The DJI OSMO – is it groundbreaking?

Imagine if after all this time with shallow depth of field and static tripod we just wanted to get stuff in focus and move the camera…

Since the DJI OSMO was announced I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Smooth movement has been a fiddly and bulky endeavour with DSLR & mirrorless video up until now and I have a lot of pent up desire to move the camera effortlessly.

I’ve never been an enthusiastic user of crap. Sliders and bulky expensive devices like the MoVI which needs a flight case to carry. And let’s not even mention glidecams. The handheld gimbals for mirrorless cameras so far have been a step in the right direction but also somewhat of a fiddly pain in the bum!

The DJI OSMO which I’ll be reviewing on EOSHD soon has the potential to open up a whole new world of shots that we can do simply without add-ons or setup work.

It doesn’t replace DSLR, mirrorless or cinema cameras but it offers something new and the KEY is:

It just works. It’s ergonomic and is easy to use.

So what if pros have been able to do the same with a Steadycam operator since the 80’s! It is that simplicity and affordability which enables real change in the market.

I particularly like the function on-command to immediately lock the camera level to your subject as you move around behind it. I also like the idea of something so small which is so easy to focus you don’t even need to bother with focus. Then there’s composition, wireless monitoring off a 7mm thin 5″ Samsung AMOLED or your iPhone 6. Finally!! No more bolting chunky Sony NP batteries to the back of a heavy field monitor. No more utterly terrible Micro HDMI cables!! No more fiddling endlessly with the balance of your gimbal every time you change the lens. Indeed, no more changing lenses! No more long setup times or bolting stuff together like lego. The OSMO although essentially 3 modular parts acts like a single integrated unit and can be stuffed in a backpack when finished with, just snap the smartphone out of the holder.

With a camera like this you don’t want a cable dragging on the camera head, so a wireless video link is used and what better device to take advantage of that than a smartphone? I love the thinking there and it brings down the cost of the OSMO as we already own the screen. The screens on top end smartphones make very good field monitors and put the quality of the screens on photographic cameras to shame. Compare for instance the AMOLED of a Samsung Galaxy Note to the tiny Sony A7S II or Canon 1D C display. I’d much rather monitor off the Galaxy.

The less effort spent nannying the camera, the more attention I have to give the cinematography and directing. Of course it’s more suited to action scenes, run & gun or documentary than anything else and the wide angle lens with hardly any depth of field control limits the appeal for sensitive narrative drama. That goes without saying. It doesn’t replace a cinema camera… yet.

X5 4K raw option

I say “yet” because DJI have a wireless follow focus and 4K Micro Four Thirds sensor compatible with the OSMO system already. This is capable of 4K raw in DNG format. I can really see that replacing a MoVI setup for a lot of people who aren’t intent on using an Alexa or RED. In a few years at the rate technology is developing, affordable 2x crop sensors with tiny lenses will be at the 2015 RED Raven level for dynamic range and how much information that are able to pack into new codecs.

Of course there will be a lot of lazy cliche stuff shot with the OSMO, just as with any mass market technology as it is cheap and effortless to use. However it is how creatively it is used by the minority with great ideas that matters, not how many failed experiments are done with it. For many talented pro and beginner alike, the ability to focus on creativity ahead of pixel peeping the sensor results or optimising their rig layout will have an invaluable effect on the end result.

Will there be a Super 35mm version in future?

So far only really Panasonic and Olympus with Micro Four Thirds have done a good job on making very small and light lenses for a reasonably large sensor but the 2x crop isn’t the cinema standard.

What we need in future even more than small camera bodies is much smaller 18mm & 24mm optics for S35. The OSMO camera head has to be small with a tiny lens, weight balanced in the centre. Therefore that small compact camera sensor it has comes in very useful. S35 sensors need much larger lenses.

For just £550 the OSMO has the same XENMUSE gimbal as featured on DJI’s drones and a camera capable of shooting 4K. That’s impressive pricing.

Released this month, I’m expecting the OSMO to fly off the shelves and I will definitely be keen to add it to my toolbox.