After working out some widely publicised kinks, the GoPro Karma Drone has officially launched for good. Naturally, folks are wondering: was it worth the wait? Damn right it was. GoPro’s latest is arguably the best “beginner” high-end drone money can buy. For starters, it offers tremendous ease of use. It’s also among the most intuitive drones we’ve ever laid our eyes and hands on. But where it shines the most is as the newest member of the growing GoPro family.
GoPro started as an action camera company and remains one no matter how many gadgets they stock in their artillery. The reason we mention this is because again the Karma drone works best when looked upon as a GoPro family member. Driving this point home is compatibility with the Hero 4 and 5 cameras, and the addition of a gimbal that operates as its own steadicam accessory. Throw all these things together and you’re in the hands of one brand, which equates to a harmonious sense of synchronicity. Naturally, some people scoff at the “walled garden” approach, but as more tech brands diversify the idea of joining one “family” of gadgets is becoming more or more sensible.
Of course, that’s not to say the Karma doesn’t perform admirably as a drone because it surely does. As mentioned above, we would consider this arguably the best “beginner” high-end drone on the market. And don’t be deterred by the use of the word “beginner” because this baby still holds its own in the stability and cinematography department. Furthermore, the clam shell remote with built-in screen is a god-send for those of use who frequently get annoyed integrating our smartphones via bluetooth.
Hence, beyond compatibility within the GoPro paradigm, the Karma drone excels at ease of use and approachability. It touts a compact, foldable design that fits perfectly in the adjoining carry case. Meanwhile, parts like the arms and landing are easy to replace and the battery is likewise effortless to remove. That’s not to mention the performance. Thanks to the stabliser and all around intelligent design, the drone retains a quiet, steady flight while delivering clear, unobstructed videos and pictures. That’s right: you no longer have to strap a stabiliser to your chest and jump off a cliff to get those unforgettable high angle shots. Not like it’s going to stop you, but still.
Then there’s the beautiful clamshell remote control. A game-style design is joined by a touchscreen display and smart controls for the utmost tier of accessibility. You can track the drone’s movements and fully control the camera functions. Also included on the remote are nifty features like pre-flight training programs and auto-shot paths. It’s seriously never been as fun flying a drone as it is using the Karma game-style remote, which is just right in terms of size. That display is really sharp, too, and the kind of thing that will spoil you. In other words, when it comes to drone remotes you may never want to use your smartphone screen again after getting a taste of this controller.
Last but far from least is the sturdy Karma grip, aka the gimbal, which comes included in the full Karma package. Attach it to the drone or hold it by hand–either way you’re getting supremely stable images no matter what the terrain or activity. It comes with its own built-in camera controls and is compatible with Hero 4, Hero 5 and Hero 5 Session. And while some drone enthusiasts say the Karma drone leaves some things to be desired when compared to the competition, essentially no one is complaining about the Karma grip. Naturally, there’s a slot for the gimbal in the Karma case, which provides on-the-go storage.
In spite of its general appeal as the newest addition to the GoPro family, comparisons between the Karma drone and units like the DJI Mavic Pro or DJI Phantoms are bound to crop up. DJI is first and foremost a drone company and the Phantom 4 enjoys a slight edge in terms of overall performance as far as consensus goes. That’s thanks primarily to an extended range and additional sensors on the Phantom 4.
Limitations aside, the GoPro Karma is a formidable contender. We loved it to say the least. It brings about 20 minutes of battery life before needing a recharge. It’s accompanied by a camera that’s ready to rumble, a veritable asset when capturing footage from above. Then there’s the trusty gimbal. It’s tremendously easy to attach and works wonders as a separate handheld accessory. Expect incredibly smooth footage when using the Karma grip.
In addition to the drone, the remote, the gimbal and the case, the full GoPro Karma package includes: a charger, a battery, six propellors, a mounting ring, a stabiliser and a harness. At about A$1,349.95, it’s a great deal. This is one for the GoPro fans. Consider making it part of the family.