Today we learned two things about DJI’s Osmo Mobile series of handheld gimbals. First, that the company thought the name was too long (it’s now simply known as “OM”). Second, that one of the biggest bugbears was apparently mounting your phone in the thing itself. How do we know? Because the main new feature on the OM4 (the successor to the Osmo Mobile 3) has a whole new mounting system. As the name suggests, it’s the fourth in the series, it costs $150 and it’s available starting today.
As a reminder, the Osmo Mobile line allows you to shoot “cinematic” smooth video using your phone while other Osmo handhelds, like the Pocket, have the camera built-in. Video stabilization within your phone’s own camera app has come a long way in recent years, but a mechanical gimbal is usually far superior. There are many mobile stabilizers to choose from, but DJI likely has the most brand awareness right now (sorry, Feiyu Tech).
What’s new with the OM4? The main thing appears to be how you will attach your phone to it. Previous models had a clamp that you had to wedge your handset into. This is true for most phone gimbals, and I’ve never found it to be that elegant. Especially if you have a larger handset, and the temerity to have a case on it. The phone can feel lopsided in the grip, and it can take a moment to get it set just right. With the OM4 you have two options: a magnetic “pop socket” style attachment you leave on the back of your phone, or a magnetic clip which is similar to the old clamp mechanism, but it breaks free from the gimbal and can be left on your phone between uses (it’s small, but you might not want to leave it on all the time).
At first, it’s easy to write the magnetic mount system off as a bit of a gimmick, but if you’ve ever used a mobile gimbal, you’ll know it could actually be highly practical. Not just because it’s easier to sling your phone onto this thing, although that is a benefit, it also makes the OM4 easier to carry around when you’re not using it. Gimbals are ungainly things at the best of times, given how they ungraciously go limp while not in use, and having a chonky phone grip on the end just makes things worse. With this new system and the folding design, you can easily stow it in your pocket without worrying about breaking it or harming the motors.
Of course, a simple magnet likely isn’t enough to lure people over from rival products or earlier models. Thankfully, DJI has added some new features, too. Most notably, Dynamic Zoom (which is similar to the Dolly Zoom feature on the Osmo Mobile 3 and Mavic 2 Zoom) and “Clone Me” panorama, which is exactly what it sounds like. There’s also a “Spin shot” mode that lets you rotate the phone with the joystick (usually used for panning and tilting). It sounds fun, but might get tired pretty fast. Either way, expect a glut of such videos right after launch. DJI states that the OM4 offers up to 15 hours of battery life too, but it’s unclear how many hours of spinning it can endure.
If you own or have tried the Osmo Mobile 3, then design-wise you’ll be in familiar territory. The OM4 is more or less identical, bar the removable grip which at least means the OM4 is smaller when folded down. Having been able to spend some time with the OM4, I can say that it feels a lot more elegant to store in a bag or pocket. And while the button configuration hasn’t changed since last time, it’s still pretty intuitive once you’ve had a chance to learn what does what (as some of the controls have dual functionality). When I tried the magnetic clip on my large-ish OnePlus 7 Pro, it snapped on pretty easily, and I didn’t really have to try and find the sweet spot exactly halfway along the phone.
I did initially, and foolishly, ignore the guide markings on the magnetic clip (you have to line up two dots) but once you remember that, you can casually slap the phone against the mount each time without being too precise. The OM4 balanced my phone perfectly right away. The magnetic pop socket also works well, although its usefulness will largely depend on your general stance on pop sockets. Personally I’m not a fan, so I gravitate toward the clip.
Much of what’s new here, though, is in the app. And that also means that a lot of these features won’t remain exclusive to the OM4 for long. Things like Dynamic Zoom and “Clone Me” panorama are just options in the app, so the Osmo Mobile 3 is likely just as capable at delivering them. Again, these special effects lend themself to novelty, but it’s nice to see more creative tools being added to the list.
For Dynamic Zoom, the app creates the effect using the camera on your phone (obviously) so the results will largely depend on what handset you have. My OnePlus offers pretty good optical zoom thanks to the three-camera setup, but it seems the Mimo App can’t access that, so relies on digital zoom only. A DJI representative told me that the difference here with Dolly Zoom on the Osmo 3 is that the “zoom” part is now automatic in the app, whereas before it was manual.
When I tried the Dynamic Zoom effect, I got some mixed results, it definitely requires some practice and some suitable subjects -- I tried in on some towers near where I live and it didn’t work at all, as it’s likely more suited to smaller subjects (even though I was far away) with a prominent background. The effect also heavily relies on digital zoom, which in my quick attempts resulted in some pretty grainy video, but more testing is required. Either way, if you do a lot of outdoor shooting with establishing shots, or are looking for creative ways to draw attention to a subject, it’s fun and simple to use.
Pretty much the same thing can be said for the Clone Me panorama. I had fun testing this out, and it’s definitely a cute effect for something you might want to share with friends and family. It works by taking a photo and then moving the camera through 90 degrees (three times). On-screen is a highlighted frame that the subject you want to clone needs to be in as it takes each shot. It requires a little bit of timing, but once you get the knack down it’s a neat effect.
In short, the OM4 definitely refines the handheld gimbal experience thanks to the new mounting system, and new in-app features and shooting modes are never a bad thing. All the existing features, such as Active Track 3.0 and gesture control are also present, so nothing’s been traded off it seems. Though it’s worth pointing out that prior to the launch of the OM4, and if you don’t need the benefit of the magnetic mounts, the Osmo Mobile 3 was available for $119 (gimbal only) or $139 with the tripod and a case. A little cheaper than the OM4’s $150 price tag (although that includes the grip/pop socket mounts, tripod and carry bag).