The momentous day has arrived. Many months ago GoPro, a company that has until now had an interesting but distant relationship with the drone industry, announced that the Karma was coming. The Karma would be the first drone made by an industry outsider, and we all expected big things from such a big name in tech. And so the consumer drone industry has waited, and then waited some more after a surprise delay set back the Karma’s release.
So has it all been worth it? Does the Karma, despite being built by a company that until now has focused exclusively on cameras, stand up against the industry heavyweights? Is it affordable? Does it have any features that will blow you away? Was all the hype worth it? The answers to all these questions and more are finally here….
“So much more than a drone”…
That was the theme of GoPro CEO Nick Woodman’s grand unveiling. But in truth, the headline news of the day was probably GoPro’s new camera, the Hero 5, which comes in two models, Session and Black. It looks set to take the market by storm with a number of features, including impressive durability and voice control. But would any of these translate to the Karma?
No. Not apart from the 4K video offered by the company’s new cameras. At least Woodman didn’t mention anything specific. It’s pretty hard to use voice control when your drone is half a mile away. The Karma, as far as we can tell, is a pretty regular drone that won’t be taking the top end of the market by storm. DJI and Yuneec can breathe easy. The ultimate photography company hasn’t built the ultimate photography drone. But what GoPro has built is perhaps a drone that could go on to dominate the niche but growing extreme sports drone category.
One thing the Karma does have going for it is that you can take it apart and use its pieces separately. GoPro’s stabilisation tech can be utilized in selfie stick form – all you have to do is remove the ‘Karma Grip’ from the drone and use it with an attached camera. And of course the camera itself can be taken out and clipped to a helmet, bike, rucksack etc, or just held in your hands. It’s this modularity that will set the Karma apart from the rest.
How much does the GoPro Karma cost?
The Karma will retail at $799, and is compatible with GoPro’s Hero 4 and Hero 5 cameras.
If you want the Karma with GoPro’s latest Hero 5 camera, it’ll cost you $999 – not bad at all considering you get a drone, a 4K camera, and a stabilization stick as part of the bundle.
Competitors in the extreme sports drone market are averaging well over $1,000, so GoPro has placed the Karma well in that respect.
The GoPro Karma – The features you might not have noticed
A couple of things may have slipped under the radar among all the cheering and whooping at the Karma’s launch. First was an interesting feature that will be built into the GoPro app, called ‘Passenger’. This effectively allows you to share live footage with friends for them to watch on their devices – pretty cool.
The second was the interesting controller that GoPro has put together. It looks more like a GameBoy than your average flight remote. It’s got a touch screen, one button takeoff, and a return to home function, “all with the goal of creating a safe and responsible way to fly.”
The Karma is literally “more than a drone” – but not in the way we expected
Maybe we were naive, maybe we were sucked in by all the hype. But part of us was expecting an incredible drone for an incredible price, with incredible features, such as obstacle avoidance or 360-degree filming, to match the drones competing at the top of the market.
That’s not what we got. There’s also no word on the drone’s flight time or top speed, and there was no mention of obstacle avoidance tech in the launch event. These issues, along with the need for constant battery swaps, will continue to be the biggest barriers holding back true extreme sports photography.
What it puts into perspective is the different market GoPro is aiming its drone at: People who are new to drones, and who simply see the Karma as an accessory to the Hero 5 camera, not the other way around. When you look at it like this, it’s hard not to be impressed by the value for money offering here. Even if the drone itself is a little underwhelming.
We’ll bring you more news when we have it.