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On seeing the DJI Osmo Action 4 strapped to my bike, a friend remarked, "Ah, you've got a new GoPro." Like Hoover, and Walkman, where the brand name became interchangeable with the type of device, GoPro basically created and has defined the action camera market, so it's both a pity and completely understandable that we can't really talk about an action camera without name-checking DJI's biggest rival. Personally, I always found versions 1 and particularly 2 of the DJI Osmo were out-paced, out-stabilised, and generally out-performed by their GoPro counterparts, who were already on version 9 or 10. So does the version 4 Osmo finally get one over on its biggest rival? Short answer – to my surprise and delight – yes, it does.
So, disclaimer: DJI sent us the Osmo Action 3 (below) and the Action 4 to review, and for better or worse, having used them both, I found so little difference between them that separate reviews just aren't warranted. I suspect that's for the better as I rather love the Osmo 4. So let me get the differences out of the way, and then everything thereafter can be applied to them both.
The Osmo Action 3 (currently reduced from £309 to £259) came out last year – almost exactly a year ago, in fact – and the new Osmo Action 4 is both a minor, but useful, update.
The biggest difference is the sensor inside. In the 3, it's a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, and in the 4 it's slightly larger at 1/1.3 inches. In bright sunshine with bags of light, there's no discernible difference in footage quality, but when the light gets sparse, the larger sensor of the 4 gathers more of it, and consequently produces nicer, sharper, less grainy and less noisy images.
In the Osmo 4, you can now adjust the level of sharpening and noise reduction, which was baked into the 3. The 4 also now supports gyro data exportation, which means you can use more powerful dedicated programs to stabilise the footage in post production. This gives more granular tweaking abilities for those who want ultimate manual control. (This is sort of the stabilisation equivalent of a photographic RAW file, allowing you access to the raw gyro/stabilisation data.)
The 4 now integrates with its GPS Bluetooth remote, which means you can overlay telemetry stats on your footage – things like real-time speed, distance covered, your route, heading, inclination (slope angle) and g-forces experienced (!).
Finally, the 4 has better selfie-stick elimination scenarios. But that's really it.
From here on in, the 3 and the 4 are functionally identical, and I liked them both very much. The software on the devices is very intuitive, and the touchscreen is fast and responsive.
In daylight the footage I got from both was great, and I think superior to even the GoPro Hero12 which was recently released. (It's a thin margin, but the larger sensor of the DJI (4) pays off here.)
The quality and frame-rate at which they can both record is up to 4K/120 for buttery smooth slow motion at the 16:9 aspect ratio. This is in HDR, 10 bit, at up to 130Mbps data rate. (You can watch the above sample footage on YouTube at up to 4K, if you want to see it in hi-res.)
They shoot up to a max aperture of 2.8, with a Field of View (FOV) of 155 degrees. This is the equivalent of about an 11mm lens on a 35mm camera if you think like that. It's very, very wide angle.
They both use the same 1,770 mAh battery (good for about 160 minutes of recording, though this varies quite a lot with temperature conditions, GPS usage, screen usage and so on).
They're both highly temperature ambivalent, operating from -20 to +45°C, and are both very waterproof, down to 16m (on the 3) and 18m on the 4. That's straight out of the box, too, without a case.
In use, you can tell this is an iterated product; DJI has clearly thought about, and solved lots of problems.
For example, for those times when you can't reach your camera to start/stop it, you can turn on voice activation. It worked really well – I was able to shout at it to 'Start recording' and was greeted with a confirming chime to let me know it had heard me and obeyed.
The Rock Steady stabilisation is excellent; I was hitting bumps and potholes at 40kph and the camera sorted it all out. You can barely tell from the footage, it's remarkable. We've all seen iPhones and the like steady our walking, but this level of stabilisation is something different and very impressive. (I was able to watch a little side by side footage of the Osmo 4 and the GoPro Hero12, and though I think the image quality is better on the Osmo, the stabilisation is fractionally better on the GoPro, but again the margin is small.)
One of the remarkable things about action cameras is actually all the interesting places people are coming up with to put them. Strapping them to pets and children is amazing. Cars, bikes and planes of course give a real sense of speed, but people are incredibly inventive, and the cameras' small size means they're easily thrown or launched and fit inside some unlikely places.
My favourite use was actually not to record my experience of a ride, but to strap it to my back and record my young son's permanent grin as he hit the bumps on the back of my bike. Though the camera is no more than 30cm from his face, he's framed perfectly, and it's all joy that I miss not being able to see him, and his reactions and excitement.
In fact, as you can see the landscape whizz by in the background anyway, I've quickly found this footage is way more interesting than the trail in front of us. That said, with two cameras, it only takes very rudimentary editing skills acquired in an hour or two to cut seamlessly between them.
I was impressed by the microphones in the camera too; even sheltered behind me, I can barely hear or make out the orders to go faster my son is shouting at me, but the camera captures every syllable surprisingly clearly. The three in-built microphones all but eliminate wind noise in a very impressive manner.
Buying into the DJI ecosystem gives you access to a huge range of accessories that dramatically ups the usability – and fun – of the camera. I won't go into all the clever and rather self-explanatory mounts, but here are a couple of extras that are fantastic.
1. Top of my list for adrenaline junkies is the Bluetooth GPS Remote Control. This device straps to your wrist or handlebar, and not only starts/stops the recording if the camera's out of reach, but it adds GPS data 10 times per second. This means in post production, you can use the DJI app to overlay all the fun metrics like speed and g-forces. It also allows you to remotely trigger multiple Osmos simultaneously.
2. I got a decent amount of run-time out of the battery – an hour and a quarter nearly – with all the stabilisation on, the highest bitrate, and ingesting the GPS data. If you need more, DJI's battery case is brilliant. Not only does it store three batteries and charge them simultaneously via a single USB-C, but in times of need, the power can flow the other way. I was able to recharge my iPhone from the battery pack. Nifty.
The cameras take Micro SD memory cards, and these can be had very cheaply these days, which is great, as neither camera comes with one.
The Osmo 3 can accommodate capacities up to 256GB, and the 4 can take up to 512GB. With top quality footage requiring 120Mbs (about 900MB per minute), you quickly eat through storage. For reliability and speed, I always use these Delkin Devices cards. And they come with a lifetime warranty.
DJI's Mimo app is the editing hub and repository of all your footage. It, too, is rather good. It's intuitive, very responsive, and powerful. From here, you can edit the footage, and make use of its clever tricks.
The InvisiStick feature removes the 'selfie-stick' from footage, and it is effective. It looks better than footage of you waving around a massive selfie stick, but your hand appears to be clutching 'nothing' in edited footage, sort of like you're holding an imaginary lightsaber.
Connection between the app and the camera is a real highlight. The app quickly detects the camera as you turn it on, and the camera creates an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection to your phone, and shoots the footage over to it. In the past, on other devices, I've found this to be laborious and hit or miss. On the DJI it was rock-steady, simple and surprisingly fast – I clocked it at about 30MB/s (240Mb/s), but that'll depend on your phone.
Additionally, this turns your phone into a wireless monitor with full recording control of the camera, and again I was impressed by the minimal screen lag.
However, to move large amounts of footage you're better off connecting via USB-C to a computer, and this also enables you to use the Osmo 4 as a 4k webcam which really felt like a 'bonus feature'.
In addition to Rock Steady, and Rock Steady +, the camera has a Horizon Balancing setting. This is particularly good for cyclists. It keeps the horizon flat and locked in your field of view, and will keep things level with up to 45 degrees of swing/tilt each way. This really makes cycling footage look smooth, regardless of how you're throwing the bike around, or the surface you're on.
The camera is very fast to boot up, really only a second or two. And if you see something you need to capture urgently, you can just press the shutter button from power-off, and it will turn on and start recording immediately.
I wish I'd bought shares in magnets. Everyone's using them for all the cool stuff these days, and DJI is no exception. The magnetic mount to the camera is terrific. The strong magnets mean the base mount and camera suck themselves together in perfect alignment. With a bit of a push, you're greeted with a reassuring 'click' as the mount's 'teeth' grip into the camera body. This makes it very secure, and I suspect some metal would really have to break or sheer off for the camera to detach.
And despite all this, removing it is simple: press the bottom of the clips and the camera is released easily. This makes moving/mounting/unmounting the camera a half-second job.
Only two points here. The first is the wireless Bluetooth remote. I liked it a lot; having start/stop control on your wrist is great, and the GPS data enabling speed and g-force overlays is awesome! That said, it's a separately purchasable product (around £70!) and a GPS unit is integrated into other cameras. Ahem, GoPro (the Hero11, although the 12 has now ditched built-in GPS too).
The second is the lack of desktop app. The mobile app is great, but it's mobile phone only, there is no desktop version. Please, please fix this, DJI.
The only way to get the overlay telemetry data onto the footage is via the app, and editing even a short 4K/120p 10-minute file on a mobile phone is ridiculously processor intensive. My admittedly long-in-the-tooth iPhone X took 40 seconds to overlay the telemetry on a 20-second 30fps clip, and crashed repeatedly when I asked it to do this to a 9-minute 8GB file. On a faster/newer phone, I'm sure this is quicker, but still.
My three-year-old computer is still 40 or 50 times faster than my iPhone, and has a graphics card and a proper dedicated video editing app. I could find no way to overlay the telemetry other than in-app. Then I had to get the footage off my iPhone, and even the wired connection from iPhone to computer is way slower than the USB-C connection from the Osmo to my computer. (I believe there are expensive/cumbersome third-party apps to do this, but come on, DJI.)
The camera itself is £379, which is okay. Ish. But the fun stuff/accessories are pretty steep: the £469 for the Adventure Combo (selfie stick, spare batteries, and battery 'pack') is practically obligatory, then the handlebar mount is £35, and the Bluetooth/GPS unit is another £70. And that's before you've bought a memory card. All of a sudden, £379 can quickly become nearly £600 plus memory card... Ouch.
You can save £70 if you go for the Osmo 3 (even more at the moment as DJI has it reduced to £259). If you shoot in exclusively bright sunlight, and don't need telemetry data, and don't need post-processing gyro data, the 3 is great, and footage-wise indistinguishable.
I'm addicted to the g-force data, though, and long to take the Osmo 4 skiing...
As I said at the outset, it's all but impossible to talk about the Osmo without mentioning the GoPro Hero12 too. By the time you've bought a camera, perhaps a bundle and other accessories, the price of the Osmo 4 and Hero12 are virtually identical. The Hero12 is a little more expensive as a base camera, £399.99. Some Osmo accessories are a little cheaper, some are a little more expensive than corresponding GoPros, and it all sort of evens itself out. Certainly, the price/value is so close that I can't see it being the deciding factor between them. Far more likely is that you'll be swayed by the marginally better stabilisation of the GoPro, or the marginally better picture quality of the Osmo, or the easier vertical shooting (editing after the event) option of the GoPro, or the superior water resistance of the Osmo, or the GoPro's ability to connect to AirPods, or the Osmo's lowlight performance and small size... You get the picture. Literally.
Personally, I'll take the Osmo all day over the GoPro because it ticks more boxes for me. Yes, it would be nice to have GPS built in, and yes I'm crying out for a desktop app. But the camera is smaller, the sensor is bigger, the mounts are better, and the footage to my eye is superior.
Bonus tip... I get all my camera gear at Wex Photographic. It's got an unrivalled range and inventory, including GoPros and Osmos, and, most importantly, it'll take your old photo gear in trade-in for new and shiny toys, which always mitigates the guilt at my 'need' for new kit...
One of, if not the best action cameras currently available
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: DJI Osmo Action 4 Adventure Combo
Size tested: One Size
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
DJI says: "Capture the raw exhilaration of any moment with striking image quality and unmatched flexibility, even when the lights dim. Osmo Action 4 empowers thrill-seekers to record it all, share the rush, and set the tone."
Action cams are for everyone, not just cyclists. Due to their small size and versatile mounting options, people are putting them in incredible places and getting novel perspectives on their 'action' and the world at large. Strap it to a pet, a child, a vehicle, a plane, a football, yourself, or of course a bike. The limit really is your imagination, and all the best stuff I've shot with the Osmo has been as a result of putting it in interesting places.
And 4K/120 is brilliant and really smooth for showing off your most epic exploits.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
DJI lists these specs:
70.5x44.2x32.8 mm (LxWxH)
Weight: 145 g
Waterproof: 18 m without the Waterproof Case, 60 m with the Waterproof Case
Front Screen: 1.4-inch 323 ppi 320x320
Rear Screen: 2.25-inch 326 ppi 360x640
Front/Rear Screen Brightness: 75050 cd/m
Focus Range: 0.4 m to ∞
4K (4:3): 3840x2880@24/25/30/48/50/60fps
4K (16:9): 3840x2160@100/120fps
4K (16:9): 3840x2160@24/25/30/48/50/60fps
2.7K (4:3): 2688x2016@24/25/30/48/50/60fps
2.7K (16:9): 2688x1512@100/120fps
2.7K (16:9): 2688x1512@24/25/30/48/50/60fps
1080p (16:9): 1920x1080@100/120/200/240fps
1080p (16:9): 1920x1080@24/25/30/48/50/60fps
4K: 4x (120fps)
2.7K: 4x (120fps)
1080p: 8x (240fps), 4x (120fps)
Intervals: 0.5/1/2/3/4/5/6/8/10/15/20/25/30/40 s
Duration: 5/10/20/30 mins, 1/2/3/5 hours, ∞
It's sturdy, solid, and obviously very well sealed against water.
Best 4K footage I've seen on an action camera.
Seems incredibly robust.
Comes with a frame for added ruggedness, but I didn't feel the need to use it, and didn't use a case either.
I've dropped it a couple of times (totally meant to do it...) and there's not a mark.
145g, and slips unobtrusively into a pocket or a bag.
A slightly smaller form factor than GoPro.
Comparable give or take a little to GoPro, but the price really starts to shoot up when you start adding accessories.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's brilliant. The only downside is getting telemetry onto the footage via the mobile app, and the lack of desktop app.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Footage quality is first rate.
User interface is fast and intuitive.
Plethora of well-thought-out accessories and mounts available.
Best available mounting system.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No desktop app.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Osmo 3 is £309. If you're never going to need real-time telemetry overlays, and never going to shoot at dusk, this is great value.
For me, though, the speed overlays are addictive and a must-have, especially for things like kite-surfing, skiing, and biking where speed is part of the thrill, so the extra £70 for the Osmo 4 is worth it. That said, to actually get the speed on the footage, not only will it cost you £70 more for the Osmo 4 over the 3, but another £70 to buy the GPS device. There are plenty of Osmo bundles available, at least 10, that incorporate different accessories and save you a little money. However, none of them include the GPS module, so this is always a £70 extra.
Compared to the GoPro Hero12, the Osmo 4 is £20 cheaper. Apples to apples comparisons between the two is a little tricky, because there are so many options, and GoPro has bundles too. In terms of accessories, some GoPro accessories are a little more expensive (£5 more for a mount, £5 more for a battery, £10 more for bluetooth remote) and sometimes Osmo's are more expensive (£5 more for the Underwater case). By the time you've bought a bundle and some other accessories, the prices are within slim margins one way or another.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
All very impressive. Largely pain-free and pleasurable experience, and great footage.
About the tester
Tom is features and tech writer who's been writing and riding for over 20 years, and has had misadventures on almost every conceivable bike. From single-speeds, to aero race-bikes, gravel bikes, ebikes and mountain bikes, he's a big fan of almost everything that rolls on two wheels.