GoPro Karma Grip full review
The Karma drone is not yet back on sale in the UK, but you can buy the Karma Grip, which is the handheld stabiliser that works with the Hero 5 Black and Hero 4 Black or Silver. It's similar to DJI's Osmo Mobile, which instead of holding an action camera, uses your phone and it's in-built camera.
GoPro Karma Grip review: Price
You can also buy it from GoPro's website and, in the US, it costs $299.99.
DJI's Osmo Mobile originally launched at the same £289 price, but has now gone up to £319. Yet it still costs $299, and you can buy it from Apple in the UK for £289.
GoPro Karma Grip review: Features and design
Unlike the more sculpted, ergonomic design of the Osmo Mobile, the Karma Grip looks a bit basic with a relatively simple 'tube' design.
Its buttons are covered by a rubbery membrane, and it has no trigger or joystick like the Osmo. Plus, the battery isn't removable like the Osmo's and it has to be charged via USB-C.
The price doesn't include a camera, so if you don't have a Hero 5 Black, add another £349. That's £639 in total.
But while this sounds very negative, there is a whole lot to like about the Karma Grip.
For a start, the built-in battery lasts for ages - we think GoPro's 1 hour, 45 minute claim is conservative. And the battery can charge the Hero's battery to keep it recording for longer. Also, when you connect a USB-C cable to the port on the bottom of the Grip, you can use it to transfer footage from the camera without removing it from the frame, and if attached to a charger, it will charge both batteries at the same time.
Use a standard phone charger and it will take six hours to recharge from empty, but just under two hours with GoPro's Supercharger.
Naturally, the buttons on the Grip's handle control the camera's functions, so you can change modes, start and stop recording (or take a photo) and mark highlights, just as you can with the camera's own buttons.
There's one extra control, which lets you lock the tilt angle of the camera. If you don't use this, the lens will always point dead ahead and remain vertical.
In most cases, that's exactly what you want, which means you don't need to learn any controls or techniques to immediately get great, smooth footage out of the box. Just walk around and the Karma Grip does its stuff to take the wobble and jerkiness out.
Of course, the Hero 5 Black now has electronic stabilisation, so there's an argument that you don't really need a Karma Grip for them. And it is a bit annoying that the included frame (which GoPro calls a 'harness') is only compatible with the Hero 5 Black: you have to buy a separate harness for a Hero 4.
This costs $29.99 and isn't available in the UK yet, but will cost £30 when it is. Oddly, there's no compatibility with either version of the Session camera yet. Swapping harnesses is as simple as undoing a couple of Allen bolts on the back to remove the current one, and then tightening them back up when the new one is slotted in.
What you do get in the box is a quick-release clamp that attaches to the top of the Grip below the gimbal and allows you to use almost any standard GoPro mount. This means it can be used hands-free and still provide stable footage when walking, cycling, hang gliding, or whatever it is you're doing.
To fit the clamp, you first have to unlock and remove the gimbal, slip on the clamp and then reassemble the Grip. If you buy the drone, the three-axis gimbal is shared between the drone and Grip handle, but there's rarely any need to separate the halves if you just buy the Grip.
GoPro Karma Grip review: Performance
We've already talked about the great battery life, but what surprised us was how we didn't miss the DJI Osmo's trigger and joystick as much as we thought we would.
The Karma Grip is so intuitive that you can get smooth pans and smooth movement in a straight line without them.
Both systems offer very stable footage, but the Karma somehow manages to iron out the vertical movement from walking a little better than the Osmo. It isn't gone completely, but you have to look for it to spot it.
And to answer the question, "Do you even need a Karma Grip if you have a Hero 5 Black?", then the answer is a definitive yes. The difference between the two systems is massive. Although the Hero 5's electronic system is in itself a massive improvement on no stabilisation (as you got with previous GoPro's) video is still a little wobbly, even if it's vastly more watchable.
Add the Karma Grip and you step up to professional levels of stabilisation.
GoPro Karma Grip: Specs
- 3-axis stabiliser
- Compatible with: Hero 5 Black (Hero 4 Black / Silver with optional harness)
- Weight: 487g
- Non-removable battery
- Battery life: 1 hour, 45 minutes