DJI is probably still better known as the leading manufacturer of consumer and professional drones, but it’s also owned the portable gimbal marketplace for the past few years. The Osmo Mobile 2 and Osmo Pocket have dominated the sales statistics for stabilisation devices that fit in a small bag or larger pocket and yet still pack the technology to capture smooth footage that’s up to scratch for use in vlogs or other online video.
For those new to the space, the Osmo Mobile provides a stabilisation solution for smart phones – expand the clamp to slot in your iPhone or Android device to be used as both the camera and display – whereas the Osmo Pocket includes a built-in 4k camera which can be used standalone (with a very tiny integrated screen) or attached to a smartphone which then provides the display.
DJI certainly doesn’t like to rest on its laurels , and has just launched the third iteration of the Osmo Mobile since the product was released back in the fall of 2016.
As with previous versions, the Osmo Mobile 3 acts as an accessory for iPhones and Android smartphones and is designed to help record smoother, more professional- and cinematic-looking video, whilst also making it easier to capture more specialised shots such as timelapses and panoramas.
The Osmo app that gets installed on the smartphone (DJI Mimo – the same as the Pocket) has retained mostly the same feature set as before, aside from a number of new gestures controls, plus a revised shot guide that is aimed at enabling the creation of more engaging short-form videos (think Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat stories).
However, the biggest improvements lie in the Osmo Mobile 3‘s hardware which combines the most popular features from earlier versions with a dramatically re-engineered body.
I know from my ownership of the original Osmo Mobile (I skipped the second generation) that its bulk when not in use was a major deterrent to carrying the device on day trips or nights out. Whilst fine when carrying a backpack, it was too big for hand carry and wouldn’t even fit in most hand-bags. And if one was carrying a backpack for this purpose then it made more sense to grab the DSLR or mirrorless camera to capture those cinematic looks as well as retaining the benefits of interchangeable lenses and more advanced features. That was one of the reasons why I was so quick to order an Osmo Pocket on launch (selling the Osmo Mobile on eBay) as that device’s diminutive size and pocketable nature means its name really is accurate.
So what does this new iteration of the Osmo Mobile bring to the party that might make an Osmo Pocket owner like me think again?
The Osmo Mobile 3 features a folding arm that allows the device to take up significantly less room when not in use. In fact, when folded, the Osmo Mobile 3 is almost half the length of its predecessors. Whilst you are still unlikely to forget you’re carrying the gimbal, this change alone is enough to sell the device to many existing users.
In addition, DJI has redesigned the clamp that is used to attach the phone to the gimbal, switching from a horizontal grip to a new vertical mount. This allows the Osmo Mobile 3 to hold a wider range of phones and cleverly includes new anchors for attaching counterweights if larger or heavier devices require them.
Another change that will likely delight long-time users is that DJI has brought back the trigger on the gimbal’s handle (similar to that on the Ronin-S full-size gimbal), which had been removed from the second generation. This puts even more controls at one’s fingertips and reduces the need for navigating the app’s menus (which can often bring camera shake into the mix)
However, given this is 2019 and Instagram is continuing to grow marketshare for online video with its stories and IGTV offerings (both of which heavily promote the use of vertical format video), the biggest upgrade might be its ability to instantly switch from landscape to portrait modes by double tapping a button. The Osmo Mobile previously supported portrait video, but anytime a user wanted to change camera orientations, a dial on the back of the gimbal had to be manually adjusted – definitely not ideal for vloggers and others shooting on the run. The new feature will make this a much more useful device for those focused on Instragram, or else dual-recording for Instagram and YouTube.
Other notable improvements include a USB-C port for recharging the Osmo Mobile 3‘s internal battery (yay, finally!) and an auxiliary USB-A port that can be used to keep the phone topped up in use. An enhanced standby mode that’s enabled by pressing the M button three times now allows the gimbal to fold without being fully turned off, so the gimbal can go from compact travel mode to filming in just a few seconds.
Another new feature is the ability to use gestures to begin recording or take a photo, just like you can with the DJI Spark drone – this will be great when shooting pieces to camera and working alone.
To sweeten the deal further, the new Osmo Mobile 3 costs less than the outgoing model at £99 / $119 for the default configuration.
As is DJI’s way, there will also be an enhanced bundle at £119 / $139 that comes with a mini tripod that screws into the bottom of the Osmo Mobile 3 plus a carry case. Many will appreciate that the Osmo Mobile 3 accepts a standard 1/4-inch threaded screw instead of a proprietary mounting system, so if you already have a travel-friendly tripod (such as Manfrotto’s excellent Pixi EVO 2), then you don’t need DJI’s add-on stand.
For a device that was already the standout pick in its category, the Osmo Mobile 3 is super impressive. It’s builds on the great features of previous models, but then adds improved controls, and a more compact body; all combined with a price that’s lower than ever before.
So the million-dollar question… Would I trade my Osmo Pocket for the Osmo Mobile 3? It’s still a tough comparison to make. The new folding design is definitely a massive step forward, but its still a significantly larger and heavier device than the Osmo Pocket. That said, I feel that the functionality of the Osmo Mobile 3 is more accessible than the fiddly controls on the Osmo Pocket, and the continuing trend of ever-improving smartphone cameras means that being able to swap out the recording device whilst retaining the gimbal is an attractive option. Add this to the much smaller cost (£99 versus £329) and I think it’s probably time to make a switch back…
I’ll look to get a hands-on review of the Osmo Mobile 3 in the next few weeks (possibly on my upcoming trips to Belfast and Toronto) and let you know which direction I jump.