By DJI -2019-06-25
As a fitness enthusiast, I seem to save my best for when things get really challenging. That’s the thrill of competition, isn’t it? That’s why I was so excited about DJI Osmo Action, a camera designed to go wherever the going gets tough. We had a challenger, and now we just need a worthy challenge…
For many of us, summer is the perfect time for a trip to enjoy pleasant weather at the beach or a romantic sunset on the porch. And yet, for some it’s the moment we throw on our bib numbers, lock down our shoelaces, then dive, crawl, and climb our way through kilometers of peril. That’s right: it’s obstacle course race season!
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is not your ordinary trail run. You have your distance (as short as 5 km, or as long as 50 km or more) and elevation (any course will have a variety of flat terrain and elevation to cover), but that’s just the beginning. Throughout the race, you’ll need to overcome a buffet of obstacles – barbed wire crawls, monkey bar crosses, and stone carries, to name a few. And of course, mud. Miles and miles of brown sludge, from slick slopes to deep puddles of the stuff.
With OCR season in full swing, we took out Osmo Action to capture every messy moment.
To give Osmo Action a thorough challenge, we took it to Hong Kong for the Spartan Race™, the world’s premier OCR organizer. On the starting line at 8 a.m., we stood facing 13 miles of trail, 20 obstacles, and over 320 meters of elevation to the peak of Yuen Tau Shan.
So, Osmo Action and OCR: a match mud in heaven? We took this rugged camera, mounted it on a chest strap, and waited for the starting call.
With so many obstacles that challenge your physical and mental strength interspersed between miles of slippery ground, you and your camera need be prepared to take a hit.
The Spartan rule is simple: complete the task, or pay a penalty of 30 burpees. With every sprawl to the ground and hop in the air, Osmo Action recorded everything without any interruption or glitch, delivering vivid 4K/60fps video the whole time. I also really liked that the lens cover is removable. It takes scratches well, and in case of a more significant accident, the cover will protect the precious glass layers underneath, much like when you use a polar filter on a DSLR lens to protect the optical layers.
Action camera footage is meant to give you a front-row seat to the excitement, so why would you want to smooth it all out with electronic image stabilization?
With a rare stretch of flat asphalt, I turned off RockSteady and began running. Then, I turned RockSteady on. Only after I returned home was I able to see the difference this feature makes. The action is all there, but my movement is smoother, eliminating any frantic jostling in the frame. What else can I say? The footage speaks for itself.
One thing about Osmo Action that no other action camera has: an HD front screen for all your selfie needs, which is perfect if you plan to make a supercut of your race highlights.
A calm moment on the trail allowed me to remove Osmo Action from the chest mount and point the camera at yours truly. At the halfway mark, getting the composition just right was not nearly as important as surviving the race! With that in mind, the front screen made it incredibly easy to keep myself within the frame, even when my mind was focused on keeping one foot in front of the other. And can we hear it again for RockSteady? Even in my shaky hands, the footage looks as smooth as ever.
With OCR, prepare for mud to get everywhere. With absolutely filthy hands, the touchscreen is not always the best option. How about the onboard buttons?
The Spartan course always throws different challenges at you without warning, so you’ll want to capture it right the first time. For such sudden moments, the QS button was incredible. Before the race, I adjusted this button to different settings so that the camera would switch through each at a tap. This was a huge convenience since I was able to capture a slow-motion spear throw and then return to normal-speed 4K immediately. SnapShot was also a big plus; courses like this can take two or three hours, so if you don’t want to worry about draining your battery, SnapShot will go a long way. Pressing the shutter button allows you to record instantly in a setting of your choice, and then turn off once you have finished filming. This let me keep Osmo Action on only when I needed it, which meant I never had to change the battery during the race.
As an inexperienced OCR enthusiast (this was my second race), this was my first time taking a camera on the trail. Luckily for me, Osmo Action was the ideal companion to take on what I think was one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever encountered.
And of course, I can’t wait for the next one.
We were lucky enough to have cloudy skies for 90% of the race; however, if the sun’s out, that can overexpose your footage. Bring a trail-ready bag (I used a light hydration pack) and add ND filters for bright conditions. While you’re at it, pack a cap and some sunscreen as well for yourself!
When I say this, I don’t mean just for your Osmo Action. Of course, extra batteries and a microSD card will come in handy, but you need to take care of yourself, too! If you plan to be on the trail for over an hour, make sure you bring energy gels and electrolytes; otherwise, you might put yourself in a risky situation. The last thing you’ll want is your legs cramping on kilometer nine and your head dazed in exhaustion. OCR is a fun time, but don’t forget to be smart, which means be prepared.
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