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The DJI Osmo Action 3 Vs the GoPro Hero 11: An Underwater Photographer’s Review

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In this article, I’m reviewing and comparing the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo Action 3–direct competitors in the action camera space, and both (as of January 2024) are about 15 months old (both came out in September 2022). 

Now, neither are the latest action cameras from either of the two manufacturers. Those would be the Osmo 4 and the GoPro Hero 12. 

I’ve reviewed those here if you’re interested in having a look at them, as well as an accompanying review video. I’m not going to compare this older (albeit not by much) technology with the newer stuff in this breakdown. 

I’m going to cover both the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo Action 3 across what I think are the most important metrics for underwater videos. I have only ever used the Osmo Action 3 and the Hero 11 for underwater footage, and, to my mind, there are a handful of metrics that make or break an action camera for me. 

They are: 

  • The sensor
  • The depth rating
  • Battery life
  • Minimum focus distance
  • Battery life
  • Cinematic modes

If you’d like to know my verdict and why, here it is in this comparison table below.

the dji osmo action 3 vs the gopro hero 11 comparison table

I prefer the DJI Osmo Action 3

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The better depth rating and the larger sensor, combined with the easier-to-use cinematic modes, are more important to me as an underwater photographer and videographer than the slightly shorter minimum focus distance on the GoPro Hero 11 and its higher resolution. 

I already have a piece of gear (the Olympus TG6) that I use for up-close and macro shots, and I don’t see the need for 5.3K resolution–it’s going to burn through my battery faster, and none of the people watching will really get to fully enjoy it. That is to say, most people on social media are going to be watching 1080p videos.

For these reasons, I think the DJI Osmo Action 3 is the better camera. It costs less and, IMO, is better suited for underwater videography. 

If you want to read the entire review, let’s get into it.


A couple of terms and explanations

Before we begin, I know now everyone has the same familiarity with camera technology and terminology. If this is your first action camera, or if you haven’t really thought too much about the nitty-gritty of the tech in the past, here are three terms I will be using and what they refer to. 

3-axis stabilization

a technology implemented in cameras and lenses to reduce the effects of camera shake and vibrations, resulting in sharper images and smoother videos. The three axes in this context represent the three rotational movements a camera can experience: pitch, yaw, and roll.

10-bit colour

10-bit colour refers to the bit depth of the colour information captured and processed by the camera’s image sensor. Bit depth refers to the number of bits used to represent each colour channel in an image. A higher bit depth allows for a greater range of colour information and more nuanced gradations between different shades.

Minimum focus distance

The minimum focus distance of a camera refers to the closest distance at which the camera lens can accurately focus on a subject and produce a sharp image. In other words, it is the shortest distance between the camera’s image sensor and the subject that the lens can effectively capture.


The GoPro Hero 11

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Here is a quick bullet list breakdown of what the GoPro Hero 11 has to offer.

  • Advanced Stabilization: Hypersmooth 5.0 stabilization
  • Vivid 10bit Color: The GoPro Hero 11 captures stunning 10bit color, delivering richer and more nuanced hues.
  • High-Resolution Capabilities: Boasting 5.3K resolution at 60 fps and 4K at 120 fps, the Hero 11 sets new standards for video quality. 
  • Sensor: 1/1.9″ image sensor
  • Depth rating: 33ft (10m)
  • Cinematic modes: yes
  • Battery life: 120 minutes @ 1080p/30fps
  • Minimum focus distance (for up close): 12”

Osmo 3

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
  • Advanced Stabilization: DJI’s latest (at the time) EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) tech.
  • Vivid 10-bit Color: The Osmo Action 3 captures stunning 10-bit color, with rich and nuanced hues similar to the GoPro Hero 11.
  • High-Resolution Capabilities: Osmo Action 3 shoots 12MP photos and smooth video at up to 4K/120fps. 
  • Sensor: 1/1.7-inch CMOS
  • Depth rating: 52 feet (16m)
  • Cinematic modes: yes
  • Minimum focus distance: 1.3′ / 0.4 m

How they stack up

So how do the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo 3 stack up against each other? Let’s do a feature-by-feature comparison. For each one, I’ll provide an example from the accompanying review video that I produced for NNT’s YouTube Channel. 

Image stabilization

This first video is the GoPro Hero 11:

This next one is the DJI Osmo Action 3:

Bear in mind that both the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo Action 3 footage in my YouTube review have been run through stabilizing software for optimal stability, but right out of the camera, I honestly don’t see that much of a difference. 

Surely there are die-hard DJI and GoPro fans out there who would swear that DJI’s EIS image stabilizing tech is better than GoPro’s Hypersmooth, and, to be frank, I don’t really have the technical background to give you a full rundown on the ins and out on each’s proprietary software and how they translate to better image stabilization.

All I can say is that, having used both, and as someone who is quite obsessive when it comes to stability (and who will junk a shot if it doesn’t measure up), I don’t notice a stark difference. And would be happy with the image stabilization in either the GoPro Hero 11 or the DJI Osmo Action 3. 

Colour

Both the DJI Osmo Action 3 and the GoPro Hero 11 have 10-colour depth, which means they are capable of capturing around a billion-plus colours. This means they both capture a huge range of perceivable colours for highly true-to-life underwater scenes. 

Obviously, the exposure settings you are using on either will impact what a scene ultimately looks like, but I think they both compete quite well on colour. 

Here are some powderblue surgeonfish shot on the DJI Osmo Action 3. Their colours are really popping:

The GoPro’s 10 bit colour depth also does a fantastic job:

Bear in mind that the footage you are looking at in my YouTube video has also been colour-graded. 

10-bit colour is a notable step up from 8-bit colour depth, especially when it comes to blues (which is one of the first parts of the spectrum lost as you descend in the water).

Resolution

This is where the GoPro Hero 11 can outperform the DJI Osmo Aciton 3. I say “can” because you aren’t forced to shoot in GoPro’s 5.3K (the Osmo 3 can only shoot 4K), but the option is there if you like. 

Personally, I tend to be of the opinion that anything over 4K is superfluous. I definitely notice a difference between 1080p and 4K (especially when viewed on larger screens), but 5.3K, to me, just seems like a waste of battery and SD card space. 

I think for anyone shooting underwater videos (or any videos, for that matter) with any action camera, it’s important to keep in mind that most of your footage is going to be viewed (on Instagram, YouTube, etc.) in 1080p. 

In summation, I wouldn’t give the GoPro Hero 11 any bonus points simply because it shoots slightly higher-resolution videos. 

Sensor

Have a looked at this GoPro Hero 11 and DJI Osmo Action 3 footage stacked on top of each other from my accompanying YouTube video, providing a good idea of what each is capable of capturing:

I think the DJI Osmo 3’s 1/1.7-inch sensor, being larger, tends to offer superior light sensitivity, particularly in low-light underwater conditions where natural illumination diminishes with depth.

This larger sensor also contributes to a shallower depth of field, advantageous for isolating subjects and creating pronounced background blur in certain underwater compositions. The potential for higher image quality, with enhanced detail and dynamic range, makes the 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor well-suited for capturing the intricate and vibrant underwater environment.

The GoPro Hero 11’s 1/1.9-inch CMOS sensor, though slightly smaller, remains a viable option for underwater shooting. It provides reasonable light sensitivity and is capable of delivering quality images, especially when combined with advanced image processing technologies. 

What’s more, I have noticed that having a slightly smaller sensor can result in a slightly deeper depth of field, which can be great for wide-angle underwater landscapes where capturing more of the scene in focus is desirable. 

Depth rating

Here is where I’ve got to give it to the DJI Osmo 3, hands down

You get six whole metres more of waterproof rating (16m for the Osmo 3 vs 10m for the Hero 11). This is highly advantageous both for me as a freediver and as a scuba diver. 

As a scuba diver, 16 metres (52 feet) is right around the maximum depth you would be at for most recreational dives (your PADI open water certificate lets you dive up to 18 metres). As a free diver, I’m able to dive down to around 20m (and regularly do). 

While waterproofing specifications are not 100 percent accurate, and my experience has been that these companies tend to incorporate a fairly healthy margin of error into their estimates, what this ultimately means is that with the DJI Osmo 3, you don’t need to invest in an expensive housing if you are sticking to recreational dive depths. 

For me, better waterproofing is one of the biggest selling points of the DJI Osmo 3 (it’s even better on the Osmo 4–18m). 

Exposure and cinematic presets

While both the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo Action 3 come with some really nice exposure and cinematic shooting presets, for me, I give the edge to the DJI in this department because of the slow motion. 

Some of my favourite shots are large schools of fish slowed down, moving in unison. It’s stunning when you are able to examine a large number of individuals in a school in all their exquisite detail. 

I love how easy it is to quickly select Slow Motion on the DJI Osmo Action 3:

GoPro has great exposure preset for outside of the water–light painting, star trails, etc.–but I think the most important and the one I most often use underwater is slow motion, and with the Hero 11, you have to adjust the frames per second manually in order to shoot slow motion. 

I really like how the Osmo Action 3 comes with a preset that lets you just choose and shoot. 

Minimum focus distance

I feel like the GoPro hasn’t really outshined the DJI in any significant way so far, but in this department, it definitely does. 

Minimum focus distance is important for photography and videography because it determines how close you can get to your subject while still being able to focus on it. 

One of the biggest problems with action cameras is that they have relatively long minimum focus distances. That is to say, you need to be comparatively far away (compared to most standard cameras) in order for the lens to actually focus. 

The GoPro Hero 11 has a minimum focus distance of one foot (.3048m) while the DJI Osmo Action 3 has a minimum focus distance of 1.3 feet (or 0.4 m). 

While it might not seem like much, it makes a big difference underwater when filming up close. Take a look at the below stacked shot from my YouTube video of what a shorter minimum focus distance can do.  The GoPro Hero 11 is noticeably sharper closer up.

A note about minimum focus distance

When I first started shooting with action cameras, I was, mistakenly, trying to use them in the same way that I use other cameras when I’m shooting video, not realizing that action cams are not really designed to get up-close and personal. They are mostly used for cinematic, wide-angle shooting. 

The problem is that, when shooting underwater, especially reef life, there are some things that you want to capture up close–a brilliantly coloured frogfish or nudibranch, a moray eel peering curiously out of its den. 

The bottom line is that an action camera like the DJI Osmo Action 3 or the GoPro Hero 11 is never really going to be able to capture these subjects in the same way that a traditional camera will. 

Because I like shooting up close (both photography and video), I always travel with my Olympus TG6.

olympus tg6 resting on a table

It shoots 4K video and is fantastic for up-close photography. Here are a few shots of mine with the TG6 over the years. 

I’ve also put together a pretty comprehensive breakdown of why I think the TG6 is the best of the point-and-shoot underwater cameras, if you care to have a look.

You can also check out TG6 reviews here.

The issue is that there is no built-in image stabilization in the TG6, so you will either need a gimbal or, do as I do, reserve the TG6 for those up-close shots you can’t get with the action camera and use the action camera for those big cinematic wide-angle shots that try to encapsulate as large a cross-section of a reef scape as possible. 


The verdict

Given everything you’ve just read, I’ve got to give the edge to the DJI Osmo 3. 

The better depth rating and the larger sensor, combined with the easier-to-use cinematic modes, are more important to me as an underwater photographer and videographer than the slightly shorter minimum focus distance on the GoPro Hero 11 and its higher resolution. 

I already have a piece of gear (the Olympus TG6) that I use for up-close and macro shots and I don’t see the need for 5.3K–it’s going to burn through my battery faster, and none of the people watching will really get to fully enjoy it. 

For these reasons, I think the DJI Osmo Action 3 is the better camera. It costs less and, IMO, is better suited for underwater videography.