What’s the difference between a GPS and a gimbal? Sounds a bit like a Lewis Carrol riddle (what’s the difference between a raven and a writing desk), but unlike Lewis’ heroin addled jokes, there is an answer to this conundrum.
And the answer is, until you’ve had one, you never knew you needed one.
When the (now) humble GPS first appeared in the shops, I admit it. I sneered, snickering sideways at all those people that had to have one as they simply couldn’t read a *proper* paper map.
When I first saw a gimbal for a camcorder / dSLR, I also sneered ands snickered at people who apparently couldn’t hold a camera still while manually panning or dollying.
But I have tasted humble pie and it is not very nice. In other words, I have seen the light – on both counts.
A map is not better than a GPS; it’s just that a GPS is more convenient (and you don’t have to turn it upside down at times).
And a gimbal can get you shots in awkward places and from angles not even the most dexterous origami expert could do, all without shudders, jiggles and wobbles.
Which leads me nicely to the new DJI OSMO Mobile 3.
This is the latest in DJI’s range of gimbals for smartphones, and has some distinct advantages over previous models. The first – and the biggest without question – is that the new design is foldable meaning that when on a trip, it fits more easily into a case or backpack. Its also lighter and DJI have returned to having a “trigger” that is used to enter a lock mode. The new folding design also makes all the controls easier to use in a one handed operation.
The OSMO Mobile 3 also costs a little less than its predecessor at around the AUD$160 mark depending where you shop.
DJI has made a number of significant changes to previous models; for example, switching from portrait to landscape and vice versa is now a simple series of taps on the mode (M) button. Nicking some tech from the boffins in its drone department, the OSMO Mobile 3 now boasts “Active Track”, DJI’s vision tracking system and you also have access to time lapse, hyperlapse, panorama, gesture and what DJI calls “story mode”, a system that automagically edits footage together.
All the ports are now easily accessible, with a standard USB available that can double up to charge your smartphone on-the-fly and a USB-C port that is used to charge the OSMO Mobile 3 itself. These could also conceivably be used to connect an external mic in theory, although I didn’t try that.
This for me was where there was a hiccup or two. If you followed the manual (there isn’t one ion the box by the way, you have to go online to get it – more on that in a second) to the letter of the law, you’d still be wondering why the damn thing didn’t work as it says it should.
The instructions run you through putting your smartphone into the jaws of the gimbal, and sort of explain that it must be balanced correctly for all that gimbal-ly goodness to work properly, but I found in reality that I needed to view an online video to get it just right.
Then the instructions in the PDF tell you to press the “M” button.
So I did.
And pretty green lights came on with the left hand one flashing at me encouragingly. And that was it. It will beep twice the manual said.
Just that flashing light expectantly I am guessing, waiting for ME to do something. But what?
Well you see, the OSMO Mobile 3 requires a Bluetooth connection to the smartphone to work in basic mode and a smartphone app (DJI Mimo) to fully take advantage of the capabilities, but there is zip mention of that in the online manual. .
For an experienced campaigner this might be a small thing and reasonably obvious, but to a newbie, it is very confusing and a bit of an oversight on DJI’s part considering how much thought has gone into the rest of what constitutes the OSMO Mobile 3.
When you are up and running, the OSMO Mobile 3 lives up to its promise, faithfully ironing out any bumps, wobbles or jiggles via its 3 axis stabilisation system and incredible little motors built into the bodywork.
You also have access via the onboard joystick and slider to full motion control including zoom, stop / start recording and as mentioned, orientation. As mentioned, to get the full range of possibilities, get the DJI Mimo app (which also works for the DJI Pocket). Included in the app are tutorials etc for using the OSMO Mobile 3 which is a bonus.
I can think of dozens of ways I can use the OSMO Mobile 3, from creating pan and dolly shots of cameras for reviews (the way that Top Gear and The Grand Tour do for cars for example) to whole new ways of shooting events, sport and outdoor activities.
The claimed 15 hour battery life is brilliant, the OSMO Mobile 3 is easy to use (when you have got it going) and at the price, is certainly not expensive considering what such a device cost only a few short years back.
Sure, smartphone video quality will never match a dedicated camcorder (or even video shot on a mirrorless or dSLR), but in general, for the types of shots you’ll want to get, this is of lesser importance than actually getting those shots.
For more information, go to www.dji.com
Postscript: My love / hate relationship with DJI and its situation in regard to mobile phones remains. I did have some inconsistencies between the DJI MIMO software and my Samsung Galaxy 7 (which it turns out is not in the range that catch fire!). For example, the record button on the OSMO didn’t actuallt start “record”, it increased volume!
I have just heard back that the 7 is not a supported phone. Nothing les than the 8 will do. If you are an iPhone user, if you have less than a 6, forget it.