BERLIN — Think of DJI, and you likely think about drones. But the company has taken the wraps off a mobile accessory that aims to make the videos you shoot with your smartphone as cinematic as anything filmed by one of DJI's drones.
The company took the wraps off Osmo Mobile, a $299 handheld device that's now available for order. Attach your smartphone to the Osmo Mobile, connect over Bluetooth, and you'll be able to take advantage of the device's 3-axis stabilization to shoot smooth photos and videos from your smartphone.
Think of the 6.4 x 2.4 x 1.9-inch Osmo Mobile as a selfie stick cut down to size. The 7.1-ounce device felt light in my hand, even with a smartphone attached to its gimbal. (The Osmo Mobile is able to hold any mobile device that's 2.31 to 3.34 inches wide, which would include the iPhone 5s and later, the Galaxy S7 and the Huawei Mate.)
A trigger on the Osmo Mobile's handle lets you lock in the gimbal's direction, while double-tapping the trigger re-centers the shot and triple-tapping switches between your phone's front and rear camera; dedicated buttons on the Osmo Mobile let you shoot still images and record video.
The 3-axis stabilization offered by the Osmo Mobile's gimbal means smoother video, even when you or your subject are on the move. To demonstrate, DJI marketing director Martin Brandenburg showed off a smartphone video shot with an Osmo Mobile of an amusement park ride going up a hill: the video looked smooth and fluid instead of jump and blurry.
The Osmo Mobile's most impressive feature may be its ActiveTrack capability which lets you select a subject just by tapping on a smartphone screen running the DJI Go app and drawing a square of the person you want to follow. The gimbal will then rotate to keep that person as the star of the shot. ActiveTrack works with both the rear and front camera on your smartphone — a welcome feature for those times when you want to be the subject of the video.
Other Osmo Mobile functions include a motion time lapse capability, which lets you set up to five points for the smartphone camera to focus on, as it shoots a time-lapse video. DJI also plans to introduce a panorama function for blending nine photos together into a sweeping landscape.
The Osmo Mobile supports four different modes — Standard, Portrait, Flashlight and Underslung — which lets you hold the device in different positions for smoothly capturing the shot you want. The Osmo Mobile's rechargeable battery promises 4.5 hours of battery life.
DJI's Brandenburg says the idea behind the Osmo Mobile is to free people up to shoot more video from their smartphones. By DJI's count, the average user shoots 150 photos from their phone each month, but only seven videos. DJI figures a device that produces better-looking videos can only increase that number.
As someone whose mobile videos are often marred by shaky hands, I find the promise of smoother video enticing, and Osmo Mobile's ActiveTrack feature looks very appealing if you've ever tried to keep your camera trained on a moving subject. We'll need to put this accessory through its paces to see just what kind of video it helps produce, but the Osmo Mobile looks like a promising add-on if you use your phone as your primary camera.