2019-06-20
Cameras May 19, 2019

Upgrading Your GoPro to the new DJI Osmo Action Worth it?

Action cameras are miniature digital cameras designed to record high-velocity footage, and are most notable for the signature first-person perspective, allowing for a more immersive video-viewing experience.

In this field, GoPro has been the undisputed king, with other companies’ attempts falling just short. The latest release from GoPro, the GoPro Hero 7, was praised for its improved stabilization algorithms, cementing its spot the de-facto market leader.

Come May 2019, DJI released their first action camera, the DJI Osmo Action, and on-paper, the specs seem like that of the GoPro. While you might be unfamiliar with the DJI brand, drone-enthusiasts will recognize the name. While the DJI Osmo Action is their first attempt at an action camera, the DJI Osmo Pocket, along with their drone-mounted cameras, show that DJI is certainly proficient.

However, its always hard to trust a newcomer in any field. So, how does the DJI’s first offering stack up with the industry-leading GoPro Hero 7?

 

Waterproof up to 11 meters.

 

The Similarities

The hardware experience of both action cams are similar. Both manage 60fps 4K video, 12-megapixel pictures, up to 8X slow-mo (by shooting 240fps footage) and have electronic stabilization.

The two share a nearly identical form factor, with the GoPro being slightly taller but thinner. This is quite significant, as it means your GoPro mounts and accessories will likely work with the Osmo Action. If you’ve been using GoPros for some time, and have a collection of useful add-ons, the transition to the Osmo Action will be nearly seamless.

Both the GoPro Action 7 and the DJI Osmo Action are waterproof too, allowing for waterproof shooting (11 meters on the DJI, 10m for the GoPro). Finally, voice control and timelapse modes are also included for those who want it too.

Other standard features are available, both cameras have passable mics and identical capturing modes. With that said, it’s in the details that they truly differ.

 

The Differences

Image/Video Quality

Let’s cover my biggest (and only) gripe about the DJI Osmo Action. Case in point, image and video quality.

The Osmo Action does support a higher bitrate of 100Mbps (to the GoPro’s 78Mbps), it does suffer from using the H.264 codec while the GoPro uses H.265 encoding, allowing high quality data to be compressed in smaller file sizes. This seems like a missed opportunity, as the latest DJI drones do include H.265 codec.

While the Osmo Action comes has HDR capabilities, it cannot take HDR photos. Also, HDR video isn’t available on certain settings. You’re limited to 4K 30fps if you want videos with high dynamic range, and you can’t use HDR when the image stabilization is on.

That’s very unfortunate because the HDR makes the videos much more vibrant. It counteracts the sharper video footage from the DJI, and delivers (what I’d argue is) better image recreation than the GoPro Hero 7. With HDR off, the GoPro edges out a victory in terms of video quality.

While DJI’s D-Cinelike colour profile helps remedy the issue slightly, it’s a band aid at best, and the equivalent colour profile on the GoPro (Protune Flat) seems to be slightly better at delivering a balanced yet accurate colour quality.

GoPro’s long-running experience does show with their better auto-exposure and white-balancing. In terms of video quality, the Hero 7 wins, but there’s still a lot to like with the Osmo Action, especially if you look deeper in.

 

DJI OSMO Action
Waterproof up to 11 meters.

 

Rocksteady Image Stabilization

Rocksteady is a very good implementation of electronic image stabilization, and I’d say its superior to GoPro’s Hypersmooth.

DJI’s experience in drone cameras shows here. While GoPro’s Hypersmooth covers horizontal and vertical image shake nicely enough, DJI wins out by covering pitch and yaw as well. Watch a few side-by-side comparisons, and you’ll definitely see the difference.

A minor complaint I have about the Rocksteady mode is the slightly lower field of view. You’ll find that the video has a slightly zoomed-in effect when Rocksteady is active. Thankfully, the lens is wide-angle by design, meaning the differences are ultimately minor.

The fact that you can’t use HDR and Rocksteady simultaneously is sad. You’re in the awkward position of needing to choose between a smoother or better-looking video. Hopefully software updates allow both to be used in tandem.

 

Front Screen

The Osmo Action and Hero 7 both come with a front-facing LCD screen. The difference is the DJI’s full-HD colour screen, essentially serving as a tiny selfie-screen.

This might not matter much for people hoping to record first-person perspective sports or driving scenes, but for vloggers and camera positioning, this is huge. Being able to reference what’s being captured through the sensors is a godsend.

Switching between the screens is seamless as well, and doesn’t affect video capture, meaning you can easily make a quick check with the front-screen before changing back to the backscreen quickly.

This feature is something you’d expect from dedicated vlogging cameras, but its inclusion here is still welcome. This feature is definitely a standout, and could be the deal breaker if you’re considering the Osmo Action.

 

Battery Life

The DJI Osmo Action has a better battery life than the GoPro Hero 7. While the battery itself is only 80mAh larger than that in the Hero 7, the underlying software deals with power management and conservation slightly better.

For reference, you’re getting just under 2 hours of operation time on both. Our own testing (as well as those from other outlets) find that you’re getting an extra 10 minutes under the same settings with the Osmo Action, which is a nice bonus if you’re out without a charging bank.

 

DJI OSMO Action

 

Conclusions

Overall, the DJI Osmo Action comes really close to the GoPro Hero 7, and it’s definitely a worthwhile competitor in the action camera market. If you’re in the market for a new action camera, or thinking about upgrading, consider the DJI Osmo Action.

As it stands right now, it is a great camera with an excellent feature set. The Rocksteady image stabilization and the front-facing screen sets it apart from the competition, and in my opinion, make it the a top-tier choice for vlogging and high-octane action videos.

Of course, the GoPro does win in terms of image and video quality. If that’s your main concern, go for the tried and true GoPro Hero 7. Or better yet, wait for the GoPro Hero8, and see if GoPro manages to match the improvements that DJI has brought to the table. Just know that you’re missing out on the terrific Rocksteady Image Stabalization.

As it stands, I recommend the DJI Osmo Action for its quality. There’s also the $50 difference in MSRP, meaning you’re getting a lot more for what you’re paying. DJI has shown time and time that they know how to get results from their hardware, and the Osmo Action is a testament to their skill.

Hopefully, firmware and software updates help improve the DJI Osmo Action. As it is, a week after release, the DJI Osmo Action is a great choice in terms of value and quality.

 

Check out the DJI Osmo Action and its impressive 92% metascore here. The general consensus shows that GoPro needs to be prepared, as there's a strong contender in the action cam market.

Alternatively, find out what critics have to say about the GoPro Hero 7 here with it's metascore of 85%.

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