DJI Osmo Action 4 for Snorkeling

Updated – January 2024

DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling - front view

In 2023 I tested the new DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling on an epic snorkel trip to Indonesia. It is an interesting action camera with several unique features that potentially make it superior to the newest GoPro Hero cameras. The tests revealed a few issues with an otherwise excellent camera, that I would now buy before a GoPro.

This is not a technical review. But I will point out a few positive and negatives about the camera that I noticed, which should help you make a decision if you are thinking about buying a DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling.

Watch This Video Review of the DJI Osmo Action 4 for Snorkeling

Watch the video below, but make sure and read the rest of the page which will explain some of the things pointed out in the video more clearly.

Video Correction: The camera is capable of 120 frames per second at 4K (not 100 fps).

Note: Our suggestions come from hands-on experience. We hope you find them helpful. You can help us if you purchase from the links below. We may make a small commission, from Amazon or other companies, at no extra cost to you.

Which DJI Osmo Action 4 Kit Should You Buy for Snorkeling?

DJI Osmo Action 4 Adventure Kit

You can buy the DJI Osmo Action 4 in a variety of different kit options.

Standard Combo – Includes the camera, one battery, the protective cage/frame, and a few adapters.

Adventure Combo – This kit is well worth the extra money because it comes with everything above, plus a really good extending stick that works great in the water, and it also includes two more batteries and a very cool charging case (pictured below), plus a bunch of different mounts.

Dive Combo – This kit probably makes the most sense for a snorkeler. It includes everything in the Standard Combo, plus a waterproof housing, and a floating handle. As you will read below, we feel the doors are too easy to open underwater on this camera, so we highly recommend you put this camera in the waterproof housing that comes with this kit.

Osmo Action Extreme Battery and Multifunctional Battery Case Kit – It’s kind of expensive on its own, but you could buy the Dive Combo, and also get this battery case and extra batteries. We really like this battery charger case.

DJI Osmo Action 60m Waterproof Case – You can also buy the waterproof case by itself. So getting the Adventure Combo kit and the housing might be a way to go.

Important Features – DJI Osmo Action 4 for Snorkeling

DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling - rear view
  • Waterproof to 59 feet (18m)
  • Front and back touch screens (touch not usable underwater)
  • Larger 1/1.3″ sensor size than GoPro
  • White balance sensor
  • 155 degree field of view (FOV much reduced underwater)
  • F2.8 lens aperture
  • Minimum focus range 15.6″ (40 cm)
  • 4K video, up to 120 frames per second
  • 10-bit color and D-Log M option
  • 10MP pictures
  • RockSteady 3.0+ Image Stabilization
  • Horizon Balancing and Horizon Steady
  • 1770 mAh battery
  • WiFi and Bluetooth

The standout features that distinguish the DJI from the newest GoPro models are the larger sensor, for better low light performance and overall contrast range, a built-in white balance sensor for better underwater colors, better touch screens front and back, and simpler and easier to use menus, longer battery life and faster charging, and it is waterproof to nearly twice the depth. It is also not prone to overheating and freezing up like the GoPros.

So how did all of those features work in real life while snorkeling?

How Did the DJI Osmo Action 4 Work While Snorkeling?

If you watched the video above, you already have a sense for how the camera performs. There were many things I liked about this camera, and a few things that could use improvement when using the DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling.

Easy to Use

Overall it is a very easy to use camera, with fairly simple and easy to navigate menus, with excellent touch screen response. The three battery charger that came in my kit is really slick. And I really like the quick magnetic mount for accessories.

DJI Osmo Action 4 three battery case and charger
This really cool triple battery case with integrated USB fast charging comes in the Adventure Kit mentioned above.

I also like how you can easily program the side button for any settings or modes you want, and then can quickly switch to those in the water. Although, I could not find a way to program a physical button that would allow me to replay videos or pictures. If I pulled the camera out of the water while snorkeling, the touch screen was usable, but not easily, so replaying videos while snorkeling is not something you should not plan on doing.

I really like the automatic color output, although read more about one issue with that below.

And the image stabilization is nothing short of amazing, at least when shooting 4K videos. For some reason in 1080P it is not as good.

Great Build Quality Although Waterproof Doors Open Too Easily

The build quality is great on this camera, and it is waterproof down to a claimed 59 feet (18m). But, I almost did flood it once. I was pulling it out of the little case on my weight belt, and I felt the small door opening. All it takes is a light push of the door button, and a little siding motion, and the door easily could come open underwater.

Fortunately I felt it happening, and quickly slid it shut. And then I taped that door shut so that it could not happen again. Because I had the camera in its little cage, the larger door for the battery/memory card could not be accidentally opened in this way.

Small Door Easily Opens
Cage Only Protects Battery Door

DJI Osmo Action 60m Waterproof Case

So I highly recommend you spend up a little and get the underwater housing for it, so there is no risk of flooding using the DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling. Or if you are going to use this camera without an underwater housing, you should definitely keep it in its cage (which comes with the camera), which protects the battery door from accidentally opening, and tape the small door shut.

Without these precautions there is a high likelihood of flooding it accidentally. I wish those doors had positive locks on them.

I also recommend that, after a snorkel, you remove the camera from its magnetic mount and cage before freshwater soaking, to help get rid of trapped salt.

Colors – Good and Bad

The new white balance sensor on the DJI Osmo Action 4 does a much better job in general, as compared to a GoPro. The colors are really good straight out of the camera, without needing a filter, or post processing in software. In fact it does the best job of automatically adjusting colors at different depths of any camera I have used. From dark low light situations in deeper water, to bright shallow conditions, the colors mostly look fantastic.

But, because the sensor is constantly making adjustments, there are often times when the color will suddenly change, right in the middle of a clip, which does not look good on playback. There are several examples of that shown in the video above. The change feels abrupt when viewing.

This happens mostly when there are big depth changes, or if there is a change in the angle of the sun. For example, you may be filming a shallow coral in front of you, and then you swim over the reef drop-off, and the color will quickly shift. Or you may rotate and change your angle to the sun and a color change may happen. It is not a huge problem, unless it changes in the middle of something important. You could just cut up the footage into different segments, with a transition between, to mask the change.

I wish I had played around with using some different manual white balance settings, for situations where I really did not want to see a color shift in the middle of the footage. Different manual white balance settings could be set for different depths, and then they could be saved to the quick setting button.

I think DJI should add some sort of white balance setting where it still uses the auto white balance sensor, but it locks the white balance setting that it creates in the first few seconds, so that it does not change mid-clip.

Close Focusing Distance a Big Limitation

Goniobranchus coi nudibranch in Wakatobi
You can’t get this shot with the DJI.

Would you like to take a video or picture of a tiny nudibranch like the picture on the right, or a small porcelain crab? Good luck. The minimum focusing distance on the DJI is 15.6 inches. So if you try to get the camera closer than that to your subject it will be blurry, as shown in the video above.

And with such a wide angle lens, with small subjects, if you are back farther than the minimum focus distance, the subject will be really small in your frame. It is also obvious when a fish swims close by, and is not sharp.

GoPro cameras are similar, although their minimum focus distance is a little closer.

This is a real drawback of these action cameras for snorkeling. They can’t do any macro work without extra lenses added. There are options for this with GoPro. But I don’t know if they would work on the DJI.

The picture above is of the same nudibranch as in the video, and was taken with my Canon G7X. The OM System (Olympus) TG-7 mentioned at the end of this article could get even closer.

Use Wide Field of View for Sharper Corners

One noticeable thing about the underwater footage from the DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling is that if you use the 16:9 aspect ratio, and leave it in the Standard (Dewarp) field of view, everywhere but right in the center of the frame is very soft (not sharp) and the subjects appear very warped when close to the edges of the frame, which sort of defeats the purpose of a 4K camera.

Combine that with a short focal distance, and fish coming in close from the sides are really not sharp. In the screenshot below, you can see how soft and warped the feeding corals look around the sides, and they are only sharp in a small central area. Fortunately there is a solution to this issue.

Screenshot from Osmo Action 4 video showing softness and warping on the edges in Standard field of view - soft corals

Make sure and set the field of view to Wide, instead of Standard. This reduces the refractive distortions that cause this lack of sharpness, and the end results are much better. There is still some softness to the corners, but much further out to the sides of the frame.

This softness in the corners is not just a DJI thing. It happens with GoPro and other wide angle lenses that are used underwater without a housing. The water distorts the image, and actually makes it appear much less wide angle than the 155 degrees that this lens is. For GoPro you can buy some after market lenses that will restore the full width, and improve the overall sharpness of the image. It might be interesting to test some of those on the DJI. But suddenly things get much more expensive, and larger, when you start adding lenses.

Using the DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling in the Wide setting, the 4K footage was really nice, and retains many more fine details than the 1080P setting.

Note though that the Wide field of view setting is not as wide as the standard, at 15mm vs. 12mm. Also a lens like this when used underwater will lose another 25% of its effective field of view because of the nature of how water refracts light. Just be aware your super wide angle lens will not be nearly as wide angle underwater. That is why some folks use auxiliary wide angle lenses with GoPro cameras to restore their field of view.

DJI Osmo Action 4 Underwater Picture Quality

Normally, if great pictures are really important to you, then an action camera would not be your first choice. They can do it, but they are optimized for video. And truthfully I did not test the picture taking ability of this camera enough. In addition to not testing enough, I did not have the camera set to the Wide field of view setting for pictures, so the edges are a bit warped. One thing of note is that the colors are great in the pictures. Here are a couple of picture examples. Remember, I did not have the camera set to Wide, so the edges are warpy.

Staghorn corals and damselfish photo taken with DJI Osmo Action 4
Snorkel guide over the drop-off on a reef in Wakatobi - photo taken with DJI Osmo Action 4

1080P Stabilization Not Great

I really wanted to see how good the 1080P footage would look out of this camera. The image stabilization is much better in the DJI when shooting in 4K. But for some reason the stabilization does not work as well when shooting 1080P on the DJI, and it is a bit jerky. I can tell what footage was 4K vs. 1080P just by how jerky it looks.

The reason I am interested in 1080P performance is because we only share our videos on our website, and the majority of our readers are on their phones. And you really can’t tell the difference between 4K and 1080P on a screen as small as a phone. 4K video takes up huge amounts of memory storage compared to 1080P, and requires a much more powerful computer to edit the footage. So we don’t normally bother shooting in 4K. Your needs may differ.

Turn Loop Duration Off

Early in my testing I realized the camera was sometimes saving continuous clips into multiple files. I thought it was a file saving setting, but after some research it turned out to be something else. The camera has a Loop function, where after a set period of time it starts to overwrite older footage, or create new files, if there is room on the SD card. You definitely don’t want this on. Also know that as your file size approaches 4GB, the camera will also break it up into multiple files, which is a constraint of SD card storage limits.

Use a Selfie Stick? We Prefer a Mini Tripod

The image stabilization is very good using the DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling, when shooting in 4K. But we still don’t like the jerky and shaky footage we get using the camera on the end of an extended selfie stick. When moving we prefer to keep it in our hands on a short handle.

DJI Mimo App – Product Activation and Security Concerns

One thing to note about all of DJI products, is that in order to register and use them, and to update them, you have to download their Mimo App to your phone, Android or Apple, which then will connect with the device. There is no other way to activate the product. You would think you could do it from a PC, but nope. And even though they are the leading makers of drones and many other products, there appears to be some valid security concerns in terms of how much access this app has to your personal data. The US Federal Government has banned the use of the app by federal employees because of these concerns.

Should You Get a DJI Osmo Action 4 for Snorkeling?

And our favorite way of taking videos with these types of cameras is to put them on a mini-tripod, so that the camera is not moving at all. This is only possible when there is a patch of sand or rock to place the tripod on, and when the subject is not too close. Do not place a tripod on live coral. Note also that many marine parks do not allow use of any tripods.

That is the real question. What are these cameras good for? If the following things are high on your priority list, this is a great snorkeling camera:

  • You want a very small camera
  • You mostly shoot video, and are not as interested in taking pictures
  • You don’t care about macro
  • You like your camera to be very easy to use, and mostly automatic
  • You want a fairly affordable system
  • You are not concerned about possible security risks mentioned above

If you want the things above, then an action camera makes a lot of sense.

Then it’s mostly a question of the DJI Osmo Action 4 for snorkeling, or a GoPro. I personally like this camera better than the GoPros I have used. But I really wish the doors were more secure. And the fact that the white balance sometimes changes suddenly mid-clip is not great. But in most all other aspects I like it. The colors are better than GoPro. It’s simpler to use. The menus and screens are better. And the DJI does not overheat.

But what if you want great pictures also, and the ability to take videos and pictures of macro subjects? For around the same price you should also consider an OM System (formerly Olympus) TG-7. It offers great 4K video (although at lower frame rates), and much better pictures, particularly when your subject is small. A TG-7 minimum focus distance is only 1/2″ from the subject. So you can take incredible macro pictures and videos for tiny subjects as close as 1/2″ away from the lens. The TG-7 is a bit larger, and more complex to use, compared to an action camera.

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