GoPro Karma Review
Couple of years ago, GoPro first announced that they were developing a drone. It made sense as people were using GoPro action cameras for aerial photography. And in 2016, they did finally release the drone, only to call it back. It has a battery problem that caused them to drop from the sky. GoPro has finally got their stuff together and released a working Karma drone. I have been waiting for it quite eagerly and I’m glad that I can finally review it!
- Dimensions: 36.5×22.4×9 cm / 14.4×8.8×3.5″ (folded)
- Weight (with battery): 1.06 kg / 2.3 lbs
- Flight modes: Orbit, Dronie, Reveal, Cable Cam, Manual
- Flying height: Max 3200 m / 10500 ft
- Flying distance: Max 3000 m / 9840 ft
- Flight speed: Max 15 m/s (35 mph)
- Battery: 5100mAh 4S 14.8V LiPo
- Flight time: Between 15 and 17 minutes
- Transmitter: Included Karma controller
In The Box
- GoPro Karma
- Gimbal camera stabilizer
- Karma Grip handle
- Case / Backpack
- 5100mAh 4S LiPo battery
- Charger with wall adapter
The Karma drone is definitely not the smallest one in the world. Luckily GoPro has thought everything out and you can actually fold it. This way you can carry the drone with you anywhere you want. It has a dimension of 36.5×22.4×9 cm / 14.4×8.8×3.5″ even while folded up. That also includes the landing legs, which fold flat underneath the drone. Despite that though, it is still pretty big and you’ll have to use the case/bag that comes with it.
Despite the size, the GoPro Karma is still pretty slim. That’s because they have moved the camera gimbal to the front of the drone, instead of underneath it. This way you don’t also have to worry about seeing the propellers in your video. The same idea can also be seen on racing drones and even DJI has positioned the camera to the front on their newest DJI Mavric. I’m not sure how it affects the weight distribution of the drone, for example if you wish to fly without a camera, but I’m sure that it’s not a problem. The drone itself weighs 1.06 kg / 2.3 lbs and it’s made out of plastic.
The GoPro Karma is a pretty unique drone. Unlike most other available drones, the camera gimbal isn’t permanently attached to the drone. You can remove it anytime you want and attach it to an accessory called the Karma Grip. The combination of those two will create a handheld gimbal that you can use anywhere you want. I really like that as they are pretty expensive and nice to have if you have an action camera. Especially a GoPro as their digital image stabilization isn’t the best and a smooth video is everything.
The case that comes with the Karma is really nice as well. It can also be used as a backpack and comes in all black. It’s inside is lined with foam to protect the drone and the rest of the gear. It is definitely durable and lightweight. One of the straps even has a universal GoPro mount in case you with to strap an action camera there. You can even attach a Karma Grip there and you’ll have a stabilized body camera.
Another accessory that I really like is the drone controller. It opens up like a clam shell. Inside, there is a nice size touchscreen and two joysticks for flying the drone. The controller itself is built out of a strong matte plastic. It’s really easy to hold onto and the matte black color means that you don’t have to worry about fingerprints all over the case. There are also a couple of buttons and a wheel for controlling the camera while flying. Everything is where it should be.
Flying & Features
Most people that buy these pre-built complete drones have never flown any before. And even if you have, a new model always has some differences. GoPro has solved this by introducing a flight simulator.
Before flying the Karma, you first need to create a free account on the GoPro website. You’ll have to use the remote control, connect it to a home network and go through the steps GoPro provides. After that, you can practice flying in a virtual environment. GoPro provides guides and tasks to teach you the basics of flying.
After a bit of practice, the Karma drone is pretty easy to fly. It uses GPS signal for auto stabilization in air. Which doesn’t mean that you can’t still have fun with it. The drone responds quickly to every move you make with the joysticks. Especially if you are using sport mode to fly at 15 m/s (35 mph). It is definitely very fun to fly with and GoPro has done that right. There is also an auto take-off and landing feature. Which means that the drone will take off and land itself with just a push of a button.
The only issue is the range in a suburban area. I started to lose video feed at around 213 m / 700 ft and fully lost it at 274 m / 900 ft. That’s also when the drone switched on the return to home mode. Also if something should happen and you completely lose signal to the drone, then it will land itself instead of flying back. The distance is no longer an issue if you are flying at a rural area though. I even managed to reach the distances written in GoPro specs while flying at the countryside, far from WiFi networks and buildings.
The only annoying part about flying is that the battery life is too short. The second you take off, you’ll get around a 17 minute battery life estimate. However, that’s if you just keep it hovered in one spot and barely fly the drone. I personally averaged at around 15 minutes of flight time. It will obviously be less if you go crazy and fly at a full speed the entire time. Also the Karma has a safety feature as well. Once the battery starts to get low, the GoPro Karma will fly back to it’s start location and automatically land. It does that when there’s around a minute left on the battery.
Besides the manual and sport mode, there are also some other features that help you take cool videos.
- Orbit – Makes the drone fly circles around a set point. All you have to do is fly the drone over a point you wish to orbit around. Then mark it on the controllers touchscreen as point of interest. The drone will fly away from it to a certain distance and then start circling around. I have seen this used to record lighthouses and they looked amazing.
- Dronie – GoPro has taken things further with this mode by enabling the Karma to take selfies of yourself. The drone will point towards the radio controller and keep a set distance from it. This way you can take selfies of yourself from the sky.
- Reveal – Drone flies in a straight line while rotating the camera towards the horizon. You basically set a start point, the camera tilt and the end point. As the drone gets closer to the end point, the camera automatically shifts from the starting tilt closer to the horizon.
- Cable Cam – This is probably the most used flying mode. You mark two points and the drone will automatically fly from point A to B in a straight line. You can adjust speed, velocity and also the height of the drone.
Oh and no there isn’t a follow me mode like seen on DJI drones. Which is a shame as it’s pretty much a must nowadays. Especially considering how many like to record themselves driving a car or a motorcycle even.
The GoPro Karma is a fun drone but I’m not sure if it’s actually worth it for the price. It costs around the same as a DJI Mavric or Phantom 4 even. And both of those drones are much more capable and come with their own camera. Plus while the Karma is portable, the DJI Mavric is smaller and definitely better to travel with. The only reason to get the Karma over those two is if you already own or want a GoPro Hero5 Black action camera. Then it may be worth it as you also get a nice handheld stabilizer with the drone.
- The drone can be folded
- Uses an external action camera
- Gimbal + Handheld grip
- Short flight time
- No follow me mode