Exposing a Major Flaw in DJI’s Action 4 Camera: Gyroscope Issues Under Real-World Conditions

As an avid enthusiast of action sports and boating safety, I’ve relied heavily on various action cameras to capture high-quality footage in demanding environments. Recently, I decided to test DJI’s Action 4 Camera, attracted by its advertised stabilization features, including horizon leveling and horizon balancing modes. However, my experience with this camera has revealed a significant flaw that undermines its effectiveness in action scenarios.

Initial Discovery: Dirtbike Footage

The first sign of trouble appeared when viewing a dirtbike video on Reddit. The Action 4 was mounted on a dirtbike, and I expected it to handle the rough terrain and sudden movements with ease. Unfortunately, the footage revealed a persistent problem: the horizon leveling feature failed to maintain a stable horizon, and when it did, the horizon often tilted slightly to the left. This was my first indication that something was seriously wrong with the camera’s gyroscope.

Confirming the Issue: Boating Safety Videos

Having just purchased several Action 4 cameras, I needed to further investigate. I rigged the Action 4 on a boat as a backup camera while filming boating safety videos. The camera was exposed to engine vibrations and the natural motion of the boat underway on the water. Once again, the horizon leveling and balancing modes failed to perform as advertised. The footage was marred by constant horizon drift, making it unsuitable for professional use.

The following video shows examples of DJI’s Horizon Balancing on the Action 4 failing to maintain a leveled horizon:

Identifying the Cause: Engine Vibration

After analyzing the footage and considering the operating conditions, it became apparent that engine vibrations were interfering with the camera’s gyroscope. This flaw is critical because the gyroscope is essential for maintaining stability and horizon leveling in action cameras. The inability to handle vibrations from an engine—whether on a dirtbike, a car, or a boat—suggests a major design oversight by DJI.

DJI’s Response: An Unrelated Canned Message

I reached out to DJI with my concerns, providing raw footage to illustrate the problem. Their response was not encouraging:

“Hi, there. We hope this message finds you well. Please be advised that we are able to receive a response from our corresponding team. Upon thorough checking and coordination, please be advised that the concern on the screen in your DJI Osmo Action 4 may be caused by the gyroscope’s judgment due to sudden acceleration, deceleration, or turning, as well as the car’s tilt during these movements. To address this, you can try turning off the stabilization function or switching to another stabilization mode, though the stabilization function may not be effective in all driving scenarios.”

This response was particularly frustrating because it referred to car movements, despite the footage clearly being from a boat. DJI’s suggestion to turn off stabilization is counterproductive and defeats the purpose of purchasing a camera with advanced stabilization features.

Conclusion: A Major Design Flaw

In my opinion, the inability of the DJI Action 4 Camera to handle real-world vibrations from engines, whether on a dirtbike, a car or a boat, represents a significant design flaw. Action cameras are expected to perform under extreme conditions, and stabilization is a critical feature. By failing to address this issue and offering unhelpful solutions, DJI has disappointed many users who rely on their cameras for high-quality, stable footage in dynamic environments.

For those considering an action camera for similar use cases, I recommend looking at alternatives such as GoPro and Insta360, which have proven to handle such conditions much better. Spending $300 per camera only to discover it can’t handle basic action scenarios is a waste of money and undermines trust in the brand. DJI needs to address this issue urgently to maintain their reputation in the action camera market.

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