As smartphones cameras have become so much more powerful in recent times, many are switching to using them as their go-to camera for photos and videos. With these also gaining EIS and OIS, they make strong contenders against the more traditional DLSR, however they still suffer camera shake (due to their physical size). If you want that buttery smooth cinematic experience, your phone wont cut it.
Well, thats all about to change with mobile phone gimbals becoming a common accessory. We recently took the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 for a test drive around our local town to see how this budget gimbal handled some challenging scenes and whether it could take on the more expensive gimbals available.
As its name suggests, this is the second generation of smartphones gimbal from DJI and at first impression you may wonder what has changed, however upon closer inspection its clear where the changes have been made. Yes the Osmo Mobile 2 is far more plastic build which does cheapen the devices look and feel (however this is reflected in the cost of £120, nearly a 1/3 of the original) – but this does not mean that the quality suffers. Gone has the removable battery and trigger-like function button which have been replaced with a builtin battery and a multi-function button. In my opinion though, neither of these are bad, the battery now lasts a whopping 17 hours (if not longer) compared to the 3 hours of the first generation and the multi-function button puts all functions close to your finger-tips making it far easier to control and reduces the risk of inadvertently changing the devices configuration.
Although the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 looses its accessory screw on the side, the welcome additional of the screw on the base, allowing easy attachment to a tripod, soon makes up for this. The multi-direction joystick remains as well as the recording button, all in easy reach for one-handed operation.
Multi-Function Button: as the name would suggest, this button serves several purposes apart from the the power functions. Press this once changes the gimbal mode (from pan/tilt to lock), press it twice and the gimbal resets back to centre, press it 3 times and the camera switches to the selfie camera, which brings us onto another generation 2 feature.
Selfie Mode: The gimbal is now able to change orientation and work in portrait mode allowing the phone to work in selfie mode, which is great news for vloggers and users of Instagram story mode.
This 3-axis gimbal is simple to setup and calibrate in both landscape and portrait modes enabling to spend more time filming rather than setting up. Although the gimbal can be used in isolation it is highly recommended to use this with the DJI App or Filmic Pro. Once calibrated and paired with the phone, turning on the gimbal self levels the phone and filming can start. The default pan/tilt mode provides buttery smooth cinematic shots that can easily stand up against the more expensive gimbals although at times it is evident where the gimbal stabilisation and the phones stabilisation are competing. As most phones don’t have any way of turning this off, some warping effect becomes present in some shots (this can be overcome with other apps – discussed later).
Filming Modes: These are governed and limited by the phone being used so if your phone does not support 4K 60fps, then that option is not available within the application. Selection of the modes is also dependent on the application being used.
The Cinematic Effect: Just by using the gimbal, professional looks can be easily achieved with panning shots, sliders effect, under-slung and dolly effects to name a few. This can be further enhanced by attaching the Osmo Mobile 2 to a monopod to get torch mode and more extreme dolly gib where the camera can go from tracking on the ground to high into the tree line. In our film, this effect was heavily utilised with roller blades acting as the dolly track, and the monopod acting as the gib facilitating the ground to overhead shots.
Selfie Mode: I am not a fan of filming portrait mode (however understand that some mediums better suit this format), that said the Osmo Mobile 2 fully supports this mode and allow the clamp to be rotated for holding the phone steady whilst in portrait. This mode does make the setup a little top heavy, so expect to get the same smoothness as landscape, but it is still very good at enhancing the film. I prefer shooting in landscape, 3 presses of the multi-function button will switch cameras and utilise the front facing camera. I would say that due to the camera restrictions, you are forced to hold the gimbal at arms length to get the subject in the shot.
The majority of the advanced features require the use of the DJI Go Application and this is where the Osmo Mobile 2 really comes into its own.
Active Tracking: Leveraging their expertise in drone gimbals, DJI has introduced their active subject tracking technology, which is pretty good at keeping up with the subject matter. It was noted that when tracking a person and they turn around, the tracking is lost – its as though the tracking is too specific with what is being tracked e.g. faces rather than the person.
Time Lapse: Attach the Osmo Mobile 2 to a tripod and use the time lapse function to capture a professional looking time lapse film. With the huge battery life of the gimbal, there is confidence in getting the shot you want.
Hyper Lapse: Extend the time lapse by taking the gimbal with you whilst filming the time lapse to capture a moving time lapse.
Motion Time Lapse: Another great function, apply this to a tripod, set your capture points and let the gimbal automatically pan and tilt the phone to capture the time lapse (performed towards the end of our video).
Photo Panorama: Switch the app to photo mode then enables panoramic and long exposure modes (the gimbal will take multiple shots and stitch them together in post).
The DJI Go App on Android
The features above are all available in the DJI application, however I would note that the Android version of the application does have some issues. This is the main let down of the gimbal (and its not the issue of the gimbal).
Filming in 4K: I can only comment on the experiences of using this with the Google Pixel 2 XL however playback of the film clearly showed artefacts that should not be present in 4K. The image appeared more at 360p than 4K. It was really low quality, there also appears to be colour and exposure corrections occurring mid-frame causing lines to appear across the film (watch the video above with the scooters)
Another noted issue when in 4K was panning shots appeared to loose every other frame making the film look quite choppy. At first this was put down to the phone and possible limitations / incompatibilities, however using the builtin camera application or Filmic Pro, these issues were no longer present. It appears to a common issue with DJI app on Android. We have put both of these into the film above to compare panning and film quality. It is clear that there is an issue with the DJI app on Android, however don’t let this be the reason not to get the gimbal, use Filmic Pro and you will achieve awesome footage.
Using Osmo Mobile 2 with Filmic Pro App
This application requires its own full review, its an awesome piece of software, albeit and more costly app on the store (but well worth it for the quality of films produced). Filmic Pro.
Some of the notable functionality that Filmic Pro brings to your films are the ability to film in Log v2, this allows far better colour grading in post, facilitated by Filmic Pro LUT packs for post editing in Final Cut or Adobe Premier Pro. Filmic Pro opens up more options around filming options e.g. frame rate, resolution and bit rate (now supporting 100 MB/s giving superior quality footage and buttery smooth transitions. It also integrates with DJI Osmo Mobile 2 allowing further control of the application through the gimbal buttons.
Filmic Pro app also allows you to remove the phone’s software stabilisation, thus enabling a far smoother filming experience. It is notable during testing that enabling the stabilisation demonstrates far more unstable footage.
For the price point, the DJI OSMO Mobile 2 is a serious contender and well worth the investment to make your films and videos take on a much more professional and cinematic look. The issues with the DJI app on Android is overcome by Filmic Pro. So if you are into making your smartphone video more cinematic or are into vlogging, then I would highly recommend the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 with Filmic Pro. for more information on the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, please visit www.dji.com