Over the last two years, I’d been contemplating the purchase of an action camera. Something compact, light in weight, mostly waterproof durable and capable of accepting an external microphone, which is one of the few drawbacks with my otherwise-faithful Olympus TG-4.
I was never going to splash out on the very latest GoPro, although I had been eyeing up refurbished Hero 5 models at around £200 on eBay… In the end, I went for the DJI Osmo Action. DJI are a well-regarded manufacturer of drones and, as per usual, I liked the opportunity to own something that fewer others would have.
Let’s start by looking briefly at the camera itself, why I purchased it and then I’ll take about some of the accessories I’ve purchased and why.
So, the Osmo Action is waterproof (to a depth of around 11m, as I recall), it doesn’t weigh very much, it has a front-facing screen option for vlogging that you won’t find on any existing GoPro and it will accept an external microphone. I bought mine brand-new for £230 and would go on to spend an extra £70 in accessories (excluding the shotgun microphone, which I already owned).
In all of my research over the past year, if there was one consistent complaint about the GoPros then it was their batteries. Even the very latest models (Hero 7 and 8) are still using the same technology of past generations. Some users find they don’t last for more than an hour while I’d also read that they’ll deplete their power more quickly in colder conditions.
There are, of course, variables than can affect all of the above (screen brightness; leaving the cameras on Vs. sitting in stand-by mode; enabling/disabling stabilisation; etc.). But I’d not read any similar concerns regarding the Osmo Action (you could also argue that their userbase is far smaller by comparison).
A Tripod Mount
In the photos above (all taken with my Olympus camera under non-natural lighting, I might add), you’ll see that I’ve mounted my new camera to a small tripod. As the Osmo Action only comes with a typical ‘action camera mount’, I had to buy an additional third-party accessory (at a cost of £12) before I could screw on my tripod.
As standard, DJI supply this camera with two self-adhesive mounts. One has a flat base, the other is concave (to fit on helmets, I presume). I doubt I’ll use either of these but they do feature a quick-release function for removing the camera in a single twist and without having to touch the screw.
A Spare Battery
When shopping for spare batteries to suit any device, you often quickly discover that the genuine parts are hideously expensive. I managed to find a genuine DJI battery for only £18, where I’d otherwise be expected to pay double that.
What I also found interesting is that each battery comes with its own durable storage case; inside of which is also a slot to hold an SD card.
As you insert a battery in to the camera (sorry, I’ve no photo of this), it clicks securely in to place. To remove this, you must then slide two tables (one either side) until the orange colour is revealed. If this is not sealed then the unit is not fully waterproof.
Microphone and Adaptor
As mentioned earlier, I purchased my Moukey MCM-1 shotgun style microphone several months ago (September, in fact). It’s identical to a popular model from RODE, albeit for one-third of the price. I hadn’t even tested it before buying this camera (again, September…) but I knew I was going to need a means of mounting it to the camera and, firstly, something to connect it with electronically.
Interestingly, DJI don’t manufacture there own adaptor specifically for this camera, although they do provide one for the Osmo Pocket. You can buy this CYNOVA microphone adaptor from them for around £40… But I managed to get mine for around £20, even though it wasn’t listed as a ‘CYNOVA’ product.
A similar problem exists with GoPro cameras, where you have to buy an expensive adaptor before you can use an external microphone.
It works well, from my initial testing and fits neatly through the slot of the original case or cage (I’ve read that some people have experienced problems with third-party cages and this item).
While the microphone plugs in to one hole, you can use the lower USB slot to either connect to a computer or charge the battery with a power bank. Accessing the camera’s USB slot does involve removing the door cover, which affects the waterproofness(?) of that area. In short: I won’t be using an external microphone in wet conditions.
One minor niggle here is that there’s nowhere to conveniently store the door or flap once it’s been removed and I imagine it’s an easy one to misplace. Neither am I sure whether spares are easily available. If you’re having trouble with getting your camera to recognise any microphone, I highly recommend updating the firmware because it worked for me!
With the microphone plugged in and working, I would still need a way of mounting it to the top (ideally) of the camera. Another third-party offering from Ulanzi resolved this and it slides comfortably over the clip that locks the cage over the camera.
It may be worth mentioning that the clip still functions with this mount in place. There is no need to remove it in order to take the camera out of its cage.
This was only around £10-12 from memory and it has a Cold Shoe mount, on to which I can perfectly fix my camera with a thumbscrew.
I may look at adding a second cold shoe on top of this… During my test walk recently (it was a very windy day), I found that the wind muffler from the microphone would creep in to view at the top of the screen. I won’t always remember to hold it back!
This item also came packaged with a mysterious, unspecified item…
I’ve found that it only fits in to the USB housing and I imagine it provides protecting for USB cables and the long stick-like adaptor that DJI produce as the Osmo Pocket Adaptor for their other camera.
In a nutshell… That’s it for now! I have already taken it out for its first trail on a very windy day and I’ll soon be sharing the results with you on YouTube. Time will also tell as to whether I decided to stick with my walk pole mount for vlogging or, whether I’ll switch to using my tripod more often.
As mentioned in the beginning; I managed to buy the camera for £230 and spent an extra £70 on the other accessories (excluding the Moukey microphone). It often pays to shop around!