The corona crisis gives me some additional time to review something which cannot fly: The DJI Osmo Mobile 3, a camera gimbal for the smartphone.
Why do you need a gimbal?
As a drone pilot I have long since learned to appreciate camera gimbals: Gimbals are – to put it simply – small joints that compensate for movements and vibrations and stabilize the image optically. Meanwhile I also film much more often from the ground, either with a mobile phone or with a reflex camera. Keeping the camera really still is surprisingly difficult for me.
Nobody uses an old-fashioned camcorder anymore, but these devices had the advantage of being relatively heavy and had built-in image stabilizers. Mobile phones and digital cameras are much lighter and more compact, but video is rarely stabilized. The DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is designed to compensate for this and is smoothening your movements.
Features and handling of the Osmo Mobile 3
A big advantage of the Osmo 3 is the folding mechanism, which which means you can throw this little thing in your bag without noticing much. The gimbal is only 157 × 130 × 46 mm when folded, with a weight of 405 grams. The mechanism feels super solid. The gimbal itself looks pretty cheap to me at first because of all the plastic. But it is well made and plastics means less weight to carry around. The handle is rubberized and lies well in my hand.
The joystick allows you to rotate and tilt the camera. For right-handed people the controls are perfectly accessible. There is a slider on the left which is operated with the thumb of the right hand. If you hold the Osmo in your left hand, you can still reach the switch, but it is less comfortable.
The control of the gimbal works very well and intuitively. Switching between portrait and landscape format is extremely easy thanks to the “Quick Roll” function and even works while filming, if desired. However, I would advise you not to do so, nobody likes to watch videos with suddenly changing camera orientation 🙂
The app DJI Mimo
For the Osmo Mobile 3 you will not use the standard DJI Go app, but rather get a special Osmo app, which you can find under the name DJI Mimo. With this app you can connect, calibrate and control the gimbal with your smartphone. Pairing the gimbal with the app is done via Bluetooth with two clicks and only needs to be done once (per phone).
The Mimo app supports “intelligent” recording functions such as ActiveTrack, Hyperlapse and Motionlapse. Especially ActiveTrack works incredibly well. The application is simple: just “draw” a box on the screen over the object you want to keep in focus and the app does the rest. You can then move around the object and the gimbal keeps the focus on the object. Works great, except for very fast running children or dogs. There is a sport mode for the gimbal, which makes it adapt much faster, unfortunately the ActiveTrack function is not available in sport mode.
If you are a blogger you might like the gesture control of the app: you can put the camera on a tripod and take a picture or start the video with a single hand movement and the gimbal follows your movement.
Compatibility: Which smartphones can be use with the Osmo Mobile 3?
The Osmo Mobile 3 is able to carry pretty much all of today’s smartphone, for example the iPhone 11 Pro Max, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Samsung S9, HUAWEI Mate 10 to just name a few. However, it’s not all about the size: to connect to the gimbal, you need to have a device running OS 10.0 or later, or Android 4.1.2 or later. This means that some of the older iPhones might be out of luck.
The weak spot: What I miss on the Osmo Mobile 3
As an iOS user, I really like the complete Osmo package. However, if you are an Android user, you do not get access to all gimbal features. For example slow motion mode or filming at 60 fps is only possible with the iOS version of the app. It’s not the end of the world, however this is something to be aware of and you should check for yourself, if you are fine without it.
The competition: Other smartphone gimbals
There is quite some choice on the market for smartphone gimbals. Before I decided to order the DJI Osmo Mobile 3, I also had two other options on my list: The GoPro Karma Grip and the Zhiyun Smooth 4.
The GoPro Karma Grip is NOT a smartphone gimbal but of course perfectly designed for a GoPro camera, which I already own, so this was one option. The image stabilization and handling should be very good according to test reports, for example the GoPro can be switched on directly via the gimbal. However, the price of the GoPro Grip gimbal is almost 3 times of the DJI Osmo Mobile 3.
The Zhiyun Smooth 4 on the other hand costs about $109 which is about the same as a DJI Osmo Mobile 3 package. The overall ratings are very positive, even if you should always be a bit sceptical about a rather unknown Chinese brand. In the end I decided against the Zhiyun, because I don’t know the brand, unlike DJI, and because the Zhiyun Smooth 4 is explicitly not designed for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Had the DJI Osmo not been immediately available, I would still have tried the Zhiyun.
Price and availability of DJI Osmo Mobile 3
The Osmo Mobile 3 gimbal only costs $109, but as usual DJI also offers a Combo Package with additional accessories for $119. I had decided to go for the combo since it was only an additional 10 bucks and for that I got a stable transport box, a small tripod and a charging cable and wristband.