DJI Osmo+ Gimbal Review

Pocketable cameras make it easy to stick a camera on a drone or a surfboard, but there’s one problem with those point-of-view videos: stabilization. Without anything to keep the shot steady, those POV videos will make you even more seasick then the surfer riding those giant swells. Enter the pocketable gimbal. The DJI Osmo+ is designed to keep shots steady without sacrificing all of that portability — and it’s the first handheld gimbal and camera combo to include optical zoom.

The $650 price point to the Osmo+ is where pro-level gimbals start, but DJI includes both the gimbal and a camera at that price point — the same Zenmuse X3 zoom that the company uses on some of its camera drones. The gimbal is a good option for consumer videography without the shake and without the tripod, while the 4K video and 3× optical zoom mean top notch video quality worthy of your best shots. Unfortunately, the gimbal had us off to a shaky start (pardon the pun) with a few usability quirks.

Controlling the Camera

Like other screen-free cameras, adjusting the controls on the DJI Osmo+ means relying largely on a smartphone app, called DJI Go. DJI makes it easy to manage both the app and the gimbal’s physical controls at once by including a smartphone mount on the side of the gimbal.

The gimbal isn’t completely powerless without the app, however, and the easiest way to operate it is the built-in controls. At the back of the grip where the index finger rests is a trigger; holding it activates the gimbal and counteracts any motion to keep the footage steady. Opposite the trigger, at the front of the grip, a large round joystick allows you to adjust the position of the camera. The remaining tools are a record button for video, a shutter release for stills, an on-off switch, and two locks to keep the gimbal in place for storage.

Connecting the Osmo+ to an iPhone 7 was a bit of a headache (it’s worth noting that we’ve had this issue with several phones from different brands). The gimbal would link but wouldn’t show a preview, and it kept dropping the connection. At the suggestion of a DJI representative, we turned Bluetooth off on the iPhone and didn’t have any further connectivity issues. Why the camera won’t connect through Wi-Fi while Bluetooth is active remains an open question, but it was easy to fix. Our DJI Osmo+ came via a complimentary rental from Lensrentals, and the website informed us at checkout that other users have complained of connectivity issues as well.

The Osmo+ gimbal creates smooth footage without being grounded by a tripod.

While there are a handful of physical controls, adjusting the gimbals settings is done entirely in-app. Choosing the gimbal mode and re-centering the camera, for example, are inside the gimbal menu of the app. The camera menu organizes different controls for the camera, including manual exposure options (shutter priority mode and full manual mode) and video quality. Previewing the shot is also done in-app, since the camera doesn’t have a screen.

The mix of smartphone controls and physical controls is decent and makes it fairly easy to learn to operate the camera. Controlling the camera’s zoom would have been a nice option for one more physical control, since adjusting zoom requires one hand on the camera and one hand pinching the touchscreen.

Despite some of the gimbal’s more advanced options, the Osmo+ is still pretty lightweight — we used it until the battery died (just under an hour) without getting tired. The build is lightweight, and the grip and location of the controls is comfortable.

Steady shooter

Overall, the Osmo+ gimbal creates smooth footage without being grounded by a tripod. The footage is smooth using a normal gait, but with a slight up and down movement to match your steps. That effect is sometimes desired to add a feeling of motion to a shot, but if that’s not what you’re going for, you’ll need to master the ninja walk.

Used handheld inside a boat, waves were no problem for the Osmo. If it wasn’t for the up and down tip of the boat in the resultant footage, it’s hard to tell that we were moving at all.

DJI Osmo+ Gimbal Review
Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends
Hillary Grigonis/Digital Trends

While the Osmo+ does an excellent job keeping shots smooth, the orientation lock didn’t work on our model. If we turned while walking down a path, the gimbal would keep the camera facing the original direction; it took the joystick to move the camera’s position back to the front. Switching the orientation lock on and off in the app didn’t change the way the gimbal responded to a turn, so we couldn’t find a way to tell it to keep shots steady but to turn with the operator.

The joystick to control the orientation of the camera is also a bit fast — the effect is a bit much if used while recording. We would have preferred a slower motion from the joystick controls (or a less sensitive joystick).

Image and Video Quality

The DJI Osmo+ is paired with the Zenmuse X3, DJI’s first camera to include optical zoom. Video quality is excellent for a camera at this price point: While the gimbal keeps shots smooth, the camera creates accurate colors and generally sharp shots.

4K video at 30 fps is available, or 1080p at 60 fps. Both MP4 and MOV formats are available. While the video quality is nice, the camera isn’t designed for long shoots. In 4K, clips will be divided into segments about 8 or 9 minutes long. In HD, the gimbal can record longer, since the smaller files reach the 4GB limit later, but shots are still limited to under 20 minutes. That’s because camera is designed to live on a drone with a 20-minute battery life, not to record entire soccer games or concerts.

Designed originally to mount on a drone, the camera also isn’t designed for long shoots but for shorter clips.

Audio is a bit lower than average; sounds are somewhat muted and distant ones often aren’t picked up at all. Moving quickly, like on a boat or a car, the camera will catch a lot of wind noise, though that’s rather expected. Shooting in quiet environments, I could also hear a few clicking noises as the gimbal corrected the motion, and in one clip I heard the beep that the camera makes when ending a recording.

While the price point is in the consumer range, the camera includes a number of more advanced controls. There are manual exposure settings, for example, as well as simpler fixes like exposure compensation.

The gimbal-camera duo also includes a few extra features — the camera can use the gimbal to take a panorama all the way out to 360 degrees. The app shows the stitched panorama preview in-app, but unfortunately, the photos are saved individually on the Micro SD card and require manually stitching from there. Time lapse options and selfie controls are also included.

We were happy with the quality of shots both from the stabilization and the Zenmuse camera. Consumers need to be fore-warned though, that the camera isn’t designed for long shoots. Adding an external recorder ($65) will also boost the footage from the Osmo+.

Conclusion

The DJI Osmo+ creates excellent, steady footage considering the $650 price point includes both the camera and the gimbal. The system is compact and easy to use once connected via Wi-Fi. Extra features including panoramas, zoom manual controls, and time lapses offer a wide range of creative possibilities. Despite the list of features, the gimbal is lightweight and comfortable to use.

It’s not all good news, however. The Osmo+ does have some commonly reported connectivity issues, and while easy to fix, it’s something we hope the company addresses. Issues with the orientation lock also bugged us a bit, and the joystick controls panned the camera a bit too fast for our taste. Designed originally to mount on a drone, the camera also isn’t designed for long shoots but for shorter clips.

Still, the DJI Osmo+ handheld gimbal is fun to use for creating excellent videos without the shake —there’s just a few bumps in usability along the way. The DJI Osmo+ gimbal retails for $650 for the handheld version with a handle and smartphone mount. Skipping the handheld options and controls, the drone-mounted-only gimbal with camera retails for $459.

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