My First Week With The DJI Osmo Pocket

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When the early reviews of the DJI Osmo Pocket started showing up on YouTube, I was disappointed in what I saw. The microphone sounded worse than what I get out of my $150 Android phone, and much of what should have been core functionality was relegated to add-on hardware. The Osmo Pocket costs $350, then DJI wants to nickel and dime you to add more physical controls ($59), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi ($59), a mic input (not available yet), and even a tripod adapter ($19).

A nifty $350 video camera quickly becomes a $500 camera. At that price, you can start looking at cameras like the Panasonic Lumix G7. I’m well aware that these two cameras are like apples and oranges, but I can’t be the only one who could have their primary requirements fulfilled by either camera!

DJI fixed the problem with the microphone, but I’m still displeased with the plethora of unnecessary add-on hardware. How much bigger would the Osmo Pocket need to be to squeeze in a threaded insert for a tripod, a mic input jack, and a Wi-Fi chip?

I haven’t had the Osmo Pocket long enough to get much use out of it, so this isn’t going to be an in-depth review. I’ll be talking about the specs, how it compares to my Zhiyun Smooth 4 and the less-expensive Tzumi SteadyGo gimbals.

So why on Earth did you buy an Osmo Pocket?

I had a minor calamity, and it was an embarrassing one. I was out in the garage running my Shapeoko CNC machine. Its Dewalt router is quite noisy, and I was in the process of vacuuming up all the carbon fiber dust. I accidentally sucked something up into the vacuum, so I had to move myself over a few feet to shut off the vacuum and disconnect the hose.

I stepped on something, and my foot started slipping. What did I step on? My cheap Android smartphone! It was screen down, and it was quite slick. The screen cracked. I don’t even remember bringing the phone to the garage with me!

This is embarrassing, because I’ve been carrying a smartphone since the Palm Treo 650, and I’ve never broken a phone. I had a flash chip go bad once, but I’ve never physically damaged a phone like this.

I was using that phone with a Zhiyun Smooth 4 gimbal. The Smooth 4 has been fantastic, and it is what I’ll be comparing the DJI Osmo Pocket to. The phone’s camera was just barely good enough, but it did the job.

I stepped on a phone, so what do I do? Replace it with a phone with a better camera and continue using the Smooth 4? Or should I pop my SIM card back in my previous phone and try out the Osmo Pocket?

You already know what I chose to do

The Osmo Pocket does many of the things that my Smooth 4 can do. They both offer face and object tracking, they can both record motion timelapse video, and they both have similar stability modes. The Smooth 4 has some interesting focus pulling features, but that feature didn’t work on my oddball phone.

The Osmo Pocket has a better camera and microphone than my cheap Blu Vivo 8, and the form factor is a huge upgrade—the Osmo Pocket is a fraction of the size!

The form factor of the Osmo Pocket is awesome!

I’m good at sitting down at my desk and writing. I’m trying to do a better job of uploading content to YouTube, but I have been failing. My hope is that the convenience of the Osmo Pocket will encourage me to carry a video camera more often, and also to talk to the camera more often.

You’d think I could manage to at least talk to my phone’s camera once in a while, right? It never works out, though. Holding the phone up to “vlog” isn’t comfortable or steady without a small tripod, and it is amazing how difficult it is to open the camera app, flip to the front camera, switch to video mode, and start recording when you only have one free hand.

The Zhiyun Smooth 4 makes it easy to hold the phone up when you’re talking to the camera, but I never have it with me. It is way too large.

The Osmo Pocket is tiny. In its carrying case, it fits safely and comfortably in the same front pocket as my phone. I am sometimes aware that it is there while sitting down, but it isn’t much of an annoyance. I can carry this thing for eight hours without any trouble.

Recording myself or others with the Osmo Pocket is easy, too. It is light, so it is easy to hold it high enough that you don’t have to look up my nose while I’m talking to the camera. The camera’s field of view is reasonable for this mode of operation, and its face tracking does a good job of keeping me in frame.

The Osmo isn’t just an upgrade for recording myself. It is a big upgrade over holding a smartphone when recording video in front of you as well. Holding the camera like a pistol is easier and more comfortable than holding a thin rectangle, and the stability of the gimbal makes your shots look more professional.

The best camera is the one you have with you

I love my Canon 6D DSLR. It is a fantastic camera for photography, and it is capable of capturing amazing video. It is getting old, and Canon has always been behind when it comes to video. The Canon 6D has no autofocus while recording video, and the thing weighs nearly three pounds with my favorite lens attached.

If the subject is going to be standing still, and I have time to set up a tripod and a mic, my Canon 6D will easily out-perform the Osmo Pocket.

My Giant Canon 6D

I can’t carry my three-pound DSLR everywhere I go, but I can keep that Osmo Pocket on hand all the time. I can pull it out of my pocket and be recording video in less than five seconds.

Whoever said this is absolutely correct. The best camera is the one you have with you. Especially when it is convenient enough to use!

3D-printed accessories for your Osmo Pocket

I’ve been 3D printing for a long time, so you can probably guess what the first thing I did after placing my order for an Osmo Pocket was—I stopped by Thingiverse to see if there were any things I needed to print!

There’s no shortage of stands and tripod adapters for the Osmo Pocket on Thingiverse. I chose an Osmo Pocket stand that combines both into a single device, and it is working quite well.

I’ve also designed my own adapter based on that same object. It isn’t elegant or clean, but it is getting the job done.

Shortly after the Osmo Pocket arrived, I took it out to the car and tied it to my smartphone holder. I was impressed with how well it managed to record me while I was driving. I expected to hear a lot of road noise or the engine, but it sounded just fine!

Using a Velcro strap to hold the Osmo Pocket in place every time I get in the car was going to be the opposite of quick and easy, so I decided to throw a quick design together. It isn’t anything fancy. Just a rectangle attached to the stand I had already found on Thingiverse. The Osmo goes in the stand, then the stand fits into the car mount just like a smartphone.

I should mention one other accessory that I’m using, even though I didn’t 3D print it. I had to buy it. It is an extendable selfie stick tripod. It wasn’t too difficult to find, but the majority of these types of tripods have phone clamps on the end instead of ¼-20 threads.

I bought this tripod mainly for recording video at my desk. All my small tripods are too short to get the Osmo Pocket up to eye level. This extending tripod folds up as small as my old mini tripod, but it can also extend all the way to 40”.

You shouldn’t use it as a tripod at that length, because it will definitely tip over and smash your fragile Osmo Pocket. I extend it to 12” to 15” at my desk when recording my own ugly mug.

Connecting your phone to the Osmo Pocket

You have to connect your phone to your Osmo Pocket at least once to activate the device, and again any time you need to update the firmware. I had to buy an adapter to plug the USB-C output into my old Blu Vivo XL2. The DJI MIMO app works fine with this adapter.

I don’t have any plans to use their app when recording with the Osmo Pocket. I’m excited about having a tiny camera that I can fit in my pocket. I don’t want to make it bigger. I don’t want to waste time plugging devices together and opening apps. I just want to pull the camera out and start recording!

The app was almost required before the recent firmware update. Today, you can access almost all the features and settings of the Osmo Pocket from its tiny touch screen. It can be a bit fiddly, but it works.

The GoPro HERO7 Black and the Samsung Galaxy S10+

For my use case and budget, I’m happy enough with my choice, but there are alternatives that will capture video every bit as smooth and steady as the DJI Osmo Pocket.

The GoPro HERO7 Black has an option called Hypersmooth, and it is quite impressive. Footage recorded with Hypersmooth looks an awful lot like it was recorded with a gimbal, and the HERO7 Black doesn’t cost much more than the Osmo Pocket. If you’re interested in pointing the camera at yourself, the GoPro’s lack of a front-facing display will be problematic.

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ has optical image stabilization on the rear camera, and it has a feature similar to GoPro’s Hypersmooth. I’ve seen some footage on the Internet, and it is quite impressive. I’m not sure if you can use that feature on the front-facing camera. The price of the Galaxy S10+ is several times that of the Osmo Pocket, but it is way more than a camera.

There are a few features you’ll miss out on by using a phone or action camera instead of a gimbal, but I’m not sure how compelling those features are. You won’t be recording a motion timelapse or doing any face and object tracking without a gimbal.

The Galaxy S10+ is the only phone with stabilization on par with the Osmo Pocket today, but that won’t be true for long. How many years will it be before $200 Android phones are competitive with Hypersmooth? The Blu Vivo 8 that I stepped on had a pretty reasonable anti-shake feature. Who knows where things will be in two more years?

A gimbal for your phone may be a good option, but it isn’t for me

Last year, I bought a Zhiyun Smooth 4 gimbal for my phone. It works great, and it is a lot of fun to use. It has many of the same features as the Osmo Pocket, but it is available for about a third of the price. You probably already have a phone with a decent camera, so that’s all you would need to buy.

A few months ago, my friend Brian bought each of us a Tzumi SteadyGo gimbal. Meh.com had a deal, and they were only about $30 each. They’re currently around $70 at Amazon—only a fifth of the price of the Osmo Pocket! The reviews are rather poor. They seem to fail a lot.

I’ve only used mine a few times, but it seems to work about as well as the Smooth 4 gimbal. Basic gimbal functions work great, and face and object tracking seem to work fine.

There are two big advantages that these gimbals have over the Osmo Pocket, and one huge problem. Smartphone gimbals cost a lot less, and you can upgrade the camera. Every time you buy a new smartphone, you’ll be getting a free camera upgrade.

Unfortunately, both of these gimbals are huge. They’re about twice as tall as your smartphone and quite unwieldy. You won’t be putting either of these two gimbals in your pocket.

You can pull the Osmo Pocket out of your pocket, take it out of its case, and have it recording in five to ten seconds. The only way to get up and recording that quickly with the Zhiyun or Tzumi gimbal would be by having the gimbal powered up in your hand the whole time.

My Zhiyun and Tzumi gimbals are going to be spending a lot of time in the closet now, but I expect I’ll be pulling them out of the moth-balls in about two years! Those phone cameras just keep getting better.

Conclusion

So far, I’m pleased with my purchase. It would have been nice if DJI made the Osmo Pocket just a little bigger. I would have liked to see the jog wheel, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth included in the base device. Adding a tripod mount and mic input wouldn’t have required much more space, either.

Even without these features, I think the DJI Osmo Pocket is worth $350. I’m infinitely more likely to be carrying the Osmo Pocket than either of my phone gimbals, and having quick access to the Osmo means I’m that much more likely to be filming. I need to be filming so much more often!

Do you have a gimbal for your smartphone? Are you regularly using Hypersmooth or a Galaxy S10+? Have you tried the Osmo Pocket? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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