DJI Osmo Pocket: A Slow Motion Test

Over Christmas I treated myself to a new camera – the newly released DJI Osmo Pocket. This thing is a wondrously small gimbal mounted camera, that I thought might be really interesting to carry with me on bike rides.

This absolutely isn’t a proper review, since I’ve not had the device long enough. Instead, it’s a few early thoughts.

The thing is tiny. I knew this as everyone said it was tiny, but it really is. Even the box that it comes in is tiny! But it’s size means that you can put it in just about any pocket. Certainly it’d be safe in a cycle jersey pocket.

Yes, phones are great, and more and more of them have optically or digitally stabilised cameras, but you can’t beat mechanical stabilisation with a bit of leeway for shakes. And there’s no real problem taking both this and your phone out with you. Indeed, you can use the two together to get a proper screen Note: This can be important if you want to get your focusing right. Focusing is perhaps the thing you need to most worry about with the camera. A couple of the shots above are definitely a little “soft.”

To really use this phone properly you will need either a USB-C enabled phone like a Google Pixel device, or an Apple iPhone. If your phone uses micro-USB you lose a lot functionality. I suspect that limitation is because different manufacturers have the micro-USB port oriented differently. USB-C and Lightning connectors are reversible, and the adaptor to the device only works if you have the screen facing you.

The device is 4K and can shoot at 60 frames a second, meaning that you can slow it down a bit if needed. But it also has a good slow motion mode, shooting at 120 frames a second in regular 1080 HD. The video above is shot using that 1080 mode.

Usually I edit all my videos in Adobe Premiere Pro CC, but for this I thought I’d try a more portable solution at least to start with.

I shot that video without a phone attached – people barely could see there was a camera there. Then I edited it roughly using Adobe Premiere Rush, Adobe’s new lightweight video editing application. It’s iOS and desktop only at the moment, so I used it on an iPad rather than my Pixel 2 phone.

I did a rough-ish edit on the iPad, but also did some colour grading there too. Then using the Adobe Cloud, I opened the project on a laptop to fine-tune those edits. I’m not sure that Rush is quite there yet for really precise editing – certainly not on a touchscreen interface. Shortening clips can be tricky. On the other hand – you can certainly get something out the door very fast with it.

Incidentally, I seemed to need to open my project it in Rush on a PC before I could open it in Premiere Pro CC on my PC. Theoretically, I shouldn’t have had to do that, but the project failed to open (although a previous project did!).

I ended up finishing up the video in Premiere Pro CC, where I tightened edits some more, added some music, and added a couple of fades (Rush has limited transitions available). Finally, there was a little bit of camera tracking to be done in After Effects to get that text on the wall at the start. Not necessary, but the wall lent itself to it.

While you can edit a 4K video on a phone using something like Rush, I don’t think it’s all that practical. Mostly that’s because of the sizes of video involved. Your phone or tablet will need plenty of free space to work with, and even transferring the files between camera and device is a slow process. If your phone has 128GB or more, then go for it. For short videos anyway. But even a 15 minute video might be difficult to find space for.

Anyway, I might write a fuller review of the Osmo Pocket once I’ve used it for a while. But in general terms, I like it a lot.

DJI Mavic Pro – Initial Thoughts

Long time readers will know that I’ve been playing with a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced for over two years now. I’ve posted a number of videos and photos from that drone in the past and I’ve been very happy with it. However there’s no denying that its size limits where you can take it. You do have to actively choose to take it with you – perhaps at the expense of other things. I’ve had the whole kit fit into a rucksack, but I need other baggage if I’m taking anything else with me. It’s especially limiting for something like a cycle ride.

So when DJI release the Mavic Pro last year I was very tempted. It has more sensors than my Phantom 3 Advanced. Notably my early mistake of crashing the Phantom into a tree wouldn’t be possible with this. And the functionality is greatly improved too with lots more modes making use of the available sensors.

Now I confess that I was actually pretty happy with the 2.7k camera of the Phantom. While 4k video is nice and future proofs myself, I don’t actually have any way to see it back at that resolution. My laptop isn’t that high a resolution and nor is my TV. In any case, there are limits to the bitrate it records 4k at, and I suspect I’ll be using 2.7k to a larger extent with the Mavic.

One other consideration was the ultraportable DJI Spark which has just been released. This only shoots 1080 but is tiny and is a true go-anywhere drone. The arms don’t fold smartly like the Mavic, but it’s very pocketable and is the sort of thing you can easily keep in the bottom of your bag. I suppose my biggest concern was its performance in windy conditions. The UK doesn’t always have perfect drone flying weather, and while I’ll always avoid the rain, bigger beasts tend to be a bit more solid in the air. That said, in some of the YouTube reviews posted, it looks like it performs decently.

Another consideration is the likelihood that DJI will release an updated Mavic at some point soon. The Mavic Pro was released in October last year but it was post-Christmas before it was more widely available. No doubt there will be a new model available ahead of Christmas this year, but it’s like waiting for the next phone or the next computer. There’s never quite the right time to buy.

I still went with the Mavic, and I bought the Fly More pack – as much as anything for the additional two batteries. Other accessories were moderately useful, including some extra props, a car charger and so on, and although the bag is nice it’s not perhaps quite as tough as would be useful for protection. The hub charger is good, although I was slightly disappointed to learn that it charged batteries sequentially. So if you load 3 or 4 batteries onto it, it still only does them one at a time.

You will need to allow time to charge everything up, and importantly, get the most up to date firmware. DJI basically forces users to use the current firmware by making you use an account. If you don’t have the current firmware, your flight distances are highly restrictive. That all said, while it’s still slow, it’s a bit more obvious than the old Phantom 3 way of doing things. I updated using my phone (on WiFi at home), and that gives you a good idea of where you’ve got in the installation and update. Much better than listening for strange sounds from you Phantom!

The little remote is very nice, and DJI include microUSB, Lightning and USB C cables in the box to connect with your phone. I’ve been used to using a Nexus 7 for my phantom – which is basically that device’s single use. And I notice that there are lots of devices around that let you “mount” a tablet to your remote if you want. In use my phone (an HTC 10) worked well, although you’re going to be flattening your phone’s battery using it rather than a bespoke device. I can live with that for the benefits in portability. I’ll probably pack a small Anker battery charger in my DJI bag to recharge my phone if it flattens after a decent flight. I did however notice that the Mavic’s remote loses charge faster than my old Phantom 3 Advanced remote, which could effectively run for weeks on a single charge.

I played a little with some of the modes that track you as move, although I need to learn more about them.

The Mavic has a range of up to 7 km, but UK regulations say that you need to be able to see your drone at all times. There’s no way you can see something as small as a Mavic that far away. And I’m not sure whether a first-person headset would actually be legal here. One of the problems I had with a white Phantom was losing it against a white cloud sky. The dark grey of Mavic makes it easier to spot (and remain legal), and in any case, I probably don’t want to have to trek 7 km to retrieve an errant drone should it decide to land there. (I confess that I’ve never had a drone “fly away” from me. The closest I’ve got is have to use my eyes to fly a drone back when video connectivity caused me problems one time.)

One issue I will think about is bringing some kind of mat or cloth with me take off and land from. The lowness of the Mavic means even quite short grass could get caught by the propellers. I often find myself launching from grass, so a simple and lightweight solution would be useful.

I’m still learning about what the best recording settings are. I use RAW+JPG for photos, but video is another questions. I’ve also never bought any ND filters for a drone, although they do seem to be used a lot by the pros. We’ll have to see.

I did try doing some live streaming. I first tried YouTube, but the app kept crashing repeatedly when I tried it. So I fell back to Facebook which is never anyone’s favourite platform. They limit the video quality a bit for starters. But I confess that it just about worked (I’d embed the video, but Facebook makes that truly fiddly). A few people watched, although playing back, the video quality was at times poor. More annoyingly, there were cutouts continually. I was on 4G so it shouldn’t have been too bad, but it wasn’t great. Still it was good that the phone’s mic could be used for a sort of commentary of what I was shooting.

Otherwise, I’m really happy with my purchase. Expect more drone footage soon. In the meantime, here’s a sample of what I shot today.

Note that I shot on the default settings and have only done a tiny bit of colour correction on a couple of shots. I’m also interested to see what the difference is like between YouTube and Vimeo, so I’ve uploaded it to both, using Premiere Pro CC 2017’s settings.

Hilly Fields – First Mavic Pro Flight from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

There are a couple more photos on Flickr too.

Trent Park – Drone Footage

Trent Park from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

I’ve been playing with my DJI Phantom 3 Advanced a little more.

Things that I need to spend more time include optimising the video output for Vimeo (I’m using Premiere Pro CC’s “Vimeo 1080” setting here, but I’m not happy with it, and Vimeo says that I can do better, but then it prefers 720), and the colour grading. I’m still learning how to use that, and need to understand what LUT files can do some more.