DJI has released a new smartphone gimbal—a device that helps stabilize smartphone cameras—and it stands out from the hundreds of other gimbals on the market in two crucial ways:
- It folds in half into a form factor that can actually fit into my pocket—smaller than any other gimbal I’ve seen;
- It has a clever design that allows the gimbal to support an iPhone XS with a Moment wide-angle lens add-on.
I’m an aspiring videographer, so I’ve owned and tested close to a dozen gimbals, and none have been able to pull off the two features mentioned above. This makes DJI’s new gimbal, named the Osmo Mobile 3, a game-changer for people who shoot with a wide-angle lens add-on to a smartphone, especially the ones from American smartphone lens-maker Moment.
There are two reasons why traditional smartphone gimbals or smaller gimbals cannot handle an iPhone (or any other phone) with a Moment wide-angle lens (or any other brand’s wide-angle lens). The first problem is payload, or how much weight a gimbal motor can handle. Most small gimbals simply have been unable to support my iPhone XS with a Moment lens add-on. The Moment lens makes the phone’s weight unevenly tilted to one side. My Moza Mini-S gimbal, for example, simply cannot handle the payload.
Even if a gimbal can handle the weight, such as the Zhiyun Smooth 4, there is still a fundamental design problem with smartphone gimbals: the pan motor is located in front of the smartphone’s camera, as seen in the photo below.
This design is fine when shooting with a phone’s regular camera, but when you add a wide-angle lens accessory, the field of vision becomes so wide that the motor gets into the frame. The logical way to avoid that is to push the phone further out, but then the weight would be too heavy on one side for any small gimbal to handle.
DJI solved the problem by simply moving the pan motor to the side of the phone, instead of in front. This allows an unobstructed view in front of a phone’s camera. DJI also redesigned the phone holder so the gimbal can be moved both ways, further allowing better balancing of a device with its weight mostly distributed to one side.
This design doesn’t come without compromises, however. Popular gimbal shooting actions such as “flashlight mode” (when a videographer is holding a gimbal parallel to the ground) or “inverted mode” (when a gimbal is held upside down to allow a camera to shoot close to the ground) can’t be done with the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 due to the motor structure, but there are workarounds such as simply moving the gimbal arm to the side.
As a gimbal, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 behaves as well as any big name gimbals out there. The handle is comfortable to hold, and there is an analog nub that allows easy pan and tilt controls while shooting. Just like Zhiyun’s gimbals, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 also has a trigger button, which serves various functions depending upon selection.
Users can operate the gimbal as a standalone gadget, shooting using the smarpthone’s native camera app. However, for superior controls, there’s the DJI Mimo app, which helps the Osmo Mobile 3 pair with the smartphone via Bluetooth, once paired, the gimbal’s buttons allows users to begin recording or zoom in and out without touching the phone.
Stabilization was smooth and fluid when I tested the Osmo Mobile 3 with a OnePlus 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, and of course, an iPhone XS with a Moment wide-angle lens added on.
Priced at $119, the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is relatively affordable and portable enough that it should win over many consumers looking for their first gimbal. For me, the ability to support the payload of a Moment lens add-on is a game changer. I suspect many aspiring YouTubers and vloggers will feel the same way.