DJI Mavic Pro VS GoPro Karma — Clash of the Portables
Autonomous and portable camera drones have become a trend. Day after day, more and more people seek to own powerful and easy to control drones that enable them to record high quality videos and photos from the sky. Today, we take a look at two of the latest and most popular foldable drones in the market aimed at aerial photographers — the DJI Mavic Pro and GoPro Karma.
Both DJI and GoPro are some of the most innovative companies in the adventure gear market. DJI single-handedly kick-started the consumer quadcopter craze with its first Phantom drone several years ago while GoPro is well known for inventing the action camera as we know it today.
For years, many companies and RC enthusiasts have fitted GoPro cameras onto their drones, thanks to the high quality footage it is capable of taking relative to its size and weight. Realizing the high demand for their cameras on drones, the company has recently started venturing into the drone market with the release of its very first camera drone — the Karma. This brings GoPro into direct competition with DJI, at least on the portable camera drone scene.
Let’s take a look at how GoPro’s new kid on the block stacks up against the latest and arguably most popular drone from Shenzhen-based drone juggernaut DJI.
- Control distance
- Flight time
- Top speed
- Dimensions (folded)
- 7000m (4.3 miles)
- 27 minutes
- 18 m/s (40mph)
- 83 x 83 x 198mm
- 3000m (1.86 miles)
- 20 minutes
- 15 m/s (34mph)
- 90 × 224 × 356mm
The DJI Mavic Pro has an astonishing maximum control range of 7km — a first for a drone within this price range and size category. It is also very light and portable (83 x 83 x 198mm when folded) — perfect to fit in a backpack or even in your pocket. It comes with a proprietary design 11.4V 3830mAh battery that gives it a flight time of up to 27 minutes. The Mavic Pro also has an impressive maximum speed of 18 meters per second (in calm flying conditions).
On the other hand, the GoPro Karma has specifications that are slightly above average if you consider its price range (it’s more affordable than the DJI). It may not top the Mavic’s class-leading 7km control range but at 3km, that’s far enough for most pilots. In fact, it’s so far that you’d lose line of sight (not legal in some countries) of the drone. The Karma is powered by a 14.8V 5100mAh battery which gives it a flight time of about 20 minutes — shorter than the Mavic Pro due to the Karma’s less impressive power-to-weight ratio.
The Mavic Pro was designed to be ultra-portable and it succeeds very well in this respect. Its arms and propellers can be tucked into the main body, literarily shrinking it down to the size of a bottle, allowing you to fit it into small backpacks or pockets. This portability combined with its amazing flight stability and maneuverability makes the Mavic Pro ideal for both beginners who are used to flying toy drones and experts.
As expected from a DJI product, the Mavic Pro comes with a wide variety of smart flight features assisted by GPS and GLONASS positioning. A key feature on the Mavic Pro is obstacle avoidance made possible by a series of sensors on the drone. Smart Flight features include Follow Me, Orbit, Return to Home, TapFly and Waypoints. There is also the Gesture Control which allows people to take selfies by simply waving at the drone’s camera.
The Karma, unfortunately, does not have a suite of smart flight features that is comparable to the Mavic. It instead features a setup that is semi-autonomous. Although GPS is present, the Karma is only capable of basic features such as Return To Home and Position Hold. Since GoPro is still new to the drone business, this is not surprising. To make up for this lack of smart features, the Karma is larger for better flying stability and features a detachable camera gimbal system.
- Camera resolution
- Live video feed
- Camera stabilizer
- Detachable camera
- Obstacle avoidance
- Return to Home
- Waypoint navigation
- ActiveTrack (Follow, Orbit, Lead)
- Carrying case
- FPV monitor included
- 4K @ 30fps / 12MP stills
- HD 1080P
- 4K @ 30fps / 12MP stills
- HD 720P
The Mavic Pro is equipped with a 4K camera (stabilized by a 3-axis gimbal) which is capable of streaming live video to any smart device that has the DJI Go app installed. Although the camera gimbal system cannot be detached, it is one of the lightest and smallest that DJI has ever produced. The Mavic Pro can also be controlled solely using the DJI Go app (available for both Android and iOS) although flying it with the supplied transmitter (remote controller) provides better range.
Like the Mavic Pro, the Karma is also foldable although it is a lot larger than the Mavic when folded. GoPro ships the Karma with its own Karma Case so there is no need for you to figure out where to get a suitable one. The Karma is also compatible with various GoPro cameras such as the Hero 4, Hero 5 and GoPro Session.
To give its new drone even more value, GoPro bundles each Karma with the Karma Grip which allows users to use the drone’s camera gimbal system as a handheld device on the ground. It also comes with a transmitter that has a built-in FPV screen so there is no need for a separate smart device to view the video feed. When buying a Karma, you’re actually getting two products — an aerial photography drone and a handheld camera gimbal stabilizer. Other accessories included are the Karma Harness and Karma Mounting Ring.
Overall, it seems the DJI Mavic Pro has a bigger advantage over the GoPro Karma in both portability and features. It also has a longer control range and flight time and a faster top speed. The Karma, on the other hand, has its own set of strengths. It is more wind-resistant due to its heavier weight and is also the best drone for the new Hero 5 (and some earlier models) when it comes to integration. Not only that, the Karma’s 3-axis camera gimbal system can be detached and used with the Karma Grip on the ground. This is something that cannot be done with the DJI. It also comes with a carrying case and accessories that add plenty of value.
In the end, it really depends on your budget and needs. Comparing these two drones will never be a straightforward affair since both are different in size and features. One drone is made by a company that has already matured into an established brand in the business while the other by a company that still has its forte in action cameras and is still learning the ropes when it comes to building drones. Despite the recent debacle when Karma drones started crashing en masse due to power issues, GoPro looks set to stay in the drone business for the long term.
If you’re new to drones, I would recommend getting accustomed to them first with trainer drones and developing some flying skills. This is a good approach to take before you splash your money on any of these drones. I hope you enjoyed this article, happy flying fellow drone lovers!