If you’re looking to buy a drone for photography there are lot of choices out there. The GoPro Karma has lots going for it including the fact that it’s a recognised photography brand and it’s also a bloody good drone.
If you’re already a GoPro user then the Karma is a great fit even if you’ve never flown a drone in your life.
Other brands are little more intimidating and involved when it comes to flying and this can take the focus off the photography aspect of the whole thing.
The GoPro Karma has addressed this and right out of the box because it’s really easy to fly.
It’s a more on-rails experience to get the drone into the air so you can focus on what you’d like to photograph or film.
On the design side, the Karma has a sleek elongated body and folding props and landing gear so when you’re done it packs down to a smaller size and sits nicely inside the backpack that comes with it.
The camera is located on the front of the drone on a gimbal – you can either BYO GoPro Hero Black5 or the Hero4 Black and Silver or opt to pay extra for the drone to get the camera as well.
What you also get with the Karma drone is the Karma Grip which means you can detach the stabilizer from the drone and attach it to the grip and you’ve got a handheld solution to shoot while on the ground.
So how easy is it to fly? Very easy.
The controller for the GoPro Karma has a built-in screen so you don’t have to fidget around with your phone and download an app.
The controller steps you through the pre-flight steps before one-button take-off and landings.
But while you’re in the air it’s just as easy. The Karma has excellent stability and GPS positioning even in high winds.
Its flat and elongated body makes it even more wind resistant so your images and videos are smooth.
One thing it doesn’t have is collision sensors – you need to pay more than a $1000 more for a drone with those features – so you need to fly in areas that are clear and away from buildings.
Most of the time the video we shot was smooth as silk but there were occasions when the drones vibrations made it through to the footage and showed up as slight juddering.
But that was a rarity with the hours of video we shot with the Karma.
And it’s a good thing you’ve got such an excellent camera with the Hero5 Black which is capable of shooting 4K video at 30 frames per second and 12-megapixel stills.
The Karma makes it easy to shoot like a pro like with flight modes. These include
– Orbit where you set the centre point and the circumference and the drone films smoothly around the centre.
– Reveal sets the camera to tilt upwards slowly over a determined distance to reveal a point of interest.
– Circuit allows pilots to set a path where the drone can travel back and forth either flying forward or backwards.
– Selfie – also called a dronie – where you can set the drone to focus on you and fly up and away.
And of course, it’s easy enough to fly straight and sideways as well as up and down to capture some pretty stunning video.
GoPro says the onboard battery has a flight time of up to 20 minutes but we averaged about 15 minutes per charge.
But one of the few issues we had with the battery was the inability to set a safety point for the battery so we receive an alert when it hits that percentage – for example with 25 per cent remaining.
One of our first flights with the GoPro Karma we heard the low battery warning and were instructed to land the drone.
We did what we were told and on the way back to the take-off spot, we were then given an extremely low battery warning barely 30 seconds later.
Another 20 seconds later we had the Karma back and about to land it and it dropped to the ground from a foot above the ground.
Thankfully that was a one-off and didn’t happen again but being able to manage the battery more efficiently would make pilots (including this one) a lot more comfortable especially when you fly the Karma out over water and along sea cliffs.
But overall, the GoPro Karma was a joy to fly and a great tool to capture stunning images and videos.
Whether you’ve never flown a drone before or are a licensed pilot, the Karma is a great choice.
It’s also pretty good value when you consider you get the drone, a controller with built-in screen and the Karma Grip Handle as well as a backpack to easily carry everything around for $1,350 or $1,750 with the GoPro Hero5 Black camera.
Karma is a great first attempt by GoPro at building a photography drone for fans of the brand who have more interest in capturing great images and videos in the air and on the ground than spending extra time learning to fly a complicated drone.
At the end of the day, Karma is basically a flying mount for your GoPro camera instead of a camera you take for a ride.