DJI OSMO ACTION CAMERA
We put the new DJI Osmo Action Camera through its paces in our full review.
DJI Osmo Action Review
The action camera market is one that has been pretty much dominated by GoPro since they launched back in 2004 and although some cheaper alternatives have made a dent on the market in the last few years, nothing has really come close in terms of being a true competitor. DJI have been planning to change that for some time and now they can as they bring their UAV camera expertise and apply it to their very own action cam – the DJI Osmo Action.
There had been rumours circling around DJI readying an underwater drone, but the more conservative forecasters were predicting an underwater action cam – and the latter is exactly what we got.
As with most of DJI’s premium product lines, the retail price is hardly what you might call ‘budget friendly’, but equally the OSMO Action won’t break the bank either – coming in at around £329 at launch which is a good deal cheaper than the GoPro Hero 7 Black which is its main competitor. What you do know when you buy from DJI is that the hardware and software is going to be pretty darn tasty and there is usually plenty of juice under the hood to give good value for money.
With the promise of a 4K HDR video camera capable of 60FPS, 8x slow motion and dual screens, our interest was already piqued and so we put our order in and took the Osmo Action out for a full review.
It is perhaps a good starting point to assess the other options on the action cam market before diving straight in to what the Osmo Action is capable of. The GoPro Hero 7 and Fusion models are both priced above the £329 mark (although discounts have since come in to allow them to compete with DJI) with the latter being the more expensive model mainly due to it having the ability to take 360 degree video VR style.
For those not needing such a high spec of camera, GoPro do offer the Hero 7 White version which comes in around half the price of the black version but none of the GoPro models offer 11m of depth under water – with the Hero 7 Black version offering 10m.
So far, it looks as if the DJI Action camera is going to be a good alternative to GoPro – let’s find out if in reality it was able to hold its own.
The DJI Action is well kitted out and compares favourably to the Hero 7 black (which is what we will be comparing it to for the rest of the review) – at the very least it matches the GoPro punch for punch.
On board you will find a 12MP camera with an f/2.8 lens and 145 degrees field of view (FOV). The camera is both bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled and has two built in microphones with noise cancelling technology. The microphones can also be used for voice activated control and work in Mandarin and English languages. The DJI Action has two screens, the rear screen being the largest at 2.25 inches and is touch screen.
The 1300mAh battery is removable and according to DJI can provide over 2 hours of juice when not using the RockSteady feature and recording at 1080p HD. We managed around 60 minutes of life when using full 4K and with RockSteady switched on.
There is no internal storage on the Osmo Action but it is capable of housing microSD cards up to 256GB and switching these out is simple.
The Action is pretty well kitted out in terms of included mounts and you get a curved and flat adhesive mount included, quick release base, battery case and camera frame included as standard – so far we are very impressed!
Osmo Action In Your Hands
As you would expect with a new product launch from DJI, the Osmo Action is very well made and feels great to the touch. The design of the Osmo Action Camera is decidedly similar to that of the GoPro and all other action cameras for that matter – with a rectangular boxy design that feels rugged and solidly robust. The Osmo Action weighs in at just 124g and is small in the hand at 65mm x 42mm x 35mm.
The grey finish distinguishes it clearly from the GoPro and gives it a look that sits well with other DJI products. The rear of the camera is pretty much entirely made up of the main screen which measures up at 2.25 inches and has a display not far off what you’d see on an iPhone 6 with 640×360 resolution with 325ppi.
The 1.4 inch front screen is really where DJI start to set their action cam apart from the competition as it allows the user to see exactly what is being filmed in real time. This will mean the Osmo Action could offer serious appeal to Vloggers and anyone who is going to need to record some profile talking heads type shots. The 1/2.3″ CMOS 12MP front facing camera takes up the rest of the frontage and is more circular in design than the squarish style of the GoPro. Attached to the front camera is a lens protector that can be removed by simply unscrewing it – this also allows for various other lens covers and filters to be added as well as for replacing the protector if it gets damaged.
On the top side of the camera you have your record/photo shutter button along with the main power button. Both buttons are pretty sizeable and easy to locate via touch as well as visually. To the sides you will find the USB and memory card ports with waterproof covers as well as a QS button on one side of the camera which stands for QuickSet – allowing you to quickly select preset settings for speed. Everything else is controlled via the touchscreen to the rear.
The Osmo Action In Action
There is plenty to like about the Osmo Action and the addition of that fully functioning front screen along with all the camera modes you could want and hope for means that it is a very serious contender for the GoPro Hero 7 Black. When you consider the price comes in well under the RRP of the equivalent GoPro then it starts to almost feel like a no-brainer as to which to buy – but although we love the Osmo Action (and we really do love it) it does have a few quirks that you might want to be aware of.
In our testing we found the DJI Osmo Action to pretty much live up to all expectations. Firstly, the rear touch screen was a joy to use thanks to it being highly responsive and accurate to the touch. In addition to what appears to be a very crisp image, the screen was also able to perform well in bright outdoor light thanks to the brightness of the screen. You are provided with information such as battery life, storage capacity and recording length as well as the shot mode you are using.
If you want to flip to the front screen it is as simple as double tapping the rear screen with two fingers and it is the same command to switch back to the rear view. The front screen also has a high pixel density of 325ppi and despite being half the size of the rear screen is perhaps our favourite feature of this action cam. The only negative we found regarding the screen was that when recording in full 4K at 60FPS there was a minor lag between the live action and what was presented on the screen. This was not present on any other filming mode but at 60FPS it seems the processing or the software couldn’t quite handle true real time display – this is frustrating if you are trying to track something but for most action cam users they are probably not going to notice this flaw as the camera will be mounted somewhere.
The front screen was extremely useful when filming Vlogger type shots and the sound quality was also better than expected and certainly better than the GoPro. For better sound quality you will need to use an external microphone and this will be a wise choice for most Vloggers and anyone doing a lot of talking directly to the camera.
Still image and video quality are stunning in well lit conditions – which is what the Action is designed for. Dimly lit conditions and you can forget any kind of decent footage so for caving or dusk/dawn/night time filming and you are likely to be disappointed – this is the same for GoPro and is an area for both companies to develop in the future.
The 145 degree field of view that the Osmo Action sports is a little less than the GoPro (up to 170 degrees in SuperView mode) but the footage when using the Osmo’s image stabilisation system RockSteady is simply stunning. RockSteady is the DJI equivalent of GoPro’s HyperSmooth and it at least matches the GoPro tech if not bettering it. It really does look like the footage has been taken using a gimbal – which is not something we say lightly – and it somehow retains a natural look and feel to the footage. If you prefer a more rugged and ultra-natural look to your video then you can of course record without RockSteady activated but for most situations it is an excellent feature to use.
If you want to take your Osmo Action camera underwater then you are good for up to 11m. We did not actually manage to test the underwater feature but we have seen some excellent footage when the camera is submerged. Again, the only real issue we can foresee here is lack of light so be prepared for this – although at less than 11m depth you should be good in daylight and in clear water.
One final note on the camera is that we found the natural hues and tones that were picked up in nature and people were phenomenal. Vloggers (who I know we have mentioned a few times now) will be very happy with the natural and healthy look that the camera affords to their faces without the need for too much additional lighting or the dreaded beauty mode that offers that wonderfully plastic look. We really do think anyone will be hard pressed to not be impressed by the camera on the Osmo Action.
Although not strictly necessary, there is an app to accompany the camera called Mimo. This was probably the most disappointing aspect of the Osmo Action as the ease of connection was problematic to say the least. Out of 11 attempts to connect we were only successful 5 times – although we are sure this is a software error that DJI will fix in time. The main purpose of the app is to allow you to use your smartphone as an extra screen – although in reality this is not something that is going to be used by many people.
DJI Osmo Action Review Summary
Considering this is DJI’s first foray in to the action cam market you would think they had been making them for 20 years. This is an exceptional piece of kit that offers the best value for money at this level of specification. The lag on the video display at 4K 60FPS is a slight black mark as is the poor connectivity of the app – but as they have so much else right and for giving us that fully functioning front screen we can forgive DJI – and hopefully they can be fixed in software updates.
All in all, the Osmo Action is an absolute triumph.
- Ease of use
- Value for money
Video stabilisation is as good as it gets without a dedicated gimbal
Front camera is a game changer for Vloggers
Battery life is impressive – even in 4K with RockSteady
Image and video quality is highly impressive
Poor connectivity to app
Screen lag in 4K 60FPS is more than a niggle