Recently action camera-maker GoPro announced its foray into the world of drones when it unveiled the GoPro Karma. The Karma thrilled enthusiasts with its folding, portable design, mounted GoPro Hero camera, and removable, handheld gimbal stabilization system. GoPro began congratulating themselves, giddy with the realization that they had become a serious competitor to the existing drone leader, DJI. That is until a week later, when DJI announced their ultra compact DJI Mavic Pro, which bested the GoPro Karma’s specs in nearly every way.
Both the GoPro Karma and DJI Mavic Pro offer features and compactness that are guaranteed to appeal to the travel community – specifically travel bloggers and photographers dedicated to providing a wide variety of new and unique content to their audience.
But which of these two is the best offering at this early stage? Each has a number of pros and cons that users should be evaluated before deciding on the right drone for their purpose. Our handy guide should help you narrow down your decision before plunking down your hard-earned cash.
The GoPro Karma has a maximum speed of 35 mph (56.3 kph). The maximum distance for the Karma is 1.86 miles (3 km). It can fly for up to 20 minutes on a single battery. The Karma can reach altitudes of 14,500 feet (4,500 m).
The GoPro Karma has a few automated feature, including return-to-home and orbit, but lacks an obstacle avoidance system. It’s unclear whether the Karma will offer a “follow me” function, but GoPro would be insane not to include such functionality given its adventurous fan base. The Karma can take a selfie (dronie?) with a couple taps on the controller’s touchscreen display.
The DJI Mavic Pro has a maximum speed of 40 mph (65 kph) while in Sport mode. The maximum distance for the Karma is 4.3 miles (7 km). It can fly for up to 27 minutes on a single battery. The Karma can reach altitudes of 16,404 feet (5,000 m).
The DJI Mavic Pro has several intelligent flight modes. It uses a host of sensors and cameras as an obstacle avoidance system to keep you from crashing your drone.
The Mavic Pro features object tracking, with cool follow modes that fly in front or around you as you move.
In addition, the Mavic Pro boasts a gesture control system. For example, moving your hands in the shape of a square prompts the drone to take a selfie (dronie?).
One of the main features of both drones is the fact that they fold up for easy transport and storage.
Folded up, the GoPro Karma measures 14.4 x 8.8 x 3.5 inches (365 x 224 x 90 mm). The Karma weighs 2.22 pounds (1,006 g).
Folded up, the DJI Mavic Pro measures 7.8 x 3.3 x 3.3 inches (198 x 83 x 83 mm). The Mavic Pro weighs 1.62 pounds (734 g).
The GoPro Karma can be outfitted with the new GoPro HERO5 Black, which has a 1/2.3-inch, 12 megapixel CMOS sensor. The HERO5 Black camera is capable of shooting both JPEG and RAW photos as well as 4K video at up to 30fps and 1080p resolution at 120fps.
In addition, the GoPro Karma also accepts the HERO Session, and HERO4 Black/Silver cameras. If you already own one of these cameras, the Karma is a great way to utilize your existing gear while saving money.
The GoPro Karma camera is capable of a range of motion from -90º to 0º (down/up). GoPro cameras feature a wide-angle lens, although the field of view depends on the camera model.
The built-in camera on the DJI Mavic Pro uses a 1/2.3-inch, 12-megapixel CMOS sensor. The camera is capable of shooting both JPEG and RAW photos as well as 4K video at up to 30fps and 1080p resolution at 96fps.
The camera is mounted to the drone, so you can’t use it while you’re not flying the drone. (I have, however, seen a DJI drone camera used as a handheld camera in order to utilize the image stabilization feature.)
The DJI Mavic Pro camera is capable of a range of motion from -90º to +30º (pitch), and has the ability to roll. The camera lens has a 28mm wide angle lens with a 78.8 degree field of view.
Both cameras have 3-axis gimbal image stabilization which assures that your footage comes out silky smooth. But the most impressive feature of the GoPro Karma is that the stabilizing gimbal can be removed from the drone and attached to the included Karma Grip for fluid, shake-free handheld recording. This gives the GoPro Karma extra versatility of video recording over the DJI Mavic Pro.
The GoPro Karma ships with a video game-inspired controller that opens up clamshell-style. The controller features a 5-inch touchscreen that shows real-time views from the drone’s camera in 720p resolution. The controller packs up nicely into the backpack that comes with the Karma.
GoPro has announced the GoPro Passenger app, which lets others view and control the GoPro camera from their smartphone while you fly the drone.
The DJI Mavic Pro has an optional controller, meaning you can instead operate the device from your phone. The separate controller features an LCD screen with essential flight info and can be paired with a smartphone for auto-flight features and real-time views from the drone’s camera in 1080p.
DJI is touting its DJI Goggles, a headset that allow you to see what the drone’s camera sees. When wearing the goggles, your head movements will control the drone’s movements.
The GoPro Karma sells for $799, which includes the drone and remote control, but not the camera. The addition of a GoPro HERO Session camera brings the price to $999. And the drone plus a GoPro HERO5 Black camera increases the price to $1,099.
The DJI Mavic Pro sells for $749, which includes the drone only. While the drone can be controlled directly from a smart phone or tablet, the addition of a remote control brings the price to $999. DJI offers a “Fly More Combo” that includes the drone, controller, extra batteries, chargers, and a case for $1,299.
Pros and Cons
- Shoots 4K video
- Versatile, removable gimbal allows smooth, handheld video
- Extensive ecosystem of accessories
- Works with older GoPro Hero cameras
- Simple remote with touchscreen setup.
- Larger, heavier, and slower than the Mavic Pro
- Less flight time on single battery charge
- No obstacle avoidance system
- Limited intelligent flight modes
- Shoots 4K video
- Extremely collapsible; folds smaller than the Karma
- Lighter than the Karma
- Flies faster, farther, and longer on single charge
- Intelligent flight modes
- Obstacle avoidance systems
- Cheaper (if purchasing drone-only and using smartphone control)
- Compact remote
- One-trick pony; does one thing very well
- Built-in camera can’t be removed for other uses
It’s impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between the GoPro Karma and the DJI Mavic Pro. The cameras are pretty much the same in specs, assuming you are pairing a GoPro HERO5 Black with the Karma.
The GoPro has the added benefit of more customization with its detachable camera and grip system – giving you the chance to shoot your own handheld footage, as well as using the drone to get aerial shots. In addition, GoPro is pitching the Karma as “more than a drone” because it plugs into the company’s exhaustive ecosystem of accessories. If you currently own a GoPro camera, the Karma would quickly get you up and running with aerial photography.
On the other hand, the DJI Mavic Pro flies ahead in nearly every spec. The Mavic is more portable, lighter, faster, flies farther, and is more intelligent than the GoPro Karma. The DJI Mavic Pro is also cheaper than the GoPro if you compare it to the full HERO5 Black setup on the Karma. If you are in the market for your first drone and portability and features are important to you, the Mavic Pro would be a great choice.
The decision for which is right for you eventually comes down to whether you prefer power and better specs of the Mavic or the super ecosystem provided by the Karma.