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Unbiased DJI Osmo Action Review for Skydiving

Posted by Mark Kirschenbaum on

The DJI Osmo Action is taunted as the GoPro HERO7 Black killer so I had to purchase one and see how it compares. I am not sponsored by GoPro or DJI and have no skin in the game, so this is an unbiased review versus most of what you read on the internet.

Trunk's DJI OSMO Action Skydiving Review

On it's release, I had only a few hours before a trip to put it through the ringer. At the consent of iFly Phx, I was able to put 30 minutes of tunnel time on the camera and compare it to that of the GoPro HERO7 in the same flying and lighting conditions. In the tunnel, I could quickly run through all the modes of the operations in all body orientations and see how this camera compares to the GoPro. 

Following the iFly experience, I went through a first jump B.A.S.E. course and used it as a real end user & tourist. 

Here is my synopsis in the most condense form possible. 

Stabilization :: GoPro HERO7 Wins

Without a doubt, the stabilization is better on the GoPro HERO7 than the DJI OSMO Action for skydiving. I got to test the DJI in every major "Rockysteady" mode in the tunnel flying head-up which is intrinsically the shakiest body position.

The GoPro HERO7 performed better in the tunnel than the DJI Osmo Action as far as stabilization is concerned. The GoPro appeared to be on rails as the DJI still seemed a bit jittery in some head-up positions. Flying on my belly, both performed pretty much the same. 

Cropping! Technical Note

DJI OSMO Stabilization Crop
DJI 18-19% cropping! Yikes! 

With it's Rocksteady stabilization, the DJI crops about 19% of the image, stabilizes it across the whole sensor, and then upsamples it back. So if you are shooting 4K Rocksteady, you are really shooting around 2k stabilized, then upsampled back to 4k. This is hardly a 4k image at this point.
The GoPro HERO7 crops 5% with it's hypersmooth so the DJI throws away 3x as much information!

What's even worse, is the DJI Osmo Action does not correct for rolling shutter in non-stabilized footage so you'll get some bad rolling shutter and flutter if you turn off the Rocksteady feature. 

Image Quality :: DJI Osmo Action Wins

The DJI Osmo Action performs better at image quality in the footage I shot in default color modes. GoPro saturates and crunches all the colors too much in the "GoPro Color Mode". The text on jumpsuits are so much more readable, and the colors truer to life. 

I did not do much testing on the GoPro Protune Flat color versus DJI Manual Cinema color setting and then performing color treatment in post. For most skydivers, we are not doing color corrections in post, so although this produces the best video, it really isn't a good test for most skydiver's workflows. 

 DJI OSMO ACTION 2.7K screengrab
DJI Osmo Action Screengrab

GoPro HERO7 Screengrab
GoPro HERO7 Black 2.7k Screengrab. Note how "Red" the jumpsuit is

DJI Osmo Action BASE jumping
DJI Osmo Action BASE jumping (click for Full Screengrab)

Image Quality Over Water (UPDATE)

GoPro is ultimately a surfing camera and really excels over the water. If you are jumping in super bright sun over the ocean, the GoPro appears to win. Take a look at what Buzz produced and the differences is dramatic.

Reliability & Useability :: DJI Osmo Action

All weekend long I only had one camera crash on the DJI Osmo Action. This occurred where the camera did not turn off after being disconnected from my phone. This contrasts to the HERO7 seemingly constantly hanging up, crashing, or not being able to change the resolution until 30 seconds after a bootup. 

The menus of the DJI seemed snappier and the reliability better on vs the GoPro HERO7 Black. The on / off off sounds are also extremely loud and easily distinguishable on the DJI.

DJI Osmo Notable Features & Caveats 

After using this camera as a tourist and the tunnel here are a few notes:

  1. The DJI is a beast of a camera. At about 10 grams more than the HERO7, it feels bullet proof in comparison. 
  2. The forward facing display is awesome! This feature makes it super easy to capture that perfect smile after an awesome jump. DJI Timelapse
  3. The DJI has no HDMI out for debriefing. No word about HDMI over USB-C but doubting it.
  4. DJI Mimo app worked well, but I liked the trim & snapshot feature of the GoPro App better. 
  5. BE VERY CAREFUL when adjusting the resolutions on the DJI Action Osmo as the "Rocksteady" setting is very easy to accidentally turn off when switching the video modes.
  6. The card release on the side is one the best features of the DJI. However, you have to use a pen or something to pop the card in and out. DJI Osmo Action side loading card release
  7. The battery life of the DJI Osmo Action was quite impressive. I didn't do a scientific comparison, but seemed better than the GoPro HERO7 Black when using it at 4K and downloading all day.
  8. USB on the DJI loads up as a drive and transfer rate at 30MB/s down and 15MB/s up.
  9. You unfortunately HAVE TO register the camera with DJI before using via your phone app. If you are military, I would go with GoPro until we can do a thorough analysis.
  10. The camera is slightly wider (~2mm) so I had to modify my GoPro Cookie roller mount in order for it to fit properly 

Conclusion

It's a tough choice. For those flying on their belly and/or as a tandem videographer with quick turns, I would go with the DJI OSMO Action solely on it's side loading card and slightly better colors at low-light. For those who are freeflying headup, the GoPro HERO7 Black is still is the camera to beat for it's stabilization.

For people looking to use this on vacation and multi-sport, the forward facing screen on the DJI is awesome. I didn't think it was going to be as useful as it is, until I actually used it over and over again! I'm personally going to travel with the DJI Osmo Action and keep the GoPro HERO7 on my camera helmet. 

This is the first, early release of firmware for the DJI Osmo Action, so I bet it will only get better. If I was to purchase only one camera, I would probably still go with the GoPro HERO7 Black. 

Feel free to contact me for access to my dropbox repository of test videos so you can check for yourself. 


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