The DJI OSMO action has arrived and it’s packed with high-end features that can’t fail to impress.
However, while a year ago the action camera market was open with a seemingly mortally wounded GoPro, today things are very different. GoPro rose from the flames and released the Hero 7 Black and since then the action camera landscape changed.
A year ago the OSMO Action would have swept in and provided users with everything they could have wanted. Image stabilisation that challenged mechanical gimbal stabilisers, 4K video resolutions with framerates that can be used to capture the action, voice control, touch screen and more.
Now the Osmo Action has arrived to challenge the Hero 7 Black and it’s quite a challenge. Our review sample is an early production model and there are a few tweaks that still need to be made, but at this early stage, it already shows this new camera is a force to be reckoned with.
Feature wise the resolutions and framerates match those of the Hero 7 Black and video quality seems exceptional, although not quite to Hero 7 standards at the moment, I’ll go in that deeper later in the hands on.
This is a battle that will play out over time, and for a true head-to-head DJI needs to add Live Streaming and include an audio in option; both of these features are covered by their other products in one way or another.
There have been many challengers to GoPro’s dominance in the action camera market: Nikon, Yi, Garmin and of course Sony, but one by one they’ve fallen by the wayside. But now DJI has entered the fray and announced the DJI OSMO Action.
Is it different? Hell yeah. It’s armour clad, ready for the impending battle.
This is one manufacturer that has already gone head-to-head with GoPro. The Mavic and Karma Drone battled it out in the sky, but even before launch the Karma drone had issues and was grounded, and even after those issues were resolved it never recovered.
However unlike the Karma Drone the GoPro Hero 7 Black is refined and close to perfection, pulling on years of experience in a field that the company has dominated for years.
In the last battle, GoPro tried to take on DJI on its home turf, this time the tables are turned, and it’s DJI venturing into GoPro’s territory.
Let’s look at the contenders and weigh up the features that the market-leading action camera must have: 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, voice control, touch screen, GPS, motion sensors, live stream, external audio and most importantly image stabilisation.
We’ve been testing the Osmo action for the last couple of weeks, and the performance is impressive. While our model is final hardware, there are still some tweaks and additions yet to be made to the firmware, but as it stands now, this looks like a pure battle of the Titans.
DJI has also released a slew of accessories for the new Osmo Action, including filters (Polarizer, ND4, ND8, ND16, ND32 and underwater filters), a 3.5mm mic adapter, charging hub, mounts and frame kit, floating handle and a waterproof case.
Get ready for this it’s an impressive list that few other action cameras can get close to.
4K is a must have, but the majority of cameras stumble before they’ve even left the starting blocks. Here the Osmo Action goes level with GoPro Hero 7 Black and manages 60fps.
As the resolution drops the framerates escalate, 1080p you have 240fps, which is ideal for slow-motion footage. Before I run through the list of possibilities, it’s worth introducing Rock Steady image stabalisation.
Rock Steady (RS) is DJI’s version of HyperSmooth and equally impressive. It’s the same technology that features in the Spark Drone, and you can see it refined here.
I’ll mark RS next to each resolution that enables Rock Steady.
DJI OSMO ACTION resolutions and framerates
- 4K (4:3): 30fps, 25fps and 24fps
- 4K: 60fps, 50fps, 48fps, 30fps, 25fps, 24fps (All RS)
- 2.7K (4:3): 30fps, 25fps, 24 (All RS)
- 2.7K: 60fps, 50fps, 48fps, 30fps, 25fps, 24fps (All RS)
- 1080p: 240fps, 200fps, 120fps, 100fps, 60fps (RS), 50fps (RS), 48fps (RS), 30fps (RS), 25fps (RS), 24fps (RS)
- 720p: 240fps, 200fps
Moving from the headline framerates and resolution and on to the camera itself. On the back, you have the huge touch screen, this is the largest touch screen I’ve seen on the back of an action camera at 6cm, 2.36-inches.
On the front of the camera is another smaller LCD, again full colour which can be used when shooting selfies. It’s really handy.
There’s also Voice Control with a host of commands which is set to expand.
A QS (Quick Switch) button on the side enables you to flick between modes quickly; Video, HDR Video, Slow Motion, TimeLapse and HyperLapse.
Once into each of these modes you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the settings and various options.
Size wise the Osmo Action looks and feels about the same as the GoPro Hero 7 Black. Both feel ready for action.
A nice touch on the Osmo Action is the screw in filter on the front covering the lens. This means that it can be easily replaced or swapped for a polariser or ND filter if needed. It feels like a much more refined solution than the one incorporated on the GoPro.
As ever there is an app that comes with the Osmo Action and it’s fully featured. The App is Mimo, the same that was used for the Osmo Pocket and here it’s equally well implemented.
At the moment there are some features that seem a little restrictive such as DeWarp. This can be used to reduce distortion but there is only one option and likewise, there are no audio adjustment options and if there are GPS or motion sensors built in there’s no way to access any of the settings.
Compared directly with the rest of the action camera market and there’s only one camera that comes close to the specifications and features of the Osmo Action, and that’s the GoPro Hero 7 Black.
Build quality and handling
If you’ve ever handled the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, then you’ll instantly know the quality of the Osmo Action. It has the same gunmetal grey finish, texture and feeling of quality.
It’s tactile, and the rubberised midsection finishes it off the body nicely.
The two screens are clear and bright as good as any on the market, once set up a quick tap of the screen or extended press of the QS button and you can switch between the two.
The rubberised Shutter, Power and QS buttons give a high quality feel to the camera.
On the base, the battery is held in place by two locks, I feel this is a little excessive, but it does the job, and the battery life is sufficient enough not to have to worry too much about replacing in the field.
On the side, a small flap hides the MicroSD card slot and USB Type-C port.
The lens and lens filter dominates the front of the camera, and the design of these sit well with the rest of the aesthetics and functionally.
There is however one small gripe, and that’s the gill-like detailing under the Osmo Action logo. This catches mud, and I have no idea if it has any function other than catching mud.
As with the GoPro Hero 7 Black, the Osmo Action sits inside an open cage that keeps the camera safe at depths of up to 10m or 30ft. This case is solid enough but doesn’t quite have the refinement of the GoPro version.
The small lever on top is part of a dual hinge which works well, but the lever is quite a bit smaller than the GoPro version. While this is fine in normal conditions, after a ride when your hands are stiff or after messing around in the water with cold hands, it’s a little tricky to open.
When it comes to ease of use the Osmo Action as with any new action camera takes a little time to orientate.
The main screen shows the recording options, time left on the MicroSD card, whether RS is on or off in video mode and a few other details for other modes. After a while it’s simplicity is welcomed and makes it exceptionally easy to use and navigate when needed.
To change system settings, you swipe down on the screen; here you have eight options; Save Current Configurations, Screen Brightness, Lock Screen, Settings, Rotation options, Spot Metering, Voice Control and Front Screen on or Off.
Pop into any of these sections, and you’ll see a few more options with the Settings Menu accessing all the essential camera system features, once you’ve finished you can then swipe up to exit.
Swipe left, and you have the camera settings, auto as default or you can swap to the manual which gives you access to ISO, Shutter, ISO Max and exposure compensation, WB, Color, DeWarp and recording format.
The Color option is the one that stands out and shows that DJI is already experts at the video is D-Cinelike. Switch to this mode, and the saturation and contrast drop making the footage far easier to match and grade with footage from other cameras — swipe right to close the options.
Next is the big resolutions and framerate options and to access these, you need to swipe up. This instantly shows you the resolution and framerate already selected and enables you to swipe left or right to change the option you want.
Although easy enough to use to change the resolutions and framerates it’s not as quick or intuitive as the direct select interface of the Yi camera.
It’s a small issue but one that starts to niggle over time especially if you’ve seen the Yi or older GoPro interface. GoPro annoyingly swapped from the fast, intuitive tap and selected to a more convoluted workflow with the GoPro Hero 7 Black.
At the top of the screen you’ll see a large Rock Steady, tap this, and it highlights blue to signal that RS is on, tap again, so it turns to white to switch off. To exit the screen swipe down.
Finally to review the footage swipe right, here you’ll see all the clips you’ve taken, tap and each will start to play. Swipe left to close.
Overall the interface is incredibly easy to use, but at present, some features seem a little limited. As this is an early production model I assume more features will be added once any issues have been ironed out. DJI has highlighted that the firmware installed is not the final version and changes are being made.
The Osmo Action like almost all action cameras has adopted the GoPro box style. This makes it easy to fit in the same way as most other action cameras.
On the base of the cage is the familiar GoPro style mount which means that no additional adapters are needed to attach the camera to bars or anything else you wish to connect it to.
Out in the field, the camera is a joy to use, the touch screen is fluid and intuitive, and the front screen is especially useful if you’re presenting to camera.
As with HyperSmooth of the GoPro Hero 7 Black, Rock Steady is equally impressive in use. Attached to a bike or vehicle where vertical bob isn’t an issue the image stabilisation is on par with that from a mechanical equivalent.
Handheld when walking along and the camera suffers from the same bobbing that is common with all EIS devices.
This bob has nothing to do with the quality of the camera and image stabilisation and everything to do with the person holding the camera and requires a little practice and a change of walking style to get smooth fluid motion truly.
The various modes give you plenty of options and many that match or mirror those of the GoPro Hero 7 Black. The Hyperlapse which we’ve previously seen on the DJI Mavic 2 Pro will make an appearance but is a feature that is still going through a few final tweaks before it’s being made live.
A big part of the DJI user experience comes through the Mimo App, and as with the Osmo Pocket here with the Osmo Action, the App works incredibly well giving a clear and fast connection to the camera.
Again maybe due to this being an early release some of the features feel a little limited.
All these features however good will be nothing if the video quality cannot live up to the promise.
DJI Osmo Action Video quality
Before delving into video resolutions and framerates the speed at which a camera can detect and adapt to exposure changes is an action camera essential.
Unlike normal cameras, action cameras are designed to move quickly from one place to another, and so exposure changes at speed are common.
The DJI Osmo Action was able to keep up with the move from light to shade without issue, and the dynamic range of the camera was impressive. There was a level of burn out in the footage when riding in the forest, as the camera tended towards overexposure.
Dialling in a little exposure compensation helped to pull back a little sky detail and recover highlights that would have otherwise been burnt out.
When presenting to camera, it was essential that spot metering was selected otherwise skin tones would also become burnt out, but with a little adjustment, the results were impressive.
Action camera colour is usually bright and slight oversaturated, but here DJI has opted to go for a more natural look which is good to see, although there’s no option to boost the saturation if you do want a more traditional action camera style to your footage.
At 4K video quality is excellent with clear, crisp detail and plenty of tone and colour. Looking closely at the footage and 60fps you can see some grain in the image.
Drop the framerate to 30fps, and it’s hard to tell any difference between 60fps and 30fps which mean that the Osmo Action is the only other camera aside from the GoPro to offer 4K true action footage.
At 1080p and up to 60fps the footage captured is again bright and crisp and some of the best produced by an action camera.
Increase the framerate to 240fps for some slow-motion capture, and you can’t fail to be impressed, this is by far some of the best footage that I’ve seen at this framerate. It’s startlingly good and better than the vast majority of other action cameras at 30 or 60fps.
Taking a closer look at the actual files and the metadata and you can see that the footage is captured at up to 100mb/s that’s a huge amount of data. Compare this to the GoPro Hero 7 Black which captures at up to 80mb/s, that’s quite a difference.
However, that difference is balanced out for the moment.
Looking at the footage shot side by side with the GoPro Hero 7 Black and out of the box, the GoPro is more adept at changing to different lighting conditions.
A close look at the low light and again the GoPro shows a little less grain in normal situations at 4K but side-by-side there is little in the quality aside from the brighter colours of the GoPro.
When it comes to dynamic range the two cameras, after a little reduction of exposure on the Osmo, and both appear to capture the same level of detail in the shadows and highlights.
At this point, it really does just come down to the added extras such as audio in, live streaming and GPS that will separate the two.
The DJI Osmo Action feels worth its asking price. It offers much the same as the GoPro Hero 7 Black, albeit with a few fewer features at the moment.
The build quality is exceptional, and as an action camera, it’s one of the best looking and most robust out there.
The screw in filters are an excellent addition, and with the release of a polariser and ND filter, it will make a nice rounded action camera for all situations.
The video quality and image stabilisation are the two headline features for the moment, and both are exceptional.
Our review unit is an early production model, so as of writing on the day of release there are still a few quirks that should be ironed out soon.
At present, the DJI Osmo action features do make it feel like there are a few things missing such as the lack of live stream to social networks, audio in and GPS and Motion sensors.
Then there are some of the smaller quirks, such as Hyperlapse not being available at 4k or at all at present, limited ability to change the field of view and a few minor glitches in the App.
As a rival for the GoPro Hero 7 Black the Osmo is a contender, it’s the only camera that comes anywhere close, but at present, it’s not quite there.
When it comes to outright quality the camera produces a video that is almost on a par with that from the GoPro, it’s a slightly different feel to the footage due to the saturation.
Now, if you’re looking for the ultimate action camera, you have a choice of two, either the GoPro Hero 7 Black or the DJI Osmo action. At present when it comes to features, the GoPro still edges ahead, but the high video quality and being part of the larger DJI ecosystem certainly makes the Osmo action very appealing.