The Osmo Mobile 2, the next generation phone stabilizer from DJI, is now (exclusively) available for preorder at Apple’s store, with shipping expected sometime between February 22nd and March 9th. I’ve been using one since early January — but with beta software, so it’s not yet ready for a full review. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, don’t sweat it. The Osmo 2 gimbal was announced during the crush of CES news and doesn’t have the flash of something like the just-announced Mavic Air drone.
On the other hand, the new Osmo is only $129.95 and works with any phone, so it’s a good bet that many more people are going to pick this thing up than the Mavic Air. In fact, the Osmo Mobile 2 is less than half the price of the original Osmo Mobile. If you shoot a lot of video with your phone, it’s almost an impulse purchase. If you don’t shoot a lot of video with your phone, using the Osmo Mobile 2 for just a few minutes might spark dreams of becoming a vlogger.
When it works, it works remarkably well
When it works, it works remarkably well. None of what I’m about to tell you is news to vloggers, but since it’s so cheap — and therefore might appeal to more people — I figure a little explanation is in order. The basics are simple: you slap your phone into a clamp much like you would a car mount, and then three different motors hold your phone steady as you shoot. Unlike the basic video stabilization hardware and software in your phone, the Osmo Mobile is good at making your pans smooth. If you use DJI’s app to shoot your video, you can also do tricks like automatically tracking a subject — you worry about moving the camera and the Osmo worries about keeping the person you’re shooting in frame.
That kind of improved camera work is either something you need or something you don’t. The Osmo Mobile is like any camera tool — it won’t make you into the next Jake Paul (thank god), but it will make some things you shoot look better. It’s not as good as more professional tools, but it’s also only 130 bucks.
Anyway, as I said it works when it works. I have to caveat it because I was running beta software that is pretty reliable on iOS and pretty unreliable on Android. DJI will hopefully work out the bugs before launch.
Better designed than the first version, mostly
The Osmo Mobile 2 has a few innovations compared to the first version. Chief among them is the ability to shoot portrait mode. Because of the way the phone clamp rotates (counter-clockwise), you have to take your phone out of the Osmo to switch. I would complain about this design decision, but I think that DJI is crazy like a fox. Taking your phone out means you’ll end up paying more attention to how it’s attached when you switch.
The key part of making any mechanical video stabilizing gimbal work is balance, and the balance of this thing is very different depending on whether you have your phone in landscape or portrait. It’s also very different depending on the size of your phone (the Osmo Mobile 2 is better suited to handle large phones like the Pixel 2 XL than the first version). So every time you mount your phone at a different angle (or mount a different phone), you will need to tweak its balance via an adjustable arm. It took me a few hours of thinking this thing was basically broken before I realized the problem was me: I hadn’t put the 30 seconds of work in to adjust it.
Compared to the original Osmo Mobile, a few things are different beyond the price. The main one is that it has an internal battery you can’t change. That’s not a problem for me because DJI claims it lasts about 15 hours on a charge. It also charges via a standard microUSB cable, which is much more convenient (but sadly not the more modern USB-C) than the first version’s unique 3.5mm charging port. It also has a USB port you can use to charge your phone as you shoot, but messing with a cable and a gimbal is awkward.
The button layout is also different. There’s a main button that serves four functions: on / off, toggling between panning and still modes, recentering, and switching to selfie mode. That’s a lot of functions, but DJI drone owners tell me that the “DJI double tap” will eventually become intuitive (it hasn’t happened yet). There’s also a camera zoom slider (not working yet in my beta), a joystick for panning the phone around, and a record button.
The Osmo Mobile 2 is subtly lighter and feels not-so-subtly cheaper than the original. To me, though, the best thing is that the mechanical arms that hold the phone can be rotated around so they’re basically flat, so it’s slightly easier to fit this contraption into a bag.
We’ll have more to say about the Osmo Mobile 2 when the software is finalized. In the meantime, check out the photos below and the video (featuring a skateboarding dog!) above.