GoPro's Karma must have flown into a few mirrors as it left the factory in 2016, as a battery disconnect issue among early models led to a full product recall in November of that year.

It was a bad time for the action cam maker, but after some reworking its debut drone is back. Unfortunately for GoPro, its competitors haven’t stood still, and the likes of DJI’s Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro models have raised the affordable quadcopter stakes to new heights.

The Karma’s not a bad product by any means and has some unique talents, but I found that it struggles to match up to its rivals on several important fronts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GoPro Karma extras: Shooting from the grip

The Karma Grip is a really smart addition to the package. Pop the camera gimbal off the drone via a simple unlocking mechanism, insert it into the Grip’s handle and, just like that, you have a stabilised handheld camera.

It’s a little like a simplified DJI Osmo, lacking some of the finer points but delivering a similarly smooth brand of video when you’re moving. There’s some bob evident when you’re walking, but it’s not the nausea-inducing shaky stuff you’d ordinarily get from a handheld action cam.

The Grip’s also compatible with GoPro’s mount system, so you can attach it securely to a car or bike, or to the left strap of the Karma’s backpack to make it into a nicely stabilised body cam.

Controls on the handle let you switch the Hero5 Black between video, photo, burst and time-lapse modes and stop and start recording. In order to change other settings, you’ll need to tap the Hero5’s touchscreen, which can be a bit tricky with the gimbal mount in the way.

DRONE-ING ON

GoPro Karma video: Sound footage

With the GoPro Hero5 Black on board for both the Karma drone and Karma Grip, footage is impressive.

This is GoPro’s best-specced action camera, a tiny block that's able to capture 12MP stills and 4K footage at 30fps, as well as 1080p at up to 120fps and 720p at up to 240fps, storing it all on a microSD card.

The Hero5’s footage isn’t noticeable better than that of the DJI Phantom 4 or Mavic Pro, which offer a similar range of recording modes, but it does the job well: 4K shots are beautifully detailed, while lower-resolution clips boast an attractive smoothness of motion.

A note of caution: wider angle modes exhibit a very strong fisheye effect (in 4K, you can’t avoid it at all). That makes sense when the Hero5 is being used as an action cam (it fits in more action), but I find less desirable for an aerial camera. It’s really a matter of personal preference I suppose, but it’s worth noting that DJI drones record 4K without the fisheye.

LIKE A BIRD

GoPro Karma bonus extra: take a Passenger

A nifty little extra comes in the form of the GoPro Passenger app for iOS and Android.

Get your mates to install that on their smartphones or tablets and they can pair up with the Karma via Wi-Fi, getting a personal live stream of the camera’s point-of-view (up to three devices can connect at any one time).

Not only that, they can control the camera, meaning you can concentrate on the flying.

GoPro Karma verdict

As a package, the Karma has undeniable appeal, especially for those already well invested in the GoPro system of mounts and cameras.

It’s a well-built, all-in-one airborne and handheld stabilisation setup that fits into a slim, lightweight backpack. And the Hero5 Black’s image quality does the job nicely.

As a flying camera platform, it’s less impressive. With lower range and fewer safety features than its chief rivals, and no “follow me” mode, it just doesn’t offer as advanced a feature set as we’d expect from a quadcopter in this price bracket.

With the Mavic Pro and Phantom 4, DJI is streets ahead of (or should that be feet above) GoPro at the moment – but there’s promise here, and hopefully Karma’s next reincarnation will fix the issues and offer up something with bigger all-round appeal.

Buy the GoPro Karma here from Currys PC World

GoPro Karma: sample still images

 

Tech Specs 
Top speed
35mph
Drone weight
1006g
Drone battery life
Up to 20 minutes
Controller
5in, 720p touchscreen
Controller battery life
Four hours
Karma Grip battery life
1.75 hours
Karma case dimensions
540x320x150mm
Stuff says... 

GoPro Karma review

A simple, all-in-one drone system for GoPro fans, but it's still very much flying in DJI's slipstream
£1,200
Good Stuff 
A complete package in a slim backpack
Handy Karma Grip accessory
Simple flight controls
Good build quality
Bad Stuff 
No obstacle detection or indoor sensors
Low transmission range
No “follow me” flight mode
Short battery life

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