When it comes to action cameras, in 2023 two of the best options are the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo Action 3. Both can shoot cinematic, high-quality, stabilized video in any outdoor condition, but they have a few key differences that set them apart.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the GoPro Hero 11 and the DJI Osmo Action 3, comparing their features, capabilities, shortcomings, and overall performance to help you decide which camera best fits your needs.
While the Hero 11 is a minor improvement over the Hero 10, the Osmo Action 3 is a complete redesign from the Action 2 (full review here).
I’ve used all three of them to film POV mountain bike footage for the Suspension Traveler Youtube channel. Below you’ll find a long, in-depth comparison video between the Hero 11 and the Action 3.
To summarize my experience with both of these cameras, here are the main differences most important to any outdoor video creator:
GoPro Hero 11
- MSRP $399 or €449
- Slightly more accessories
- Higher bitrate video
- 8:7 sensor allows cropping in post
- Hyperview w/ exaggerated distortion
- High dynamic range
- Better exposure metering
- Easier to color grade
- Drains battery when turned off
- Cloud storage (slow)
- Optional Quik app
DJI Osmo Action 3
- MSRP $329 or €359
- Compatible with most GoPro mounts
- Magnetic mounting system
- Vertical mount
- Wider FOV
- New HDR mode
- Auto exposure is volatile
- More shutter speed options
- Longer battery life
- Active firmware support
- Mandatory Mimo app
Both record at the best video quality currently available. That being said, there are some big differences when looking at it in detail. Let’s start with one I haven’t seen anyone talk about, and it’s the bitrate.
Bitrate & Image Quality
Without getting too technical, the bitrate basically is an indication of the amount of information the camera captures. It’s a separate metric from resolution and framerate. A higher bitrate means a more detailed image.
And on paper, the Action 3 has the higher bitrate in the spec sheet. However, it doesn’t get to the advertised 130 kBit/s and instead only gets about 91 kBit/s.
In other words, the Hero 11 captures the crisper, higher-fidelity footage with all settings being equal. Its bitrate is consistently around 119 kBit/s
So no matter if the Hero 11 can shoot 5.3K resolution or not. Even with both at 4K, the Osmo Action 3 looks softer.
Color Grading for Action Cam Videos
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Another big differentiator are the color profiles. Gopro has three with Flat, Natural and Vibrant. And the Action 3 has two with Normal (8-bit) and D-Cinelike (10-bit). Normal and Vibrant look most alike. But the flatter profiles, designed for easier color grading are drastically different.
D-Cinelike is a high-contrast profile but low saturation at the same time. GoPro Flat on the other hand is more balanced with both saturation and contrast lowered.
That’s a major consideration for anyone editing their footage. More on that later.
Both have arguably the best digital image stabilization available, so feel free to jump over this section entirely. Hypersmooth and Rocksteady 3.0 are in a league of their own.
The OA3 has 4 options: Off, Rocksteady, Rocksteady+ and Horizonbalance. I couldn’t tell a difference between Rocksteady 2.0 of the Action 2 and now Rocksteady 3.0 as both stabilize incredibly well.
Even the roughest downhill mountain bike clips are so smooth it looks like drone footage. It does it so well in fact, that I wish it had a reduced option to get at least some bounce for an immersive effect (like it does in ultrawide).
The Hero 11 has 5 Hypersmooth settings: Off, On, Boost, Autoboost and Horizonleveling (which is actually in the lens options). So, basically an additional reduced option with Boost being similar to Rocksteady. Here they are in direct comparison:
Field of View (FOV)
Now the Hero 11 got Hyperview, a FOV mode that is NOT wider than Superview, but extends more up and down. And it’s not available in 4K 30p, a popular resolution and framerate. Only 5.3K 30p or 4K 60p among others. Weird choice and something not often talked about.
The OA3 on the other hand has such a wide FOV (Ultrawide) that GoPro can’t even get with the Maxlens mod.
The trade-off is lower stabilization that doesn’t crop in as much but I found very realistic even on rough downhill MTB trails. Even compared to the other FOV settings, it’s wider than the GoPro down to the Dewarp or Linear mode.
By default, GoPro has a better dynamic range than the DJI. Even in HDR mode, the DJI is inferior because of one specific thing it does. And that is getting the automatic exposure wrong in difficult situations. Unfortunately, you can’t select the exposure metering like with the Hero 11.
To put it simply, as soon as some of the bright sky is in the picture, the exposure is volatile and the camera may underexpose (make it very dark) the actual subject like the trail ahead or your face if you’re vlogging. I’ve included this in more detail in the video above so you can see what it looks like.
But the key are the manual settings. The auto options will only get inconsistent, bad footage with either camera. And luckily, both have robust options available to dial in what you need. With the Hero 11 a couple of useful ones more, but both are more than capable!
I won’t get into the exact settings and all the options here. For more, you can read up on my recommended settings for the Osmo Action 3 or the Hero 11’s settings where I also explain which does what.
Audio quality is good and what you can expect for waterproof microphones. There aren’t too many settings to tweak here. The OA3 can turn directional audio On or Off. And the GPH 11 can record separate audio tracks using the RAW setting. But that’s only useful for in-depth audio editing and not useful for the normal user.
Wind noise reduction
Another audio feature they both have is the built-in wind noise reduction. This is a post-processing change added on top of the audio track. In addition, the Hero 11 also changes to mono audio using it! Here’s how that sounds:
In any case, the sound will be like it’s submerged. Muffled and processed, sounding unnatural. For the best wind protection and the best overall sound, wind mufflers are definitely the way to go. This is the only way to get crisp audio under all circumstances. But that’s not something to hold against these action cams. I’d rather have it that way than have them not waterproof.
As you may know, the Hero 11 uses the “Enduro” batteries, which were heavily marketed as an upgrade for the Hero 10 back in the day. And even with these, the Action 3 lasts up to 1.5x as long as the Hero 11 in my test session.
This is of course depends on the specific settings and use case. Intense energy-consuming operations like high framerates, maximum stabilization and processing like HDR mode will drain the battery quicker.
On average the Osmo Action can record about 2 hours uninterrupted 4K video with one battery. The Hero 11 can manage about 1.5 hours under the same conditions.
Another fact worth mentioning is the Hero 11 drains battery even when turned off. And its settings don’t support battery saving very much. The automatic screen-turn-off when recording is 1 minute at a minimum, while the Action 3 turns off after 3 seconds after starting recording if you want.
All in all, a second battery is a must for H11, while you may get through on one with the Action 3. Both have practical charging cases available, and the DJI one doubles as a charging pack to fuel other devices.
With both using the same mounting mechanism, the standard GoPro “feet” that have become the norm for action cams, there are basically all the GoPro mounting accessories ever available for both.
And with the broad market share GoPro has had over the years, there are many more third-party brands to choose from. On top of that, the Hero 11 has the same housing as the Hero 9 and 10 before, so all the accessories (like Media Mod) and filters (ND or CPL) designed for the previous models fit this one as well.
A big difference in usability are DJI’s magnetic mounts. It’s basically the same “GoPro fingers” mount with a magnetic plate on top for extremely quick and easy dismounting. Perfect to adjust settings, preview clips, and checking the status. And also compatible with most GoPro mounts.
The user interface is a different story since the big firmware update. While the OA3 has less settings, it’s more clunky to use with multiple setting screens since the major firmware update.
Some of the most important settings like HDR, colors, and stabilization are all on separate menus. GoPro has all settings in a single list you can easily scroll through. The only difficulty here is knowing which ones do what and what makes sense to adjust.
Both can do presets and recording profiles to switch between quickly.
To be honest, the overheating issue has been blown way out of proportion by reviewers. I’ve never had either of them overheat during regular use. I only managed to do it with them sitting on my desk indoors while charging or right after charging, which heats up the unit.
And if you really try and push the hardware while having it sit still indoors (outdoor cameras need airflow) they overheat while recording.
The Hero 11 does it in high framerate modes like 120p and 240p. The OA3 overheats after 15 minutes using the new HDR mode, and after 30 minutes using the Image Enhance mode.
If you’re into editing your action cam footage, there are some big differences in how to post process GoPro and DJI footage.
For one, the Action 3’s maximum file length is 5:29 weirdly enough. So for clips longer than that, they will be split in multiple files and you have to stitch them back together in post.
Not only that, every adjustment you make has to be copied over to every clip of that sequence. Which can be solved by creating a single compound clip. In any case, those are extra steps to even get the files organized.
Additionally, the color profile intended for color grading, D-Cinelike, is low-saturation but also high-contrast at the same time. Which means the OA3 is very difficult to expose correctly or correct when it’s not quite right.
Shadows are crushed and highlights near blown out as it is, so there’s little room to move anymore.
GoPro Flat on the other hand is more balanced with both saturation and contrast lowered. Both of which are easy to increase in post-processing. Overall it’s very easy to edit, color grade and adjust exposure.
DJI Mimo App
The Mimo phone app is a necessity for using the Osmo Action 3. The camera has to be activated using a DJI account before it can be used. With the app not available on the Google Play Store, this is definitely a strange move. Instead, it has to be downloaded from DJI directly.
Actually using it to set up the camera, preview via live view or rewatch captured clips works fine. Updating firmware is another story. There seems to be a bug on newer iOS platforms preventing updates and if you don’t have access to an Android phone, you cannot update the camera.
Had I not kept an old phone in my drawer, I still wouldn’t have access to 10bit colors and the HDR mode.
GoPro Quik App
All in all, the Quik app is very easy and intuitive to use. Some minor features like the grid overlay for the back screen of the camera are missing. But that’s being very picky.
One extremely helpful feature is powering the camera on and off using only the app! As a trade-off, it’s also draining the battery even when powered off.