GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom – Can the Karma compete?

DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma

As you may have noticed, we’ve ignored the GoPro Karma up until now, even though some of you have asked us to do a GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom 4 comparison.

Edit: as you probably know, DJI released the DJI Mavic and it makes more sense to compare that one to the GoPro Karma instead. So we’ve done that for you as well. Just click here to see our DJI Mavic vs GoPro Karma comparison.

We didn’t do that yet as there really wasn’t a lot of information about the GoPro Karma out there.

A lot of speculation? Yes. But information? No.

That all changed yesterday as GoPro launched the GoPro Karma in a press event.

So now that we know more we’ll take a look at the 2 for you and we’ll see how the GoPro Karma vs Phantom 4 comparison turns out. In fact, we’ll just make it GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom comparison so you have a good idea of how the GoPro Karma drone stacks up against the Phantom 3 as well.

We should start with some disclaimers though.

First, we think that the GoPro Karma shouldn’t really be compared to the DJI Phantom. It makes much more sense to compare it to the DJI Mavic. But as the Phantom is the market leader and the Mavic hasn’t been released yet, it’s unavoidable.

Second, as always, we like DJI products so we might be a bit biased. But we’ll try our best not to let that show and to do an objective comparison.

With that out of the way, there’s just one thing left. If you want some more background information on the DJI Products, you can read our Phantom 4 review here and  you can find our Phantom 3 vs Phantom 4 comparison here. We’ll wait for you while you read those.

Ready? Ok, let’s get on with it!

First of all, what is the GoPro Karma?

GoPro Karma with ControllerThe GoPro Karma is GoPro’s drone that comes with a handheld stabilizer.

Or rather, you can remove the gimbal from the GoPro Karma drone and attach it to the GoPro Karma Grip which turns it into a handheld gimbal.

This handheld stabilizer is comparable to the DJI Osmo Mobile in that they’re both handheld gimbals that accept an external camera.

For the GoPro Karma Grip, that is obviously a GoPro Hero.

The DJI Osmo Mobile, as the name implies, holds various mobile phone models and uses their camera in combination with the DJI Go App.

How does the GoPro Karma stack up vs the DJI Phantom 4?

Join us as we go through some of the specs and features:

GoPro KarmaDJI Phantom 4DJI Phantom 3 ProDJI Phantom 3 Standard
Speed15 m/s20 m/s (Sport mode)16 m/s (ATTI mode, no wind)16 m/s (ATTI mode, no wind)
Flight TimeUp to 20 minutesApprox. 28 minutesApprox. 23 minutesApprox. 25 minutes
Weight35.5oz (1006g)48oz (1380 g)45oz 1280 g)45oz (1280 g)
Visual Positioning SystemNo+/- 0.3 m accurate+/- 1.5 m accurateNo
Handheld GimballYesNoNoNo
FoldableYesNoNoNo
Range3280ft/1000mFCC Compliant: 3.1 mi ( 5 km ); CE Compliant: 2.2 mi ( 3.5 km )FCC Compliant: 3.1 mi ( 5 km ); CE Compliant: 2.2 mi ( 3.5 km )FCC: 3280ft/1000 m; CE: 1640ft/500 m
CameraHero 4, Hero 5, Hero - 4K4K4K2.7K
Fish-EyeNo on Hero/Session 5. Yes on Hero 4NoNoNo
Obstacle AvoidanceNoYesNoNo
OrbitOrbitPOIPOIPOI
Active Track / Follow meNoYes, bothYes, follow meYes, follow me
Cable cam / Course lockYesCourse lockCourse lockCourse lock
SelfieDronieNoNoNo
RevealYesNoNoNo
Return-To-HomeYesYesYesYes
Home LockUnknownYesYesYes
WaypointsNoYesYesYes
ControllerGoPro Karma ControllerRC + mobile deviceRC + mobile deviceRC + mobile device
Backpack/CaseBackpackStyrofoam caseNoNo
Price without camera *$799------
Price Package with Session 5 *$999
Price Package with best cam (Hero 5) *$1099$1199$999$499
Price Backpack *Included$199$199$199
Price Stabilizer *Included$299$299$299
Total Price best combo *$1099$1697$1497$997

*Prices are in USD and may vary in local currency

DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma – Handheld stabilizer

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom - GoPro Karma GripThe first difference that jumps out is, of course, the handheld stabilizer.

The GoPro Karma Grip is included with the GoPro Karma drone so you get a complete set.

The DJI Phantom, on the other hand, doesn’t come with a handheld stabilizer. You can, however, buy products from DJI’s Osmo line separately.

Do people want a handheld stabilizer?

Yes, in our experience they do indeed. Even if they may not know it yet when they buy a drone.

The majority of people that use a drone to make video will eventually want to mix that up with handheld video as well. And, as soon as they start doing that, they’ll want a handheld stabilizer.

Will they be happy with GoPro Karma Grip that’s included with the GoPro Karma drone or would they prefer the DJI Osmo Mobile?

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom - DJI Osmo MobileThat’s hard to say right now.

The DJI Osmo Mobile does have ActiveTrack which is really nice to have. But there are also a lot of people that don’t want to shoot video on their phone. Obviously, they could buy one of the other Osmos instead but that would make it a more expensive.

For now, we’re going to assume that most people will be happy enough with the GoPro Karma Grip. There is no reason to believe it’ll be worse than other handheld stabilizers on the market.

So this point of the comparison goes to GoPro.

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom – Special modes

This is where the DJI Phantom outshines the GoPro Karma drone.

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom Intelligent flight modesWith the exception of a selfie mode (which we still don’t really see as useful), the DJI Phantom matches the GoPro Karma drone’s special modes. And although the DJI Phantom doesn’t have a selfie mode it offsets that with ActiveTrack/Follow me and WayPoints.

We know that GoPro has said it doesn’t think Follow Me is a big deal but we feel differently and the market seems to agree with us.

It’s one of the most looked for features these days and we think that GoPro dropped the ball there. They should have included it.

Not including WayPoints in the GoPro Karma drone is probably not such a big deal. It seems a lot of people don’t use that on the DJI Phantom either. People apparently don’t like that they have to fly a route first before they can do the same route via a WayPoints flight. And although it makes sense to do so from a safety point of view, it does make things cumbersome.

But even when leaving waypoints out,  the “DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma drone special feature comparison” goes to the DJI  Phantom with its intelligent flight modes.

DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma – Maximum distance, flight time and speed

Distance

Both the DJI Phantom 4 and the DJI Phantom 3 Professional leave the GoPro Karma drone trailing miles behind.

Literally.

We can’t even say “GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom” here unless we specifically say “GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom 3 Standard”.

And even the Phantom 3 Standard, DJI’s entry level model, still matches the GoPro Karma drone’s maximum distance. Clearly, the Phantoms score better here.

Speed

When it comes to speed, all DJI Phantom models have the GoPro Karma drone beat.

Ok, there is only a minor difference between the Karma and the Phantom 3 but the Phantom 4 is the clear winner here.

Flight time

When it comes to flight time the Phantoms again have an edge over the GoPro Karma drone. The worst performing DJI Phantom, the 3 Professional, still gets 3 minutes more than the GoPro Karma drone. The Phantom 3 standards gets 5 more minutes while the Phantom 4 gets 8 more minutes. That’s almost 50% more flight time for the DJI Phantom 4 in comparison to the GoPro Karma Drone.

Another 3 points to DJI in the DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma face-off.

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom – Portability

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom- Full Karma setThe GoPro Karma drone is foldable which obviously makes it a lot more portable than the DJI Phantom. It’s also less tall which makes it less bulky. 2 factors that give the GoPro Karma drone and advantage over any of the DJI Phantoms when it comes to portability. Although at first glance it seems like the backpack isn’t really much smaller than a Phantom backpack. It’s just a lot thinner.

Still, thinner is great already.

The Karma is also substantially lighter than any of the Phantoms which means that it definitely wins on portability.

This point of the DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma overview is easily taken by the GoPro. But, it will be interesting to see next week how the expected DJI Mavic performs on this point and whether or not it can compete with the GoPro Karma

DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma – Price

This is where GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom comparison becomes a lot more complicated.

Yes, the Karma is a lot cheaper than most of the Phantoms.

But, there is quite a difference between the GoPro Karma drone and the Phantom 4 / Phantom 3 Pro. In return, you get more flight time, more range (excluding the Phantom 3 Standard), more features, and, depending on your choice, the 3td or4th edition of an established line of drones where most of the problems have been solved by now.

So how much is that worth?

Do you want obstacle avoidance? If so, you can forget about the DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma question entirely as the GoPro doesn’t have it.

Do you want Follow Me functionality? Same thing. You won’t find it with GoPro.

But what if you don’t need those features?

What if you only want a relatively simple drone?

Or what if you already have a Hero 4 (or have ordered the Hero 5 already?)

In that case, the GoPro Karma and the DJI Phantom 3 Standard are very close in price. The advantage of getting the Karma is that you get everything in one set. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can buy one thing at a time when you get the Phantom 3 Standard. This means you can spread the expenses out over time.

Based purely on price though this round goes to GoPro for the most part so we’ll give them a point.

GoPro Karma vs DJI Phantom – Conclusion

It looks like the GoPro Karma is a great drone and at its price point, it actually offers more than we expected. And if we have to compare it to other drones on the market, it will probably come out on top quite often.

But we’re not looking at other drones, we’re comparing the GoPro Karma to Phantoms. We don’t think it’s the right comparison but as the DJI Mavic isn’t out yet, it’s the best comparison we can do right now.

And in that case, we recommend the DJI Phantom over the GoPro Karma. Not cause we’re fanboys (we are) but because the intelligent flight modes make all the difference.

DJI Phantom vs GoPro Karma drone winner

And even more importantly, the GoPro Karma drone is GoPro’s first go at a drone.

By now DJI has years of experience building drones and has managed to solve a lot of the problems they had in the beginning.

Obviously, we have no idea how well the GoPro Karma will actually perform. It might be flawless. But as it can’t be ordered until 23 October 2016 we’ll have to wait a bit longer before we can even start thinking about endurance comparisons.

And it also means we have no idea if and if so, how many problems GoPro, has to fix before the Karma is “good enough” (let’s face it, the Phantom 4 isn’t flawless either so “good enough” is fine). Other manufacturers have had various problems with their first drones so it’s likely GoPro will run into issues as well.

But, there are two scenarios in which we would recommend the GoPro Karma Drone after all.

First, if you own any and all GoPro accessories on the market, as well as the GoPro Hero 4 Black (or you’ve already ordered the Hero 5) then it makes sense to stick with GoPro. At least from a financial point of view.

Second, if portability is high on your list of priorities then it’s also worth considering the GoPro. It’s lighter and the backpack is considerably thinner which makes it easier to transport.

For now though, that’s it. In all other scenario’s we’re going to recommend a Phantom instead. The Phantom 4 if budget is not an issue or one of the Phantom 3 models if maybe you do care about how much you end up spending.

You can find our Phantom 4 review here or you can look at some of the reasons to buy the Phantom 3 instead.

And if you are ruling out the Phantoms because you want a foldable drone, wait another week.

On the 27th DJI will release the DJI Mavic. And judging by the pictures and the rumours, that’s going to be a great drone as well.

Besides, you can’t buy the Karma until the end of October anyway. So it only makes sense to check out the Mavic as well before you make your final decision.

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12 Comments

  1. You made a good comparaison between both drones. I just want to say that when I had a Phantom 2, I was using my iPhone 6+ for display! 5,5 inch that I found very small. The GoPro Karma have a 5 inch display with is very small! Now I have a Phantom 4 with a iPad air and I have a screen of 9.7 inch display. That make a lot different! Of course, you need to buy a IPad, but I already had my IPad as many peoples have similar tablet. This is a really big point for the Phantom vs the little 5 inch Karma display!

    • There is indeed a point to be made for the larget this play but then, the GoPro allows you to connect a second display to the controller as well. Right now that would be a bit complicated but we’re sure it’s only a matter of time until somebody comes up with a device that easily holds a screen and the controller.

  2. How did you stuff up the weight so much? You dropped almost a full kilogram off the Phantoms.
    Then you had a whole section saying how much more portable the Phantoms are over the Karma.
    That doesn’t include the weight of the whole gear in a backpack, if you ever get to fly either of these drones (since you seem to think the Phantom is a featherweight) you’ll find the Karma kit is much more portable than any (current) Phantom.

    • Thanks for pointing that out Gordon. IUnfortunately nobody caught that on our side. Proof we shouldn’t stay up all night to try to get out a comparison.

      We’ve corrected the mistake and have adjusted all related parts of the article.

      And we’re looking forward to flying the Karma. Who knows, it may yet sway us and have us re-write this entire article.

      • Sorry if I sounded harsh… bad day.
        Anyway I’m excited to fly the Karma but I don’t really know why, maybe just because it’s new. I was excited for the 3DR Solo and then that crashed and burned and was/is a complete disaster.
        Last time I looked the GoPro 4 black had a worse image than the Phantom Standard so I’m hoping the GoPro 5 improves things, not really sure I want to go back to fisheye FOV but I mostly upload to YouTube in 1080p so I can probably live with it.
        I’ll end up having the Phantom 4, the GoPro Karma and more than likely the Mavic and time will tell which one gets more air time.
        The Karma looks to have the ability to look up which will come in handy in a few spots and the portability/compactness will certainly be more useful as long as their backpack fits a few more batteries. Hopefully the built in screen is brighter than an iPad or iPhone otherwise it won’t be any good and it will be very good to have a second person controlling the camera while flying.
        Most of the value of the Phantom has come from 3rd parties using the API and releasing useful Apps to control the drone, I don’t see GoPro allowing that sort of control so that may work against them. I can live without follow-me mode but what I’ve seen is a lot of people are getting into 360 panoramas and mapping. If GoPro built that in to the default App then they would be ahead of what DJI has built in.
        The reviews should be out in the next few weeks and hopefully it makes DJI aggressively price their Mavic to compete. DJI hasn’t had the smoothest product launches and 3DR had even worse launches… heres hoping GoPro can get it right out of the gate.

        • No worries. We’re happy you pointed it out. It wouldn’t do to give people incorrect information and have them make a wrong choice based on that.

          Although we’re still curious to see what it’ll be like to fly the Karma, it looks like the new Mavic is the way to go.

          Awesome features at a price below the Phantom 4.

          Given the size I think I (switching to I now as I can’t speak for the others) will use the Mavic more than anything else. Footage in the test videos looks great and it’s tiny.

          Although I think I may miss the sensitivity of a bigger controller the portability will more than make up for that.

          And indeed, is open to 3rd party apps as well.

    • Thanks for pointing that out Haydon. Somehow the battery weight got into this article as the total weight and none of us caught it.

      We’ve corrected the mistake and updated the article.

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