(Pocket-lint) - DJI Osmo Mobile has been something of a revelation in the world of personal handheld gimbals for your smartphone. The range has gradually evolved from an expensive - but awesome - smartphone holder, from back in 2016, to the much more affordable, smarter and more ergonomic Osmo Mobile 3 for 2019.
The beauty of the Osmo Mobile has always been that you can just use the camera you have on you every day: your smartphone. And for the third generation, it feels like more of the pieces of the puzzle have connected to give a product that's as practical and portable as it is high-tech. It's also a total bargain, offering more features for less.
- Folding design, even with phone attached
- Reintroduces trigger control to front
- Phone port access now possible
- Now USB-C (not Micro-USB)
- Simpler setup for balance
If you've been following the DJI Osmo Mobile story then you'll know this mini Steadicam-style device for phones had evolved from its original form into a simpler, more affordable model in version two. The third-gen, however, brings an all-new design that can fold down - even with a phone stowed in its holder, if you want - to occupy less space overall.
But that's not all: the Osmo Mobile 3 reintroduces the trigger mechanism that was present in the first-gen but absent in the second-gen model, which makes for far easier re-centering and other controls.
The setup is also simpler to get a phone balanced in almost zero time, while an attached phone keeps access to its charging/3.5mm ports open, so you could factor in a tethered microphone too - something which serious vloggers will love, given its previous absence.
Interestingly, despite all these design changes and additional features - there's more that we'll get to in a bit - the Osmo Mobile 3 isn't any pricier than its predecessor. In fact, at just £99, it's actually even cheaper! That's bordering on impulse purchase territory. Bargain.
- Max phone screen size: 7.08-inch diagonal
- Max dimensions: 118 x 88 x 9.5mm
- Native camera app support (devices TBC)
- Rubberised grip for greater comfort
- Tilted handle for more natural hold
- 15 hours battery life
There are some other subtle tweaks to the Osmo Mobile 3's design. Namely, the holding-handle is tilted slightly forward, for a more natural position, making it feel less rigid and upright than its predecessor. That handle is also now coated in a rubberised finish, which not only feels better but adds some visual interest too.
Not that this is a visually exciting product: the dark grey is hardly thrilling, but then you'll probably have enough attention on you when capturing mobile phone videos from a gimbal device anyway.
In addition to the standard edition, a 'Combo' set will also be available for a little extra cash, which includes a screw-on tripod section (via the 1/4in thread), included carry case, wrist strap and soft pouch. Given the Osmo Mobile 3 folds, the addition of this case is great - keeping the overall footprint of the product to a minimum (although the tripod section doesn't fit inside the case, instead in a pocket on the exterior).
When it comes to attaching a phone, gone are the older screw-on mounts, instead it's a simple tension tray that pulls open to either side. It can accommodate phones slightly larger than the second-gen model could, ensuring even 7-inch-screen devices will be compatible. The design is said to avoid pressing physical side-mounted phone buttons, which rang true with each of the three phones we've tested in the Osmo Mobile 3.
The attached phone needn't draw on the gimbal's 15-hours of battery life as there's an embedded battery within to keep those stabilisation motors working. However, thanks to a full-size USB port you can charge devices from the Osmo should you wish. The Osmo Mobile 3 finally makes the switch to USB-C, too, ensuring fast-charging and better compatibility with more modern phones.
And to work around the fact so many phones now offer two, three, four or even more cameras, DJI is set to implement some degree of native camera app support, i.e. if you want to not use the DJI Mimo software - and forego some controls, such as the zoom toggle - in order to use that super-wide or optical zoom camera on your phone, then you can. We did some test shooting with the ultra-wide and 5x optical zoom cameras on our Huawei P30 Pro and each worked a treat in stabilisation terms (accepting the foregoing of some controls).
- Portrait and Landscape orientation stabilisation via double-tap of M button
- Triple-tap M button for Stow position, manually fold in Standby mode
- Sport mode allows for rapid panning motion
- Double-tap trigger to reset phone position
- Active Track automated focus tracking
- Gesture control activation for selfies
The feature that really makes the Osmo Mobile a top-drawer product is its stabilisation system. Forget hand wobble or any jerkiness when walking about, this thing will set everything ultra smooth. It's incredible.
You can set the phone to be positioned in portrait or landscape orientations, flipping between the two with a simple double-tap of the M button. Tap this button three times and the gimbal spins the phone into a position ready to stow, manually, where 15 seconds later it'll enter standby mode to conserve on-board battery life. From stowed position, simply pop the arm back up and triple-tap the M button again to get everything fired up and ready to use in next to no time.
If tracking goes a little awry - which only tends to happen if you go really crazy with wibbling the device around - then a double-tap of the trigger control will reset the phone position in a natural manner, meaning even during recording you've got a natural way to keep everything under control.
As before there's a joystick control for motion, a zoom toggle for controlling zoom (the DJI Mimo app will need to be used for this to work), a start-stop recording button, along with the mentioned M button and trigger controls.
As controls go, actually using these physical buttons is as reliable and as simple as you could hope. The Osmo Mobile takes care of all the stabilisation for you, so all you need to do is press to start recording, or take a photo, or shift the joypad around to change the angle. Despite being only connected by Bluetooth, the response time is good - there's no real lag or serious delay.
The active tracking feature isn't 100 per cent reliable though. It's smart, in that you can just draw a square around an object on the screen and it'll automatically keep that person/object in centre of the shot (or at least ensure it's as well framed as possible). This is great when the subject is still, but once you're trying to track a moving object it's not quite as consistent.
The trouble only tends to come when you're tracking a person. You draw a square around a human facing you, and it'll automatically hold focus on the face, regardless of how big a square you draw on them. It then seems to track the face, rather than the entire body, which is great when the person is facing you, but if they turn away it can lose track. Sometimes, if the person turns back and the face comes into view, it'll lock back on successfully. Other times, it doesn't. It just feels a little bit hit-and-miss in our use.
For the most part it is very good though. Plus, in addition to the automated stabilisation, additional modes cater for different scenarios. Sport, for example, means rapid panning is possible. Beauty, meanwhile, goes overboard with those face-distorting filters... if that's your kind of thing. The one real downside to using these filters is that they don't work on any decent resolution. You have to switch to shooting at 720p if you want to take advantage.
DJI gets a lot right with the Osmo Mobile 3, taking what it's learned from the first- and second-generation models, and by-and-large perfecting it in the third. It's fully-featured, versatile, easy-to-use and is very affordable - even more so than its lesser-featured predecessor!
The active tracking feature is genuinely good, however it can also lose tracking of a subject and fail to regain lock-on again once they're visible again. But then again, even DJI's £1,000+ drones aren't immune to such weakness. The Osmo Mobile 3 is a step forward, but there's still a bit of room for improvement in this area.
Otherwise, ignoring that sometimes blip and the product's drab colour/finish, there's no more complete (and more affordable) gimbal for phones out there right now. The Osmo Mobile 3's high-tech tracking features combine with a product that's well designed, easy to carry around and versatile.
This article was first published as a preview in early August 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review context.