Action cameras are great. Shaky videos are not. Enter gimbals. Long a tool of professionals, these handheld devices keep the camera steady and smooth out the shot.
DJI launched its Osmo handheld gimbal in 2015 and GoPro just released its first alongside the Karma drone. We took both to South Korea and put them to the test.
In the end, both work great and produce quality video that’s mostly smooth and silky. There are some key differences that are worth noting and they’re mostly the result of DJI being a drone company and GoPro being a camera company.
The DJI Osmo starts at $559 and includes a camera. The GoPro Karma Grip is either $299 or $799 when bundled with the Karma drone — neither version comes with a camera. Compatible GoPro Hero5 cameras start at $299 though the Karma Grip works with the older generation Hero4 Silver and Black cameras, too.
Both the Osmo and Karma Grip have similar stabilization getups. And they both produce similar results. It doesn’t matter if the camera is stuck to a car racing down the highway or held by someone riding a skateboard, the video produced by these devices will be more clean and smooth than without the gimbal.
In this regard, these devices are nearly equal. They both work as advertised. In our testing we found little difference in the stabilization of the Osmo and Karma Grip.
The one difference comes in the form of a trigger. The Osmo features a button the front of the grip that lets the user lock the camera in place. Think of it as super stabilization and a handy utility to make videos look just a little more polished. The Karma Grip has a similar feature but it doesn’t work as well.
DJI offers several different versions of the Osmo with the top of the line model sporting a large imaging sensor comparable to some of the best handheld cameras on the market. Called the Osmo Pro, this version costs $1999 and uses a micro four thirds sensor. We tested the Osmo, which costs around $550, and uses a smaller sensor, though it’s still capable of capturing up to a 4k resolution.
The GoPro Karma Grip uses GoPro cameras and is compatible with the older Hero4 camera as well as the new Hero5 and Hero5 session. These cameras sit atop GoPro’s line and offer fantastic video quality for their size. These GoPro models also offer advanced video fine tuning options that allow the user to adjust the color balance, temperature and more.
In our testing we found the Osmo to be slightly clearer but the GoPro Hero5 had more natural color and saturation. Side-by-side, the GoPro’s video looks superior though it should be noted that DJI recently released a newer version of the Osmo that features an improved camera at a slightly higher price.
Think about how GoPro cameras are generally used: point and shoot. For the longest time, GoPro cameras didn’t even have a built-in screen. The camera required the user just point the camera at the subject. That’s how the Karma Grip works, too.
The Karma Grip is just a gimbal where the Osmo is more of a shooting platform. With the Karma Grip, users point the camera at the subject and start recording. Depending on the camera used, the device might have a rear-facing screen to line up the shot, but even then, the gimbal’s design partly obstructs the user’s view of the tiny screen.
The Karma Grip does not have any camera movement controls. Users have to move the grip to move the camera. The result is easy but basic movements.
The Osmo is different from the Karma Grip. DJI included a small joystick-type button that can move the camera even while the grip stays still. The result is a finer control of the video. Have the Osmo mounted on a tripod? This little button can let the camera move while everything else stays still. There’s even a button that causes the camera to quickly spin around into a selfie mode, pointing the camera backwards at the user.
The Karma Grip’s buttons echo its point-and-shoot mantra. There are just four buttons including the power button and they’re flush mounted with the grip behind a rubber pad, which seems to suggest the Karma can withstand a bit of water. The Osmo feels more delicate.
I’m not sure about you, but I like my cameras to have screens. When using the GoPro Karma Grip with a Hero5 or Hero4 Silver the user has a screen to properly frame shots. The Osmo lacks this and requires an operator to connect their smartphone, and mount it on the side.
In theory, having a built-in screen seems like a natural advantage. However, the screen on the back of GoPros are so tiny that they’re hardly useful and the design of the gimbal places one of the joints directly behind the screen. It’s a strange design and kills some of the appeal.
To use a smartphone with the Osmo the owner has to connect the devices using DJI’s app. The process can be painful and take several minutes to connect. And then, the phone juts out the side of the device and hangs precariously off the side. A smartphone is not required to use the Osmo though. Users can point and shoot video all day long. The video is recorded locally on a microSD card and only on a phone when the user downloads the media.
The DJI apps gives the Osmo user a lot of control over the video, though. The app is full of video settings and adjustments and makes transferring media from the camera to the phone an easy process.
So which one?
Comparing the Osmo and Karma Grip is like looking at a luxury car against a sport utility vehicle. They do not line up perfectly. The products are for different people even though both have similar feature sets.
Still, the comparison must be made. DJI and GoPro are quickly becoming major forces in the consumer electronics world and the Osmo and Karma Grip will compete on the market.
Choosing between the Osmo and Karma comes down to the buyer’s ecosystem and desired use. The prices are similar when all things are considered. Buy the Karma Grip if the camera is going to strapped onto a mountain bike to race down a mountainside and then at a water park with the kids. Buy the Osmo for capturing smooth shots for your indie film or if you occasionally take a bike down a mountain. Of course, both cameras can do both, but since the GoPro can better survive rough activities, it makes sense to purchase it if the camera will be used as such. Likewise, if the ability to properly frame a shot is needed, the Osmo is a better buy.
Listen, I hate to leave a comparison article with a soft conclusion, but both the DJI Osmo and GoPro Karma Grip are quality pieces of hardware. Just different.