Action cameras like the DJI Osmo Action 3 are notoriously difficult to shoot at night due to their small sensors. But with the right settings, you can still turn your OA3 into a low-light beast!
While the Osmo Action offers tons of adjustability, however, it does not have a dedicated Low-Light mode. With it’s small sensor it’s not really designed to perform at night, but with a couple of easy tweaks, you’ll be amazed at what you can squeeze out of this little guy!
Good settings for low-light or night filming are very similar to those used when filming with ND filters. Those, of course, make everything darker with the goal of creating natural motion blur. That’s done by reducing shutter speeds. And that’s also the most important setting for night shooting.
Slow shutter means that the sensor has more time to capture light for each frame. More light = brighter image. Our goal is to slow the shutter only so much that ISO can stay relatively low (reduce noise) and stabilization still works.
Recommended DJI Osmo Action 3 settings for low-light video:
- Resolution: 4K
- Framerate: 30 or 25 FPS
- Stabilization: Rocksteady 3.0
- Field of view (FOV): Personal preference
- Pro Settings: On
- Exposure: Manual
- EV: +0.0
- Shutter speed: 1/120
- ISO: range from 100 – 3200
- White Balance: 4000K
- Color: D-Cinelike or Normal (for no editing)
- Stereo: On
- Directional Audio: Off
Note: HDR mode does not support manual exposure, which is critical for low light. Also, EIS Priority will result in a very dark image. So for very dark scenes, you’re better off with tweaking your exposure settings.
Color Grading for Action Cam Videos
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A few pointers on how to choose shutter and ISO. They work hand in hand but the shutter is the priority here for stabilization.
- Shutter: Slower is better for low-light. But faster (darker) is better for stabilization. 1/120 should be fine for most filming, 1/240 can stabilize almost anything. Use 30 frames 1/60 only if the camera hardly moves.
- ISO: Lower is better for avoiding noise (grain). But higher ISO results in a brighter image. This is a balance. For shutter 1/120 select max ISO 1600 or 3200. For 1/240 pick max ISO 3200 or 6400. For 1/60, ISO 800 may be enough.
Don’t forget to save your favorite setting as a preset for easy “Quick Select” access through the power button!
These will work in most night-time conditions, provided there is at least one good light source available. Light street lights or a strong helmet lamp. The ISO range allows the exposure to adjust without creating excessive noise from high ISO. For other filming projects, use my other recommended Osmo Action settings for mountain biking.
Using these settings, the camera will only adjust the ISO automatically to get the right exposure and stabilization. Everything else is in your control for consistently high-quality footage!
To even get access to all of the settings necessary, you need to activate Pro Controls. On the Action 3 that’s deactivated by default. So here’s how you unlock the full power of your Osmo Action:
How to unlock the DJI Osmo Action 3’s PRO settings:
In order to gain access to the full list of settings, you need to activate the PRO settings.
- Access the camera settings from the right side of the screen.
- At the top right of the sidebar check “PRO” so that the background is yellow.
- That’s it. Many more exposure settings are available to you.
So, there you have it. Those are the semi-automatic settings that record cinematic, well-balanced footage that looks more like what you experience through your own eyes. Read this article for a deep dive into what each DJI OA3 setting does. I’ll explain the most important for low light.
The Most Important Osmo Action settings for night-time
White Balance (WB)
Also referred to as color temperature, this is the red or blue tint. During daytime a WB of 5500 Kelvin is best. That’s the color temp of the sun. Makes sense. When the sun is gone, however, a much lower WB is necessary. The “correct” one depends on the temp of the artificial light you’re using. But it’s also an artistic choice, so feel free to play around. If you want to go for a cyberpunk-esque cool look, go as low as 3300K. Or 4000K for a more balanced look.
On a normal hand-held camera, you’d pick a shutter speed of twice the frames per second for a cinematic look – 1/60 for 30fps and 1/48 for 24fps. Not so for action cams, that need to stabilize the footage.
Stabilization requires fast shutter speeds. As you can see, this is a problem, that you can let the camera’s software solve for you by leaving it on auto. Alternatively, for manual control, I found that the Osmo Action needs a minimum shutter of 4x the framerate to properly stabilize even on rough MTB trails. That’s how I arrived at the 1/120 number.
In daylight, you would use ND filters to slow down shutter speeds without overexposing the image. At night that effect happens by itself and the challenge becomes keeping the ISO as low as possible.
ISO: min. 100 – max. 3200
ISO is the main reason for grainy or noisy footage. If that’s something you’re struggling with, check out this resource on how to get rid of noise in your videos.
ISO is the maximum light sensitivity of the camera, and the Osmo Action 3 lets you define a range it can work within. However, you don’t want to give it more than it really needs as more ISO means a more grainy image.
This is why to set the ISO as low as possible. 6400 should be the upper limit when using fast shutter speeds of 1/240. Try if you can get away with 1/120 shutter to lower ISO to 3200. You’ll notice the difference!
There’s a definite trade-off between stable or grainy (noisy) video.
Recommended: D-Cinelike for editing
In low-light conditions the “Normal” color profile may be your best friend for making a otherwise dull scenery pop. In a city with vibrant colors or for color grading, the D-Cinelike profile may be more usable. Whatever you pick is completely subjective.
That’s all you really need to know to go out and get good-looking video at night! Have fun filming.