Review: DJI Osmo Action
DJI, the company behind some of the worlds best drones and gimbals are back with something new, the DJI Osmo Action, an all-in action cam for life’s most extreme thrill-seekers. With the Osmo Action, DJI is taking the GoPro Hero 7 Black, GoPro’s best offering, head-on with like for like features, specs, design and build quality. But what makes the Osmo Action unique compared to the Hero 7 Black is the inclusion of a secondary front-facing LCD display as well the regular backside display and a significantly lower price for an overall strong competitor to the Hero 7.
Made from a tough plastic and rubber composite the Osmo Action is built for the toughest sports, with a lightweight body weighing in at only 124g and a footprint the size of your palm this tiny action cam is ideal for mounting to your surfboard, bike, or other equipment, including yourself. It is designed to be dropped from a height of up to 5 feet and submerged to a depth of 11M or 60M when using the Osmo Action Waterproof Case which is comparable to the Hero 7 Black. The design of the Osmo Action is similar to the GoPro however the overall refined finish of the Hero 7 Black wins out.
There are just three buttons on the Osmo Action, a power button, mode button, and shutter/record button making it an incredibly simple product to use. You can also connect to the DJI Mimo app for more controls, live-view and powerful editing tools.
The Osmo features a 3-layer aspherical lens that dramatically reduces distortion and glare to ensure clear images even in bright direct sunlight. An oleophobic coating on the lens helps repel fingerprints, oil, water, and dirt meaning you can film for longer in harsh environments and with a temperature resistance down to -10º, there’s virtually nowhere this camera can’t go.
Both the Osmo Action and Hero 7 Black can shoot detailed 4K video at 60fps and support their own variation of EIS (Electronic Image Stabilisation) with RockSteady on the Osmo and HyperSmooth on GoPro. According to DJI, RockSteady combines EIS with complex algorithms, delivering stable, shake-free footage. Previously HyperSmooth was seen as the industry standard for stabilising action camera footage but with the introduction of RockSteady, it easily matches and arguably surpasses GoPro’s HyperSmooth technology.
The addition of the secondary 1.4-inch colour display on the Osmo adds an incredible amount of functionality to the product. The front-facing display is perfect for composing a shot which travel vloggers are bound to appreciate while the main 2.25-inch touchscreen display on the back serves as the main viewfinder and interface.
The Osmo Action supports HDR video (without RockSteady stabilisation), enhancing the dynamic range of your footage, something the Hero 7 Black does not. Both the Osmo and GoPro have similar features in terms of 8x Slo-mo, Voice Control, timed shooting mode, and a mode for time-lapse and hyper-lapses. However, Live-streaming is one mode the Osmo misses out on compared to the GoPro.
Both DJI and GoPro have a wide range of accessories for their action cams, but with GoPro being around for much longer on the market they have a huge assortment of refined accessories and mounts for nearly any requirement you may need whereas accessories for the DJI Osmo Action are less popular.
Action OS is a custom operating system developed by DJI, it’s operated with a series of taps and swipes making it easy to pick up and start using right away. You’ll find the software intuitive with a great level of control in simple actions. One of the included features, Snapshot, aims to ensure you never miss a moment, just press the shutter button and within two-seconds it will be powered on and recording. Overall the Osmo provides great user experience, especially compared to the sometimes slow GoPro.
On the spec sheet, the Osmo Action beats out the GoPro with its HDR video support and higher recording bit-rate of 100Mbps. In reality, however, the overall difference in video and image quality is so close that if you showed footage from both cameras it would be indistinguishable which was shot on which. Both action cams include a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor that delivers exceptional 4K footage at 60fps with EIS for ultra-smooth stabilisation.
In terms of the field of view from both cameras, they are near identical however the Hero 7 Black has a slightly wider field of view compared to the Osmo Action. When reviewing the footage you get more of the surroundings in the frame that delivers a more immersive feeling and a sense of the environment around. They both have special modes built in to correct fish-eye effect which comes naturally from using a wide-angle lens. The Osmo’s mode is called ‘Dewarp’ and GoPro’s is named ‘Linear Mode’. Both do a great job of correcting the fish-eye effect but the Osmo Action wins here as it is available while shooting 4K, unlike GoPro’s offering.
It would be expected that the DJI Osmo Action would win out compared to the GoPro Hero 7 Black in quality due to the addition of HDR on the Osmo however this isn’t the case. HDR mode on the Osmo only works when RockSteady is disabled making it virtually impossible to film in HDR unless mounted on a tripod. With the Osmo Action and Hero 7 both being action cams it would be expected that the times you have these mounted to tripods would be extremely slim meaning in normal use RockSteady would be ON (HDR off) levelling the image quality between the two cameras. A noted issue with the video quality on the DJI is that in some cases the highlights can be blown out due to poor exposure control, it would be hoped this issue can be addressed through a software update in the future.
The microphone quality on the Osmo is adequate, it performs well enough for short takes or times when music would be added over the video in post-production but be aware it can easily be overwhelmed in loud environments. If you were to be filming in a noisy environment I would recommend an external microphone such as RODE Videomic.
Photography on the Osmo could be improved, your iPhone can take higher quality images. Nevertheless, it supports UHD image quality up to 4K 60p which would be good enough for images when you don’t have a smartphone around.
The Osmo includes a 1300 mAh for an operating time of 63 minutes while shooting 4K 60fps with RockSteady enabled. For extended battery life, you can lower the resolution however this will affect the final video quality. Spare batteries can be purchased and easily swapped in and out if you require an all-day shoot. Charging time is around 90 minutes for a full charge which is reasonable for an action cam. Compared to the GoPro Hero 7 Black the Osmo Action has a longer battery life when recording in 4K as the GoPro lasts for around 45 minutes.
As the name implies the Osmo Action is an action cam made for the toughest filming environments such as being underwater or hanging off a cliff, but it’s also great for people who want a miniature cam to take on their adventures. If you don’t own one of the latest GoPro’s and want an action cam then the Osmo Action could be the perfect camera for you. With a strong build quality, rugged design, video quality near identical to the latest GoPro, front-facing display for selfies and vlogging, ultra-smooth stabilisation and multiple shooting modes as just some of the great features the Osmo has to offer you can’t go far wrong, especially considering the lower price.
If you already own a GoPro then there is no real reason to switch unless you travel vlog and want to ensure you are always positioned correctly in the frame. The GoPro has a higher price for more or less the same experience although the overall user experience is greater on the Osmo Action with faster performance and user-friendly operation. For a first-generation product, DJI has immediately levelled the playing field matching the quality of the GoPro and even in some cases surpassing the GoPro. It can be noted that the Osmo charges via USB-C which is a nice addition. You’d be happy with either of the action cam’s but the DJI Osmo Action is highly recommended, just remember to get a micro-SD card as there is no internal storage.