DJI’s Osmo gimbal family has evolved since we first saw a prototype at CES 2015. The company has moved away from simply putting a drone camera on a handheld gimbal—what we saw in the first commercial version of the Osmo. The Osmo Mobile 2 works with the best camera that you always have with you, your smartphone, to keep handheld video silky smooth, stitch together panoramic shots, and capture time-lapse and hyperlapse video clips. It does a lot for just $129, earning our Editors’ Choice in the process.
The Osmo Mobile 2 is a powered three-axis gimbal, mounted permanently to what is essentially a grip for comfortable handholding. It measures 11.6 by 4.5 by 2.8 inches (HWD) and weighs just over a pound. It incorporates a clip to hold your phone, up to 3.3 inches in width, in either landscape or portrait orientation. It had no problem holding my iPhone 8 Plus, even in its protective case.
The DJI Go app (shown above), for Android and iOS, is required to use it. To get started, you need to power things on in the right order. Start with placing the phone in the Osmo’s clip and only then powering on the gimbal—it will self-balance and start stabilization.
From there you have a couple of options. You can simply launch your phone’s camera app and enjoy the benefits of stabilization, or you can launch the DJI Go app to access some more unique features. Most controls on the grip work without the app—the joystick to change its angle, as well as the Record button—but you’ll need to use DJI’s app to utilize the digital zoom rocker that sits on its left side.
The Osmo mounts phones in either landscape orientation—the traditional way to record video—or in portrait mode. It’s the first mobile phone gimbal to do so, and with social networks like Instagram and Snapchat leaning heavily on vertical video, it appeals to millennials who have embraced tall, skinny video clips, without leaving fans of classic widescreen footage in the dust.
There are two USB ports on the Osmo. A micro USB connector is used for charging—the internal battery is rated for up to 15 hours of life, enough so that I never had to worry about running out of juice when using it. A second USB-A connector is available to physically connect your phone (or another USB device), allowing the gimbal to double as a backup battery for your portable devices.
The Osmo’s battery isn’t removable, so expect the battery life to drop over time. But with such a high starting point, you’ll get good use out of it even when it’s older and not running at tip-top condition, and, at the asking price, expecting two to three years of solid battery performance isn’t a disappointment.
Because you don’t need a battery door at the bottom of the handle, DJI is able to include a standard tripod socket. Using a tripod with a handheld gimbal may seem contradictory, but it’s absolutely useful for time-lapse capture, as you don’t want to have to stand holding the Osmo for hours when compressing longer swaths of time.
App Features and Video Quality
The Osmo Mobile 2 pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth and uses the DJI Go app for control, firmware updates, and other sundry tasks. If you just want to record stabilized video, you don’t have to use it—the gimbal keeps your phone steady even when the app isn’t running, so you can use the Android or iOS camera app for recording.
This option is a necessary one in some instances, because the DJI Go app doesn’t support every frame rate and resolution option that your phone does on its own. For example, there’s no 24fps capture option in the app, even though my iPhone 8 Plus is capable of recording at that setting. The DJI Go app supports 4K recording at 30fps, 1080p at 30 or 60fps, and 720p at 30fps.
The same issue pops up for slow-motion. The Osmo app supports 720p capture at 240fps, which can offer up a 10x slow-down when played back at 24fps. But again, the iPhone supports 1080p at 120fps, which the DJI Go app simply doesn’t leverage. I’d like to see the app updated to include all of the features supported by the phone with which you are using the device.
And there are reasons to use the app for video. Active Track is one of them. It’s a feature borrowed from DJI’s drone series. It uses object recognition to track a subject as it moves across the frame. It works well, and certainly makes it easier to keep your child or pet in frame when shooting home videos.
The Osmo app also supports a number of different sped-up video modes. There’s standard Timelapse, which takes a still at a set interval (options are available from 0.5-second to 60 seconds, in full-second increments starting at 1 second), and combines it into a 4K video. You can set the time-lapse to run until you stop it, or for a set duration. The app lets you know how long the resulting video is if you opt for a set length. You also have the option to dim the phone screen during capture, to preserve its battery life.
Next up is Hyperlapse, which is a time-lapse captured while you are moving about freely, as you can see in the clip embedded above. You’ve got full control over gimbal motion (but not zoom), and Active Track is an option.
Finally there’s Motionlapse. Ideally used in conjunction with a tripod, Motionlapse allows you to set multiple angles in advance, with the Osmo slowly and smoothly moving to see each as it captures a time-lapse video.
Video quality depends on the phone you use, although with a modern flagship smartphone like the iPhone 8 or Galaxy S9, you’ll enjoy strong 4K footage. The stabilization provided by the Osmo Mobile 2 is the real deal. Early firmware showed a bit of jitter, likely introduced by my phone’s optical image stabilization, but that’s been eliminated with a software update. The only shudder I noticed was when I switched the grip from my right to left hand in the midst of a recording.
You can also use the Osmo to capture still images. For standard capture it’s not going to offer much benefit over your phone’s own internal stabilization system (though if you use a handset without the feature, it can help steady things in low light).
There are tools for panoramic image stitching in the app, but they are the Osmo’s weak point. It does a fine job capturing multiple shots and stitching them together, but it takes a good while to do so. Shooting the 27 images you need for a 180-degree panorama requires you to hold the gimbal relatively still for a full minute, and then you have to wait another 90 seconds for the app to stitch them together.
Stitch quality is mostly good, though we noticed some issues here and there. Even when capturing a scene that is mostly the same level of brightness, there are some regions of the image that are darker than they should be. In mixed lighting, it struggles more. As with any stitched panorama, there’s also some issue with subject motion—just look at the arm of the woman sitting toward the left of the frame in the image above.
There’s no advantage in resolution when stitching images together. Even with the full 27-shot panorama mode, the merged image is just 6.5MP (5,078 by 1,269) in resolution. You may as well just use your phone’s panoramic sweep mode—it’s quicker and delivers more consistent results.
The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is an attractive accessory for videographers, travelers, and vloggers who primarily use their smartphone for image capture. It adds Steadicam-level stabilization, and gives you the tools to capture stunning time-lapse footage with motion. It’s not perfect—we’d like to see more frame rate options for video in the app and improved panorama features—but it costs just $129. For that price, it’s our Editors’ Choice smartphone gimbal.