GoPro vs. DJI: Which Action Cam is Better?
The GoPro has been the top dog on the action cam market for years. But drone manufacturer DJI has a camera on offer that seriously competes with the GoPro. We compare the GoPro Hero 8 and the DJI Osmo Action.
GoPro has already released the successor with the Hero 9, but the Hero 8 is still a good alternative due to its lower price. We compared the GoPro with the DJI Osmo Action, which wants to score with similarly good electronic stabilization and other features.
This is how TECNOLOGY BUTTON tested
The cameras were subjected to a field test in which special attention was paid to the quality and stabilization of the videos. After all, both cams are advertised with their electronic stabilization, which should make special, motorized mounts superfluous. But also the operation, readability of the screen, workmanship and battery life were taken into account.
1. Screen and operation
Outwardly, the GoPro Hero 8 hardly differs from the Hero 7. Because the screen both at the back and at the front remains unchanged: a 1-inch monochrome display on the front and a 2-inch touchscreen on the back. The Osmo Action goes one step further on both screens and has a 2.25-inch touchscreen on the back and a 1.4-inch screen on the front that displays color and can mirror the image. Simply double-tap the touchscreen with two fingers at the same time and the camera switches between the screens. Practical when you have to position the camera precisely and can see yourself in the frame.
The operation is also much easier than with the GoPro – the menus jump to touch better and everything looks smoother. In particular, playing recorded videos is not fun on the GoPro. You can’t just fast forward or rewind, but first have to laboriously press a button to display the slider. And even then, bobbin winding is very clunky. With Osmo Action, the slider is always displayed and it is also very responsive – this is how operation works on a small screen.
2. Video quality and stabilization
GoPros have been considered the best action cams on the market for some time when it comes to video quality. The manufacturer manages to cram excellent sharpness and color rendering into a very small housing. DJI is not that familiar with action cams, but is considered a pioneer in the drone market with its 4K cameras. In fact, the DJI Osmo Action comes very close to the image quality of the Hero 8, but only with inactive stabilization. In addition, the Osmo Action supports HDR video recording, which makes the colors more natural and stronger. With HDR, the image is overall better than with the Hero 8, which, however, has better color rendering as standard. HDR recording is also only possible up to 4K with 30 frames per second (FPS) instead of 60 FPS.
Also interesting: the importance of HDR in smartphone cameras
With the GoPro you can determine the field of view of the camera yourself. Depending on the resolution and FPS, the options wide, linear, medium, close and the very wide “superview” are available. The further the field of view, the more the GoPro can capture, especially superview ensures a dramatic effect. The DJI does not have this setting option, here the field of view is determined by the selected resolution and frame rate. At least there is the option of rectifying the distortion and thus switching off the “fisheye” effect typical of action cams. This minimizes image distortion as much as possible, which is particularly useful for non-action shots. The GoPro’s linear field of view, which is also supposed to reduce distortion, cannot keep up here.
The GoPro records videos in higher resolution with the H.265 codec (HEVC), while the DJI records all videos with older H.264 (AVC). The advantage of HEVC is the better compression, which means that the videos of the GoPro are sometimes only half the size of those of the DJI – with the same quality. The disadvantage is the limited compatibility, because older computers and smartphones often cannot handle the new codec properly.
No more gimbal necessary
Both cameras have so-called “Electronic Image Stabilization” (EIS), ie electronic image stabilization. The GoPro was launched in 2018 as the first camera with next-generation stabilization. Until then, it was necessary to use a three-axis gimbal for this level of stabilization, i.e. a bracket that uses three motors to compensate for jerky movements of the camera. GoPro calls this technology, which achieves something similar to a gimbal with electronic means alone, “Hypersmooth”.
In May 2019, the Chinese manufacturer DJI, otherwise known for its high-end drones, surprised everyone with a real competitor for GoPro: Osmo Action. DJI already manufactures sophisticated gimbal systems for its drone cameras and also has a mini gimbal camera on offer with the Osmo Pocket. However, the Osmo Action relies entirely on electronic image stabilization and is the only other Action Cam on the market to compete with the GoPro in this category. DJI calls its stabilization technology “Rocksteady” – bombproof.
While Hypersmooth is available in every resolution and frame rate with the GoPro Hero 8, Rocksteady only works with certain settings. The GoPro can even use Hypersmooth “Boost” in some cases and stabilize even more. Both cams support 4K with 60 FPS. Rocksteady in Osmo Action is limited to a maximum of 60 FPS in 2.7K and 1080p. The Hero 8 can easily stabilize 2.7K at 120 FPS and 1080p at 240 FPS.
How good is the stabilization?
While you can only see the tips of your feet in the picture in a direct comparison with the DJI, the entire foot and part of the leg are visible with the GoPro. Nothing of the hand can be seen with the DJI, while the larger image section of the GoPro still records it.
In addition, the DJI loses a bit of image quality due to EIS, the videos are somewhat grainier than with the GoPro. The GoPro, on the other hand, receives roughly the same level even when Hypersmooth is active. As can be seen very clearly in our sample images, the image of the Hero 8 remains sharper overall and the colors also appear less pale.
3. Processing and construction
The GoPro cameras are very popular with users due to their high resistance. Since the Hero 5, the cameras have also been waterproof without a housing, and a dive to a depth of ten meters is possible. The Osmo Action is also very well processed and DJI even goes one better with eleven meters, although that has to be rated more as a PR stunt. Perhaps a diver with the additional meter at the DJI can take a picture of a slightly lower coral, but in the end the difference is too marginal to really matter.
Interchangeable filter and holder
The easily removable filter on the DJI, which can simply be unscrewed and exchanged for other ND filters, is practical. GoPro removed this function from the Hero 8 – but fortunately brought it back with the Hero 9. So if you use special filters or just want to replace the glass, you should use Osmo Action, Hero 7 or Hero 9.
While the Osmo Action has a plastic frame to attach accessories to, the GoPro has a more practical solution. Two folding feet are integrated into the housing of the Hero 8, to which normal GoPro accessories fit. A frame is no longer necessary. Speaking of accessories: For the GoPro there is an extensive selection of accessories from GoPro itself and third-party manufacturers, DJI has not yet offered the same range.
The side flap on both Action Cams is practical, behind which the USB-C port, the memory card slot and the battery are located on the GoPro. The DJI only has a USB-C port and memory card here. The flaps can easily be removed from both models to reveal the connections. A corresponding recess is also located in the frame of the Osmo Action, so that charging is also possible with a holder. It should be noted, however, that this means that protection against water penetration is lost.
The Hero 8 is the first GoPro that can be expanded with so-called “Mods”. The mods dock to the USB-C port. There is a directional microphone to choose from, which is also a slot for other mods. There is space for an LED lamp and a folding display. The display can face forward so vloggers can see themselves while filming.
Also interesting: Did you know why many cameras can only film for 30 minutes?
The battery life
The battery in the GoPro has remained the same since the Hero 5. However, the same battery dimensions also mean the same battery capacity: 1220 milliampere hours (mAh). The only difference to the batteries of the Hero 5, 6 and 7 is the slightly higher load capacity that Hypersmooth Boost enables. The Hero 8 batteries have a blue frame to distinguish them from older models. The old batteries still fit into the housing of the Hero 8. The Osmo Action comes with a significantly larger battery pack, which also has a bit more capacity with 1300 mAh.
The DJI uses a fancy solution for the battery: The battery is released with two small slides and jumps out of the housing together with the cover. The cover is firmly attached to the battery and is flush with the housing. Exchangeable batteries for the DJI therefore all have their own cover. We’re not sure that this solution is easier than the GoPro, but the spring mechanism that pushes the battery out of the case makes a good impression.
On the left the battery of the Osmo Action with 1300 mAh, on the right the Hero 8 with 1220 mAh
The test confirmed that the GoPro is mainly hampered by its too small battery. After a two-hour training session, the DJI still had 22 percent charge in the tank, while the GoPro was already at the end with 8 percent. In addition, the GoPro warmed up a few times in between, which of course also consumes the battery. It can also happen that the Hero 8 simply goes out in winter cold – despite enough battery charge. Experience shows that this does not happen with the Osmo Action.
4. Additional functions
In addition to videos, actions cams have to be able to do many other things these days. Neither GoPro nor DJI have skimped on the functionality of their cameras. Both support the time-lapse function, both as a video and as a series of pictures, the distance between the pictures can be freely defined. With the GoPro there is also the “Timewarp” technology, which records time-lapse videos with stabilization. The camera therefore does not have to be stationary or in a gimbal for clean recordings. DJI has now delivered an update that brings a similar function called “Hyperlapse” to Osmo Action.
Both cameras have “Custom Modes” – setting profiles for video and photo that can be called up via the menu. This is particularly useful if you often film in different situations and want to quickly and easily call up the appropriate mode with the correct image settings. The Osmo Action also has a dedicated slow-motion mode with up to 8 times slowdown. Basically, it simply takes a 1080p or 720p video at 240 FPS and then slows it down to 30 FPS. The same effect can also be achieved in post-processing on the computer or smartphone. Apple’s Photos app and Google Photos, for example, can recognize when a video was recorded at 240 FPS and offer advanced slow-motion settings.
Both the GoPro and DJI take photos in 12 megapixel resolution. The Osmo Action can save photos in .jpeg and .raw formats and also has a manual mode for setting things like exposure and aperture. In photo mode, the rectification function is also available to take more natural-looking photos. The GoPro records in .jpeg and its own GoPro format .gpr. In order to straighten out the photos a little, you can also switch from the wide options to the linear option here. GoPro’s Protune is also available for photos, so the setting options are significantly more extensive than with DJI.
The GoPro has GPS and can stream videos directly on YouTube via a WiFi connection to the smartphone. Both cameras can be controlled by voice.
DJI vs. GoPro – conclusion
GoPro has long been the undisputed top dog on the action cam market. DJI does not steal the crown with the Osmo Action, but puts GoPro under pressure. Especially through constant updates, DJI has significantly improved its cam and equipped it with new functions. The operation of the Osmo Action is excellent and fluid. The practical color screen on the front has put GoPro so much under pressure that the Hero 9 now also has this feature. The Osmo Action also has the edge when it comes to battery life. GoPro cannot get the high energy consumption of its cameras under control. Especially annoying in winter when the camera simply goes out because of it.
There are two areas where DJI can’t beat the GoPro that are arguably most important to an action cam: video quality and stabilization. Videos with the Hero 8 are sharper, more accurate in color and better illuminated. With Hypersmooth, the Hero 8 is worlds ahead of the Osmo action. Although the Osmo Action cuts off more image, it can’t keep up with the buttery smooth shots of the GoPro.
So if you pay particular attention to video stabilization, you should use the GoPro Hero 8 or the successor Hero 9. The Osmo Action could be an option for those who are vlogging or recording themselves more often and don’t always need the stabilization. Because thanks to the front screen, the Osmo Action is ideal for this.