The key question I want to answer in this review is, of course, whether the DJI Osmo Pocket is worth buying.
But more specifically: is the DJI Osmo Pocket worth buying if you’re not already an amazing videographer?
I must admit that I’ve often been disappointed with the shaky videos I’ve shot with my mirrorless camera. And while I’ve seen the smooth video that can be shot with a professional gimbal, I’ve been hesitant to bring even more bulky gear on my travels. For these reasons, I’ve stuck mostly with photography.
Now, enter the DJI Osmo Pocket. When I recently saw a friend use this device, I immediately realized this highly compact gimbal camera might just be a game-changer. I ordered one from Amazon the next day.
But is this a camera that even a casual user can enjoy?
- Amazing 3-axis stabilization
- Super easy to use & insanely portable
- Perfect for travel and vlogging
- No Micro-USB port for older phones
- Small screen can make framing challenging
The Osmo Pocket is a delightfully compact camera featuring gimbal stabilization.
In case you haven’t used a gimbal before, it lets you shoot video that’s much smoother than with just a smartphone, or even a camera with digital stabilization. It also lets you move the camera in different directions, even pointing it straight up.
The main thing to understand about the Osmo Pocket is that can be used on its own, or in combination with your smartphone.
The device itself has a very small screen, but attaching your smartphone will make it easier to frame your shots. Tthe on-screen touch controls on your phone can also give you more precise camera control.
Here’s where I ran into some trouble though. Only two detachable plugs are included: one USB-C (for Android) and one Lightning (for iPhone). I didn’t realize that there wasn’t a Micro-USB attachment, which is what my three-year-old smartphone still used.
I thought you could still use the Osmo Pocket independently of the smartphone, but you actually have to set it up on your smartphone first. You can use it separately only after activation.
I could have probably messed around with a converter cable and gotten it to work somehow. But since my old phone was overdue for an upgrade anyway, I got myself a newer phone with USB-C. This allowed me to attach the Osmo Pocket and set it up without a hitch.
After dealing with this minor frustration, I could finally start using the device.
Using the camera
The user interface of the Osmo Pocket is incredibly intuitive. Essentially, you only have to remember two buttons: one that switches between functions and the other to start/stop recording. Without giving it any thought, you can grab the device from your pocket, push record, and start filming.
This ease-of-use certainly isn’t common with all cameras — the GoPro, for instance, still often frustrates me despite it having had seven design iterations at this point.
Play the video below to see some shots I took in Lisbon shortly after getting the Osmo Pocket.
There are two ways to control the camera movement: it can either follow your arm and hand movements (with a slight delay for a smooth effect) or you can control it with a joystick button (on the Osmo’s own display or on your smartphone).
I personally most enjoy panning the camera by simply moving it in the direction I want. This seems to get the smoothest results initially.
When using the joystick, there is oddly little ‘rubber banding’ on the movement. So when you press down the camera will go down, but if you stop pressing down it doesn’t ease out of this movement, instead stopping kind of abruptly. I got better at making smooth movements with the joystick after a while, but it’s easier to have the camera simply follow your physical movements.
A physical controller wheel is also sold separately, which does the same as the on-screen slider but with more precision, though I did not have a chance to try this accessory.
There are three modes that affect just how the camera follows your movement. These also determine, for example, if it’s allowed to tilt horizontally. I got the hang of these after about an hour of practicing. You can also just keep it in the default ‘Follow’ mode.
Some more advanced controls are available mainly via the smartphone interface. The app also offers a range of preset shooting patterns and camera motions.
Is the Osmo Pocket good for travel videos?
I found this device ideally suited to making travel montages. For my first tests, I walked around Lisbon, simply trying to take cool shots of things happening around me.
And I must say, I was super stoked with the results!
Many shots looked ridiculously cinematic.
What’s also nice about the Osmo Pocket is that it’s quite inconspicuous, so it’s easy to film street scenes and people without anyone paying you much attention.
With the gimbal, it’s possible to create silky smooth pans and even what look like dolly shots. Keep in mind though that the Osmo Pocket has 3-axis stabilization only, lacking the 4-axis stabilization that you might find on a professional (but also very bulky) gimbal.
By the way, your footsteps may still be slightly visible with minor camera shake. If you want to do a long take of you walking through a street, don’t expect it to look quite like a steady-cam shot from a film (where the camera appears to be gliding at an exact height through space). With the Osmo Pocket, you’ll still see that it’s a person walking.
It doesn’t look bad though. And you can still eliminate most or all of this vertical movement by practicing your ninja walk, using slow-motion (by filming at 60 fps), or simply by creating sequences made of shorter shots.
For shots where the Z-depth doesn’t change (e.g. panning horizontally), I found that adding a bit of warp stabilization in Premiere Pro completely removed any minor footsteps that were still noticeable. The result was a fully smooth shot, as though the camera was on rails. Keep in mind using additional digital stabilization is not possible when the Z-axis changes though (e.g. when you are walking forward or backward).
All in all, the tiny size of the Osmo Pocket makes it downright fun to shoot video. It’s zero-hassle, which makes it perfect for documenting your travels.
In fact, it makes me wish I had this device with me on all my previous globe-trotting journeys (if this device had existed back then!).
Is the Osmo Pocket good for vlogging?
I’ve found the Osmo Pocket to be perfect for vlogging as well, making it feel pretty close to effortless.
In the past, I’ve tried to do some vlogging on my smartphone, but this just looked way too shaky and poorly framed. I’ve also tried doing it with my mirrorless camera mounted on a Gorillapod held in front of me (Casey Neistat style), but my arms would just get terribly tired, causing unintended vertical movement.
I must admit I also still feel a bit self-conscious walking around with a ton of gear pointed at me! But the DJI Osmo Pocket is so light and inconspicuous that it makes vlogging a lot easier.
If you press the function button twice, the camera will turn to face you and instantly track your face. Since the device weighs only about 100 grams, you can easily record vlogs for ages without your arm getting weary.
The built-in microphone is pretty decent, by the way, producing audio quality roughly similar to a smartphone.
If you want to level up your vlogging, I recommend getting a simple accessory like the one shown above that I found on Amazon. It lets you still hold your gear with one hand, monitor your shot with the smartphone screen, and still attach an external mic using the hot-shoe bracket.
Is the Osmo Pocket a good action camera?
Out of the box, I think the Osmo Pocket is only so-so as an action camera. But if you can add a few accessories, you can turn it into a pretty great action camera.
The Osmo Pocket is not primarily an action camera like the GoPro or similar devices. Its camera-head-on-a-stalk design makes it a lot more exposed and there is no waterproof and hardened case included in the box.
That said, you can get accessories letting you connect the Osmo Pocket to any GoPro or similar action camera attachment point. This means you can put on a harness or on a suction cup.
There is also a waterproof case (costing another $60 or so) which lets you take it down to depths of up to 60m. When using it in this way, you cannot move the camera freely though — only pointing it straight ahead. Given that reflections from the glass could interfere with the image, this is a reasonable constraint.
Due to its shape, the Osmo Pocket may not be quite as versatile as a rectangular-shaped action camera, but you can certainly use this very well during travel action moments like swimming, snorkeling, hiking, or climbing.
Pros and cons
I highly enjoyed using the Osmo Pocket, more than I have with my GoPro or other video cameras. Despite not exactly being a talented videographer, I’m able to shoot some amazing video with it.
So yes, even if you don’t have that much technical knowledge, you can get some stunning shots with this device.
The stabilization you can get with a physical gimbal also beats anything you can achieve digitally. What you’ll get from the Osmo Pocket is even better than the GoPRO 7’s new HyperSmooth function. (And it can shoot smoothly in 4K, whereas the GoPRO 7’s HyperSmooth is limited to 1080p).
Of course, stabilized footage isn’t enough in itself to produce compelling videos, as this also also relies on your editing and storytelling abilities. But if you’ve ever wanted to jump in and learn, then the quality of footage you’ll get from this device will be hugely motivating.
If you’re thinking of getting this camera for vlogging or for chronicling your travels, and if you want something that is highly pocketable and easy to use, then this might well be the perfect camera for you.
P.S. While I’ve reviewed the Osmo Pocket here from an entry-level perspective, it has enough advanced capabilities and additional accessories and modes to appeal to the prosumer user as well. It has pro features including manual exposure, ISO, RAW photos and D-Cinelike recording.