Osmo Mobile Review
As I've stated before "the iPhone 8 Plus is just too good" and what I mean is that almost every single part of the iPhone 8 Plus is just way better than it should be, especially the iSight camera. After a few days with the new iSight camera I immediately saw its potential and wanted to get some new tools so I could enhance its ability. I had always had my eye on the Osmo Mobile gimbal from DJI. A buddy of mine has one and absolutely loves it. That being said, he is using an iPod touch with his.


Design/Materials/In Box Accessories

Inside the box you get the Osmo Mobile, a charging cable, and a carrying bag. I was not expecting the bag so that was a nice addition. The design of the Osmo Mobile is very modern. It features a black plastic handle which I will admit feels a little cheap. Above the handle sits the components that make the gimbal work and a place where you insert your phone. These components are made from a sturdy steal and I feel like they are strong enough to hold my $800 iPhone without fear my investment will shatter on the ground. The Osmo Mobile also includes an array of buttons and a joystick on the handle which allow you to start/stop recordings, take photos, and a joystick to rotate/pivot the gimbal. If you've ever used a Sony PSP's joystick than you know exactly how this feels. On rear of the handle is a trigger which allows you to keep the gimbal pointed on the horizon (or where ever you have the gimbal pointed).


First Use/Complete and Utter Frustrations/Manual (lack there of)

When I first opened the box and had gotten everything assembled, I immediately stuck my iPhone in the hold and turned it on. It didn't do anything. I was puzzled because the unit was fully charged and switched on. I had also paired it in bluetooth settings. There really was no manual in the box showing you how to get started. Of course I had been researching online how to first use the gimbal the night before and those weren't really too helpful as they did not show the setup process. I had no idea I was supposed to balance the gimbal, calibrate it, pair it initially in the DJI Go app. There was no official instruction what so ever and I was away from home at the time so I could not download the DJI Go app (since it was over 300MB). When I arrived back home I did download the DJI Go app and did get the gimbal set up to a point where I could kind of use it. However it still was not producing a stable image. I found the calibrate menu and it seemed to help a little but still the image looked awful. I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong so I did a little research online and found that the gimbal did not support the weight of the iPhone 8 Plus. I was also using my Apple leather case with my iPhone so that was causing additional weight.



iPhone Compatibility/Counter Weight
I did remove my case and it seemed to help a little but even then still the image looked horribly shaky. My friend who also has the Osmo Mobile informed me that I had to physically balance the gimbal. I had no idea how to but found that while Osmo Mobile is turned off, place your phone in the holder, fasten it down, then release the little thumb screw on the mount directly behind the device holder. With that loosened you can slide that arm left to right to find the perfect balance for the device. This really helped but it still was not quite right. A few days went by and I tried everything I could to resolve this. With Apple, I had 14 days to return the gimbal if things didn't work out. I contacted DJI's support and the echoed a lot of the things I heard online about how the iPhone 8 Plus was too heavy for the gimbal to balance. They also suggested that I build a counterweight on the right side of the gimbal to help add additional weight to balance my iPhone 8 Plus. They suggested I tape some coins to the right arm. This is quite unconventional but I am an unconventional kind of guy so I gave this a shot. The Osmo Mobile balanced perfectly (so I had thought). When I went out and shot some more video it still looked jittery and awful. At this point I am getting very frustrated. If it wasn't for the glowing review from my friend than that gimbal's butt was going to be thrown back in the Apple retail store.


Stabilization Software

It was then suggested to me that I try to stabilize the footage in post (meaning stabilizing it after it was recorded). My weapon of choice was Final Cut Pro for Macintosh. I have been a huge supporter of Final Cut Pro since version 10 came out. A great feature in Final Cut Pro is its stabilization tools. There are two different stabilization techniques so you can (hopefully) stabilize any kind of footage. Of course this didn't fully solve the problem either... It dramatically helped and actually made the footage viewable but it still was making the skies bounce, the horizon to look wavy, but the ground seemed to look okayish. I also tried Emulsio for iOS and it gave me lackluster results as well.


Optical Image Stabilization

When you research this problem online you will find complaint after complaint of people with the same exact problem. Almost everyone will tell you that this is caused by Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on the phone's camera. For those that do not know what OIS is, there is a small gimbalish component that the camera lens is mounted to that will physically move the lens to compensate for the movement of the phone/device. This works great when you have shaky hands and are trying to take a photo. Reports are also stating that even when OIS is disabled on the iPhone that the lens still moves around a tad bit as Apple did not design for a locking mechanism that would lock the lens into place if OIS were to be disabled. To my knowledge there is no way around this as it's a hardware limitation and thus disabling OIS doesn't actually help all that much, in fact other reports state that OIS helps out when the iPhone is on the gimbal. The jury is still out on if OIS is the problem or if it actually helps but what I can say is that the video I recorded with OIS enabled did turn out slightly better than when software disabled it. My personal theory is that it has no problem with the phone/gimbal, it's a problem with how I walk. Ever since I was a child I've always had a lot of force in my step. Meaning that my footsteps could be heard from other rooms. Recently I have noticed that I am rocking side to side slightly when I'm walking. When one foot raises up to take a step forward, I will fall slightly in that direction and then when that foot reaches the ground I will even out slightly until I go through the same thing on the other side.


Ninja Walk

I was running out of options so I reached back out to DJI and explained to them where I was in terms of finding a solution. They suggested I work on walking "like a ninja". I kind of laughed when they said that thinking they were just joking but it turns out this is a specific way of walking that is much quieter, softer, and will keep the body stabilized at all times (if done correctly). I looked up DJI's official video on the Ninja Walk, they suggested keeping your back straight and crouching down slightly to allow a little bit of bend in your knees. Their reasoning behind this is that when you step your legs will be able to absorb the shock. I tired this and the footage still was awful. I then looked up a hunter's Ninja Walk and in there they suggested walking on the sides of your feet. So when you are putting a foot back down on the ground you step on the side of your foot then roll it down creating a fluid motion. This actually worked slightly and I noticed a dramatic improvement but it still was not perfect and for as much as this thing costed then it better be perfect.

I found myself again getting all caps rage frustrated and then I remembered an old high school buddy of mine lived in the town I had recently moved back to. He was a highly ranked martial arts student and I was certain that he may know of another way to do the Ninja Walk. I met up with him at the local park and he showed me that I needed to keep my knees lock and never to bend them. So I would step a leg out in front of me and land on my heal. Then I would roll my body down flat on my heal. Once my leg had reached the ground I could start bringing the other foot down. It's worth clarifying that while you never want to bend you knee when you are taking a step forward but you physically have to bend your knee when your leg goes behind you. We practiced this for about 2 hours and the footage was looking a heck of a lot better buuuut still not perfect. I am choking this up to that I need to practice his Ninja Walk technique some more before I write it off. I also found that while I was doing the walking exercise that I would quickly forget what I was doing and start walking normally. This very well could be the source of my problem. During the walking exercises I did notice that my iPhone wasn't perfectly leveled so I tapped some more quarters onto the gimbal in an effort to balance my iPhone again.


Apps

Camera

There are many different iOS applications that will allow you to record video. I personally love the stock camera app as it is just drop dead simple to use. True it hardly has any adjustment tools but when I am out and find inspiration, I don't want to spend a whole lot of time adjusting my settings as I don't want to miss the moment.

DJI Go

I would assume the DJI Go app would be the best application to shoot in as it's made by the same people that make the gimbal. This turned out to be a horrible solution for recording video as there is a bug that prevents you from recording 4K video. You also cannot record 4K@60 when using an iPhone 8/X. It also does not record in HEVC so I quickly wrote that app off although there is a feature that allows you to record motion time lapse videos that is just really cool.

FilMic Pro

The application recommended by just about every professional iPhone cinematographer is FilMic Pro. I've had a love hate relationship in the past with this app as it always seemed so unstable and even on occasion I would loose my recordings (because the app crashed during record). So far I have had great luck. It never once has crashed on me and as you may hear from others, it provides the most extensive toolset of any video recording application. FilMic Pro also has Osmo Mobile integration where you can control some of the app's features from the Osmo's handle controls. Recently they updated the application to support recording footage in LOG. LOG is just like RAW only it has been processed a little to reduce file size.

Battery Life/Charging Method

Battery life actually hasn't been as bad as I was expecting. I read online that the battery would last about 1.5 up to 3 hours. When I'm out recording, I record a heck of a lot longer than 3 hours. DJI does also sell spare batteries which is nice and they don't cost a fortune. I was getting about 4 hours which wasn't the worst battery life in the world. The Osmo Mobile charges via a mini phono to USB-A lead. This is just the most obscure charging method I have ever seen for an electronic devices. Worst part is if you plug in a pair of headphones into the mini phono jack, your headphone will catch fire. Seriously. My first thought when I saw this was that I would be able to monitor audio from my iPhone or plug in accessories such as an external light or a microphone. Since the Osmo Mobile blocks the lightening port this made a whole lot of sense. Design confusion aside, a mini phono jack can only output 5 volts at 2.1 amps. That pretty much means it's slloooooowwwwwww to charge. It takes my Osmo mobile around 5 hours to charge. 5 hours to charge + 4 hours to deplete the battery = frustrated Zeph. This would have been sooooo much nicer with a micro-USB or USB-C connector. Also DJI does not support the AC to USB-A wall adapter so you have to buy another one of those on top the $300 you spent.


Value

I really really want to return this but at the time of this review the 14 day return window at Apple has passed. There is a small fraction of me that is glad I didn't return it because I have a shred of hope that one day my Ninja Walk will improve and I'll get crisp stable footage straight off my iPhone 8 Plus. Osmo Mobile starts at $300 and that is just an absurd amount of money to spend on a product that I frankly does not have enough polish. There's no instruction manuals, incompatible with devices the company states will work, poor official software, no set solution how to resolve jittery footage (which customers have been complaining about for almost 5 years), and DJI seems to be oblivious that there is a problem. I really do hope my experience improves overtime as I desperately wanted this to work out. I want to get those steady gliding shots of scenery while I take my nature hikes.

If DJI were to address the jittery video problems wither either an official hardware weight, a clever software update (that gets around Apple's limitation for OIS), stabilizer software built into the DJI app, and better tutorials on the Ninja Walk. I would think DJI could get clever with their app by including software that digitally compensates the missed motion of the Osmo Mobile. So when the Osmo Mobile fails, the application will save the day. DJI also needs to include a setup manual in the box as that is just unacceptable. Every fiber of my being says to run in the opposite direction of this product but I do see its potential. I see how one day I could get amazing video shots straight off my iPhone, allowing me to record footage I never thought would be possible. Right now it is extremely hard to recommend something that frankly doesn't work for $300. However there is a lot of success when the Osmo Mobile is paired up with an iPhone SE which points to the problem lying with OIS as iPhone SE does not have OIS. I am very happy I paid for mine with Apple credit. I recently recycled five iPhones/iPads/MacBook with Apple and received a hefty chunk of Apple credit. It's also hard to recommend against this because it's sadly the best iPhone gimbal on the market. Believe it or not but the other's are just total garbage by comparison.

If you do decide to purchase the Osmo Mobile than keep these in mind:

You will have to...
•work extra hard on your walking technique
•find good stabilization software
•find a video recording application that best suits your walking and features
•buy a second battery if you plan to do long recording sessions
•build a counterweight if your phone does not balance
•NEVER EVER PUT THE TRIPOD MOUNT COVER ON (it gets stuck very easily and you'll have to pry it off with power tools)
•become extra patient when your footage turns out like total garbage

I have spent two weeks working on getting stabile footage and even to this day I have not gotten my money's worth. I completely regret this purchase so I am hopeful that one day my experience will get better. If you have any questions about the Osmo Mobile than feel free to email me at yourgeekneeds@gmail.com.

2/10
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