When I reviewed DJI’s Osmo Mobile 2 smartphone gimbal, I was quite impressed with its stabilization capability and feature set. It made it possible to record smooth video in tricky situations, as well as do some cool time-lapse photographs. Its big drawback was its size and shape. The combination of the two meant that it needed to be carried in a large case — at which point it’d be easier to simply carry a small camera with optical stabilization.
DJI has addressed those concerns with its new folding model of the Osmo, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 ($149.99). Sporting a feature set even larger than that of its predecessor, it folds into a compact size that allows you to either carry it in its small case or conveniently fit it into the place taken by a lens or point-and-shoot in your photo bag. The Osmo Mobile 3 only weighs about 14 ounces, and it can hold just about any smartphone that is between 2.5 and 3.5 inches wide. I used it successfully with a Google Pixel 3 and a Huawei Mate 20 Pro. For its small size, the Mobile 3 has a relatively large 2,450Wh battery that is good for up to 15 hours of operation — assuming you’ve done a good job balancing your phone in the clamp.
Using a DJI Osmo Mobile 3
DJI has made the controls on the Osmo Mobile 3 about as simple as possible. The Power button doubles as a function button, and you get a dedicated shutter/record button, as well as a Telephoto/Wide rocker that operates if you have your phone paired with the Osmo Mobile 3 over Bluetooth. A multi-function trigger has also been added for additional flexibility. The new spring-loaded phone mounting system is also more forgiving than the previous version. I didn’t have any trouble finding a way to mount either phone that completely avoided the problem of having the clamp accidentally affect any of the controls.
You can also control the gimbal’s operation using DJI’s Go app on your phone. That works well once you have it set up, but since you’re supposed to mount your phone to the gimbal before turning it on, you do need to make sure you have enough hands available to use the app while you are also holding the gimbal. Speaking of phones, there is even a USB port you can use to charge your phone if needed.
Once you’re shooting, the Osmo Mobile 3 has the usual modes of operation, where you can have it attempt to stay locked in one place or track with your hand movements. You can set the speed of the automatic zoom, letting you create something similar to the “Dolly Zoom” often used in movies. After a little practice, I found that I could execute fairly smooth pans and zooms, even with moving subjects or from a moving vehicle. For example, in this video recorded from a boat drifting in the current and vibrating from the engine, I was able to capture stable footage of people jumping off an old submarine tunnel in Montenegro:
Impressive Stabilization in a Small Package
In my testing, the Osmo Mobile 3 performed even better than the Osmo Mobile 2, despite being quite a bit smaller and lighter. That was true even with the fairly large phone I was using (a Huawei Mate 20 Pro). In this video clip taken from a boat motoring across Skadar Lake in Montenegro you can see that it keeps the landscape and horizon quite stable:
Packed Full of Features
As with the Osmo Mobile 2 and the Pocket mini-camera, the Osmo Mobile 3 is packed full of features. Time Lapse is one of my favorites. To assist with those, DJI offers an optional small tripod (a larger, but more versatile option that the tiny base it sells for the Osmo Mobile 2). Alternatively, you can attach your own plate or tripod via the 1/4-inch socket on the bottom of the grip. Its ActiveTrack object tracking isn’t going to help anyone covering serious sports, but it’s useful for interviews, selfie video blogging, or walking around a subject while keeping it in the frame. For tracking action you can switch the Mobile 3 into Sport mode, which makes it respond and move more quickly, but without active tracking.
As with other DJI products, the Osmo Mobile 3 supports some gestures. So you could, for example, set the gimbal up on a tripod (it has a 1/4-inch socket, and the kit version comes with a small tripod that fits it), and then start it recording or taking photos with a gesture.
DJI’s post-processing software also continues to improve and is a good option for someone not already using a solution like Adobe’s Premiere Rush for mobile video editing. If you’re in a hurry, or simply don’t want to bother doing any processing yourself, DJI offers Story Mode, which automatically turns your clip into a ready-to-share multimedia creation. You can further customize your Story with transitions, music, and effects filters before sharing.
Is the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 Right For You?
At $120, the Osmo Mobile 3 is an affordable way to upgrade the quality of your smartphone videos. If you’re a video blogger who does a lot of selfie videos, it’s also a lot better solution than a traditional selfie stick. Speaking of which, since it has a tripod mount on the bottom, you could, in theory, turn it into a longer selfie stick by adding an extension. However, you wouldn’t be able to run the controls in that configuration.
My biggest problem with the Mobile 3 is that I now feel bad I purchased the Mobile 2. I found that after I did, its large size kept me from taking it with me on most of my trips. That isn’t an issue with the Mobile 3. If you’re going to spring for one and can afford an additional $20 for the kit, you’ll get a well-implemented case and a small tripod. I used the case for times when the gimbal went in my checked luggage, but for day-to-day use, I found it worked just fine to stick it in a padded section of my camera bag.
[Video credit: David Cardinal]
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