DJI Osmo Mobile 3: A Gimbal That Transforms Smartphone Video Capture
There are few better ways to record memories than video. You have probably recorded clips of birthday parties, vacations, or family holidays here and there. Maybe you enjoy sharing a glimpse of your daily grind to Instagram. Videos help us to share our world with others and reminisce about days gone by. Impromptu filming has become ever more accessible as smartphones have overtaken camcorders with remarkable new capabilities.
While smartphone camera quality has improved dramatically year after year with powerful image stabilization capability, shots can still be ruined by human hand shake shortcomings. Most of us need some assistance to get a stable shot - particularly while walking or running around. This is where gimbals, like the new DJI Osmo Mobile 3, come into the picture.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3 Overview And Mechanical DesignAt its core, the Osmo Mobile 3 functions the same way as other gimbals. It consists of a handle to grip with a motor at the top. The motor has an arm which joins to second motor. This attaches in turn to a third motor where the camera mounts. In this case, the camera mount is a phone cradle which clasps it in place.
The triple motor setup allows the gimbal to stabilize along three axes. The motors are brushless so they will likely have a long working life under normal operating conditions. The Osmo Mobile 3’s motor setup is somewhat non-traditional, however. Instead of the motors being positioned 90-degrees apart, the second motor is offset. This complicates the motors’ movements, but also brings a few advantages.
The greatest of these advantages is the clearance it provides for the phone’s size. In the 90-degree arrangement, as found on the Osmo Mobile 2, the phone juts up against the third (side) motor. This prevents users from accessing the phone’s charging port and requires the balance to be reconfigured when switching between portrait and landscape modes. That is not the case with the Osmo Mobile 3. The improved motor positioning means they are out of the way entirely so the phone’s orientation can easily be adjusted.
The Osmo Mobile 3 also gives free access to the phone’s charging port. DJI capitalized on this by including a USB Type-A port in the handle which can be used to charge the phone while using the gimbal. We found this only worked with the phone in landscape mode. We also needed to take care to use a flexible enough cable to not interfere with the gimbal’s motion. The included USB cable just barely fits the bill here, though we would prefer one with less slack for this purpose.
There is also a USB-C port on the gimbal, but this cannot be used to charge the phone. It is only for charging the gimbal itself. This is disappointing, but at least means Android users can bring a single Type-A to Type-C cable with a wall adapter to cover charging for both the gimbal and phone.
The other offset motor advantage is its ability to fold up. The Osmo Mobile 3 is not the first gimbal to pull off this trick, but it does so elegantly. The arm is hinged between the first two motors. It has a spring loaded mechanism which keeps the gimbal firmly collapsed or extended as desired. It does not need a button release to switch between - just flip it and go.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3 ErgonomicsThe Osmo Mobile 3 has a very ergonomic feel. The handle is angled forward 15 degrees to complement most grips. It has a simple and well positioned button layout as well. It is not ambidextrous, however, as it is intended for right-handed use. The user-facing side has a thumbstick and two buttons - M and Record. The left side has a thumb slider to control zoom. Finally, there is a trigger button under your index finger. The M button and trigger can be pressed multiple times to perform alternate functions, but more on that later.
You get the gimbal itself for $119 (or $115 currently on sale), but for an extra $20 DJI will also throw in a hard-shell carrying case and tripod base. The case is zippered with a fabric covering and has a large loop strap. While the kit includes the tripod, the case can only fit the gimbal inside. The tripod can stow in the elastic pocket on the outside of the case. This pocket is not ideal because it adds bulk and runs the risk of the tripod slipping out. The pocket is also on the back side of the case so it can be awkward to add or remove the gimbal without removing the tripod base from the pocket first. The tripod base is an indispensable accessory for the gimbal. Without it, the gimbal needs to be powered off or put into standby and folded down each time you want to set it down. Otherwise, the motors shake uncontrollably as it lies on its side. To set up the tripod with the gimbal, simply extend the legs and set it down.
The tripod is also essential to get the best results from the panorama and timelapse functions. While panorama stitching can compensate for some movement while handheld, timelapses become a jittery mess with even the slightest motion. The tripod base connects with a standard ¼-20 screw meaning you can use the gimbal with virtually any other tripod as well.
With its legs retracted, it serves as an extended grip on the handle. This can be used to extend your reach or to use a second hand to further stabilize the shot. The tripod base helps to counterbalance the weight of the phone which gives a top-heavy feel otherwise.
The gimbal measures about 6.2 inches by 5.1 inches by 1.8 inches folded down. At this size, it can easily be stashed in most camera bags or backpacks, with or without the hard-shell case. Unfolded, the gimbal stretches to 11.25 inches by 4.9 inches by 4 inches before accounting for a phone. This is still a very compact size, even for a phone gimbal. The tripod base adds an additional 5.4 inches of height with a tapered diameter of 1.25 inches at its widest. The Osmo Mobile 3 weighs 14.3 ounces unladen on its own, and the tripod adds another 2.5 ounces to tip the scales just over a pound.
Let's setup the DJI Osmo Mobile 3, tear it down, delve deeper into its software app, and check out some sample footage next...