With the recent release of GoPro’s Karma drone and the DJI Mavic, these next few weeks are going to be an extremely busy time for the drone industry. This also brings up the question “what drone should I buy, Karma or Mavic?”. Since the Karma isn’t available yet and GoPro didn’t send us one to review, we don’t know everything there is to know about it, but we know exactly what the Mavic has and how it works, since we had a review unit to test out for a few days.
Before reading you should know, I’m not brand loyal to either company. I use GoPro cameras and DJI equipment regularly and I try to use the best tool for the job. This article does have my opinions in it though, so if you’re looking for a comparison from someone with no past drone or camera experience then you may want to look elsewhere.
The Truth About Karma
So what is the GoPro Karma and what makes it different from all of the other drones out there today? From what I understand, the advantage that GoPro is advertising is how easy it is to use, and the versatility of being able to use the GoPro Hero 4, Hero 5 or Session cameras with it.
GoPro says you should be able to fly the Karma with little to no experience with drones, and capture amazing shots with some of it’s preprogramed flight modes. Unfortunately there’s no follow features on the Karma. You get a 2 point cable cam mode, dronie mode, reveal mode, and orbit mode. These are the same features that other drone manufacture has had for the past year.
Another thing that I thought was strange about the Karma is that there are no sensors on the bottom of the drone. Sensors like cameras and ultrasonics are what make drones more stable when hovering or when GPS isn’t available and the Karma doesn’t have any of these things. This means that the Karma is not going to be a good choice if you ever want to fly it indoors.
The technical specs for the Karma are pretty good. The max controlling range is about 1000 meters, flight time is 20 minutes (in best conditions), max speed is 35mph and the weight is about 1000g (2.2 pounds). The video quality should be really nice, but that will also depend on what GoPro you buy, and there’s always going to be that famous GoPro wide angle effect whether you like that look or not. There is a new linear shooting mode which will try to remove the fisheye effect by stretching the image out (making it look linear), but it doesn’t get rid of distortion, as all ultra wide angle lenses will have distortion in them. This is because the field of view is so wide, that you can’t fit the image on a flat plane such as a monitor without distorting it.
When you think about the Karma and what it’s actually capable of, It seems like the main advantage that you get is a drone that works with the camera that you already have. whether you have the GoPro Hero 4, Hero 5 or Session, the fact that you can take the camera and gimbal off of the drone and use it as a free hand held stabilized camera is a great feature and I’m sure it’s going to help them sell more Karmas. The question that you should be asking yourself is, will that versatility be worth it?
The Truth About Mavic
GoPro says that the karma is a foldable drone, made to be taken with you everywhere. However it’s not that small when folded up. The Karma is still a drone that I would need a specially made case for when transporting it. The Mavic is a completely different story. You can fit the Mavic into almost any backpack or bag. Here’s some examples of what the Mavic fits into.
Considering that all of DJI’s drones since the Phantom 3 have been really easy to use, there’s no reason to think that the Karma will beat the Mavic in this area, but I guess we won’t know until both drones are tested. We’ve flown the Mavic and there’s nothing hard or complicated about using it. You don’t even have to use an intimidating controller if you don’t want to.
Remember when I said the Karma Doesn’t have any sensors on the bottom, well the Mavic has two cameras for 3D vision positioning and ultrasonic sensors for accurate hight holding. Not only that, it also has dual gyros, accelerometers and compasses for more accurate data and redundancy. all of these features work together in the background, so you don’t have to worry about setting any of this up.
Just like the Phantom 4 the Mavic has front facing obstacle avoidance, and it has all of the same flight modes like tap fly and active track. It also uses the DJI Go app, which means that it should work with third party apps for additional functionality in the future. in other words, it’s hands down a much more feature rich drone than the Karma.
The Mavic doesn’t have a removable camera, so this will most likely be its main drawback. If you want to shoot videos on the ground, then you will have to carry the Mavic in your hands, or buy another camera. This could be a deal breaker for people on a tight budget, but on the other hand if you have two cameras, you could then capture ground footage and aerial footage at the same time.
Which Drone Should You Buy?
Based on everything we know, I would say that the DJI Mavic is going to be the better choice because of how small it is and the additional automated features that it has. I’m not saying that the GoPro Karma is going to be a bad drone at all. I think all of the GoPro owners out there are going to love it. In a way, it’s almost like the 3DR Solo drone, but made by GoPro. I think what it comes down to is price. People who have GoPros and don’t want to spent as much money will probably get the Karma, and people who want the smallest drone with the most features are going to get the Mavic.