DJI has made another 180 in its Osmo line of action cameras. The original Osmo Action had a classic GoPro look, but then with the Action 2 (sans Osmo), DJI went with a weird modular design. It had some cool ideas: It was nice and small, and you could add storage, a front-facing screen, and more with the extra drives. But he suffered from excessive heatingit turned out to be something fragile and too complex.
Now, with the Osmo Action 3, DJI has brought back the action camera form factor. It also made numerous small improvements from the stand to the displays to the battery, but kept the previous model’s 1/1.7-inch 12-megapixel sensor and the maximum 4K 120p video resolution.
The rival Hero 10 is in a class of its own with its HyperSmooth 4.0 stabilization, 5.3K 60p resolution, and 240fps 2.7K frame rate, and GoPro has teased a new model (“taking him at 11”) arriving in exactly one hour, quite an interesting coincidence. To see how it stacks up, I tested it in a vehicle, on a bike, and on foot, while seeing the improved durability head-on.
Body and drive
Without the battery module, the Action 2 has a rather weak battery life of 60 minutes. DJI has addressed that with the new “Extreme Battery” in the Osmo Action 3 that lasts up to 160 minutes. It is also the first action camera with fast charging (via the multi-function battery box) that enables an 80 percent charge in just 18 minutes or a full charge in 50 minutes.
It has a sleek new quick-release magnetic mount that allows you to attach the camera directly to a GoPro-style mount with or without the case. It also allows for easy vertical mounting, making the Action 3 better for social media.
That allows you to detach the camera from a bike, car, or other mount without having to remove it from the case. DJI notes that the mounting system “eliminates loose connections and withstands impacts such as a cyclist falling off the bike,” but recommends No doing that.
So, naturally, I executed a perfect face plant on my mountain bike and can confirm that the camera came out unscathed, unlike my face (yes, there is video). The camera clearly made some contact with the ground, but it remained attached to the mount and suffered no visible damage, so kudos to DJI for that.
You also get a front (1.4-inch, 360 x 360) and rear (2.25-inch, 640 x 360) display that are touch-enabled, making vlogging or selfies easy. Gorilla Glass on the screens aids in the promised impact resistance. The menu system works the same way as the Action 2, mainly by swiping. Swipe up to change main settings like resolution and frame rate, down to access the main menu, left to change shooting mode, and right to play back images. The menus work the same way on the front and back screens.
It’s not very intuitive, but it’s probably the best option for such a small screen. You can also connect the camera to DJI’s Mimo app, which is easier to use and more like what you’ll find on their Fly and Go drone apps. That allows you to control video and photo captures remotely, while changing all the key camera settings. The app is also used to update camera firmware.
Gallery: DJI Osmo Action 3 Gallery | 20 Photos
Gallery: DJI Osmo Action 3 Gallery | 20 photos
As before, the Osmo Action 3 can function as a webcam, promising higher quality video and audio than the typical built-in camera for conference calls and live streaming. This works fine, with minimal setup and an easy connection via USB-C, although the video is very wide. It also allows you to stream live over WiFi up to 1080/30p.
Video and stabilization
The Action 3 uses the latest version of DJI’s stabilization, Rocksteady 3.0, to eliminate camera shake in all directions up to a maximum of 4K/120fps. It’s almost on par with GoPro’s HyperSmooth 4. I’ve tested it in a vehicle on rough gravel roads, cycling on trails and roads with the camera mounted on my helmet, and on foot with the included selfie stick. It smoothed out the video perfectly in all of those situations, only letting me down once (when I crashed), for some unknown reason.
It also uses DJI’s Horizon features that first came in the Osmo Action to keep the image level. HorizonSteady does a combination of shake reduction and horizon leveling, even through hard hits and extreme 360-degree rotations. This could be useful for… I’m not sure? Maybe skydiving, diving or the like. Note that it only works up to 2.7K resolution and crops the image, no doubt because it requires surrounding pixels to compensate for rotation.
HorizonBalancing corrects horizontal tilt within ±45° and enables consistent 4K/60fps recording. DJI calls it “a nice middle ground between RockSteady and HorizonSteady, where a smooth 4K image in dynamic motion is the priority, like an obstacle course.” That feature kept my footage smooth and steady, even through steep inclines on a bike through the streets.
The Action 3’s camera offers a 155-degree field of view (equivalent to a 12.5mm full-frame lens), considerably wider than the GoPro Hero 10’s 19mm equivalent in linear mode or about 16mm in fisheye mode. It also offers a standard dewarped (linear) view, along with wide and ultra-wide fields of view, with the latter considerably distorted. The zoom feature is digital only and looks pretty poor; you’d better zoom using your video editing app.
As mentioned, DJI is playing around with the vertical aspect ratio, not only with a vertical mount and user interface, but vertical shooting capability as well. The feature enables 9:16 vertical shots so you can post social media content in all available resolutions without cropping.
Gallery: DJI Osmo Action 3 Press Images | 27 Photos
Gallery: DJI Osmo Action 3 Press Images | 27 Photos
Video quality is excellent, at least on par with the Hero 10 at the equivalent resolution (the Action 3 has a maximum data rate of 130Mbps, while the Hero 10 tops out at 100Mbps). As mentioned, it can do 120fps at 4K or 240fps at 1080p. In addition to video modes, you can take 12-megapixel photos.
Meanwhile, the Hero 10 supports 5.3K at 60fps, 4K at 120fps, and 2.7K at 240fps. It’s nice to have the 240fps option at a higher resolution, but the DJI Osmo Action 3 is arguably a bit sharper at full 4K 120p resolution.
However, the Hero 10 is better in low light. Despite the larger pixels, Action 3 video can get quite noisy, even in daylight in a shady forest, for example. In contrast (sorry), the Hero 10 offers clearer images in similar situations.
With the new model, DJI has added D-Cinelike color mode to its drones to increase dynamic range and make editing with contrasty images easier. It also added a new color temperature sensor that automatically adjusts white balance and exposure in a single shot if you’re moving from shadows to bright sunlight or submerged in water, for example. That generally gave me relatively smooth transitions from shadowed to sunlit areas, though again the Hero 10 does a better job of this.