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The Osmo Pocket – when a drone company launches a handheld camera and gets it right

[Scroll down for “And a few more things” with other imaging industry news]

Last Thursday DJI announced its Osmo Pocket, a $349 “compact, stabilized smart camera that fits in your pocket,” as DJI describes it. To me this was one of the most exciting camera announcements this season. Before we get into the reasons why, here’s a high-level overview of the camera’s features:

Form factor. The Osmo Pocket camera looks a bit like the Flip Video camera of days past and the Ricoh Theta 360 camera. It indeed fits in most pockets and is optimized for single-handed operation.

Screen. The camera features a small LCD, with additional viewing possible on one’s connected smartphone screen.

Camera. The Osmo Pocket features a 1/2.3-inch sensor with f/2.0 aperture, which records 12-megapixel photographs and 4K video up to 60fps at 100Mbps.

Gimbal. The camera’s most distinctive feature is DJI’s true-and-proven 3-axis gimbal (in fact the Osmo Pocket borrows features, such as ActiveTrack, Motionlaps, and Hyperlapse, from its $139 gimbal-only device, the Osmo Mobile 2, which uses a connected smartphone as the camera).

Tracking. The Osmo Pocket gimbal does more than smoothing jittery capture, including ActiveTrack (after the user identifies an object by tapping on the screen, the gimbal will automatically follow it), FaceTrack (the gimbal keeps the photographer’s face in the middle of the screen when they take a selfie video), and FPV (First-Person View capture mode that records video from the user’s perspective instead of locking the gimbal to maintain the horizon or tracking objects/faces).

Smartphone app. What took GoPro 10+ years to realize is that no matter how good the camera, its success ultimately depends on the user having an intuitive and versatile smartphone app to create sharable masterpieces from their raw footage. With the Osmo Pocket comes a brand new app, DJI Mimo, which not only offers editing tools, but also camera control features, media management features, and various premade settings, templates, music files, and filters to create visual stories, trailers or cinematic masterpieces.

Accessories. Similar to smartphone apps, accessories turn the camera into a complete product rather than a piece of hardware that captures visuals. To this end, the Osmo Pocket already offers a range of accessories catering to different use cases, such as a waterproof case for underwater videography, a controller wheel for precise tilt and pan, an extension rod (an expandable gimbal control stick with operation buttons on the handle), and actioncam-like mounts so that the Osmo Pocket could also be affixed to your bike helmet or your dog’s harness.

The bigger story – What’s so significant about the Osmo Pocket?

While none of the individual features are revolutionary by themselves, the combined feature set tells us that DJI simply “gets it:”

It’s the gorgeous and easily to create end results that matter. The Osmo Pocket shows that DJI has learned from the mistakes of many other camera vendors: it’s not about capturing high quality imagery – it’s about the ease of use to create something visual (from cinematic highlights to 3×3 panoramic photos) that begs to be retained as a visual memory or shared in the here and now through tight integration with the device that’s always with us, the smartphone. Along with various accessories, the smartphone integration turns the Osmo Pocket into a complete product rather than being just a photo/video capture device.

DJI keeps morphing as a company. While initially positioned as a company that sold flying devices with a camera (in fact, the camera was originally licensed from GoPro), that changed to one that sells cameras that fly, as Eric Chen, then Director of Aerial Imaging, pointed out at our Visual 1st (Mobile Photo Connect) conference back in 2015. With the Osmo Pocket we now have a non-flying camera that very much leverages technologies developed for DJI’s flying devices, thus having a competitive edge over traditional actioncams, compact cameras, and camcorders.

Cameras – think China. Where is the consumer camera innovation happening? We used to think it was Japan, with an occasional flareup in the US or Europe. But as companies like DJI, as well as Huawei and Insta360 (both with speakers at this year’s Visual 1st conference) prove, China is not just the country where the camera (component) manufacturing is happening, it’s also where new and exciting cameras are being envisioned and designed.

That Long Tail again. I’ve been at it for a while now, but the Osmo Pocket is yet again an example of the evolution of the camera market that increasingly caters to more and more finite use cases. Yes, the smartphone is becoming a better and better camera, but there is also room for capture devices that by their nature can do things that are not (easily) feasible on smartphones. As long as that long tail camera connects seamlessly with one’s smartphone, many consumers can be convinced to purchase multiple cameras, as our research showed.

Parting thought: I mentioned earlier that DJI gets it. But will the consumer get it? Not necessarily so, as the concept and benefits of a gimbal are unknown to most consumers. So it will require a fair amount of evangelizing to create awareness of the benefits to build a critical mass of Osmo Pocket users who could trigger world-of-mouth. Establishing a new category is always a huge challenge. We’ll keep following DJI’s progress!


And a few more things

photokina. Responding to widespread industry objections, photokina skips 2019 in its transition from being a bi-annual to an annual event, thus letting the May 2020 take place 1.5 years after September 2018, rather than the initially targeted date of May 2019. The right decision!

Business Forum Imaging. This annual imaging industry conference, also owned by photokina, will take place as usual in the early Spring (March 6-7) in Cologne, Germany. This year will feature two Visual 1st-organized panel discussions. Contact me if you’re interested in participating as a speaker/sponsor in these panels!

Instagram. Private sharing solutions keeps being one of the most difficult feats to accomplish, with plenty of lukewarm results abound. After 18 (!) months of testing, Instagram launched its “close friends” feature to share your stuff with, hmmm, close friends.

Visionist. This gorgeous new iOS app developed by 3DTOPO offers painterly and customizable image filter effects.

CEWE. Too much of a good thing: Europe’s giant photo print product vendor is doing just fine, but was apparently hampered by a too sunny summer. Q3 group turnover rose by €6.9M to €137.2M, while EBIT with €1.4M was slightly less than the €3.6M of last year. Forecast for 2018 is unchanged.

District Photo & CaptureLifeDistrict Photo, a leader in digital imaging fulfillment and owner of Snapfish, will provide the CaptureLife mobile commerce platform and private photo sharing app to its network of professional photographers and consumers.

TikTok. Fascinating Washington Post article: Chinese-owned music video creation/sharing app, TikTok is now also a runaway success in the US. While its predecessor,, primarily attracted youngsters, it’s grownup time now with the likes of police officers, military personnel, mechanics and Walmart employees joining in.

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Hans Hartman


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