and she is quite particular as to fit, leg reach, handlebar position and likes to have a record of the bikes that she checks out, and a show is a great way to hit multiple makers in a small space.

 The core kit is very complete, and you can be shooting as soon as the battery is charged and the controller app is on your phone

The core kit is very complete, and you can be shooting as soon as the battery is charged and the controller app is on your phone

Getting to the show, I unpacked the OSMO+ from its really nice carry case.  Setting up the smartphone frame is easy if you have two hands free, and the position locking rosette works well but is easy if you have small fingers.  I don't.

Connection to the smartphone was easy and immediate.  The DJI Go app works quite well.  Focus did not appear to be as good as I had hoped it would be.  While the camera said sharp focus was achieved using the tap to focus function, I found a lot of the footage soft watching the real time feed on the iPhone display.  However, the recorded product is very good, and the exposures were solid considering the horrible lighting.  I was shooting in the 4K UHD mode.  The built in audio is pretty lousy and the OSMO+ does come with a tiny external microphone with a big windscreen that is quite a bit better.  That said, I wasn't expecting broadcast quality audio from the device.  Editors will note that there is a really annoying "boop" when you stop recording.

It takes some time to learn to be stable when shooting the OSMO+.  The gimbal is very good indeed, but you still need to learn to move properly if you don't want wobble.  I also had to tune down the sensitivity of the camera movement controls because even a subtle touch of either pan or tilt created a very fast movement with a tendency to overshoot the desired stop point.  I got better over the course of the day.  There are three performance settings.  The default is medium but for my use, I found slow to be better.

 OSMO+ layout with the smartphone in the collapsible cradle

OSMO+ layout with the smartphone in the collapsible cradle

What I did learn, was that while the OSMO+ is lightweight, even with the phone in the cradle, it's awkward to carry around for a long time.  I ended up putting it away far sooner than I had hoped I would because it was always in the way when I wanted to get on a bike myself.   Moreover, while the gimbal is very good, you cannot let the unit swing from the wrist strap as the camera wanders all over the place and when you take it up again, you will have to recenter the camera.  A double press of the front trigger does this, when you remember that this is what it does.  Thus, I conclude that if all you are doing is shooting, this is pretty cool, but if you are also participating, it's a bit of a hassle.  I saw three other folks there with the original OSMO that uses the smartphone camera, but this was the only OSMO+ at the show when I was there.

There is of course a selfie mode, but I didn't try it, because I had no good reason to do so.  

The battery still had lots of power when the smartphone battery started complaining.  Sadly you cannot fit a plus version iPhone into the phone cradle if you have a Mophie Battery pack on it.  Your smartphone is going to limit your shoot time far more than the OSMO+ battery will.  The battery inserts into the base of the grip with a click lock and a latching door.  It's very convenient, but the latching door desperately needs a ¼-20 tripod mount if you want to use the thing as a vlogging camera because it will not stand on its own.  There are DJI accessories that I shall go into further on.

From the app perspective, it's important to note that there are many different DJI apps, and if you, like I, use multiple DJI products, you may need to download a different controlling app.  For the OSMO+ it is the DJI GO app.

Resolution

There are two primary things that drive me to recommend the OSMO+.  First it shoots stabilized 4K UHD at up to 30fps.  Second it also shoots 1080p at up to 120fps to enable beautiful slow motion footage in post.  What makes the OSMO+ so versatile is that is also shoots DCI 4K at 24fps and even 2.7K.  The stills are 12 megapixels.  There is a time-lapse option, as well as a 9 frame panoramic capability.

That 3.5x optical zoom in 4K is 7x optical zoom in 1080p.  The zoom is controlled easily from the smartphone app, no need to touch the camera itself.  The stabilization even allows for long exposure shots, but I'd suggest a tripod accessory or clamp to be safe.

The sensor is a Sony EXMOR R 1 / 2.3" unit.

Other Specifications

The OSMO+ has an ISO range of 100-3200 for video and 100-1600 for stills.  The lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at 22mm FF equivalent and f/5.2 at 77mm FF equivalent.  Shutter speeds range from 1/8000 to 8s, but can go to 30s in Manual mode.  When shooting stills you can get burst mode up to 7 frames per second.

The bus pushes files up to 60MB/s so watch your choice of card to ensure it can keep up.  Stills can be shot in JPEG or DNG RAW.  Video uses the MOV format and an AVC H.264 encoder.

The WiFi is both 2.4GHz and 5GHz capable and has a working range of 25m line of sight making the camera suitable for a remote placement with all movements controlled from the smartphone.

The Files

The files are about 4x larger than you might get from 1080p video.  An 18 second walk around clip of a Suzuki Hayabusa had a native file size of 132MB.  That's quite a bit less than you will see with a larger sensored 4K camera with greater bit depth like a Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro. It's a fairly low bandwidth stream and the relatively small sensor does what small sensors do well, lots of depth of field and decent imaging.  You aren't shooting a cinematic masterpiece on this thing, but I think it is perfectly suitable for B roll or as mentioned, vlogging.  For a vlog, I might be inclined to shoot in 1080p to help the content stream more efficiently for folks on slower links, although for my use cases, I would shoot in 4K and downgrade after editing to 1080p for publishing as I don't have need for a lot of slow motion.

 Here you can see how the smartphone cradle attaches to the OSMO with the rosette mount.  This mount can be used for other accessories as well

Here you can see how the smartphone cradle attaches to the OSMO with the rosette mount.  This mount can be used for other accessories as well

Accessories

DJI makes a number of accessories for the OSMO and OSMO+ products.  They are not all well described and many vendors create "soft" bundles that can sometimes be confusing.  A "soft" bundle, for the uninitiated, is basically a single SKU that combines multiple separately packaged products that are put together at time of sale, rather than coming together in a single package.

The Z-Axis arm allows you to change the spatial relationship between the gimbal unit and the power handle to reduce vertical motion when operating the OSMO+ while you are walking.  I see this as very useful for anyone who has not learned to walk while using a stabilizer.

The Stick allows you to separate the gimbal unit and the power handle like a selfie stick would.

The Tripod allows you, in conjunction with the Stick, to fit the OSMO+ to a small leg set for stability.

The Chest Mount allows you to strap the OSMO+ to your chest, very much like the better known GoPro Chest Strap for GoPro cameras.  Do note, that this does not relocate the power handle and so the physical size of the OSMO+ does not change.

There is also a bike mount to mount the unit to a handlebar.  Documentation is pretty limited and I have seen many demo videos that look horrible and one that looked amazing.  It's clear that the mount must be vertical, to usability on a motorcycle handlebar is questionable.  The unit clamps to the handlebar and holds the OSMO+ by screwing into the rosette.

The universal mount uses the rosette and provides what is effectively a small cheese plate to attach other accessories such as small lights, or other microphones.  Using this tool, you will need to find another way to deal with your smartphone since it replaces the smartphone mount.

You can add an additional adapter to the universal mount to provide you with ¼-20 or ⅜-16 mount points.  The adapter requires the universal mount.

There is a plastic base for tabletop use.  This is very inexpensive and would be a requirement i think for vloggers.

The extension arm is basically a rosette extension, that gives you three rosette connection points instead of just one.  

There's even a three suction cup based car mount adapter for those brave enough to try it.

I'm quite impressed with the number and usability of the accessories that are available.  The attitude seems similar to the old GoPro attitude of making a lot of use case specific accessories and pricing them very attractively so buyers get more use from their OSMO or OSMO+

In Closing

Most resellers have an assortment of "soft" bundles that give you the OSMO + as well as select accessories at a bundle price.  Think about the accessories that you would use and see if an appropriate soft bundle exists.  

While I had no issues with the battery, I always recommend a spare battery as a matter of course, and also suggest a spare memory card.  The OSMO+ is not pushing a lot of bandwidth demand even at 4K 30fps, but MicroSD cards are so inexpensive these days it pays you long term for the fastest and largest card that you can afford.  If your card reader does not handle MicroSD, don't forget a card adapter.

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