With the OM 4 smartphone gimbal ($149), DJI continues to impress with its ability to innovate. When I first reviewed the Osmo Mobile 2, its features were impressive, but it was a massive device to have to carry just to improve your smartphone photography. With the Osmo Mobile 3, DJI addressed that issue by creating a clever folding system. However, using it was still a little painful, as you had to fiddle with the clamp each time you wanted to mount your phone. Unless you have two phones and can leave one in it, that’s quite a hassle.
I’ve been using a review unit of the new DJI OM 4 (DJI shortened up the name from Osmo Mobile to OM) for a few days now, and its new magnetic mounting system makes those worries a thing of the past.
For the most part, anyone who has used a previous generation Osmo Mobile will recognize the design and control layout of the fourth-generation device. Like the 3, the OM 4 folds nicely for compact carrying. It’s actually a little more compact because it doesn’t have an attached clamp.
The biggest difference is the mounting system. The OM 4 features a strong magnet that attaches either to a metal clamp you place on your phone, or for more permanent use, to a metal disk you can stick on your phone. Either is much more convenient than the previous system, and the clamp is fairly low profile, so it doesn’t interfere too much with using your phone (although in my case the middle of the phone where it should go always seems to mean it covers one of the buttons a bit).
The OM 4 features a USB-C charging port, a nice change from so many accessories that still use older connectors. The device takes about 2-1/2 hours for a full charge that should last for around 15 hours of operation.
Like every DJI product I’ve used, the first step is logging in to your DJI account and downloading an app — in this case DJI Mimo. I’m really not a big fan of requiring a login to use a camera accessory like a gimbal. It seems unnecessary and one more potential privacy exposure. Hopefully, this practice won’t spread to the people who make smart triggers and other accessories. Once I logged in and opened the app, it found the OM4 instantly and paired with my Pixel 3 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro effortlessly.
DJI markets the OM 4 as being designed to allow operation with one hand. Technically that’s true, but you’re likely to find it easier to do with one hand than the other. In my case, I found it easier to move my thumb to the appropriate controls when using my left hand (I’m left-handed, but I don’t think that was why I found it easier). The stronger motor in the OM 4 meant it had an easier time balancing and moving the Huawei Mate 20 Pro I tested with it (I used it in particular because it is the same phone I used with the Mobile 3). That also meant that panoramas seemed faster, although I don’t have previous times to compare the actual numbers.
In addition to all the clever pre-programmed modes found in the Mobile 3, such as ActiveTrack, the Mimo app for the OM 4 adds a “Dolly Zoom” and “Clone Me Panorama.” Hyperlapse and Timelapse, which employ both the 3-axis gimbal and Electronic Image Stabilization, have been upgraded. A Sport Mode allows faster gimbal response for tracking faster-moving subjects. It also brings forward Story mode, which allows you to quickly generate videos based on one of DJI’s templates. Personally, I really enjoy the Timelapse and Hyperlapse capabilities. However, if you’re going to do anything exciting with them you may want to have a second phone for that purpose, especially if the project involves leaving a phone somewhere that it can be tampered with or stolen.
Of course, the central feature of a gimbal is how well it stabilizes. I ran a test panning across the same scene using four different setups. For the first test video I panned manually, by twisting the gimbal with my hand:
Then I switched to using the automated panning via the thumbstick. I set the thumbstick to only allow horizontal and vertical direction changes, to help keep it level. For my first test, I pushed the thumbstick all the way to the right to get a sense of how quickly you can pan (you can actually go even faster by changing the settings to accelerate it further):
Then I repeated the pan but with just a light push on the thumbstick. It’s not trivial to keep a constant level of light pressure, so the motion isn’t quite as smooth:
To get a slow pan with more consistent motion, I changed the settings to reduce the panning sensitivity. That allowed me to get a slow pan even with the thumbstick held all the way to the right:
Frankly, if you need a smartphone gimbal, DJI continues to innovate and produce a full-featured product at a rational price. For $149 you get the gimbal, a phone clamp, a stick-on disk for permanent attachment to a phone, a cute little mini-tripod, a charging cable, and a carrying pouch. You can get a replacement clamp for $25 and an additional disk for $19.
Within days of its launch, I received announcements from competitors priced as low as half of DJI’s cost, but from past experience, they’re never quite as full-featured or well supported. In my case, I have two major uses for my smartphone gimbals. The first is when filming from a boat or other motorized vehicle, where a gimbal is really essential for smooth video. The second is the Timelapse and Hyperlapse features. Combining them with a gimbal provides a much easier and more effective way to create those special effects than attempting to do them with an app and a tripod.
For many users, the editing features of Mimo and the Story mode will also be a benefit. Personally, I typically just use Mimo to control the gimbal and capture video. I then use Adobe’s Premiere Rush to assemble it. I’m looking forward to some interesting projects using the OM 4. It is handy enough to take anywhere and has a wide variety of uses, including even simple ones such as helping stabilize long-exposure and low-light images.