Hiking the West Rim Trail with the DJI OSMO

Gear Review

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This past week, I ventured out to Zion National Park with Kristina Frost, Jess Myra and Angela Kilduff to do a through hike of the West Rim Trail. We started at the top of the trail and hiked 20 miles to the foot of the trail. For this post, what I want to do is talk about my experiences using the DJI OSMO on this trip.

Why I Chose this Kit

Coming into this trip, I knew I wanted to capture the adventure but also knew that I wanted to keep my kit small. To do this, I decided I wanted to try roll with only the DJI OSMO for video and the Nikon D810 with 14-24mm for stills. I wanted a kit that allowed me to capture the landscape yet didn’t bog me down with all the weight.

Benefits of Shooting with the DJI OSMO

Size

The biggest benefit of working with the DJI OSMO is its size. There are other stabilizer devices out there but for me, after using the X3 with the Inspire and being pleased with the image, I thought this was the perfect solution.

Stability

Having a system that is not only compact but also stabilizes your image is amazing. I have used the Ronin since it was released and it is now a staple for all my productions. With the introduction of the OSMO, I will now be able to do some unique shots that I would not have been able to with the full size stabilizer.

Versatility

When it came to this trip specifically, bringing the Ronin was just not an option. Even without the stand, the footprint was too big and the setup time was too long to be able to quickly capture the shots I was hoping to. Because of how quickly you are able to setup the camera and how small it packs up, it made it an extremely versatile tool for this type of trip.

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Things to be careful of

Horizon

The one major issue with this is the horizon. DJI has tried a few times in their last updates to try and fix this and although it is better, there is still some major issues with keeping the horizon correct. You are able to manually go in and adjust it but I have also found that even when you do this, it doesn’t completely fix the issue.

Exposure

Because the quality of camera, it is key that you expose properly with this camera. If you are either under or over, there really isn’t a good way of fixing the shot. This is sometimes an issue when you are going from dark to light areas or light to dark areas. In these situations, you will want to run on auto so it transitions for you. This transition is actually not the worst and in those unique situations where you need to do that, you are able to at least capture the shot.

Another thing to note is that if you choose to run the system without your phone for monitoring, make sure you switch over to auto mode so your exposure isn’t messed up as well. (As an FYI, I am not endorsing auto settings with any other camera. However, when using this camera, in some situations, it does come in handy).

Style of Shots

One thing to be mindful of is that you are limited in the type of shot you can get with this unit because of the fixed focal length. To be able to capture a rounded story / scene, you will still need to have another camera with you. Think of this as your establisher / follow cam and your other camera as your insert / close up camera.

Shutter

When shooting slow motion, I recommend shooting a higher shutter than normal as I find that the motion blur you get when you do the standard shutter (basically double your shutter if shooting 60fps) the footage is very ‘ghosty’. By shooting a higher, shutter, I find I am able to get a more cinematic look.

Battery Life

With the latest firmware update this issue has been improved greatly. I was able to roll with three batteries for the entire hike and had battery life left after the three days. The key is to only turn it on and use it when you are ready to film. By doing this, a battery can last a remarkably long time (I think currently at 40 minute continuous run time with light gimbal use).

Audio

Even with the microphone they provide, don’t expect to get very good audio from this. It is a small compact tool and one of the major downfalls is the lack of proper audio. That being said, when audio is key, I would be running a dual record system anyways.

Picture Profile

Shoot as flat as possible with this camera. A compressed image doesn’t give you much latitude so make sure to shoot with one of the flat profiles. Another thing to be aware of is that there is no way to control the sharpness level and the camera has a tendency to over sharpen your image.

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Photo by Kristina Frost

Overall Thoughts on the OSMO

Is the OSMO the perfect production tool? Absolutely not. However, what it is able to do for the price and size is absolutely remarkable. For me, it will be a staple for all adventure-based filmmaking and will even creep its way into some of our main productions in situations where the Ronin is just too big. Further to this, it will be our main BTS camera for all our productions as well. As I’m sure you’ve guessed it, I highly recommend this tool if you are able to get passed the downfalls listed above.