DJI Osmo 3 Smartphone Gimbal Reviewed

DJI Osmo 3 smartphone gimbal pictured on its mini tripod
My DJI Osmo 3

I just bought a DJI Osmo 3 smartphone gimbal. I wasn’t actually aware I needed one until I saw a video posted on a local Facebook buy/sell group. It was a walkthrough video for a rental property which had just been refurbished. It looked great and I immediately knew a gimbal had been used. I could see endless possibilities for both internet marketing and music videos. Hell, maybe even a sideline doing walkthrough videos!

If you’re not familiar (and don’t think you need one) these are like mini steady cams for smartphones. They are commonly used on drones to create those beautiful smooth tracking shots we are now all very familiar with. DJI in fact are well known for drone gimbals. But they do much more than just keeping your video steady as you move around. 

There are quite a few gimbals on the market now. I read a lot of reviews and watched a lot of videos before settling on the DJI Osmo 3. It’s price (around £100), compatibility with iPhones and the aforementioned reviews helped me decide. I bought mine from Amazon and even in these covid disrupted times got in a couple of days. I couldn’t wait to fire it up. 

Getting Started

But that proved to be a little trickier than I had expected. While this device – and presumably its competitors – will work with most camera apps, its full functionality comes with DJI’s companion app Mimo. Rather than coming with written instructions you are directed to DJI’s Youtube channel for their video tutorials. You are advised to install the app first and sync it via bluetooth with your phone where you register a user name and  validate the guarantee. You are directed to DJI’s Youtube channel for the video manual. 

DJI Osmo 3 gimbal's control screen accessed via the Mimo app
The DJI Mimo app

Getting Balanced

I found those videos a bit over stylised and not very helpful.  A lot of reviews mention this and suggest instead looking for the many independent videos users have created. Its not that big a deal but a little unusual if you are used to referring to a manual when learning a new device. It is 2020 I guess so this probably the shape of things to come. Anyway lets get to the DJI Osmo 3 in action!

The first thing you need to do is balance your smartphone in the gimbal’s holder. It’s basically an ergonomic handle with a jointed, articulated arm that moves freely in all directions. If the phone isn’t centred and balanced before you turn it on it can behave erratically. This takes a little practice but is really very easy and takes about 10 seconds to do. If you have fancy lenses or a charging cable (which we will come to in a minute) attached to your phone it might take a little longer. 

Once you are all balanced up it’s time to switch the gimbal on. It comes to life and swivels your phone into the default portrait position. You then open the Mimo app. As you did the initial set up earlier, phone and gimbal should be paired automatically. In use I’ve found this a little temperamental at times but that’s bluetooth for you. 

DJI Osmo 3 handle controls. Close up of the controls on the handle
Controls in easy reach of your thumb

What the Buttons do

The Osmo 3’s comfortable handle has a number of function buttons on it which are easily accessible and very intuitive after a little playing around. The ON switch also opens the camera and gimbal functions menu, shows battery level and switches from portrait to landscape modes. Above the On switch is the start stop switch in video mode or the shutter button in photo mode. Beside those is the pan and tilt toggle. On the left, very handily positioned for your thumb, is the zoom slider. 

Under your index finger is a trigger which does a variety of things depending on how many times you press it and/or hold it. It locks the gimbal so that it works as a basic steady cam, activates sports mode (a follow function for fast moving subjects) and switches from front to back camera. That’s the controls then so what do you use this thing for?

What Can The DJI Osmo 3 Do?

The obvious use is to keep things steady as per the house walk through example. Follow mode. In follow mode you can select an area or object on your smartphone screen and the gimbal will follow it keeping it centre of screen.

Engage sports mode and it will follow faster moving objects. It does a very good job of this. If you want it to follow you, stick it on a tripod and engage “gesture control”. Once the app recognises you (by holding your hand up by your face) it beeps three times and starts filming. As you move it follows you around. Creepy but very useful, particularly if you want to use the rear camera on your phone which is usually superior. Follow mode will also work for selfie videos although the gesture function doesn’t.

More Than A Mere Steadicam

But there is much more to the DJI Cosmo 3 than mere stabilising. Very cinematic scenes can be shot with all the panning, tilting and zooming possibilities now at your fingertips. This gimbal will also let you shoot hand held time-lapse, slo mo and hyper-lapse while you move around. The possibilities for creative videography are pretty awesome – and thats not a word I use very often. Couple this with one of the current smartphones and you have a very powerful tool in your hands.

DJI Osmo3 zoom control. Close up of the zoom control

Aside from the handheld possibilities the OSMO 3 also offers some great features when mounted on a tripod. DJI offer an optional mini tripod for the gimbal but it will fit most standard mount tripods. I mentioned the follow function with a tripod earlier. Another lovely function is multi point time-lapse. In this mode you can pre set several positions to capture a timelapse scene. Once set the Osmo will move the camera from one position to the next for however long you set for each. In photo mode it offers 2 ways to capture panoramic images: One takes 9 shots and stitches the together, the other 3 shots from left to right. Very cool. 

Here’s a little video I shot with the gimbal in my local area

Minor Niggles

So far I’ve been very pleased with my DJI Osmo 3 but there have been a couple of niggles. The first – and this is probably more to do with my ageing iPhone 6S – is the battery consumption. This came up in a number the reviews I read but not to the extent I’m finding. It’ll flatten my battery in 10 minutes. Seemingly the app rather than the gimbal is the culprit. 

The big saving grace here though is that the gimbal itself can act as a power source or charger. It has a usb port which also makes it a power bank. I’ve been able to shoot for hours by using that. The Osmo holds its charge for 15 hours and seems relatively unaffected by the phone piggy backing its battery.

One other niggle – and again this could be my phone. On a long walk recently the Bluetooth connection was a little intermittent and I had to restart the app several times mid shoot. I also found that I had unintentionally shot some scenes in slo mo. Again this could be user error – time will tell.   

I almost forgot one final feature. DJI call it story mode. Story mode is a section of pre made effects and transitions in various styles. You simply shoot several short scenes each just a few seconds. These are automatically stitched together according to the theme selected and a short video is produced, music and all. Pretty gimmicky it has to be said but they do look pretty good and with a little imagination could be useful. 

DJI Osmo Mobile 3 – Combo 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer Kit, Compatible with iPhone and Android Smartphones, Lightweight and Portable Design, Stable Shooting, Intelligent Control + Tripod, Travel