Gear Review: GoPro Karma Drone

     After a "failed release" as reported by many angry GoPro consumers around the world, as well as locally here in the United States, my Karma drone has arrived. After ordering at 12:05am on October 23, and then with two days of processing, my drone has arrived on the 27th. Which is much better than a lot of people have been told for their drone, or for those who thought they would be picking up the Karma in person at local stores like Best Buy. I bought the Karma + Hero 5 package so I saved $100 overall if I had bought them separately, with a total price tag of $1,099 + taxes. Overall that isn't bad, especially when you consider that Karma is much more than a drone, wow I am starting to sound like Nick Woodman in my head. I would like to say that in those two days I made countless calls to GoPro and probably annoyed the crap out of them, enough that someone called the warehouse and said please send it so this madness will stop.

     The unboxing, well Fedex gets here late for no good reason, and they wouldn't let me switch my delivery to go to the Fedex location 500 feet from my work, so Fedex please work on that. Moving on, this got here right about when I expected the package to arrive, and I wasn't one of those people who expected it on Tuesday, although that would have been awesome. Check out the video to see the unboxing, and since the video is brief, I will explain more below and include some photos.

 Items contained in the bag.

Items contained in the bag.

     So, Karma is at the door, I open the box, and there is a great case/backpack for Karma, and everything is inside of it. With chargers on one side, and the Kama Grip on the other, with a small GoPro bag that contains the accessories associated with your GoPro Hero 5 Black (since I had the package deal). On one end of the bag is the controller, that, with propellers under it in a box. On the side of the box are two tools, that are meant to be used if case you crash, since propellers may tighten, these tools are made to help you get the broken propellers off the drone, and your drone back in the air.

     I don't talk at all in the unboxing video, and that is partially because how do you explain a new product in 5 seconds when you're just opening it. Now I have owned it for about an hour and had the time to really get a feel for it, and use the simulator. Karma feels good, it doesn't feel like it was poorly built, which was a concern of mine with the whole system for folding up. Everything is easy to lock into place and unfold and refold when the time comes. Releasing the stabilizer from the drone is actually really easy, as long as you remember that the symbol facing up is how you know if it is locked or unlocked, not that that is the direction to turn the latch, maybe I should have read the instructions. I will get into the Karma Grip in a second post. 

     Speaking of the stabilizer, it feels very secure in Karma, and the GoPro is a pretty tight fit, but I like that, it feels good in the stabilizer and I don't think its going to break or have a Karma in the air while a GoPro decided to learn to parachute. I am 75% sure you could not lock the GoPro into the stabilizer and still have it stay in, although I do not recommend that at all. 

     The Karma case is a really cool feature(?) that they include with the purchase of your package. It holds everything you need to fly Karma or use the hand grip. The downside is that there is not enough room to fit spare batteries in the case with everything else. That being said, if you are not planning on using the grip or chargers you could probably remove them and ft four spare batteries in the sides of the case, along with one battery in Karma. The bag is comfortable to wear and features an incorporated shoulder mounting point, just like the GoPro Seeker.

 Karma almost ready to fly, to bad rain is here.

Karma almost ready to fly, to bad rain is here.

 Updates will be required before flight.

Updates will be required before flight.

 Karma; obviously no props on it.

Karma; obviously no props on it.

     Now, the real question is how does Karma fly and respond. Now I will admit that I am a novice when it comes to drones, and have owned a 3DR Solo in the past, but that is really it. The first thing I notice about the Karma Controller is how the screen is all part of the controller, which means I don't need my phone or iPad, so that is a major plus for me. Holding the Karma controller, personally, feels really comfortable. Its not a perfectly smooth texture, so it does have some grip, and I like the control setup and how it fits in my hands, although this may not be the case for everyone, especially if you are much more accustomed to another drone or type of controller. After using the included flight simulator I do have to say that the controls are pretty generic in terms of flight, while changing camera modes is really easy, and you have the additional capabilities of adding a HiLight tag to your videos while in flight, a major plus.

First Flight

     My first flight with Karma was cut very short due to wind gusts and the incoming rain. Once Karma was in the air I turned around and noticed that I could see the rain coming in fast, so Karma came down. The landing was a bit rough due to wind gusts making Karma bounce a little. I had aimed the camera down so you could see the amount of "bounce" that Karma had in its height due to the wind blowing. Video shot in 1080 Linear with a Hero 5 Black. Karma handled great and was super easy to fly, although I still need to get accustomed to flying again.

More Flights

     Today I was able to hit the beach, and test out Karma more than yesterday. Testing today included trying out some of the smart shots, but I began with a distance test to see how far away I could get before I had any video breakup on the controller screen. In my case, this was almost exactly 2000ft away. I also tried out the Reveal auto shot, and it worked great, but when I tried the Dronie (Drone Selfie that does a reveal by flying away from you and up) I misunderstood the directions (skipped the video) and set it about 300ft away and hit start, to which it began blacking up even higher and further away, my bad. Todays videos were shot in 4K 30FPS Wide on the Hero 5 Black. 

My Tip: There is a "radar" looking icon at the bottom left of the Karma Controller screen while you are flying. Keep that in the green to get the maximum distance. Im not sure if they are related, but if I began to face away from Karma while it was flying, the radar would turn red, when I turned back it would turn green. My observation is that the top right of the controller is the corner that should be  facing Karma in the air (directly straight out of the controller though, not at a 45 degree angle)

     Since my first distance test was on the beach, and started with an altitude of 30ft, I decided that launching from a more "congested" are, flying higher, and just going for a short flight would be another good indicator of the distance that Karma may be able to achieve. In the launch area (between three houses) there was approximately 10-15 different WiFi signals. During this flight, I flew directly up to about 350 feet, and then out to about 1,200 feet above a river, and circled back over the houses where Karma may have been more likely to get interference. Once again this was shot in 4K 30FPS Wide. I would like to talk about how loud Karma is, or in my mind how quiet Karma is in comparison to the 3DR Solo. When Karma first reached consumers, some people had been saying how loud Karma was, but I disagree and think that Karma is quieter than Solo, which makes me happy since I fly in an area that people come to enjoy, and a loud drone could disturb that.

Stabilizer Issue

     In my next video I was testing the dronie auto flight again, and now I know how to use it properly, so it worked awesome. The only issue with this flight was the stabilizer. A few other people have raised concern over this issue, and I hadn't had it bad until this flight. My goal was to continue the flight to see if flying would correct the issue, but in the end it did not. The fix for this was to land, put the drone as close to level as possible, and then restart the drone. That fixed the issue for me. From what I can tell the cause seems to be from turning Karma on while it is not even close to level, I was holding Karma in my hand when I turned it on before this flight. So I would just make a note to turn it on when it is close to level now.

Photos From 400 Feet

     After fixing the stabilizer issue by landing Karma, and restarting while level, I decided to finally try out using Karma to capture some photos. This was the first time really using my Hero 5 Black to capture any photos, and I have to say I am really happy with the quality, thanks to the 12MP camera. During some shots I was flying Karma in whatever direction, so the steady pictures are awesome to see. All photos were taken from about 400ft.

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More Testing

     So testing today was all about how fast the drone can go from the ground to 400ft (max legal altitude here in the United States) and how stable the camera would be. So to test the speed from 0 to 400, you guessed it, I gunned it and just waited. The Karma got to max height in a total of 28 seconds, which I do not think is a bad speed. Testing the stabilizers ability to keep the camera smooth, meant I got to fly a little wild. I would fly from side to side and front to back in random intervals and just slam the sticks from one corner to the next randomly. The results were impressive.

Max Height Test

Testing The Stabilizer

Cable Cam Testing

     Cable cam is one of the last features that I need to test for the auto shots on Karma. A question was raised if you would be able to rotate, presumably to follow an object as you pass it, the drone to keep the camera aimed where you want it while in a cable cam, or is this not possible. Luckily it is possible to rotate the drone in the middle of a cable cam shot. I attached a video of this, I ended up just spinning the drone in the cable cam and rotating it back and forth, but the footage was shot in 2.7K 60FPS Medium, I uploaded the file directly to Youtube, so hopefully it is in that format still. Sorry for the two posted above as I exported them at 1080p without realizing.

GoPro Karma Recall

     For those of us that already own a GoPro Karma, please follow the steps on the GoPro website by CLICKING HERE to begin the return process of the Karma Package. GoPro began this recall after there was a small number of reports that the drone suddenly lost power and fell out of the sky. They will be issuing full refunds. The webpage also allows you to sign up for notifications when the package becomes available again.

     Update: The GoPro Karma has been re-released and is now for sale. (Late posting this, but I just ordered and picked mine up). 


Related Reviews

GoPro Hero 5 Black

GoPro Karma Hand Grip - Coming Soon

GoPro Seeker Backpack - Coming Soon


Additional Photos and Videos

 Before takeoff on the beach.

Before takeoff on the beach.

 Range testing, ~2000ft before any video flicker.

Range testing, ~2000ft before any video flicker.

 Karma from above and silver tools for prop removal.

Karma from above and silver tools for prop removal.


Micro SD Card Capacities - Based on 32GB

Time / Number of Photos

2 Hours 2 Minutes

1 Hour 4 Minutes

1 Hour 4 Minutes

12,119

Setting

1080 60 L

2.7K  60 L

4K     30 W

12MP Photos (All settings)


I would like to include a brief disclaimer about this entire blog, and the series of blogs covering GoPro products. I am in no way associated with GoPro in any way other than as a consumer. All products have been bought personally in the same time frames given to anyone else in the United States. They have not paid me or probably ever seen any of my product reviews.