We’re living in an age where our primary form of communication is through video. Whether it’s a vlog about us reacting to a movie trailer for a highlight reel for our trip to a convention, video is everywhere these days and easier than ever thanks to the prevalence of smartphones which can easily snap up hours of crisp 1080p and 4K footage. What if you wanted to grab some footage of some more extreme activity though?
It’s highly likely that you’d probably not want to strap your phone to a surfboard or stick it to your skull when you go mountain biking. To address that gap in the market, we’ve seen plenty of dedicated action cameras hit the scene, rugged devices which specialise in video and can do so while taking a few bumps, thumps and ocean dips along the way.
GoPro is easily the first name that comes to mind, but the heavyweight brand is about to face a new challenger: DJI. Having made a name for themselves with drone technology and stabiliser gimbals (More on that one soon!), DJI is branching out into the field of action videography with the appropriately named DJI Osmo Action. It ticks all the boxes of what you’d expect from a extreme lifestyle video camera, and then some, as DJI’s first offering has some incredibly neat tricks up its sleeves.
The camera itself is pretty compact. Straight out of the box, you’re getting a 200g snapper that comes with a wealth of features. The rear screen can toggle between functions with the mere flick of a finger, you can shout at the device to switch between modes and the actual display is sharp enough to put your eye out. The big difference here, is that DJI is banking on the Osmo Action being appealing to vloggers by throwing in a front-facing screen.
It’s a small 1.4 inch square-shaped screen on the right side of the camera, and while it does have around a second worth of input lag when you in use, it’s undeniably handy stuff for framing a shot. Switching between screens isn’t too difficult either, as you can make use of a dedicated button or the aforementioned voice command. The rest of the hardware ticks the boxes of exactly what you need to get up and running: A power button, a record button and a slot that allows you to charge via USB-C and insert an SD card upon which to save your media.
The other area in which the Osmo Action excels at, is that it has the stability of a well-adjusted adult in a job that is both financially and mentally rewarding. Whether you’re going for a run or two-wheeling up a hill on a scrambler, the end result is magnificently smooth thanks to what I can only assume is black magic. There may be a bit of bobbing here and there, but it’s still leagues better than watching video which looks like it was filmed by a fight choreographer on a Jason Bourne film.
With a 12MP camera, the Osmo Action has plenty of grunt in the video department. While it’s not exactly ideal for low light situations (some artifacting will pop up and be annoyingly visible), on a bright summer day it’s a blast. Standard video modes allow you to shoot anywhere from 720p to 4K video, and you can even grab that maximum resolution at 60 frames per second if you want.
If you prefer to dial it back to 1080p, you’ve got a good range of options as well. Having 30fps and 60fps shooting modes is a given at this point, but you can also nab some slooooooow video at 8x speed in case you want to marvel at your muscles in action. On that front, 4K video caps itself to a 100K bitrate, while 1080p can offer a crisp 80K alternative. If that’s not enough, you can even switch to HDR mode for some blacker blacks and brighter colours, albeit it with a few caveats. 4K footage can only reach 30fps, while you’ll also lose the rock-solid stabilisation feature.
Appealing to the Vlogger emphasis of this camera, are options for the Osmo Action to choose between two colour options that prioritise facial exposure. The default mode is your usual broad range of colours which can easily be edited after a shoot, while D-Cinelike goes for a more cinematic gamut of colour overall.
On the audio level, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There are a pair of microphones within it, but they’re easily derailed by disruptive wind and background noise. It’s not something that can’t be fixed though, as I tested my lav mic with a USB-C adaptor it worked marvellously for me, negating that disadvantage. DJI does have its own range of external audio recorders, but they’re sold separately so prepare to invest if you’re looking to use this as a vlogging tool.
Navigating between shooting modes, screens and tinkering with recording options is easy enough. Swipe your finger on one of the four corners, and you’ll get a menu to play around with. It’s easy, it’s quick and it works in situations that need fast decisions to be made. The Osmo Action does work more fluidly when paired with the DJI Mimo app on a smartphone, one that I tested on my Huawei P30 Pro although I have heard reports of it being a pain in the buns for Samsung users.
With my experience at least, I found that I had even more control of the Osmo Action, using my smartphone as a viewfinder and fiddling around with advanced manual controls to help set up the perfect shot and transfer said content over to my device in blisteringly quick time. So how long does a day out with the Osmo Action last then?
To stay compact, DJI had to make do with a 1300mAh battery and while it’s more than capable of quick clips over the course of a heavy outing, realistically you’re looking at around an hour to 90 minutes depending on which settings you have enabled. As a pure recording device, the Osmo Action leans towards the 90 minute mark but toggling the display screen to remain active longer and keeping the Wi-F facility on will quickly siphon go-go juice out of it.
The plus side here, is that you can easily swap batteries or even connect the Osmo Action to a powerbank, should you be in a tight spot. With a price point of around R6000 when compared to the GoPro Hero 8’s RRP of R8000, that makes for a competitive package overall.
DJI came out swinging with the Osmo Action camera, and they more than landed a few knockout punches in the process. There may be some niggling areas that the device can improve on, but the Osmo Action more than delivers on the aspects of action videograpy and vlogging that it aims for: Easy to use, able to produce some stunning results under the right conditions and small enough to fit in your pocket.
Last Updated: November 7, 2019