Update 11/10/16: Ding, Ding, Ding….We have a clear winner – DJI Mavic Pro.
Yesterday GoPro has announced a recall & refund program after consumers started reporting Karma falling from the sky unexpectedly. At this point the next steps for GoPro are unclear at best, but as of now it removes them from the drone race and hard to imagine they can easily recover from a full recall & refund program of their 1st product in this space. Its not easy doing what they did – but by the sounds of it doing a full recall and refund was the right thing to do. Karma can be good or bad…looks like it was bad this time.
Article Written on 9/27 – when it looked like we had two players in the ring ready to battle:
This is an exciting time for those interested in capturing their life events through the air with the release of the GoPro Karma (available 10/23) and the DJI Mavic Pro officially announced today (9/27 @ 11am EST). The Mavic Pro is available to pre-order today 9/27 and ships on 10/15.
Fresh off the GoPro Karma release at Photokina we had a feeling DJI would have many more FAB (features, advantages and benefits) packaged into their foldable drone Mavic Pro than Karma would…and boy…were we right. While both drones are designed to be portable and rich with features that make it easier for the novice drone operator there are some glaring differences between the two drones that put the DJI Mavic Pro in a league of its own in this category.
Let’s take a closer look at both.
Mavic Pro appears to have the edge in every category which would include but not limited to size, functionality, safety, features and all packed in at a lower price point.
Controller: Their OcuSynch Transmission System that allows you to see in full HD up to 4.3 miles away.
Modes of Capturing: The DJI Mavic Pro allows you to track, follow, parallel fly, orbit, spotlight on to your chosen subject.
Camera: Stabilized camera on 3 axis gimbal system, 4K 30fps, 12 MP with max exposure of 8 seconds.
Fun: Sport Mode is on the DJI Mavic Pro with up to 65km/h flight.
Accessories: Couple this experience with their DJI Goggles accessory and you are experiencing flight on the safety of the ground. Awesome.
Summary of Mavic Pro Specs:
Maximum Speed = 40 mph (15 m/s)
Maximum Distance = 8 miles (13km)
Maximum Flight Altitude = 16,404ft (5,500m)
Maximum Wind Resistance = 22mph (10m/s)
Flight time ~ 27 minutes
See the full specs here
Excerpts from the Karma video transcript as told by Nate Woodman, Founder and CEO of GoPro:
“Seeing life from the heavens, looking down….helps us be more aware of the incredible nature of our world. Thats what our brand is all about. Helping you capture and relive experiences that celebrate you as a human…and thats why we built Karma. Its not just aerial, its not just handheld, its not just wearable or mountable, Karma is all of these things…its a complete system.”
“We decided Karma needed to be more than a drone, it needed to be an end to end life capturing system.”
“You’d be surprised how easy the Karma is to fly.”
“The quality of content our customers will capture with Karma is going to change everything…again.”
As you probably have picked up by now Karma is all about “portability” and “ease of use”, but while they got close to nailing it, with the announcement of Mavic Pro today – they aren’t close enough.
Portability: Well, yes Karma is portable but when you size them up Karma vs Mavic Pro, DJI gets the box checked. Karma – large backpack. Mavic Pro – fits in much smaller bag with room for additional accessories. I don’t carry a handbag, but if I did – Mavic Pro would fit in it.
Ease of Use: They have keyed in on a series auto modes the Karma pilot can chose from to capture popular video perspectives sought when flying a drone. While these modes will help you capture most of what you are after, it falls short of what most users want, which is having the drone follow you.
The modes include
– Auto-take off and landing
– Cable-Cam mode where you can set two points and Karma will fly between them.
– Dronie mode where it goes directly up into the sky while focused on you, which is aka an aerial selfie.
– Reveal where it will tilt up slowly as it travels.
– Orbital where it will take a loop around you while its focused on you.
A quick glance at GoPro forums and their community seems VERY disappointed by the lack of this feature, however given there are no sensors for obstacle avoidance – it starts making sense that they could not include this feature. Can they address with a firmware update? No. Once obstacle avoidance sensors are included in Karma2+ the concept of taking your eye off the drone and having it follow you becomes a little more realistic.
On the plus side, GoPro continues the modular theme with their product line up with a removable gimbal to use with Karma Grip which is a killer feature with a Hero 5 that will certainly help people make the jump to the Karma system.
Karma comes in at a retail price of $799 which includes of course Karma (the drone) controller, stabilizer and grip, 1 battery and charger as well as an attractive case. Key to note does not include a GoPro camera and you will need a Hero4, Hero5 Session or Hero5. Currently offering a bundled package that would make the Karma + Session5 priced at $999 and the Karma + Hero5 would be $1,099.
Summary of specs published by GoPro for Karma:
Maximum Speed = 35 mph (15 m/s)
Maximum Distance = 3280ft (1000m)
Maximum Flight Altitude = 14,500ft (4,500m)
Maximum Wind Resistance = 22mph (10m/s)
Flight time ~ 20 minutes
Charging Time for Karma Battery = 1 hour
Charging Time for Karma Controller = 2.5 hours
Charging Time for Karma Grip = 2 hour
Pluses for Karma
1.) Removable Gimble with Karma Grip allows you to instantly upgrade your other GoPro videos by smoothing out the bumps along the way.
2.) Removable Camera Which would be the GoPro you attach whether it be the Hero4, Session5 or Hero5. Those that are familiar with these cameras will know exactly what to expect in terms of quality. This is a bit of a stretch as the Mavic Pro camera is impressive.
Minuses for Karma
1.) Lack of obstacle avoidance With DJI bringing this feature to the market through DJI Phantom 4 – this is something many soon to be pilots should be looking for to protect their drone investment.
2.) No Follow Mode however, for reasons noted above may have made it difficult for Karma to incorporate this feature.
3.) Price point $799 is only applicable if you already have a GoPro4 or were planning on upgrading to a Session5 or Hero5. Mavic Pro comes in at $749 without the radio controller, however you can control it via the app and/or hand gestures.
4.) Max Distance is only 1000m for Karma vs 13,000m (8miles) for Mavic Pro. Wow.
5.) Size which appears to be considerably larger than Mavic Pro making portability of Karma vs MavicPro in DJI favor.
6.) Ease of Use Auto modes noted above will certainly help the novice users capture high quality aerial video, but based on what we saw in the Mavic Pro press release DJI has GoPro beat here.
7.) Lack of accessories Add DJI Goggles to the experience with Mavic Pro and you are truly flying.
Which one am I pre-ordering? The Mavic Pro.
Beyond the FAB (features, advantages and benefits) which in and of themselves would be enough – DJI also has many more years experience in drone development, so it stands to reason they are much higher on the learning curve than GoPro is with Karma. While Karma is likely a fine drone, (see update above on recall – eek!) it is the GoPro 1st generation product which I try to never buy for obvious reasons. Beyond that, it is hard to ignore the differences between the two – so my money is on Mavic Pro over Karma.
What we like about GoPro being in the drone space is they will undoubtedly keep pushing and this is ultimately good for all of us interested in this type of photography/videography. Hopefully they will continue to try and “one up” each other…in that case – we as consumers, all win.
Due to Karma total recall and refund we’re glad we put our money on DJI