Following its release of a pocket-sized handheld camera late last year, DJI – the Shenzhen-based tech company best known for its drones – has recently launched its first action camera, the Osmo Action. While the new camera is a latecomer to the game, it should compete well with similar products, such as the GoPro.
Design and Hardware.The Osmo Action doesn’t stray too far from conventional action camera design – it is small, rectangular-shaped and made of rugged composite material that combines plastic and rubber.
It is waterproof, shockproof and, at 124g, can be easily mounted on top of helmets, skateboards or bicycle handlebars.
There’s a 12-megapixel fisheye lens with a wide 145-degree field of vision. All of this is standard fare for action cameras and is neither better nor worse than GoPro’s Hero 7 Black in any meaningful way.
There is, however, one stand-out feature: in addition to the main screen on the backside of the camera, there is a secondary front-facing display, which has never been offered before on an action camera.
Having a front-facing screen improves shooting selfie videos significantly as it allows the user to see precisely what they’re recording. It makes so much sense in today’s selfie-centric vlogger generation that, in hindsight, it’s baffling why GoPro has never thought of this before.
The camera has three hardware buttons – power, shutter, and mode switch – and a responsive main screen that supports swiping and tapping. The bright, 2.3-inch main screen is large enough to let the user easily tweak shooting modes and settings.
The camera runs on a relatively small 1,300mAh battery, which offers about 90 minutes of recording time, but it is removable, and thus, interchangeable. The footage is stored on a micro-SD card, which is not included with the camera.
Software.The Osmo Action can connect to DJI’s Mimo app, available on both iOS and Android, and once linked; the camera can be controlled remotely with a mobile device. However, the device’s touch screen interface is so intuitive that most reviewers found little need to sync up the app.
The camera can capture videos at a wide range of resolutions, from 720p up to 4K/60fps. Shooting in lower resolution, such as 1080p, allows the camera to bump the framerate up to 240fps, ideal for capturing fast-moving moments.
Performance.Electronic image stabilization (EIS) is crucial for action cameras as they’re meant to shoot on the move, so it’s just as well DJI has years of experience writing EIS algorithms for its high-flying drone cameras.
The camera’s EIS mode is called “Rock Steady,” and it can be activated with a couple of taps. The reason DJI gives the option to toggle EIS on or off is that there are trade-offs.
Footage with “Rock Steady” on have a slightly smaller field of vision (digital cropping is essential for EIS) and dynamic range suffers due to lack of HDR (high dynamic range). You should turn the mode off to get the best video quality and colors if you’re shooting with the device in a stationary position, but anytime you’re moving, turn it on as the difference in fluidity and stability is drastic.
Extreme sport participants who like to document their adventures used to have their options dominated by GoPros. At $349, DJI’s Osmo Action is offering a cheaper alternative to the GoPro’s Hero 7 Black at $420, and you get the front-facing second screen. Not surprisingly, GoPro has now reduced the price of the Hero 7 to $349! The Osmo Action may have just taken GoPro’s throne.
At $380, the Osmo Action initially seemed expensive for someone who might not participate in extreme sports and who has tested fully capable smartphones for around that same price range.