DJI Osmo 3 review

Good things come in small packages is a phrase perhaps never better applied than to the world of modern ‘action cameras’. The days of requiring a team of five videographers, a couple of €10,000 cameras, a truck full of lenses and – ideally – a helicopter, to capture action sport up close and personal is long gone and (for better or worse) pretty much anyone can now pick up an action sports camera, attach it to their ‘extreme sport vehicle’ of choice and capture their session in crisp, perfectly framed, insanely high resolution.

It’s a super competitive market sector with literally hundreds of players, but at the top end of the sector (yet considerably cheaper than the €8k cameras of yesteryear) there are only a handful of contenders aiming to pitch themselves at the recreational user who wants the best they can get, or the professional user looking to generate some solid B-roll for their productions.

So, onto the camera we had on test, the DJI Osmo Action 3. Having secured their spot at the pinnacle of the consumer drone market, DJI now have their sights set on the action camera market. There is one other obvious prime contender here that needs no introduction (It has a “g” and a “p” in it) and has been sitting atop this market for a number of years (and camera iterations). DJI are clearly aiming for the same type of consumer, but the Osmo Action 3 differentiates itself quite clearly in an important area: price. The Osmo Action 3 comes in at 20%-30% cheaper than the latest version of its main competitor, yet professes to offer an equally good experience.

So, onto the camera. In terms of build quality, the DJI Osmo Action 3 feels reassuringly solid and you can be confident it will pass the doesn’t-smash-if you-drop-it-on-the-concrete test. To access the battery/memory card and the USB-C port located on opposite sides there is a ‘push and slide’ system. I felt that this was the best system that we have seen on action cameras – less fiddly and requiring less use of fingernails than alternate systems. These did become a little stiff after use in salt water if the camera is then left to dry out, so we would recommend a quick rinse in fresh water to keep things running smoothly.

A very well thought out feature that sets the Action 3 apart from the competition is the way that you attach the camera to the mount which we found to be truly ingenious. There is a magnet on the bottom of the camera and a magnet on the top of the mount. Once aligned, there are clips on either side which with a gentle press, satisfyingly snap into place. This makes the camera ridiculously easy to attach to a helmet/handlebar/grip mount. If I am 100% honest, I had concerns that it could accidently release, but in three months of use there was never an issue and this became one of our favorite features – these cameras are about ease of use right?

The Osmo Action was the first action camera to incorporate a touch screen in the front of the camera (as well as the back) and the functionality of this has been refined and even my clunky fingers could swipe and hit the right button pretty much every time, even bumping around on the back of a jet ski. For the main screen on the back, access to the ‘everyday’ features are easy and intuitive and you can enter the Pro mode to tweak everything else. You can of course also do everything via the DJI Mimo app which has a clean interface and works perfectly. If you are buddied up with someone and trying to nail that shot then it adds a whole new dimension to your creative options.

In terms of what is on the inside, the Osmo Action offers up to 120 frames per second at 4K and 240 in 1080p. This is plenty enough resolution for 95% of users and certainly for the target market of the Osmo Action. At 120fps you can of course get some silky smooth slo-mo and capture those top-turns, wingfoil transitions, or tweaked out grabs in all their slowed down, tweaked out finesse. For photos the Osmo Action shoots at 12mp which is fine for most uses, but for higher-end creative options and for the fact that you often need to crop a lot out of shots with these wider angle cameras, it would be good to see this improved for V4 of the camera…

DJI’s image stabilization is coined as RockSteady and the Osmo Action is sporting RockSteady 3.0. We have stopped being so amazed by the quality of image stabilization but if you take a step back and look at the 4k footage you’ve locked in while rolling around on the back of a jet ski on a choppy, windy day, it really is pretty insane. Horizon Steady also keeps things perfectly aligned and can now be set to keep things straight even through a full 360-degree rotation.

We tested the Osmo Action 3 over the course of three months through a Portuguese winter whilst trying to master the dark art of tow-foiling using a jet ski which is a wobbly and at times sketchy affair. We used the Osmo Action generally while also driving the ski, so were very much in ‘press the button and let it roll’ mode. Having spent some time tweaking the settings, the camera became intuitive and easy to use. As you generally begin shooting backward, the front camera enables you to frame the rider, then you can swing the camera around when they have released the tow rope.

The whole winter has been a learning experience, but the DJI Osmo Action 3 proved itself a truly worthy companion and certainly ticked all of the boxes for our requirements – I certainly won’t be looking at any alternatives for the time being.

Video: @charlie_happie

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