With the GoPro Karma drone and DJI Mavic launched recently, the following few weeks are going to be really busy and important for the drone market. The big question here is “Which drone should I purchase, Mavic or Karma?” To answer your question, we will give you a rundown of everything we know about both drones and our verdict on what we think is the better option.
Before we begin our review, you as the reader should know that this is going to be a completely unbiased review and will be based strictly on product specifications and performance.
THE GOPRO KARMA
What makes the GoPro Karma different from the countless drones available on the market today? To our knowledge, the main advantage of the GoPro that is being advertised is
- Its ease of you
- Compatibility with the GoPro hero 4 and hero 5 and session cameras.
GoPro claims that users will be able to fly this model even if they have little or no experience at all of using drones, and be able to capture fantastic shots aided by the preprogrammed modes on the Karma. Unfortunately, the Karma lacks follow features. You will be provided with dronie mode, 2-point cable cam mode, orbit mode and a reveal mode. These features already exist on other drone models of the past year.
Elaborating on its versatility, the Karma is no ordinary drone. Not only will you be able to detach the supplementary waterproof GoPro Hero camera and attach it to your helmet, bike, surfboard, pet etc, but the 3-axis camera stabilizer can be detached as well. It is easily attached to the included Karma grip- powered by battery, and the result will be an exceptional Steadicam system. You may use a GoPro mount to secure the Grip to your body or use it to take handheld ultra-smooth photographs. This right here is the primary difference that sets the Karma apart from other drones: this is not just a standard flying camera, it is much more than that; an entire filmmaking setup.
UI And Aesthetics
Karma’s Remote is heavier than that of the Mavic’s, but there is a 5-inch touchscreen built in which is readable even in broad daylight. This is excellent because I’m sure we all dislike fumbling around with our smartphones just to navigate where we are heading, so this makes the Karma even easier to use. The user interface is sleek, providing user-friendly usability, but lacks extra controls which advanced users may prefer.
Flight Mode And Maximum Speed
The flight time is a measly 18 minutes as compared to Mavic’s 27 minutes. The range of the former is also approximately 2 miles, which ishalf of Mavic’s range. Also, the Karma travels at 35mph which is slower than Mavic’s 40mph speed.
While it is debatable that the slower flight speed is more convenient for newbies, tracking the subject and the ability to avoid obstacles is missing from the functionality. We do believe that these two automation features are essential as they make filming and flying smoother. But fret not, there are some cool automatic features though, like the orbit mode which makes the drone spin 360 degrees around a subject while the camera faces inward, the dronie which takes a selfie as the drone swoops, the reveal shot in which the camera is tilted upwards, and a cable cam mode that follows the two-point track provided. The Karma is also able to return to its starting point or wherever the remote control is situated; a handy feature if you plan on using the drone from a boat.
The price is sensible enough. If you are already in possession of one of the GoPro cameras that are compatible with the Karma, this drone kit will cost around $800, inclusive of the drone, the remote, the stabilization rig, and the padded backpack. In case you don’t already own the camera, you can get the complete bundle with the Hero 5 Session for $1000 or the Hero5 Black for $1,100. Personally, we recommend the Black bundle, as the camera is superior to the Session. If you dish out an additional $150, you can get the GoPro Care, which is like insurance for your drone in case of total damage. A wise investment for beginners or if your aerial photography involves lots of trees.
- A thing that struck us as odd is that the Karma has no sensors at the bottom. A drone’s stability is pretty dependent on sensors and ultrasonics when GPS is not available and so, the Karma doesn’t have any of the mentioned sensors. This means that flying the Karma indoors isn’t really recommended.
- On the brighter side, all other technical specifications of the Karma are outstanding.
- The video quality depends on the GoPro you opt for, and of course the notorious GoPro wide angle effect is always going to be there whether you like it or not.
- A new linear shooting mode attempts to get rid of the fisheye effect by bursting the image to make it look linear, but ultra wide angle lenses always have distortion no matter what due to the wide field of view making it impossible to fit images on a monitor without any distortion.
So, in conclusion, the Karma’s main advantage is that you will be able to use the camera you have on hand with this drone, slashing down the price. Whether it is the GoPro Hero 4, the Hero 5 or Session, it will work flawlessly with this drone and as well as a freehand stabilized camera. Operating the drone is simple and it is versatile, but whether this versatility is worth it depends on the user’s requirements.
THE DJI MAVIC
GoPro claims that its Karma is foldable, designed to be taken with you everywhere. But on the other hand, it isn’t really small even when folded up. A dedicated case is still a require
ment for the Karma for transportation. The DJI Mavic is the complete opposite. It fits most bags or backpacks.
The Mavic is amazingly tiny- so small, that it can literally sit on the palm of your hand. The genius behind this portability is the fact that the propellers foldinto half and the arms are pressed back against the drone’s body.
We are partial towards the design of the Mavic Pro as it is one of the best models we have ever seen, but if you dish out
$1000-$1300 on a drone, you will undoubtedly expect high quality perfect images every time. That is the main purpose of a drone, something which the Mavic Pro doesn’t do extremely well.
The remote is also small, but doesn’t come with a built-in screen, so you will need to sync your phone with the product to use it, which is just a frustrating additional step which will need to be done every time. It doesn’t help either that the menu isn’t user-friendly, especially not for amateurs.
Moving on to the controls, the Mavic Pro offers a variety of granular controls which advanced users will love, but be confusing for beginners. The occasional pop up text is too tiny to be read on a small smartphone, the intelligent flight modes are complicated to figure out and the execution of these modes is lacking. An example is one of the modes which allows the user to select a person on screen and make the drone follow them, keeping the person in frame throughout. This only seems to work 50 percent of the time.
DJI drones have a reputation for being really easy to use, so we can expect that despite some of the complex features, the average user will have little difficulty in getting the hang of the Mavic. Of course, there is always room for doubt and we will know for sure once we test both drones out. We have flown the Mavic Pro drone and it is not complicated to fly at all. Using the controller isn’t a total requirement either.
But you know what they say, good things come in small packages. Despite the Mavic’s small size, it is packed with great features. Sonic and visual sensors are present, providing stability as well as obstacle avoidance, even indoors. Weighing approximately two pounds, it can stay in the air for an incredible 27 minutes on a full charge cycle, and has reportedly a range of up to four miles with a maximum speed of 40mph.
While we were skeptical about the performance of the camera at first, this feature changed our minds. You can actually achieve some really neat, cinematic captures just by adjusting the focus. The narrow depth of field does make it a struggle to bring everything into focus focusing on the horizon make the close-up objects look like toys. If the focus is on nearby objects, then the horizon tends to be blurry. This is definitely a frustrating limitation. There are times when you just want a crisp and sharp image, which won’t be achieved successfully every time.
Remember when we stated that the Karma comes with no sensors on the bottom whereas the Mavic has 3D vision via two cameras and ultrasonic sensors for precise stability. There are also accelerometers, dual gyros and compasses present for perfect data. You don’t even have to set or configure any of these settings as they keep working in the background without you having to worry about it.
- We have a love-hate relationship with the camera on the Mavic, which is why we are going to take our time detailing on it.
- The images lack sharpness significantly and the colors tend to appear washed out. Sometimes lighting conditions are misread and the dynamic range is apparently quite narrow.
- The sensor size is the same as DJI’s Phantom 4 and the GoPro Hero camera at 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS, but the image quality suffers because of inferior optics.
- Mavic’s field of view is around 79 degrees- a lot lesser than the Phantom 4’s 94 degrees and the GoPro Hero’s 165 degrees.
- The camera on the Mavic isn’t removable, which is probably the only major drawback to this kit. If you wish to shoot videos on the ground, you will have to carry the drone in your hands or simply buy a separate camera. This may be a deal breaker for those of you who are on a tight budget, but keep in mind that the Mavic does have two cameras for both ground and aerial photography, that too simultaneously.
- Now to the love part. Unlike the previous models of DJI, the Mavic Pro is equipped with the latest tap to focus feature.
- The previous DJI models auto adjusted the camera as the drone flew. The Mavic Pro has manual focusing which you can adjust by tapping at any area of your phone or tablet’s screen. The tapped area will come into sharp focus.
- Similar to the Phantom 4, the Mavic has obstacle avoidance from the front, along with the same flight modes. It also uses the dedicated DJI GO app, meaning that it should be able to work with third party apps in the future for more functionality. Overall, in terms of features, it blows the Karma out of the water.
WHICH DRONE SHOULD YOU BUY?
Now that we have provided you with all the information that we know on both drones, the better option in our opinion is the DJI Mavic because of its small size and the ton of automated features it offers. This is not to say that the GoPro Karma is a bad choice. GoPro never fails to deliver and its fans are definitely going to be happy with this latest release. We even think it is similar to the 3DR Solo drone, but made by GoPro.
What it will finally come down to is the cameras of the drones and the price. GoPro owners won’t have to spend a lot to get the Karma, and those who will want a small drone with as many functions and features as possible, will lean towards purchasing the DJI Mavic.