by Sebastian Wöber | 8th June 2016
The DJI Osmo RAW has finally arrived at the cinema5D office, as you may have seen in Nino’s Osmo review. But the focus of our attention is the DJI Zenmuse X5R Camera, which can be attached to the DJI Osmo with the Osmo X5 Adapter and produce powerful cinematic RAW footage in 4K with Osmo stabilization in an ultra-compact form factor. [UPDATE]: We have now also compared the X5R to the X5 and X3: LINK We were very curious to find out what the camera quality was really like. Here are our lab test results when compared to professional cinema cameras. DJI Osmo RAW Compared to Professional Cinema Cameras The DJI Osmo RAW version is quite a bold little camera. Very small, light and with a promise of 4K RAW that can also take to the skies when attached to the DJI Inspire 1. The integrated stabilizer makes this an extremely convenient tool, and the fact that there’s a potential for high quality footage with its RAW recording makes it compete with much more professional and expensive cameras. We’ve tested the ergonomics of the device, now let’s see how the little Osmo RAW compares in terms of image quality. Dynamic Range Dynamic range is difficult to measure properly, especially on a RAW camera where processing is done by the user and not by the camera. We’ve gone through DaVinci resolve to create a flat image of our recording and measured it with our software. A good dynamic range rating allows us to capture more shadows and highlights in high-contrast scenes. The X3 camera on the original DJI Osmo suffers from a very poor dynamic range, which is especially problematic when capturing landscapes with the DJI Inspire 1 drone. We’re testing usable dynamic range with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart. Unfortunately, our test lens, the Zeiss 50mm Cp2 macro, is not compatible with the Osmo, so we used the 15mm F/1.7 MFT lens that came with the Osmo X5R. Our software measured about 12 stops of usable dynamic range on the DJI Osmo RAW (Zenmuse X5R camera). This is similar to the rating of the Sony a7S II, 3 stops more than the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K and 2 stops less than the Arri ALEXA. DJI advertises the dynamic range of the Zenmuse X5R camera at 12.8 stops. It is rare that manufacturers are upfront when it comes to usable dynamic range. Note that a RAW camera doesn’t necessarily produce more dynamic range. Doing numerous comparisons with test charts, we have learned this over time. It is likely that the original Zenmuse X5 gives you more or less the same dynamic range. RAW on the other hand gives you finer gradations, more possibilities in post and an image that is more solid and can be graded further without destroying the image quality. When we pull up that information in the blacks there is noise, but a lot more steps are visible behind it, just like on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K that displays a lot of noise early on. 12 stops of usable dynamic range is a good rating for a cinema camera. It is also what the C300 mark II achieved. As always, the Arri ALEXA stays untouched with 14 stops of usable range. The Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K is also small and shoots RAW, but is not an alternative as this one was limited to about 5-6 stops of dynamic range in our tests. Image Quality We determine image quality by looking at sharpness (resolution) and aliasing with the help of stars and tubes. Usually they reveal where an image breaks down in terms of resolution. The shots below were taken at the best ISO speed of each respective camera. DJI Osmo RAW Image Quality – 100% crop of 4K image. As you can see, despite any lens cushioning and lens softness, the DJI Osmo RAW is quite close to the Canon C300 mark II and more or less on par with the Varicam 35 / LT. The Sony a6300 is the only camera that leaves the others behind in terms of resolution. Who would have thought. Looking at the a6300, it has become clear that size is not the deciding factor when it comes to quality resolution. The Osmo DJI RAW proves that yet again, with an impressive image quality that comes close to the bigger cinema cameras. Here are a few more comparison shots of other objects on the test chart: In summary, I would say that in terms of image quality the DJI Osmo RAW can hold up remarkably well in comparison to professional cinema cameras currently on the market. Lowlight The DJI Osmo RAW X5R camera shines at ISO 100, but it quickly loses its power when you crank up the ISO. For the shots above I used minimal post processing. You can see that at ISO 800 there is already a considerable amount of noise in comparison to ISO 100. That said, look at the shot of the cat earlier on where the blacks were pulled a little and some noise reduction was applied. This has to be kept in mind when shooting RAW. You can still treat the image much better than from cameras that use heavy compression. It’s clear that the Zenmuse X5R is not a lowlight wonder and the DJI Osmo RAW should be used at low ISO speeds. I would recommend not to go beyond 800 for high quality shots. Ideally you should stay low, because the Osmo RAW records at ISO 100 at all times. Any other ISO speeds you set in the app are just a “preview” and have to be processed (pushed) in post production. Rolling Shutter The famous rolling shutter effect that haunts CMOS sensors can be especially troubling on shots where a lot of movement is involved. The Zenmuse X5R that rides the DJI Osmo RAW and flies on the DJI Inspire 1 is certainly meant to be involved in a lot of moving shots. Unfortunately, the Zenmuse X5R doesn’t shine here. With 25ms of readout time it is at the worse side of the spectrum, and most proper cinema cameras have much lower rolling shutter ratings. DJI Osmo RAW Conclusion Look at that tiny 4K camera and stabilizer. The DJI Osmo RAW certainly has a niche of its own. A small, stabilized camera that delivers 4K RAW images at 24p. There’s nothing like it right now that delivers RAW, is so easy to use and can be mounted onto an affordable and powerful drone. The question is whether or not the RAW can keep up with cinema standards and truly deliver high quality footage. It is quite difficult to draw a definitive conclusion from what I’ve seen. On the one hand, the footage we get is really powerful, has beautiful deep gradations, a high resolution, organic look and can really be played with in post production. If you’re used to Inspire 1 drone footage, this upgrade will simply blow you away and the difference to a professional cinema camera like a VariCam, Alexa or C300 mark II will be hard to spot when properly post processed. Of course the Zenmuse X5R wouldn’t simply replace a cinema camera, as such a camera is about more than the final end result of a picture you can achieve. An Arri ALEXA is certainly still in a different class altogether, but I think the Osmo RAW will become relevant in the cinema sector for certain applications. There are also a few shortcomings you should consider. In terms of a “true cinema camera”, rolling shutter is absolutely terrible. The Canon 1D C from Canon’s cinema line rightfully has a place in the same ranks here. But especially because the DJI Osmo RAW is used in situations with a lot of motion, the strong rolling shutter can be a problem that might put many professionals off. Another downside is the mediocre lowlight performance. If you’re coming from DSLR’s this will be limiting, but if you’re used to Blackmagic or film cameras you probably won’t notice it. All in all, the DJI Osmo RAW is a remarkable piece of gear. In the right hands, when the RAW is exploited with some time in post production, this can be an extremely powerful tool. The fact that this is not just a camera, but a solution as a miniature gimbal camera for on the go or in the air is intriguing. Is the price of $4000 a lot? Yes. Is it worth it? You decide. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.Read more
by Nino Leitner | 7th June 2016
I recently had a chance to try the Osmo RAW (Zenmuse X5R) at a friend’s wedding. I shot the beginning at 1080p and the ending in UHD, but I shot the whole video in RAW. I used a standard picture setting as they are RAW files anyway, and transcoded into ProRes 4444 to edit. I didn’t change the color in the edit at all, so feel free to download the 4K/UHD file from Vimeo to play with. Screw-up Let me get this out of the way: having never used an Osmo before, I screwed up a number of shots right at the beginning without realizing. We couldn’t find the venue, so we just arrived at the same time as the bride, which meant I just had to grab the Osmo and go for it. I must have been in some kind of auto-exposure mode, and I couldn’t recognize how crappy these adjustments looked on the iPhone screen until I reviewed the footage after the first bit of shooting. So please excuse these terribly stuttery shots that occurred as a result of automatic shutter speed adjustments. This leads us to the first problem with the Osmo: it really needs an ND because shooting high shutter speeds means that movements look jumpy – you should adhere to the 180 degree shutter rule whenever possible when filming, no matter the camera, and you can only achieve this by taking light away from your sensor with filters, particularly in bright daylight. Impressive Technology But let me really start by saying what an amazing device the DJI Osmo is in general. It’s a lot of smart technology in a very small package that feels very well thought out. It has a great feel, with all its buttons just in the right place, and the DJI Go app to control the Osmo from your phone is absolutely mind-blowing. The Osmo doesn’t have a built-in preview screen. You connect your phone to a hotspot that the Osmo generates, and start the app. Tap on “camera” and you should immediately see the preview image. Surprisingly, the lag is so short that it’s barely noticeable, despite the Wifi connection. The interface controls of the DJI Go app are extremely comprehensive, although some things are not in the logical place. I found the autofocus quite poor and unfortunately it can’t seem to track the objects you tap on on the screen – it just focuses once but does not keep them in focus. Switch to manual focus and you get a virtual focus wheel on screen, which surprisingly works pretty well. Long focus ramps should be avoided though, because going from macro to infinity doesn’t work in one go. Further camera settings are buried in the menu but in general the entire app is way more intuitive than your average camera menu from any Japanese manufacturer. RAW recording The new RAW version of the Osmo differs from the former X5 version by its raw recorder – a fan-cooled unit that records onto custom DJI SSDs that come at a steep price ($1800 for 512 GB). The quality of the raw footage is exceptional, and you can record half an hour of 4K or UHD footage onto a 512 GB card, or 4 hours of HD. I recorded the first part of my review in HD because I didn’t know how long the ceremony was going to last – I later changed to UHD recording. Noise issues There is one huge issue with the raw recorder: it’s extremely noisy. So much so, that it is impossible to record any usable sound with the device, and noisy enough to annoy the people you are filming. During the ceremony, I shot a few shots walking past the audience, adjusting the angle of the Osmo camera through the brilliant joystick so that it pointed sideways. I was about 2 meters away from the guests, and many heads turned because of the noise the device was producing. This can be a real deal-breaker for many shooters out there. Smartphone interface & preview – smart or not? In theory, the idea of using your high-resolution smartphone as a preview touch screen for the Osmo is quite smart, but there are a bunch of problems: first of all, I would recommend that you get a dedicated phone / iPod touch for the Osmo, simply because if a phone call or notification comes in, it can ruin your shot. And there is no real way of preventing a phone call from coming in because you need the Wifi connection, which means you can’t switch to Airplane Mode. You might be able to use the Do Not Disturb mode on iPhones instead, but I did not test this. UPDATE: I was wrong here – it is possible to enable the Airplane mode and then re-enable Wifi only. I was not aware that that is possible. This is also possible on Android, similarly. Very neat! Secondly – and this might be an even bigger problem – is that of course your smartphone battery is drained quickly when using it as a preview and interface monitor. There is space to attach a charging cable, but you will have to connect it to an external battery pack, which you would have to somehow attach to Osmo in order to not be in the way. Power drain Despite this, I didn’t even run into this problem when reviewing the Osmo, simply because I was only supplied with one battery for the device. This meant that when it drained after 20-30 minutes of continuous use, I had to recharge it for 1-1.5 hours before I could use it again. DJI provided us with a larger Inspire battery which was supposed to last longer, as it can be connected running a cable from the battery in my pocket to the Osmo. This proved to be impractical as I also had to switch cameras because I was filming the wedding with a Sony a7S as well, so I decided no to go for the external battery most of the time. Stabilisation The stabilisation of the Osmo is quite good, and unlike with other gimbals which use third-party cameras, balancing is of course a non-issue for the Osmo. The joystick button control makes it a breeze to adjust the angle to your liking. Holding down the pistol trigger button below the grip, the direction of the camera temporarily stays put, and doesn’t follow your movements like normally. Lenses I used the Osmo with the supplied standard lens, the 1.7/15, which provided great shallow depth of field due to its wide aperture. Focusing with the virtual wheel isn’t easy though, and the autofocus isn’t great (and not continuous). I found this lens to be a good compromise between wide angle shots while not distorting too much, although in tighter spaces I often found it could have been wider. It’s the same old problem with the Micro Four Thirds sensor: it’s hard to find wide lenses because of the 2x crop sensor . Footage The X5R still holds a micro SD card slot in addition to the RAW recorder, which means you have easily playable proxies recorded simultanously. Even the DJI Go app records a preview image, which makes it even easier. Reviewing RAW footage has never been easier with any other camera I know. Ingesting the DNG RAW sequences into your Mac works by using the included CineLight app, which also offers options to export those sequences. I then converted them into ProRes 4444 using Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12.5 to make them more edit-friendly. The look of the 4K RAW footage is nothing short of spectacular. As expected, the highlight retention is exceptional, as are the details in the shadows. A formal lab test and some aerial footage will follow in a separate post by Sebastian, and be warned that the aerials looks absolutely mind-blowing. DJI has managed to release a product whose image quality can compete with the highest-end multicopter setups with much heavier and expensive cameras, and you probably wouldn’t see the difference. Post production of RAW footage is obviously time and storage consuming, so I wouldn’t use the Osmo RAW on every production. However, when high quality is needed and you have the time for post production, then it can really shine. It would have been nice to find a compromise between the lossless RAW footage and the heavily compressed footage that ends up on the micro SD card. Hopefully DJI can license ProRes in the future and add this kind of recording to the X5R in order to accommodate for more everyday productions. Conclusion Using the Osmo RAW with the Zenmuse X5R makes you feel like you are using a gadget from the future. DJI seem to be far ahead of much of their competition in terms of interface and hardware. There are definitely interesting times ahead, and more and more established companies should brace themselves for DJI to disrupt their market. This time, I see the market mostly in the multicopter / drone areas, considering the RAW quality of the X5R footage. I don’t see this disruption threatening other one-handed-gimbals or even their own original Osmo too much, simply because the noise of the unit will make it unusable for many practical applications which require original sound. For example, I don’t see a way of actually doing a walk-and-talk with the Osmo RAW due to its noise level. Also, the amount of battery drain is troubling. About 20 minutes when shooting 4K or UHD RAW, maybe 30 or 35 when shooting 1080p. You will literally need 10-15 batteries to get through a day’s worth of shooting. Despite its shortcomings, the DJI Osmo RAW X5R is a sign of what’s yet to come in the gimbal and stabilizer market. It will find its audience, and certainly also on higher-end productions because of its sheer RAW power and ease of use.Read more
We only send updates about our most relevant articles. No spam, guaranteed! And if you don't like our newsletter, you can unsubscribe with a single click. Read our full opt-out policy here.