We recently did a video on whether you need a better travel camera. In that video, I suggested checking out gimbals as they seem like a great way to improve the stability of your videos. I’ve been really impressed with the 3-axis gimbal stabilization found on my DJI Mavic Air drone, so I thought I’d try out their latest mobile phone gimbal, called the Osmo Mobile 2, that was just released in January 2018. This DJI Osmo Mobile 2 review is not a comprehensive tech review, but one that is geared more for the traveler. If you want to see every feature and capability, then you’ll want to check out some of the great reviews posted by other tech reviewers on YouTube. I’ve included some of my favorite ones below.
The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is the second generation of their mobile phone handheld gimbal, and it’s actually a lot cheaper too. The original Osmo Mobile used to run for $299, while the new model costs $129. That’s a pretty significant difference in price. Most of that comes from DJI’s switch from an all-metal design to plastic build. However, the Osmo Mobile 2 also has some new abilities that were not found in the original model, like the ability to orient the phone in portrait mode rather just landscape.
Let’s begin with what I like about the DJI Osmo Mobile 2. To start, I think the build quality seems solid. Even though the body is plastic, it feels substantial. As with other DJI products, it seems well-built and feels like it would survive the wear and tear that occurs during travel.
Another thing that I like is the battery and charging capabilities. The battery is rated to last 15 hours. Though even more interesting is the fact that you can charge your mobile phone if you need additional power. The Osmo Mobile 2 essentially functions like a spare battery charger. And on the flip side, if you need to charge the Osmo Mobile 2 while away from a plug, you can use a portable battery charger.
The Osmo Mobile 2 also has some notable modes and features. The active track feature allows you to track a subject, and from my casual testing, seems to work well. The gimbal also has a motion lapse mode that allows you to capture motion timelapses. This is an awesome feature and can help take normal timelapses to the next level.
So the Osmo Mobile 2 sounds great, right? Unfortunately, there are some serious issues. First off, I knew going in that the original Osmo Mobile was known to have issues with jittery video, particularly with mobile phones that have optical image stabilization (OIS) that cannot be locked or disabled. I don’t know the technical ins and outs, but essentially the camera’s OIS and the gimbal are in conflict when it comes to stabilizing the video. This causes a weird jittery effect on many smartphones, particularly Apple iPhones. Unfortunately, this is still an issue in the Osmo Mobile 2.
What makes it even weirder is that it seems to be most present when capturing video using the DJI Go app. If you look at the footage, you’ll notice that the video seems to jitter whenever I take a step. However, when I use the native Apple Camera app, then you’ll see that the video seems smoother, though not completely free of the jitter.
You’ll also notice that when I use the front-facing camera, the video is much smoother. If your primary use of the Osmo Mobile 2 is for vlogging or selfies, this might still be a viable option for you. This is because the front camera does not have OIS. As a result, the gimbal is able to do its job of stabilizing the movement and vibration. I also did a side-by-side with the DJI Go app and the native camera app while using the Osmo Mobile 2, and I honestly think that the native app looks better. This is rather strange since the DJI Go app is supposed to be optimized for the gimbal.
Other Travel Considerations and Concerns
The other aspect that concerns me with the Osmo Mobile 2 is it’s size and clunkiness when traveling. I honestly didn’t expect this to be an issue. Though I couldn’t figure out a good way to carry it while I was walking around the LA Travel and Adventure Show. With a normal camera, I can just have it strapped to me. However, you would need some kind of holster in order to carry the gimbal hands-free. This is something to consider when traveling, especially when you need to sign receipts or carry other items.
Calibrating the gimbal with my phone was also another annoyance with the Osmo Mobile 2. I understand why I have to do it, but I didn’t realize that I’d have to do it throughout the day. This was especially the case after carrying the gimbal under my arms. It might not seem like a big deal, but at least half of the videos and photos that I capture when traveling are spontaneous. I don’t know if I would be able to use the Osmo Mobile as quickly during those kinds of situations.
Lastly, using your phone while in the gimbal is cumbersome. I realize that if I’m placing the phone in the Osmo Mobile 2, I am going to use it primarily as a camera. But when traveling, I use my phone all the time to get maps, information, or stay in contact. What I didn’t anticipate was the difficulty of having to pull out the phone each time I needed to use it. Using it while still on the gimbal proved to be much more difficult than I expected.
Unfortunately, I am returning my Osmo Mobile 2. For me, the biggest deal breaker was the jittery video. From what I understand, it’s not DJI’s fault. It’s more of an issue with the OIS not being lockable on certain phones. However, I do think that it would be better for DJI to put a label on the box or a note on the website informing customers of the issue. It might be something that can be addressed in the future too though their app. Though for now, it’s enough of an issue for me to not recommend it, especially if you’re an iPhone user.
Personally, I would rather carry another camera that isn’t as cumbersome. Cameras like my Canon PowerShot G7X have great in-body stabilization. Though you have to learn to walk like a ninja. I’m also a bit more picky about my video, so you might not care as much about the jitter. It’s possible that you can smooth out the jitter using video editing software like Final Cut Pro X.
If you do decide that an Osmo Mobile 2 is right for you, I recommend watching the DJI support videos on setting up the device. I made the mistake of relying on the instruction manual and didn’t quite get the calibration right. After watching the video, it made more sense and I was able to properly calibrate the gimbal properly.
Do you have any experience with the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 or other gimbals? If so, I’d love to hear how you carry them when traveling and whether you find them to be an essential part of your travel camera gear.