- The DJI Osmo Action 4 has superior low-light performance compared to its rivals, resulting in less noisy footage and more detail.
- The Action 4 focuses on video performance with improved low light quality and LOG support for easier grading.
- While the GoPro Hero 12 has advantages such as higher resolution, extensive accessory ecosystem, and unique sensor, the DJI Osmo Action 4 offers a well-rounded camera with a focus on video quality and color grading control.
The DJI Osmo Action 4 offers the usual compact and ruggedness we expect, but addresses one of the biggest pain points in action cameras: low light performance.
With its larger 1/1.3″ sensor, it outperforms both its predecessor, the Action 3, and its direct rival, the GoPro Hero 12, in challenging lighting conditions. While it’s still not a miracle worker after sunset, the Action 4’s ability to maintain lower ISO results in less noisy footage and more retained detail.
DJI Osmo Action 4
DJI’s latest action camera focuses on its video performance by offering a larger 1/1.3″ sensor to capture more light and be a more reliable tool in dimly lit scenes. With the addition of 10-bit D-Log-M video recording, the Osmo Action 4 also supports professional color grading and can match the look of DJI’s other drones and cameras very well.
- Sensor Size
- 1/1.3″, f/2.8
- Video Resolution
- Up to 4k 120fps, 1080p 240fps
- Photo Resolution
- Max 3648×2736
- Up to 160 min
- Water Resistance
- 18m Waterproof
- 155° Ultra-Wide
- microSD (up to 512 GB)
- Front Screen: 1.4-inch 323 ppi 320×320Rear Screen: 2.25-inch 326 ppi 360×640
- Max Bit Rate
- 130 Mbps
- Photo Format
- Improved low light performance
- Better waterproofing
- Quick mounting magnetic attachments are convenient
- Excellent battery life
- Buttons have improved tactile feedback
- Introduces D-Log-M recording
- More expensive than previous model
- 240fps is limited to 1080p and is much softer
- Decreased to 10mp from 12mp
Although photographic capability of the Action 4 is technically a downgrade from the 12-megapixel resolution of its predecessor to a measly 10-megapixel, the images are still usable and occasionally impressive, but certainly not ideal for extensive editing or cropping.
Instead, the Action 4 focuses on video performance with some very important updates.
While GoPro still excels in slow motion and support for accessories, the Action 4 stands out with its superior low-light performance, extended waterproof rating (up to 59 feet), and enhanced LOG support that’s easier to grade and match to your other DJI products like the new Mavic 3 Pro. It may not outdo the GoPro Hero 12 in a direct specs comparison, but for those seeking a more well-rounded camera with a focus on video quality in a 16:9 format and less emphasis on 240fps slow-motion, the DJI Osmo Action 4 is a strong contender.
Comparison to the GoPro Hero 12
If you just want to turn your camera on and shoot quick video and use those shots with minimal editing, both the Action 4 and GoPro Hero 12 will perform nearly identically in well-lit or daytime shots. The results you get from both will be incredible, but there are a few key reasons why you might want to choose one over the other.
Why Choose the GoPro Hero 12?
Much like Kleenex or Band-Aid, GoPro has become a generic trademark for action cameras. Now in its 12 generation, people know what to expect with GoPro.
- Extensive accessories ecosystem: GoPro boasts a vast accessory system, offering options like the Floaty for water adventures and the Max Lens Mod 2.0 for various shots, including those involving bikes, cars, and FPV. Plus, the availability of affordable third-party accessories adds versatility to your shooting options.
- Quick-Release system: Unlike DJI’s quick-release magnetic mounts, GoPro’s retractable screw-in feet offer added stability with zero-micro shakes, particularly useful in scenarios with high vibrations or impacts.
- Higher resolution: The GoPro Hero 12 supports a higher resolution of 5.3K at 60fps, giving it an edge in flexibility for reframing and cropping without significant loss of detail when compared to the Action 4’s 4K at 60fps.
- Unique sensor: GoPro features a 8:7 sensor, allowing you to shoot vertically or horizontally and reframe in post, offering more flexibility compared to the Action 4’s 4:3, which requires camera rotation.
- High-resolution stills: GoPro’s 27-megapixel photos or 24.7-megapixel stills from video provide greater flexibility for photographers than DJI’s 12-megapixel offering.
- That action camera look: GoPro’s footage tends to have a more over-processed look, even in its flat picture modes, appealing to users who prefer punchy, ready-to-use footage without extensive editing. Similarly, the GoPro Hero 12 has more fish-eye distortion, adding to the action camera aesthetic.
Why Choose the DJI Osmo 4?
DJI may not have the same household name recognition as GoPro in the action camera world, but it compensates for this with a broader spectrum of devices. Where GoPro stumbled with the Karma drone release, DJI has capitalized on its extensive experience making some of the best drones, cameras, and gimbals and successfully extended that knowledge to the action camera sector.
- Larger sensor: The Action 4 boasts a larger 1/1.3″ sensor, offering superior low-light performance compared to the Hero 12’s smaller 1/1.9″ CMOS sensor.
- Enhanced build quality: The Action 4 is praised for its compact size and user-friendly door openings, resulting in a better build quality and design when compared to the GoPro Hero 12.
- Dual color touchscreens: The Action 4 features dual full-color touchscreens, allowing for easy framing and menu navigation from both the front and back. In contrast, the GoPro Hero 12’s touchscreen is only on the rear, with the front screen serving as a preview display.
- Better waterproofing: The Action 4 is designed to endure harsher conditions with a waterproof rating of up to 18 meters without a case.
- Extreme temperature resistance: The Action 4 excels in extreme cold, with an operating range as low as -20 °C, making it ideal for activities in colder environments like skiing and snowboarding. In contrast, the Hero 12 operates down to -10 °C.
The DJI Osmo Action 4 now starts at $399, a rather significant 25% increase compared to its predecessor, the Action 3. This new pricing aligns it with the GoPro Hero 12, eliminating the price advantage it once had. I assume with its fourth update and increased reputation in the market, DJI felt that it no longer needed to undercut the competition in order to have a level playing field.
There’s also the Adventure Combo at $499, which includes a 1.5m extension rod, two extra batteries, and a battery case that can hold and charge up to three batteries. Sadly, DJI doesn’t include a tripod foot/handle, meaning you’ll need to buy one separately if you want to use this as more of a tripod, for which it unlocks a lot of shooting potential. I happened to have an old one lying around from my Zhiyun Smooth 5 camera gimbal which did just the job.
While the Action 4 boasts impressive battery life, it’s worth considering one of DJI’s combos, especially if you plan on recording for extended periods, where you’ll save a bit over buying the extra batteries individually later.
DJI tried to shake things up with its Osmo Action 2 which they touted as a “new generation magnetic action camera”. Sure, it looked cool and promised potential, but it ended up being a far more flawed design, especially with its very limited 22GB of internal storage, non-swappable battery, and lack of waterproofing for its modules. The latter almost defeats the purpose of an action camera in the first place.
Acknowledging these shortcomings, DJI took a step back to a more conventional design with the Osmo Action 3, and this design has mostly carried over to the Osmo Action 4, with a few refinements.
The Osmo Action 4 is a compact and lightweight camera, weighing in at 5.1 ounces (145 grams) and measuring 2.8 inches wide by 1.7 inches tall by 1.3 inches deep, including the lens protrusion. What sets it apart is its dual touchscreen displays. There’s a sizable 2.5-inch 16×9 screen that spans nearly the entire backside of the camera, and a smaller 1.4-inch square display on the front left side. This front display not only helps with framing shots but also provides access to controls and settings, eliminating the need to flip the camera around or twist your head to access essential functions. It’s a time-saver and enables capturing unique angles in tight or tricky spaces, although it’s understandably more compact than the main display.
Compared to its predecessor, the Action 4 features more tactile power and record buttons, providing a clearer indication of button presses. You’ll also appreciate the quick access to customizable shooting modes with a single button press, eliminating the need to press and hold the power button.
One of the Action 4’s notable features is its magnetic clamp system on the underside. While some users might be concerned about the slight wiggle, this design allows for swift attachment and removal of accessories, outpacing the traditional screw-on approach found on GoPro and most other action cameras. The magnetic attachments feature two pincers that securely snap into place when connected. Even under intense shaking, the magnetic strength alone keeps the camera in place. Some may prefer the old-school attachment method for added peace of mind, but DJI’s approach is secure and significantly faster.
Initial Setup Quirks
Just as with many of DJI’s previous cameras and accessories, they still enforce the requirement for users to register their new Osmo Action 4 within the first five uses. This registration is mandatory—if you try to power up after this limit, your camera will be locked. You’ll need to pair the camera with the DJI app on your smartphone and complete the pairing process with your account. It’s a minor inconvenience, but it’s worth noting, especially if you plan to head off the grid for a few days and rely on the camera in the wilderness. Make sure to complete this setup while you still have internet access!
A more significant annoyance, and one that’s been a recurring complaint of mine, is the unavailability of DJI’s official app on the Google Play Store for Android users. Instead, it still requires sideloading an APK for installation. While this doesn’t affect iPhone users, it’s a considerable inconvenience for Android users, and it’s astounding that DJI hasn’t addressed this issue over the years.
All-Day Battery Life
The Action 4 can quickly turn on and automatically record when you click its record button. Once you click the record button again, the recording will end and automatically turn off again. This is a great way to maximize battery life by only activating the camera when you need to capture a shot. While it might occasionally cause you to miss a moment during the power-on and power-off cycles, I found it mostly swift enough for my needs and was well worth the battery savings.
The Action 4’s compact and pocketable design allows you to quickly pull it out, capture a brief shot, and stow it away. My shooting style included a mix of 10 to 30-second clips and a few 2 to 5-minute recordings.
I primarily shot in 16:9 4K at 60fps or 4K at 120fps with 10-bit D-Log and RockSteady+ stabilization enabled. Surprisingly, I usually managed to record everything I needed for an entire day while still having about 20-30 percent battery remaining. With the display set to automatically turn off after 15 seconds, continuous recording at 4K 60fps yields approximately 70–80 minutes on a single charge.
Optional Charging Case
Given how long-lasting the Action 4’s battery life is, you might be able to get by with a single battery, though if you plan on recording for several hours at a time, especially if your “action” sport doesn’t allow for you to stay tethered to a USB-C power bank, then having a second or third battery might be the way to go. A day filming at the pool and beach, where I couldn’t charge between uses, is a perfect example.
One of the standout features of the Adventure Combo is the convenience it offers with the charging case. This compact case not only protects and stores your batteries efficiently but also allows for quick and easy charging using a single USB-C cable. This makes the bundle a practical choice for users who require prolonged shooting capabilities without frequent access to power sources.
Performance and Image Quality
For photos, the camera can capture 10-megapixel JPEG or JPEG+RAW. With our phones and most compact cameras capable of capturing 24 or even 48-megapixel stills, the 10-megapixels on the Action 4 might make you reconsider the type of photos you take with it.
However, given that about 8 megapixels are all you need for 4K video, similar to the Sony a7siii, the Action 4 prioritizes a larger sensor over a higher megapixel count to maximize light intake. While you can still capture vibrant photos with ample room for editing, especially in RAW format where you can recover highlights and shadows, enlarging your images or pixel peeping will quickly reveal a loss of detail.
The Action 4 has an ISO range from 100 to 12,800. However, noise starts becoming noticeable after 1600, and anything beyond 6400 is very messy. Unlike its predecessors, the Action 4 lets you adjust noise reduction and sharpness levels for more control over your final image.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance is where the Action 4 truly shines and leaves its competition in the dust. With its larger 1/1.3 sensor, which is over 25% larger than the Type 1/1.7-inch sensor found in the Action 3, it excels at capturing more light, resulting in cleaner, more detailed images in low light conditions.
What sets the Action 4 apart is its ability to perform better in darker scenes, especially when it comes to maintaining stabilization. While most action cameras struggle in low light conditions to the point that their stabilization can actually degrade your footage, the Action 4 is better able to capture stabilized video in dimly lit environments before things start to fall apart.
I pushed the boundaries by recording after sunset and well into the night in Central Park, with only the streetlamps illuminating the scene, and took a walk back to the subway. Only in the scenes where there were lots of bright buildings and lights did the Action 4 manage to keep its ISO capped to a reasonable level and capture footage that I would consider usable in my opinion.
There are constraints to what a camera of this size can accomplish, but it represents a significant step up from previous models, making it one of the best choices for low-light shooting in the action camera market.
Both the Action 4 and the GoPro Hero 12 can shoot at 4K 120 frames per second, which for most of what I shot, was plenty. However, when it comes to that ultra-slow motion of 240 frames per second, GoPro takes the lead with its capability to shoot at 2.7K at 240 frames per second, whereas the Action 4 is limited to 1080P which will be noticeably less detailed. This is arguably one of the biggest strengths of the GoPro.
The DJI Osmo Action 4 offers two distinct color profiles: Standard and D-Log M. The Standard color mode delivers footage with a natural appearance, featuring punchy contrast and accurately saturated colors.
It’s the choice to go with if you want video that’s easy to edit and share without requiring extensive color correction. However, for users who want more control with their video edits, D-Log M increases the color sampling from 8-bit to 10-bit and applies lower saturation and contrast to the picture.
When combined with the larger sensor, it enhances color depth and dynamic range dramatically. This results in the retention of details in highlights, such as bright clouds and evening lights, and shadows appear cleaner.
Importantly, this allows you to achieve a more professional look and closely match your Action 4 footage to content captured with other DJI products like their drones, which also support D-Log-M. It also facilitates matching your footage to other professional cameras using their own flat picture profiles.
It’s worth noting that while the GoPro offers its own flat picture profile called G-Log, it’s not as desaturated as DJI’s D-Log, making it less suitable as a professional tool, underscoring the fact that DJI has a stronger edge in color science and post-processing support compared to GoPro.
The DJI Osmo Action 4 stands out in the action camera market with its superior low-light performance and 10-bit D-Log color profile. While it may not match the ultra-slow-motion capabilities of its GoPro competitor, the Action 4 offers a well-rounded package, making it the preferred choice for those who prioritize color grading control and seamless integration with other cameras.