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DJI Osmo Action 4 review

May 21, 2024May 21, 2024

It might look the same as the last one, but it has a much larger sensor inside. Is it worth upgrading?

DJI is back with a new action camera, and it looks identical to the one that came before it. It's not just looks either, the Osmo Action 4 shoots at the same resolutions and frame rates as the Osmo Action 3, and it initially had me wondering if anything had changed at all.

Thankfully, that's not the case, there are numerous improvements with this model, but the highlight is the move to a larger 1/1.3-inch sensor - one of the largest sensors you'll find in action camera today.

So, what does that mean in practice? And is it worth the extra cost? I was excited to find out, so I've been putting it to the test over the last few weeks.

In most regards, the DJI Osmo Action 4 seems unchanged from its predecessor. That is until the sun goes down, after which this action camera storms ahead of the competition with its low-light performance.

As I mentioned, the Action 4 is all but identical to the Osmo Action 3. It's the same size and weight, and at a glance, the only difference is the darker shade of plastic on the newer model. The previous model already took some inspiration from the GoPro form factor, but now that they're almost the exact same colour, the resemblance is undeniable.

The circular lens cover is the most obvious differentiator from GoPro's lineup, and it appears to remain roughly the same size on the Action 4, despite the larger sensor. It's still removable, and I'm always pleased to see this. These cameras are designed for action-packed scenarios, and I'd rather replace a lens protector than have my camera go in for repair.

What's changed this time around, is that the edges of the lens protector are made from an injection moulded knurled plastic. The Osmo Action 3 lens protector had metal edges with a press-fit rubber ring around the outside. That design always felt like an afterthought, the rubber ring was easily lost and just didn't make a lot of sense from a design perspective. This revision feels a lot more refined.

Elsewhere, everything remains the same as the previous model, including the button layout, port selection and the brilliant front-facing touchscreen. Just as I said when it was introduced last year, the front-facing touchscreen is incredibly handy, and I wouldn't be surprised to see GoPro adopt it for its next-generation camera.

The excellent magnetic latching mounting system makes an appearance here, too. It doesn't seem to have changed at all, but it's as convenient as ever. If you invest in a couple of extra baseplates, then it's a much quicker way of switching between mounts than undoing the traditional GoPro-style thumbscrews.

The water resistance has increased on this model - it's now submersible to up to 18m without additional housing. Not something that matters much to me, as I spend the majority of my time on dry land, but for diving enthusiasts, this could be a pretty big deal. An 18m depth is the maximum recreational diving limit for open-water divers, so those that partake can enjoy using their cameras for any dive without worry.

The battery is the same removable unit that we saw on the Action 3, and it's the same capacity, too. What's interesting is that it doesn't last quite as long, presumably due to the more demanding sensor at its heart. DJI advertises up to 160 minutes of recording at 1080p 24fps, whereas you'll get 160 minutes at 1080p 30fps on the older Action 3. In practice, I didn't find the battery life to be limiting on the new model, but it would have been nice to see an extra few milliamp hours added to the pack to compensate.

For the most part, the features offered by the Osmo Action 4 are the same as the Action 3. There are all the usual timelapse and hyperlapse modes, voice control and audio prompts, as well as livestreaming capabilities and a USB webcam mode. It pairs with the same DJI Mimo app, and the options within appear to be almost identical.

I did spot one small change in the settings menu, and although it may sound minor, it's going to be a big deal for some. You can now adjust the level of image sharpening and noise reduction that's applied to your footage in-camera. The default oversharpening of action cameras has frustrated those that like to grade their footage in post for a long time now, and I'm really pleased to see the issue addressed here.

The DJI Action cameras have historically lacked the ability to apply GPS data overlays to your footage. This is something that GoPro has done for a long time, allowing you to apply a speedometer, altitude overlay, or even a map of your route. The Osmo Action 4 finally adds this ability, but there's a caveat. You need to purchase the GPS Bluetooth remote controller if you want to use it.

The remote accessory retails for $79, which means it's a bit of an investment, especially when you consider that GoPros can do the same thing with no additional accessories required. Insta360 cameras like the X3 require you to be paired to the smartphone app for this feature to work, but then they'll do it too. If it's not possible standalone, it'd be really nice to see this feature enabled via the app, but time will tell if that comes to fruition.

A very niche but very useful addition is the ability to export gyro data. This is something that's mainly used by FPV drone pilots, and it allows the footage to be processed by software like Gyroflow to add incredibly smooth stabilisation in post. DJI introduced this capability with its Avata drone, and it's been used to great effect with that product, so I'm excited to see its continued support.

Finally, the InvisStick selfie stick masking capabilities have been expanded with this model. This feature was included with the Osmo Action 3, but it felt like it was in the early stages of its development, and DJI only recommended that it be used with skiing, at the time. Now, it's said to work with cycling, surfing, longboarding and more.

I tried it out with some selfie stick footage riding my electric skateboard, and it works, but it's not exactly seamless. You end up with a blurry area and artefacts around the stick so it doesn't create the same impressive illusion as a 360 camera. Still, it's a feature that's unique to DJI, and with AI image generation getting more impressive every day, I can imagine this feature becoming quite convincing in the future.

When it comes to imaging performance, the big difference is the new larger sensor. It's 1/1.3-inch, up from 1/1.7 on the Action 3. Comparatively, the GoPro Hero 11 Black has a minuscule 1/1.9-inch sensor, and while shooting in 16:9, it's actually smaller than that due to the unusual 8:7 ratio.

This should mean that the DJI Osmo Action 4 has dramatically better low-light performance, as well as increased image fidelity in daylight. DJI says that the dynamic range and low-light signal-to-noise ratio are effectively improved by 1 stop compared to the previous model.

The HDR shooting mode has been removed on this model, and instead, DJI says all modes record with a high-dynamic range. At 4K 30fps and below, the camera uses sensor-level HDR technology, so that's where you'll see the best performance. The D-Cinelike profile has also been replaced by D-Log M, which again offers a wider dynamic range, as well as a flatter image for increased flexibility in colour grading.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the older model on hand to compare during testing, but I still have the footage that I recorded for the review last year, and I also recorded a lot of side-by-side comparisons with my GoPro Hero 11 Black, as it's sure to be one of the Action 4's main rivals.

In daylight, the footage from the Action 4 looks very similar to the Action 3. The shadows are slightly cleaner, and the dynamic range is slightly wider, but you have to really be looking for it to notice. To the untrained eye, it looks essentially the same. The stabilisation is unchanged, and it's still as impressive as ever, the same goes for the extremely wide FOV, which rivals GoPro's HyperView but with less distracting distortion.

As I found with the previous model, the image fidelity goes toe-to-toe with the best that GoPro has to offer. It's a slightly different look, with slightly less saturated colours and a touch more contrast, but it's purely down to personal preference - and highly adaptable if you shoot in D-Log M. The resolutions and framerates are unchanged, so this model still can't match the Hero 11's 5.3K resolution, nor can it match the 240fps frame rate at 2.7K. However, 120fps is still very impressive, and likely enough for most people's needs.

It's when the sun goes down that the difference really becomes apparent, the DJI Osmo Action 3 already outperformed the Hero 11 Black in low light, but the Action 4 is in a different league entirely.

There were some scenarios where the GoPro footage would just be an unintelligible dark mess, whereas the Action 4 was still able to capture all the details. Of course, with a sub-1-inch sensor, it still gets grainy in these situations, but the difference is quite staggering. The image stabilisation is surprisingly effective in such challenging lighting, too.

The DJI Osmo Action 4 is an interesting product, on one hand, it's extremely similar to last year's model, and that makes it hard to get very excited about. Especially when you consider that it's significantly more expensive than its predecessor.

On the other hand, last year's camera was already excellent, and the vastly improved low-light capabilities make this model much more appealing - particularly if you find yourself frequently filming after dark.

The other improvements to this camera are on the minor side, but they'll be important to certain users. FPV pilots will love the ability to use this model with Gyroflow and colour grading aficionados will be pleased with the sharpness control and the added flexibility that D-Log M brings.

Whether the Action 4 is worth investing in all depends on your personal needs. If you don't shoot at night and aren't enticed by the added features, you might want to keep an eye out for a sale on the older model, as it's mostly the same experience.

Prior to writing for Pocket-Lint, Luke had a long history in the PC gaming industry working on everything from marketing and PR to events and esports tournaments.Aside from PCs and gaming, he has a passion for photography and video and the technologies surrounding them, it started with filming his friends skateboarding on miniDV camcorders and escalated to cinema cameras and a University degree.These days he mainly uses these skills to make YouTube videos and can often be found strapping GoPros to racing drones in his spare time.