Coming from a long string of camera UAV ‘drones’ I have spent a lot of time with many aerial view camera gimbals. Over the last few years there have been a selection of affordable handheld gimbals hitting the market and the one that caught my eye due to the well-respected DJI brand was the Osmo, more specifically the Osmo Mobile.
Before I go any further it may be worth answering the question: what is a camera ‘gimbal’? A gimbal is a device that will hold a camera, in this case a mobile phone, using three sophisticated motors, one each axis. The gyroscope and electronics are aware of the position of the camera and will instruct the motors holding the camera to keep it in a certain position regardless of the handle (or drone) position. This could also be referred to as an active stabiliser as the result is video images that are extremely smooth, level and free of judder or shake.
The Osmo Mobile fits into DJI’s now extensive range of image stabiliser devices, ranging from the expensive Zenmuse series, Ronin and onto the Osmo X3/X5 and now the Mobile. The Osmo Mobile (OM I’ll call it) is able to hold any normal sized smartphone. The clamp is easily adjustable and quick to lock the phone into the rubberised seat. I’ve been using an iPhone 7+ which I think is about as big as the device can hold. I was unable to easily use with the official Apple case so it’s about the limit on sizing. Fortunately this is about as big as a smartphone will be. It’s certainly not for the small tablet market.
I found this extremely simple to do. Everything was seamless start to finish. As is the case with DJI kit they have done a great deal of the hard work for you. This often means a premium on the cost but you pay for what you get to a certain extent.
Firstly you need to download the free DJI GO application from your App store of choice. Charge the batteries and insert the phone into the clamp on the OM. There is a second adjustment on the main arm of the OM, this is a simple slider to get the phone roughly balanced on that axis. This takes some of the physical work away from the gimbal motor and makes it more stable.
Fire up the OM and App, connect to the Osmo device following the simple steps and hey presto you’re up and running. The connection is Bluetooth from the Osmo to the Phone… on the iPhone at least I didn’t have to go into any settings at all, it just connected.
There are four controls on the OM, well five including the power switch! The main control being the thumb controlled ‘touch sensitive’ joystick. This operates camera movement as well as other functions. There is a camera shutter button (doubles as a kind of ‘enter’ button) and a separate video record button. Further to this there is a trigger that has some useful features.
The DJI App is essentially a second camera app on your phone. It is separate from the normal camera app and its controls. This means that there are a number of features in the app that may be absent or different from your normal camera functions. The standard features are there such as resolution selection and video/camera/time-lapse/slo-mo etc. You are also able to access some features that take the standard actions to a new level thanks to the OM system partly simplified by the ability to control with physical buttons as well as the touchscreen. The simplest probably being the able to Zoom with buttons (trigger hold + jog up/down).
Other key features on the camera are a high-resolution panoramic feature, motion time-lapse and adjustable shutter for long open shutter shots as you might access on a more sophisticated dedicated camera. Also being that this is a smartphone platform you are able to stream from the DJI App direct to Youtube etc, a handy blogger tool. The final party piece for the OM is the tracker function which will set the camera to follow a selected object.
Panoramic, time-lapse and tracker especially benefit from an additional stand (DJI one is about £10) or a tripod to hold the gimbal in a solid position.
The panoramic setting has three options; a 180degree and a 330degree where it takes a number of lateral photos and stitches them together. There is a third setting called 3×3 which is a grid of 9 pictures stitched together to make one huge high resolution picture. The stitching seems pretty good, it is apparent the more solid the system can be held in place then the better the joins.
Normal time-lapse is as you would expect on the camera with the added benefit that the camera is being held in a solid position. Many times I have been seen trying to balance the phone with books etc on a window sill to capture a sunset! Where it gets really interesting is using the motion time-lapse. You are able to set a number of start to finish points for the camera to point at then set your time-lapse duration and frames. The camera will then move very slowly from start to finish giving an interesting pan type shot combined with the time-lapse effect. Very cool.
The tracker feature is taken from the latest drone technology as seen on the later Phantom, Inspire and Mavic DJI drones. It allows you to select and area on the screen, say a person, and the camera will pan and follow that object. So, put the OM onto a stand, select an object and become part of the shot yourself… the gimbal will be the cameraman for the day.
The primary function of the Osmo is to provide a stable platform for your video camera to sit. This is the function for all camera gimbals and the OM certainly works as it should. Smooth and stable shots can easily be achieved. The standard setting of the device is to smoothly follow where you point the handle thus making moving ‘walking with camera’ shots incredibly fluid. With the action of the trigger button you are able to hold the camera on a position and move up/down, side to side enabling really dynamic shots without the judder. You are able to pan/tilt/zoom on the go with the trigger and joystick which with a small amount of practice you are able to achieve a plethora of interesting professional shots with just your mobile phone.
Being that this is for the phone in your pocket… there isn’t much competition yet. There are a number of other manufacturers such as Zhiyun-Tech and Feyiu but if brand reputation and experience in the market is anything to go by you are certainly in safe hands with DJI. There are of course a number of other gimbals that fit into a similar pricing but you need another dedicated camera on top. GOpro do their own and of course you could always go for the Osmo X3 or Pro focused X5 gimbal & camera combos. These are essentially the same system but with the 4K DJI cameras. They are priced accordingly based on camera quality. I should note here that there is also a GoPro attachment for the OM at about £20.
A quick Google search will bring up a number of other options & accessories.
For a reasonable amount of money you are able to turn any decent camera equipped smartphone into a very interesting camera platform. Being that you probably own one of these already the outlay for the Osmo Mobile gimbal at around £250 is a moderate sum in comparison to the competition. The solid name in DJI and an impressive feature set mean this is a perfect companion to the person that wants to take their phone photography to a new level. I wasn’t sure if it would just be a gimmick or not, it certainly is the latter as I’ve been very impressed with this bit of tech, it is a serious bit of kit.