Review: DJI Osmo Mobile 3 smartphone gimbal

DJI Osmo Mobile 3
$119 | dji.com

Over the past few years we've seen massive leaps in the quality of video produced by smartphones, allowing content creators to lean more heavily than ever on the devices in their pockets. Whether you're a vlogger, journalist, budding cinematographer or just a parent who wants to post great videos on Facebook, chances are good that you're part of this trend.

However, to get the best results, it still helps to use some third party tools. Enter the DJI Osmo Mobile 3, the third generation of DJI's gimbal stabilization system for smartphones, which can help take your production quality up a level – particularly if you're the kind of person who shoots while moving around. Let's take a look at it in more detail.

Key features/specifications

  • Foldable design
  • Hyperlapse and timelapse functions
  • Active tracking
  • Trigger control
  • Bluetooth connection
  • 15-hour battery life

The Osmo Mobile 3 is a drastic overhaul of the company's predecessor, the Osmo Mobile 2. It joins a lineup of increasingly sophisticated smartphone gimbals from competitors like Freefly, Zhiyun, Gudsen, and others.

Design

The biggest update to the Osmo Mobile 3 is the overall physical layout. Though DJI took most of its design cues from the crowdfunded Snoppa Atom gimbal, the company fundamentally changed two aspects of the look and function of the device.

The first of these is that the Osmo Mobile 3 folds in on itself into a more compact, transportable size. It only uses one joint to achieve this, and all the gimbal's other axes remain in place. The folded gimbal is slightly larger than an average person's hand - if detached from the tripod base that DJI ships with the gimbal's combo package. Once I unfolded the arm and figured out the orientation, I wasn't bothered by anything related to this design change; it seems a useful update that makes the gimbal more compact.

The foldable design is made possible by the second, and perhaps more notable, change to the design: the sideways orientation of the phone-holding arm. DJI has placed this arm to the right of the device rather than behind it, bucking the typical design shared by most other smartphone gimbals on the market.

The Osmo Mobile 3's folding design makes it compact for travel (seen here in its included case).

This change will likely require a bit of muscle-memory adjustment for gimbal operators used to the more standard back-arm design. The difference became most apparent for me when I tried to get shots close to the ground. I was used to leaning the gimbal forward and away from my body to achieve this, but that didn't work with the Osmo Mobile 3, it must be leaned to the side for a similar effect.

A common complaint about the Osmo Mobile 2 was that the arm location blocked access to the phone's headphone jack and charging port. The sideways arm on the Osmo Mobile 3 fixes those problems, now allowing access to both. A tradeoff, however, is that the phone needs to be balanced each time it's placed in the gimbal. The Osmo Mobile 2's use of counterweights meant that once the user balanced their mobile device, they could take it on and off without needing to adjust each time. The Osmo Mobile 3 doesn't have this option, though balancing the phone along a single axis seemed to be a pretty quick process.

The button layout on the Osmo Mobile 3 is unchanged from its predecessor. The sideways orientation of the gimbal arm is a change from the Osmo Mobile 2.
A new front trigger makes it easy to switch between sport modes and free the gimbal from responsiveness. The gimbal allows for both USB A and C attachments and can charge a mobile device while in use.

DJI also added a trigger to the back of the gimbal handle. This is a welcome addition. It allows access to useful functions in a place that makes ergonomic sense. Depending on whether it's clicked or held down, the trigger enables 'sport mode', a setting that makes the gimbal more responsive to your movements. It can also pause the gimbal's responsiveness entirely, helpful to maintain framing.

In use

The experience of using the Osmo Mobile 3 cannot be separated from its app, DJI Mimo. This app is also used on other DJI devices and it's quite intuitive. It connects to the mobile device via Bluetooth, eliminating further cables. The Mimo app introduces manual camera controls to your phone, essential for creating more professional-looking content. It also allows for other creative camera modes.

The Osmo Mobile 3 complete with phone displaying the Mimo App interface.

DJI updated its Active Track software on the Osmo Mobile 3, which keeps the camera trained on a subject selected by the user. I've found two ways to effectively use this feature. In the first, the gimbal stays stationary and the camera pans and tilts to keep the subject in frame. This could be a useful feature for vloggers and self-filmers as they move at slow to medium speeds throughout the frame. This tracking does not do as well with fast-moving subjects however.

The second way I've found active track useful is by training the camera on a subject and moving the gimbal itself. This eliminates the need to track your subject with hand movements or the joystick and can introduce cinematic camera movement along multiple axes.

DJI's Active Track feature is effective at automatically tracking and following subjects – as long as they don't move too quickly. (Captured with an iPhone 8)

The Mimo app also offers panorama photo modes, gesture controls, timelapse modes, and an amazingly impressive hyperlapse feature. The combination of the Mimo app's software stabilization with the Osmo Mobile 3 gimbal stabilization results in a final video that makes me seriously regret the many hours I've spent moving tripod legs inches at a time to create a similar effect.

Despite these cool features, there are a few elements of the Osmo Mobile 3 that have me particularly disgruntled. The first is the rounded base and forward-leaning handle. This makes it impossible to stand the gimbal up on a flat surface without using the tripod included in the more expensive combo package, perhaps an intentional move by DJI. The tripod does hold the gimbal upright, but it also adds significantly to the device's footprint – one that's marketed as small and portable.

The Osmo Mobile 3's hyperlapse feature works effectively. (Captured with an iPhone 8)

Another annoyance I've found is that the Osmo Mobile 3 doesn't allow full 360-degree rotation as the gimbal will reach an end point while spinning. There is also no option to toggle between the phone's forward and rear-facing cameras while recording in the Mimo app, though this can perhaps be addressed in a future software update.

Is it right for you?

Overall, the Osmo Mobile 3 is a fun new upgrade to the Osmo Mobile line that can be useful for certain applications. To me, one of the most obvious uses would be live-streaming. With the addition of an external microphone, I foresee the Osmo Mobile 3 making waves in live news, conferences, vlogging, and more, where a phone is the easiest way to distribute high-quality, live video. DJI does need to fix some issues here, though, like not being able to switch between rear and forward cameras while recording within the Mimo app.

The gimbal would also be great for those who want to up the quality of their vacation or family home videos without shelling out for a new camera (and possibly new camera gimbal).

For smartphone gimbals like the Osmo Mobile 3 to get more popular with serious filmmakers, however, I think we still need a drastic shrinking of size. The biggest draw of shooting on a phone is that it's always with you. Once everything is set up the Osmo Mobile 3 with a smartphone is only slightly smaller than its mirrorless equivalent, which generates an exponentially better image.

For the rest of us, however, the Osmo Mobile 3 is a fun device that provides effective stabilization and software tools, and one that doesn't require you to be an expert filmmaker to use.

What we like:

  • Folding design significantly reduces size
  • Gimbal can charge mobile device
  • Impressive hyperlapse function
  • Active track works well for a product at this price point
  • Arm design allows microphone attachments (unlike Osmo Mobile 2)

What we'd like to see improved:

  • Gimbal needs to be balanced each time phone is attached
  • Base of gimbal doesn't allow device to be set down without a tripod
  • Sideways gimbal arm orientation takes getting used to