GoPro Karma Drone Review
The GoPro Karma Drone is an advanced and portable quadcopter designed for aerial videography. The Karma differs from its main competitor, the DJI Phantom series, by offering folding arms and landing gear to minimize its size during transport. Additionally, the Karma drone has a detachable gimbal and includes a separate Karma Grip so that you can shoot smooth stabilized video on the ground as well. Karma naturally uses a GoPro camera for the optics (either the HERO 5 Black, HERO 5 Session, or the HERO 4 Black/Silver) and provides excellent video quality.
With an $800 retail price without a camera ($1,100 MSRP with the HERO 5 Black), the Karma is solidly in the prosumer category of quadcopters and a direct competitor to the DJI Phantom lineup. While the Karma drone has a lot going for it, technically speaking it is less powerful and less advanced than the DJI Phantom 4 (and has a shorter battery life) so it is by no means the best quadcopter for all users. The GoPro Karma drone looks very promising though and we will update our GoPro Karma Drone review with more information as soon as we have a chance to fly and test it!
- Innovative folding design provides easy transport
- Excellent video quality from existing GoPro camera technology
- Additionally capability for on-the-ground filming with Karma Grip
- Simple controls and user interface make it easy for beginner fliers
- Limited range compared to DJI products
- Controller and user interface not as advanced as DJI and not geared towards advanced users
- Slightly slower and less powerful than Phantom 4
- Less battery life than competitors (20 minutes for Karma versus 28 minutes for Phantom 4)
GoPro Karma Drone Review: GoPro Introduction Video
Hardware and Design
The GoPro Karma drone is a mid-large size quadcopter, though it has a lower height than other quadcopters and folds down into a much smaller profile. Compared to the Phantom, the Karma has a similar footprint (and technically is a couple inches wider) but it is significantly shorter - the Karma, with its landing legs folded down, is only 4.6 inches tall compared to the Phantom’s 7.5 inches. With the landing gear folded up, the Karma drone is only 3.5 inches tall, and with the four arms folded in, the quadcopter is half as wide as with the arms in place for flying.
|Dimensions (Opened/No Propellers)||Length: 12in (303mm)
Width: 16.2in (411mm)
Height: 4.6in (117mm)
|Dimensions (Folded/Transport)||Length: 14.4in (365.2mm)
Width: 8.8in (224.3mm)
Height: 3.5in (89.9mm)
The compact height of the Karma drone is a huge advantage over the Phantom and the foldable design is a real game changer in terms of portability. It really makes it so much easier to transport the Karma drone around, and GoPro includes a backpack specifically for the Karma:
The camera on the Karma drone is cleverly located at the front of the aircraft, directly between the two front propellers and in front of the main body of the quadcopter. This is a departure from most quadcopters on the market, which suspend the gimbal and optics below the body. This change in gimbal/camera location means that the legs don’t really protect the fragile gimbal and camera all the time - they just assist in landing and takeoff to keep the aircraft a couple inches off the ground - so they don’t have to be permanently locked into place like the legs on the Phantom 3 and 4. This saves a few inches on the aircraft height and also helps with the issue of having propellers come into view of the camera while flying aggressively.
Another innovative feature on the Karma drone is that the gimbal actually detaches. With a quick turn, it pops out of the front of the quadcopter and you can then attach it to the included Karma Grip and use it as a handheld stabilized camera. While the DJI Inspire sort of has this capability - you could take detach the camera and mount it to the DJI Osmo handheld gimbal - but the Inspire gimbal remained attached. The Phantom camera/gimbal was fully attached, with no ability to swap out. In this category, the GoPro Karma drone is a clear winner for now and it helps support the idea that the Karma drone really is much more than just a flying camera.
Where to buy GoPro Karma Drone and Karma Pricing
The GoPro Karma drone release date is October 23, 2016, though you can pre-order from some retailers. We’ll add more details as we have them on the GoPro Karma ship date!
B&H Photo Video:
- GoPro Karma Drone ($799)
- GoPro Karma Drone with HERO5 Black ($1,099)
Amazon: Coming Soon
GoPro Teaser/Promotional Videos: