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DJI's new OSMO Mobile captures pro-level selfies

Engadget Engadget 1/09/2016 Andrew Tarantola

© Provided by Engadget

Shaky cam shots are great for indie horror films and Jason Bourne-esque action sequences, but less than ideal for filming your family's holiday. With DJI's latest addition to its popular line of handheld gimbals, you'll be able to perform pans and tilts like a pro.

DJI unveiled the new Osmo Mobile at IFA in Berlin today, and it works much like its predecessor, which we were very impressed with. Except that, instead of using your phone as a viewfinder for an onboard 4K camera, the Mobile uses your phone as the camera.

What's really cool is that the Mobile employs the same Active Track technology that we saw on the Phantom 4. This allows the gimbal to automatically keep the camera trained on your face so that you can capture selfies but still be present in the moment, rather than experiencing it through a viewfinder. What's more, you'll be able to capture time lapse videos, panoramic and long-exposure shots on your phone without so much as a tripod or slider. These feature run through the DJI GO app, which is available for both iOS and Android. You can even livestream to YouTube Live directly through the app.

I recently had the opportunity to mess around with the Osmo Mobile and came away only marginally impressed. The device uses a basic, adjustable vice clamp to hold onto your phone while it's being stabilized and can accommodate a variety of phone sizes. A quick survey around the office found that iPhone 5's, 6's and 6S's all fit -- even my gigantor Nexus 6P worked. That said, don't expect to go cramming a tablet in there. Also, why are you trying to take photos and video with your tablet. Stop that.

Mounting the phone is a challenge. The problem is that you have to position the phone within the vice grip so that it naturally balances atop the gimbal. Apparently, on my 6P, that sweetspot is the exact point where the grip presses the phone's volume. Suddenly I'm faced with a choice of getting wonky, lopsided shots or muting my phone and continually staring at the Doe Not Disturb dropdown menu. It's not quite as bad on an iPhone or if your device is in a case but the fact that the Mobile fails to work with a marquee model like the 6P straight out of the box seems a pretty significant oversight.

Once you do manage to get the camera mounted, you'll need to open the GO app and pair your phone to the gimbal via a Bluetooth connection. That's pretty straightforward on the existing app, but DJI insisted that we use a beta version so things were a bit weird. Like half of the installation was in Chinese and a "required" firmware update failed to download which consistently caused the app to crash and reboot. I will update this post once the new version of the app goes live in case this stuff is still happening.

Pairing your phone to the Mobile allows you to control the zoom and recording functions on your phone without having to actually tap on the screen. You will, however have to touch the screen to use the app's manual ISO, shutter and white balance controls. The Mobile also allows you to control the pan and tilt of the camera using an integrated thumbstick. Additionally, you can set the gimbal to automatically isolate movement, recenter the camera and enter "selfie mode" which, as I said, autonomously tracks your face.

While I didn't manage to run entirely through a battery charge during my time with the Osmo Mobile, according to DJI, it lasts up to 4.5 hours. Batteries can be hot-swapped and there is an external battery extender if you need it. That's handy given that it takes 2.5 hours to recharge a battery using the included 1 amp charging cable. I should also point out that the DJI GO app utterly ravages your phone's battery life. It ate through 20 percent of my 6P's charge in just 10 minutes of filming so the gimbal's power reserves probably aren't your biggest concern. For all this, you're going to pay $300 MSRP when it begins shipping in two weeks.

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