DJI’s New Osmo Gimbal Is the Rare Phone Accessory That’s Actually Worth It
Running around the office with the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, I got a lot of questions. Specifically I got exactly two questions repeatedly. The first was about what I was holding. Each time, I explained that the weird selfie stick-like contraption I’d put my phone in was a mechanized gimbal that automatically stabilizes my phone as I move around, so I can shoot video footage so smooth it looks like it was shot with the aid of a professional Steadicam. Then I’d jostle the little joystick on the Osmo’s handle, causing the entire arm of the thing to swivel around for a perfectly smooth pan, eliciting looks of impressed satisfaction. That’s when people would ask the inevitable second question: How much does this magic cost? When I told them it was $130, I’d get another set of contented nods. Considering how slick the Osmo is, the $130 price is very reasonable. It’s about as close to a no-brainer as phone accessory can be nowadays.
It isn’t the accessory for everyone. If you never use your phone to shoot video, you don’t need it. If the camera on your phone is absolutely terrible don’t even bother. If battery life is the biggest concern in your daily life, then you’re probably better off blowing your phone accessory budget on a Mophie. But if you’re a parent with a need to capture boring Saturday soccer games and dance recitals, or a pet owner, or a nerdy YouTuber who needs to record the every minutiae of daily existence, then this super cheap gimbal feels like it should probably be on your wishlist.
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
What is it?
A gimbal that lets you produce super stable videos with your phone.
It’s crazy cheap and the footage it produces looks lovely.
The controls take a LOT of getting used to.
The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is the second iteration of DJI’s gimbal for smartphones. The original gimbal did an admirable job stabilizing smartphone footage, and its support of Facebook and YouTube Live meant it was a great solution for people looking to live stream their existence with as stable footage as possible. Yet the original Osmo Mobile also went for $300 before eventually dropping down to $200 last year. The thing was stupidly expensive and quickly undercut by knock off gimbals on Amazon that went for half the price. I’m pretty sure the only people who regularly used the original Osmo Mobile were employees of media companies stuck doing a ton of Facebook Lives every month—jerks like me circa the summer of 2016.
While I dug the stable footage you could get with the original Osmo Mobile, I hated a lot of other things about it, like how it had next to no battery life and also no way to know when the battery was about to die. There’s nothing worse than your gimbal dying mid-video. Moreover, the device’s controls often felt maddeningly obtuse. For example, to zoom, you had to pinch the device’s display.
The phone snaps into place.
The zoom controls are a great addition from the original Osmo Mobile, but they can sometimes be hard to reach if you’re right handed and have small hands.
The Osmo charges via a Micro USB port on the side near the controls. You can also charge a phone using the same port (provided you have the right cables).
The dials let you manually calibrate the gimbal if you really need to.
Creeping on a parking lot.
This is what the battery level looks like at 16-percent left on the Osmo Mobile 2.
1 / 6
The Osmo Mobile 2 improves on the original in nearly every way. I easily get over ten hours of battery life on a charge—more than double what I had on the Osmo Mobile. The small battery indicator on the handle, plus an additional one in the smartphone app, means I can better anticipate when it’s time to grab a charger.
The controls are better labeled now too—even if it takes some practice to master the joystick that swings the gimbal around. After some use, I still accidentally pan up when I mean to pan down and overshoot my left to right pans when I’m in a hurry. Also, I have small hands, which makes the placement of the new zoom switch on the side of the device frustrating. While zooming with a switch instead of using my fingers to pinch zoom on the phone is a great improvement, having to use two hands because I can’t reach the control with one.
Still, my biggest complaints about the original Osmo have been fixed, which means I can spend more time having fun with the new stuff—mainly two new timelapse modes. The original timelapse hasn’t changed from the Osmo Mobile. You hit a button, choose how long you want the timelapse to last, and how often it should snap a picture. Any number of free apps on your Android or iOS device can do this, and don’t require a fancy mechanized gimbal.
The new modes for the Osmo Mobile 2 actually use the motorized gimbal to their advantage. The first, Hyperlapse, let’s you take a timelapse while in motion, keeping everything smooth and stabilized. A boring walk through Union Square on my way back from lunch actually looked cool as hell when I shot it in Hyperlapse mode.
The second new mode is Motion Timelapse. This mode doesn’t take advantage of the stabilizer, but of the motor in the gimbal. It allows you to program points in a timelapse, which means when I hung out on a pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn last weekend, I could track the movement of boats without actually having to sit there and manually pan with the joystick for five minutes.
Like the original timelapse mode it still requires a tripod or flat surface if you want a truly cinematic look to your timelapse. In the one above you can see it slowly lean as I got bored holding the Osmo up for five minutes straight—yet even with an eventual tilt the footage feels pretty dynamic compared to a normal timelapse.
But let’s be real, the big selling point of the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 isn’t the variety of new timelapse modes, or the long exposure and panorama modes that were also available with the original. The selling point is that this is a really nice stabilizer for your smartphone, and it only costs $130. That’s cheaper than nearly every other gimbal available on Amazon right now (and certainly cheaper than the good ones). Even better, it comes from a company with a long history of great products and well-made apps. If you’ve been thinking about picking up a cheap camcorder to film your kid’s recital, or you want to experiment with low budget filmmaking, then this is an easy choice. Pick up the DJI Osmo Mobile 2—it’s so damn cheap you’d be dumb not to.