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Why The GoPro Karma is Not That Bad After All (DJI Mavic Comparison)


Now that both the GoPro Karma and DJI Mavic have been presented to the wide public and the emotions have (hopefully) cooled off a bit, I’d like to take the time to talk about them and compare some of their features. The main reason for writing this article are the countless comments I’ve seen online, stating “R.I.P. Karma”, and basically totally writing the drone off.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not denying that the Mavic looks spectacular on paper, but it might be just a little too soon to cross out completely GoPro’s aircraft. Also, we haven’t really seen any of the drones in consumer tests, since most of the footage available at the moment has been commercial clips and some heavily edited videos online.

As a matter of fact, the first real videos I’ve seen from the Mavic has generated a lot of confusion, because the quality doesn’t look up to par with the Phantom 4, which has very similar camera characteristics (see the video below)

So in this article I won’t just compare the technical specifications of the two aircrafts (I’ll provide a short table of course, you can see in the bottom of this article), but I’ll also evaluate their unique strengths and weaknesses. Because let’s be honest – these two drones are targeted at two separate groups of people and can both coexist in the tech world. And not only they can coexist, they are good for each other, since their competition actually pushes the drone industry forward. Yes, they both share the casualness characteristic, they’re both foldable and smaller than the drones we’re used to – but they both possess unique features which set them apart.

We should keep in mind that the Karma it GoPro’s first attempt at a technology from this level, while DJI has been the drone market’s ruler for a few years already. In addition, GoPro has always targeted a specific group of people – those who are into extreme sports, or who like to be always on the move. To a large extent, that’s also the case with the Karma – it’s main selling point is the portability and the versatility of the product, as well as the multifunctional camera – that’s hard to beat, even by DJI.

So let’s see who’s better at what:

medium_4058afad-4331-40ab-9a4e-30b49c72447bWhere Mavic beats Karma:

  • Longer flight time (~27 min versus 20 min)
  • Follow me mode, Active track mode, Tap to fly mode
  • 4 vision sensors (obstacle avoidance and ground sonar sensors)
  • Much better flight range – 4.3 miles (7km)
  • Faster top speed 40.6mph vs ~35mph


Where Karma beats Mavic:

  • Much bigger versatility – you can use the camera on the drone, detach it and take it underwater or strap it to your helmet, then attach it to the gimbal and take regular smooth videos
  • No need for an extra device to view the live video feed from the camera (if you’re using the RC)
  • Instead of buying the new GoPro Hero 5 Black/Session, you can use your existing GoPro camera (GoPro Hero 4 Black/Silver)
  • Karma Grip – detachable gimbal, no need to buy a separate gimbal if you want to film everyday videos
  • Some people argue that the DJI customer service is a good reason not to buy this drone, but many users have reported that the customer service has largely improved over the course of the past few months, so this point could be not as valid as before (still, you might want to consider it).

I’ve seen tons of opinions of people who really dislike the GoPro footage due to the “Fisheye” effect, and consider it as a major disadvantage over DJI’s footage. Fortunately, in GoPro Hero5, there will be a “flat” mode, which will turn off the fisheye effect, if you want it gone.

karmaAlso, it’s very interesting to watch the two companies’ different policies when it comes to sales – GoPro announced their drone and didn’t start taking pre-orders right away (at the moment you can only be notified by e-mail when the drone becomes available to order from the official GoPro website). At the same time, DJI has been very active right after the live product presentation ended. They started taking pre-orders on their official website and on their official Amazon account. This will certainly hurt the sales of the Karma, because even if there were many people who wanted to pre-order their product, the hype that DJI has generated right after the Mavic release was unreal and it’s very likely they will lose a lot of potential customers because of that.

So let’s see the detailed comparison between the two aircrafts in the table below:


SpecificationGoPro KarmaDJI Mavic
Built-in CameraNoYes
Handheld Gimbal Included
Object Tracking
Obstacle Avoidance System
Vision Positioning System
Case / Backpack IncludedOptional Extra
Monitor / Screen included✕ (Partial display + Smartphone)
Gimbal3 Axis3 Axis
Camera LensFOV 94° 17.2mm f/2.81FOV 78.8° 28 mm f/2.2
Resolution : UHD4K up to 30p / 2.7k 60p14K / 2.7k up to 30p + C4K 24p
Still photos12MP RAW + WDR12MP DNG RAW + HDR
Max. Speed35 mph (15.6 m/s)40 mph (17.8 m/s)
Max. Distance0.62 miles / 1km4.3 miles / 7km
Max. Wind Resistance22mph (9.8 m/s)24mph (10.7 m/s)
Battery14.8v / 5100mAH11.4v / 3830 mAh
Flight Time20 mins27 mins
Dimensions (folded) in mmL: 365 / W: 224 / H: 90L: 198 / W: 83 / H: 81
Retail Price : US$799.99 or $1099.99 inc. Hero 5$999.00
Battery Price$99.99$89.00
ShippingOctober 23rd 2016Mid October 2016

Again, I definitely think that technical specifications on paper are not everything. For many people the Karma will provide better overall value over the Mavic, depending on their lifestyle and type of filming, especially if they like to film ground videos.

On the other hand, the Mavic will most probably be the most popular choice for people who’re getting their first drone or people who already own DJI products but are looking for more portability by (almost) not sacrificing quality and functionality.

In all cases, both platforms have their strong usage case arguments and they don’t fully overlap.

Comments (12)

I would add the watt hours to the battery specs, means ~75.5wh for karma and ~43.7wh for mavic, what tells us that the mavic is much more efficient than the karma in terms of power consumption (cuz mavic has less power in the battery but flies faster and longer and does more calculations (follow me, obstacle avoidance, etc) while flying).

Also `No need for any extra device to control the drone, since you get an integrated screen in the RC` is a bit misleading, because you can in fact *control* your mavic with a remote OR smartphone, so that’s even more versatility.
But I get the point, it should be like “No need for an extra device to view the live video feed from the camera, if you’re using the remote controller”
On the other hand side that’s probably also a plus for the mavic, that you also can control it with your smartphone only, without taking a RC with you.
Well so I think I’d add more info about that ^

Aaand, this doesn’t really make sense to me:
Where Karma beats Mavic:
“Some people argue that the DJI customer service is a good reason not to buy this drone, but many users have reported that the customer service has largely improved over the course of the past few months, so this point could be not as valid as before (still, you might want to consider it).”
What costumer service? Gopro’s? I have heard many bad stories from DJI’s too…

Daniel, now that’s an extensive comment 😉

I’ve corrected some parts of the article, and I also plan to further expand it first chance I get 🙂

Thank you!

2 similar drones for 2 different applications. Not 1 vs the other imo…. Nice writeup

I sometimes wonder about the dreaded “fisheye” look of the GoPro. The thing I keep seeing is people saying that it is a deal breaker for them when trying to get a cinematic look for their productions. Apparently, Michael Bay didn’t have an issue with it when he was shooting “13 Hours” and they were cutting it in with RED footage.

Good point, Jared. I personally don’t think that’s a dealbraker, since you can do almost anything in post production;)

The mavic have different packages, from 749$ for wifi version that is the most simular to the karma,
You only get the 999$ if you want lightbridge2 and then you have no intress in karma or any other wifi based drone anyway.

I have quite a collection of GoPro gear and thats why I got the Karma. Sadly, I’m returning it tomorrow because of three disappointments. (1) It’s badly put together as rubbery bits fell off and I’m not quite sure where they attach to. On its initial backyard run, it already has scratches on some areas. (2) It drifts much more than my DJI P3! Boo!!!!!! (3) At times I still get footages with propellers on it. I know it’s not bad for the first try, but it’s not worth the wait and market for me. =( Even my wait for the Hero5 was not worth it, especially stagnating image quality (should have been better than my H4 black) and no optical IS.

Thanks for the comment, Anthony!

Unfortunately all that you’re saying is true.. I’ve had the chance to play with a GoPro5 for a bit and was not really impressed.. As far as the Karma, hiccups are expected to a certain extent, as that’s GoPro’s first real attempt at building drones. Let’s just hope their next builds (or models) will be better!

Since you are returning your Karma, are you going for the Mavic? Or you’ve decided on something else?

As a Wedding Photo/Videographer I plan to keep my H4B/Feiyu combo but will get the Mavic. MAYBE, I’ll also go with the OSMO+ with the Z-axis attachment too. Will comment once I go Mavic…

Those are some good solid options !
Yes please do, i’ll be interested to know how that works out for you 🙂

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