When tech people or videographers hear the term "action camera" their minds would probably quickly go the GoPro series of camera, and it's understandable! GoPro have pretty much become the household name for small, waterproof action cameras that can not only withstand some rough handling, but also record crisp 4K footage whilst doing so. Over the last (nearly) 20 years, GoPro have reigned supreme in thew world of action cameras, achieving sponsorships and endorsements from athletes, extreme sports stars, Youtubers, celebrities and even Red Bull! With a reputation like that, it's hard to imagine any company being a competitor, but the time may have come where GoPro has some serious competition on their hands with the arrival of the DJI OSMO Action 3...
If GoPro are the household name for action cameras, then DJI are the same for UAV camera drones. Having brought the world of remote controlled arial drones to the everyday consumer with their products such as the DJI Phantom, Mavik and Air drones, which were marketed as entry level UAV camera drones which any flight enthusiast could purchase and begin their own areal adventures. They also produced higher end drones for videography such as the DJI Inspire which comes at a higher price tag. Having conquered the drone industry, DJI soon turned their attention to smaller handheld action cameras. We managed to get our hands on the DJI OSMO Action 3 handheld action camera and we thought we'd give it a little test during our trip to the NAB Show in Las Vegas back in April. Here's what we found!
What was it like using the OSMO Action 3 for a week?
After using the Action 3 for a solid week, we can safely say that the battery life on the camera is brilliant! We used it all day whilst at the NAB Show and it never died on us once, and on top of that it comes with a great little battery pack which can hold and charge three batteries in it at once, which is great for if you're on the go or at a busy shoot and need the peace of mind of having extra backup with you. It can also be used backwards as a power bank to charge your phone or other devices which is super useful! The image quality on the Action 3 is fantastic when you have good lighting, we thought that the footage we recorded looked slightly better than our GoPro Hero 11! The footage looks slightly less sharp overall, which might sound like a negative but it's actually a good thing. A mirrorless camera such as the Sony A7s III is much less sharp, so using the Action 3 in videos with mixed footage actually works really well - you can also adjust the sharpness within the setting if you'd like.
In our opinion, the GoPro Hero 11 can make certain things like skin tones look a little off or too contrasted, the Action 3 just looks a bit more pleasing to the eye and it's especially good if you're looking to vlog with this camera. There is one area that tends to be the real challenge for smaller action cameras and that's low light performance. We won't lie and tell you that the DJI OSMO Action 3 is amazing in low light levels, but we were very surprised by how little noise and grain there actually was in some low-light shots! The footage looked clear and the colour levels were quite consistent.
Sound and Picture Profiles
The standard shooting mode in the Action 3 boasts an impressive quality and colour pallet. The sound quality from the internal microphones on the OSMO Action 3 is very good coming from such a little device, even when filming in windy conditions, the microphones are able to pick up audio very well. You can choose to select the 10-bit D-CineLike shooting mode, which allows for much better colour grading in post-production - the reason behind this is that 10-bit actually has over 1 BILLION colours so you'll get less problems like banding in the sky, the colour reproduction will be a lot greater and it means that you can colour grade without losing a lot of the detail that you may do with the 8-bit footage. Check out our Youtube video below to watch some of the side by side graded and ungraded colour shots and let us know what you think of the difference! We also our own action camera LUTS which can be used with cameras like the Action 3 to enhance your footage. Here's a link to those -
Magnets and Mounting
As any of you who've used a GoPro will be familiar with the numerous screws that are used on the mounts and cases for the camera that you have to screw and unscrew before mounting the camera anywhere. The Action 3 does have those screws on its mounts, but it also has a very clever feature which we really like: You have the ability to magnetically attach the camera to the monopod and if you have the case on the camera then you can just unclip it and place it back on the monopod in portrait orientation. As the case is magnetic, if you perhaps don't have a cameraperson with you or are recording on your own then you can simply attach the Action 3 to anything metal and it'll stay there securely with a very strong magnetic connection. Some may be sceptical of the holding power of the monopod on the Action 3, but it's not just magnets that hold it onto the monopod, there's also 3 little hooks that secure the camera in place so there's no way it can randomly come loose at all. There's two secure buttons on either side that need to be pressed in order to release the camera from the monopod.
One of the reasons we don't like taking a huge camera on holiday is that we're often in the water either swimming, snorkelling, bodyboarding etc but that means missing out on some of the great action shots that those activities can offer. The DJI OSMO Action 3 is fully waterproof up to 16 metres without the need of any additional cases or attachment. During our time in Vegas, we had a day or two off where we could really test the Action 3 out and put it through its paces - so we headed down to the pool to get some underwater footage. The footage we captured looks pretty great in our opinion! The camera doesn't need any prior setup, you just hit record and then you're ready to go! The touchscreen on the action 3 can also be used underwater which is a real game changer for us.
Speaking of the screens, both front and back screens are touchscreens, which is super useful if you're using the camera facing towards you, maybe for vlogging purposes. With a GoPro, there are front and rear facing screens, but the front facing screen isn't touch enabled. So if you were recording yourself driving for instance, you'd have to unmount the camera to access the rear touchscreen (which of course isn't the safest option whilst driving!)
So lets look at the camera stabilisation on the OSMO Action 3. You may need to click on the video below in order to really get a good idea of the stabilisation described. There are a few stabilisation settings on the Action 3 including: Rocksteady, Rocksteady+ and HorizonBalancing. In the RockSteady setting, the camera will offer basic stabilisation of the footage, if you tilt the camera then the angle will tilt too, which can add some realism and aspect to your clips if needed, whilst still offering good stable footage. Once switched to the RockSteady+ setting, the footage is more stable but slightly more cropped in (to achieve the better stabilisation) The horizon seems to remain stable through the footage and there isn't any "jitter" or shake to the clips.
Once we kick in the HorizonBalancing setting, things get super impressive. You can tilt the camera left and right but the footage will remain completely balanced! It wouldn't even be noticeable in a video unless pointed out as the stabilisation and the levelling is insanely consistent. No matter what, the horizon will still remain straight and level. This setting is perfect for action shooting, perhaps for extreme sports like mountain biking or even just everyday vlogging - No motion blur or shake is produced at all, just a nice consistent and smooth video. We had to get some iPhone footage of the Action 3 tilting whilst in HorizonBalancing mode, just to prove that the camera was actually tilting!
Alongside the photo and video modes on the Action 3, there's also a timelapse and hyperlapse mode. We filmed a great hyperlapse whilst walking up the Vegas strip and we think it looks great! The video stabilisation makes the hyperlapse look super smooth, almost like a drone shot. The Action 3 also takes some great static timelapses as well, simply set it up on a surface, hit record and sit back!
In terms of lenses, the Action 3 has an ultra-wide angle lens, a wide-angle lens and a D Warp view available. These are showcased in our Youtube video below, so make sure that you check it out!
So overall, what are our thoughts on the DJI OSMO Action 3? We're really warming to action cameras! In the past the quality could be quite hit and miss, especially when you take into account things like lighting, stability and colour. But we seems to be at a point now with the technology that's packed into modern action cameras where the stabilisation, quality of the image, as well as the audio is incredible for such a small device. We can 100% recommend this camera to anyone who's looking for a camera that can capture all of the holiday action and activities. Of course it's not as high quality as a full mirrorless camera, but the trade off between this and a bigger camera is, for one, the size and weight. A larger camera wouldn't be water/shock proof either and the stabilisation would be pretty average at best. Something like the Action 3, which is made for adventure and rough handling is just a no-brainer for these kinds of things.
On top of that, a mirrorless camera isn't exactly something that a non-tech savvy person could simply pick up and begin to use, or change the settings on. What we like about the OSMO Action 3 is that you simply just set up your quality, resolution and then hit record and you're ready to go! In terms of the cons, the low light performance does become apparent when viewing back the footage, along with the depth of field. These issues together do mean that whatever you film with the Action 3 will always kind of look like action camera footage, but as the bar is continuously being set higher and higher with each year that passes, these aren't necessarily bad things.
And for the user who's just looking for a sturdy and durable little camera that can be put through the paces, the swims, rocky mountain climbs, downhill bike journeys, scuba dives and still hold up whilst producing brilliant looking footage - this is the camera for you. As well as all the other little features like the stabilisation, camera shooting modes, lenses/angles which just make the DJI OSMO Action 3 a really top notch piece of tech which will definitely serve you well, whatever adventure you're embarking upon!
What do you think of the DJI OSMO Action 3? Do you have an action camera that you think is better? Let us know in the comments below and check out our Youtube review for all the comparison shots!