Hands On With the DJI Osmo Pocket Stabilized Action Camera
If you are looking for the lowest-profile, slickest, portable solution for recording stabilized video and have the budget, DJI’s Osmo Pocket ($349.99) is very good. You get all the stabilizing power of a DJI gimbal in a tiny form factor. No need to hold your phone up in front of your face (and annoy anyone behind you) to capture video. And no need to lug around the excellent-but-bulky Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal we reviewed last year that cradles your phone. I’ve been shooting with an Osmo Pocket for a few weeks now, with mostly positive results.
DJI Osmo Pocket by the Numbers
The Osmo Pocket is a 4K-capable gimballed camera attached to a hand grip. It records to a microSD card (up to 256GB) and is controlled using two buttons and a small touchscreen that doubles as a viewfinder. The camera itself is fairly similar to what you’d find in a flagship smartphone. It has a 1/2.3-inch sensor, an 80-degree field of view, and an f/2 aperture. Video performance is high-end, up to 4K at 60fps and 100Mbps data rate (although it can’t track at 4K/60fps). It can also do 4x slow-motion video at 1080p. Still photos are 12MP and take advantage of the relatively-large 1.55-micron pixel size.
The device itself is a mere 116 grams and has a clever connector design that allows you to attach it to an Android or Apple phone while also allowing the connector to slip into the base when not in use. The motorized gimbal can move at up to 120 degrees per second, from -230 degrees to +50 degrees horizontally, and -95 degrees to +50 degrees vertically. It can tilt left or right up to 45 degrees. Battery life is quoted at 140 minutes when shooting 1080p video.
When using the Osmo Pocket with the mobile app, you can enable Pro mode and adjust camera settings to your liking. You can also use it to photograph in RAW (DNG) and shoot video in a D-Cinema log color space.
Using the Osmo Pocket to Track Action
Since not much moves faster than race cars, I brought the Osmo Pocket with me to the IndyCar race in Austin, Texas. I used it to record the cars coming up the hill to Turn 1, and heading back down after the tight corner. Traditionally, I would have done that by turning my body as the cars moved. That works pretty well, but it takes practice and isn’t as easy to do well with a smartphone as it is with a heavier camera. I could have done that with the Osmo Pocket, but decided to let it do most of the work.
It took some getting used to how my hand motion would result in panning of the camera, as it accelerates its motion depending on yours. To keep things low key, I worked with just the small LCD on the Osmo Pocket itself, which made it trickier to accurately track the cars than it would have been with a smartphone attached. If the cars had been larger in the frame, I could potentially have relied on the Osmo Pocket’s ActiveTrack feature, which allows you to simply highlight a subject on your phone screen or the built-in LCD and have it followed. This is similar to the tracking functionality on DJI’s drones and other handheld gimbals.
You can see in one of my first attempts below that it isn’t simple to frame a scene using just the tiny LCD on the Osmo Pocket. I clipped some of the nearest track, and overshot a bit when following the cars around Turn 1 at Austin’s COTA:
However, in several subsequent sessions trying to use ActiveTrack on cars and cyclists I decided it’s more trouble than it’s worth for most uses. It takes ActiveTrack a couple of seconds to lock on to an object once you’ve highlighted it (at least on the Pixel 3 I tested it with). So you really need to lock on to the subject before it starts moving. The subject also has to fill a decent portion of the scene and provide enough contrast for the object detection to work. Once the Osmo Pocket locks on to the correct subject the actual tracking is good. Tracking also doesn’t work in the highest fidelity video modes. It’s easy enough to track by hand, so I wound up just using the Osmo Pocket that way. One interesting feature of ActiveTrack is that activating Selfie mode automatically triggers the device’s FaceTrack feature, to keep you stable in the frame.
Motion-Lapse, Night Shot, and 3×3 Panorama Features
Like most DJI products, the Osmo Pocket has a range of other interesting features. You can do both time-lapse and motion-lapse (where the camera moves slowly during the time lapse), although you’ll want to make sure you have the Osmo Pocket securely mounted before you set it down and wander away. There are also a couple of ways to take low-light shots: either the traditional long exposure coupled with stabilization, or a Night Shot mode that mimics the similar modes on some recent flagship phones.
One unique feature is a grid panorama mode, in addition to the more traditional linear pan. Both panorama modes are motor-driven, so all you need to do is hold the Osmo Pocket reasonably steady while it shoots and stitches.
DJI’s Mimo App Is a Clever Mobile Editing Tool
Along with the Osmo Pocket, DJI provides its Mimo app. Mimo serves both as a camera control interface, with sections for the camera itself, the gimbal, beautification mode, and pre-built Story templates you can use to quickly make lifestyle or action videos. It doesn’t have all the power of a desktop video editor, but you can choose from a variety of film looks, add titles, and cut and arrange multiple clips.
An Excellent Action Camera at a Reasonable Price
At $349, the Osmo Pocket isn’t an obvious choice for those who are okay with simply using their phone to shoot video, and put up with the limited features and stabilization. But for vloggers or anyone who wants to push their mobile video to the next level, the Osmo Pocket is likely to be a good investment. For those not already locked into a video editing solution, DJI’s Mimo may also provide additional benefit.
[Image credits: David Cardinal]