(Pocket-lint) - As well as its line of popular consumer drones, DJI has made a name for itself in the smartphone gimbal market. Its handheld stabilisers - previously dubbed 'Osmo' - have enabled some pretty advanced capabilities over the years.
But with built-in stabilisation getting so good on smartphones, do we really need an additional gimbal anymore? The DJI OM 5 offers enough smart features to make it worthwhile, if you're a keen vlogger anyway.
Yes, it's an extender!
- Built-in selfie stick extends
- 1/4-inch screw for tripod mounting
- Magnetic phone mount
- Optional fill light accessory
With the OM 5, DJI has taken some of the good ideas from the previous OM 4 and stripped some of the bulk away, before hiding something of a party trick inside: a selfie stick. They were all the craze a few years ago, and now DJI has decided to implement one inside its latest smartphone gimbal.
Sadly (yet understandably) it's not a powered function though. So you can't press a button and have it extend out automatically. Instead, you have to manually pull it yourself until it's the desired length. We can't imagine the additional motors and complexity required to have a motored equivalent would be worth the additonal weight and expense.
The extensionadds about 25cm distance between you and the camera, giving you further scope to shoot wider shots with the front-facing camera when shooting vlog-style videos for social media, or just taking selfies.
From a design standpoint, the stabiliser has lost the angular look of the previous models. Instead, the OM 5's handle is an almost perfect cylinder, with a dip on the rear grip which is perfectly shaped for tucking in the mount and arm when folded away for storage. The arm has been made thinner too, while the hinge has been moved up the arm.
This change in shape is purely to make the device more compact, as the OM 5 still hosts all the usual buttons and controls around the top: there's the directional joystick, record/shutter button, index finger trigger, and directional switcher button on the front; the zoom slider and power button on the left; while the right side features the Type-C port for charging.
While the downsizing makes a lot of sense in terms of portability, and the extending arm adds versatility, there is a very real sense that it's come at the cost of durability. The new gimbal feels less sturdy and solid than its predecessors, while the buttons' hinge and the moving parts feel a bit more flimsy too. It definitely doesn't feel as well put together.
Despite that, the manufacturer retained the best thing about the OM 4 in the OM 5: the magnetic phone mounting system. Rather than have to wrestle with grips permanently attached to the arm, there's a magnetic system which allows the phone clamp to detach. That way you can fit it onto your phone, then snap it in place when you want.
It also means DJI has been able to launch a new additional clamp which has built-in LED strip lights on the grips. It's called a Fill Light and enables you to capture yourself in the dark by filling your face with light. It is an optional extra, but has its own built-in battery and USB-C port for charging.
How do use the controls?
- Bluetooth connection
- Control through Mimo app
When you first setup the OM 5, it's powered on by long-pressing the power button. It's a method DJI has used on its products for years, and stops you from accidentally switching your drone or gimbal on or off.
Then you download the DJI Mimo app and follow the setup guide in there. It uses your Bluetooth connection to pair with the OM 5 and then the phone and grip communicate with each other wirelessly.
Some of the physical buttons are just there to control the movement of the OM 5's arm, while others actually control the recording in the phone. For instance, the zoom slider on the left lets you smoothly zoom in and out. If you have a phone with multiple cameras on the back, it'll switch between those.
For instance, when using an iPhone 12 if you pull downwards to shoot a wider shot it will switch to the ultra-wide lens. On iPhone, this motion isn't completely smooth though, there's a bit of a delay while it switches to the other lens, taking roughly a second to load the view from the secondary camera.
Pressing the red shutter/capture button on the front of the grip starts and stops recording (or takes a photo), or you can use the red button on your phone screen. The joystick allows you to manually, and smoothly, move the arm left and right or up and down to frame your shot.
It has quite a large range of motion from left to right, allowing you to pan really quite far. Sadly, however, the up and down motion isn't quite as far reaching. It can point upwards directly, but only a few degrees downwards with the handle standing upright. That means if you want to get any kind of top-down shot you need to hold it and point it downwards yourself, or mount it to some form of frame or arm.
The other physical control is the small trigger at the front of the OM 5. With a subject in clear view, pressing this once launches the ActiveTrack feature (which actively track subjects within a frame, irrelevant of their or the camera's movement), while pressing it quickly twice re-centres the camera so it's facing forwards again. You can also press-and-hold it to switch to a faster response from the arm when you're manually moving the camera.
- Easy to use automation for motion timelapse
- ActiveTrack 4.0
As always with a DJI product it's the automation and tracking that makes it so compelling. A lot of this is the same as what you'll find in previous generations. In fact, the OM 4 has most of the same features as the OM 5.
The one automated programme that has arguably the most visual impact, and one thing you can't do easily with just a phone, is the motion time lapse feature. You set the OM 5 onto its included attachable feet - or mount it to a tripod - and launch the Timelapse option in the app.
Then using the menu at the top of the screen you can set how long you want to record for, at what intervals each frame should be shot. It then tells you how long the resulting video footage will be so you can tweak it to the right length.
At the very bottom of this menu you can choose the whether the timelapse is a simple fixed shot, or straight pan left to right, or right to left. But there's also a custom path mode - with this one selected you select the start and end points, and any other specific points in between (up to four in total). Hit record and it'll follow that path you created on its own. All you have to do is wait for it to finish.
ActiveTrack has been improved this year, however. It works across more resolutions and frame rates. It's also more responsive, so can cope with slightly faster moving subjects.
For the most part it works well. When using the selfie camera it automatically finds and tracks your face. So if you move, the arm holding the camera moves to keep your face in the centre. That's whether you are moving, or you're moving the camera. It's the same approach with shooting another subject, except you need to manually tag a person, pet or object to keep a tracking on it.
This is easy enough, though, and simply requires you to draw a square around the subject with your finger on your phone's touchscreen. It works well, even in low light conditions. The only times we found it struggled was if the object was blocked from view or moved just a little too quickly for it to keep up. Or, if the subject gets too close to the camera and takes up too much of the available space in frame.
With its built-in selfie stick and its automatic face-tracking when using the selfie camera, it's clear the OM 5 model is predominantly for those who like to vlog.
It lets you hold your phone in front of you - quite far away if you need it to be - all the while keeping your face in the centre of the frame, so you don't have to concentrate too much on making sure you're framed properly. It certainly makes filming yourself much easier, while the optional Fill Light means you can do it at nighttime too.
For those wanting to shoot moving objects and other subjects, the OM 5 doesn't really offer all that much different to the previous OM 4. That means, unless you're doing a lot of filming of yourself, there's no real need to upgrade. Plus, with the the added moving parts, hinges and extending arm, the latest model has lost some of the stability and durability.
In the end, if it's a smart selfie stick with cool automated features that you want, the OM 5 is for you. But if you just want a smart handheld smartphone gimbal, you might as well still go with the OM 4 from 2020 and get something a bit more robust as a result.