It has to be done. Which drone fits you based on specs, price and of course, video quality? Top speeds are fun, but drones are aerial cameras. And the two top 2016 Christmas wish list items are certain to be the GoPro Karma and the DJI Mavic Pro.
Both hit nearly the same price points, but for the sake of argument, let’s compare the top price tier which includes all the features displayed during their respective announcements (DJI Mavic Pro / GoPro Karma). It’s sly marketing on the low-end, but end users will inevitably want to stretch the full capabilities.
DJI Mavic Pro vs GoPro Karma Flight Time
Battery life is king when it comes to drones. Once you’re up in the air, you want to stay there as long as possible. The GoPro Karma lists flight time up to 20 minutes. Anytime you hear ‘up to’ in marketing, take off a few minutes. The published numbers are in perfect conditions. The second I grab a drone a breeze picks up.
A DJI Mavic Pro lists flight times up to 27 minutes. Same rule applies – perfect conditions with zero wind. Even taking off a few minutes, the Mavic Pro easily wins in terms of flight time. The extended battery life also plays into increased portability later.
If you wanted to fly around, there are cheaper RC options with helicopters and planes. For DJI and GoPro, it’s all about the camera. Both shoot 4K and have 12MP sensors. If you’re looking at a numbers game – it becomes a wash. But cameras are more than the number of megapixels.
In the GoPro Karma, you are relying on a detachable Hero5. It’s here GoPro starts to outshine the Mavic Pro in convenience. You’re getting a two-for-one setup. If you need an action camera, it fits the bill and is waterproof to 33 feet.
The issue becomes camera quality. GoPro is notorious for the fisheye effect that makes editing a pain the ass. Luckily, there is a flat mode that tones down the crazy wide angle and gives you footage that doesn’t involve a giant headache to edit down. For videographers, the option is there to shoot in dlog to color correct at a later point. Photographers get various modes such as burst and single.
I mention the color correction because of a recent TechRadar hands-on video.
I seriously hope that is in dlog because that footage is washed out. Owning a Hero4, I’m leaning towards they had it set to that by accident of didn’t correct the AWB. A better video, though longer, is Casey Neistat taking it around NYC.
That looks more representative of how the Karma will perform out of the box. Cloudy day, so it makes you wonder about its ability to handle direct sun without washing out. Dude is rough on the products he tests. No gentle unboxing with him ever.
DJI Mavic Pro. Have a Phantom 4? Same camera, slightly narrower FOV. It’s subjective, but I like the fact I don’t have to drill down into the camera settings to get an FOV that’s not absurd. Though I do wish it had the same FOV for landscape purposes, but the damn thing is small. Compromises had to be somewhere. For stills, the 12MP has four modes:
Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3/5 bracketed frames at 0.7 EV Bias
C4K: 4096×2160 24p
4K: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
2.7K: 2704×1520 24/25/30p
FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/96p
HD: 1280×720 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
Having the benefit of using the Phantom 4, the AWB and color correction is damn good out of the box. It’s the same camera sensor, and the ability to fit ND filters on is always a plus when using it.
What about the soft focus? There was an issue surrounding the Mavic Pro in Casey Neistat’s video about the footage looking soft:
That’s not the case and a bit of a focusing quirk in the Mavic Pro:
A bit softer than the Phantom 4 but not remotely blurry.
So, who wins on the camera? It depends. Do you want an action camera too? If not, the Mavic Pro has an edge thanks to sheer portability and footage and stills nearly as good as the Phantom 4. Hell, can I have both?
While the camera is at the top of drone enthusiasts, my thought is the Mavic Pro vs. the GoPro Karma comes down to portability.
Mavic Rains on Karma’s Portability Parade
I admit to being hyped when I saw the GoPro Karma in a low-profile backpack. But the DJI Mavic Pro damn near fits in your pocket. It’s absurd how small the Mavic’s footprint is and still outpaces the Karma in battery life by a wide margin.
It’s not even close. The Mavic Pro bundle comes with a bag that holds three extra batteries. Karma’s backpack doesn’t have an extra slot for a battery. Hands down, DJI crushes it from a portability standpoint.
Here’s where the two truly diverge. Extra features. Remember how the GoPro Karma’s camera is a detachable Hero5? That’s two products in one. And they toss in another with the stabilization grip. It’s GoPro’s take on the DJI Osmo line but makes the GoPro Karma an attractive buy if you’re looking for a full kit. From a non-drone perspective, it shines offering a variety of use cases.
Where it stumbles is the technology in DJI Mavic Pro. No detaching the camera on Mavic, but all the safety features debuted in the Phantom 4. They are on the Mavic and more. Extended range up to over 4 miles with a 1080p downlink. Object avoidance. Gesture control. The list goes on and on. And these features will make their way into future DJI Phantoms and Inspires.
Buy a Mavic Pro or Karma?
You’ll hate me, but it depends. From a drone standpoint, the Mavic Pro wins hands down. Better battery life. Range. Portability. The camera is a known quantity.
For the GoPro fan who always wanted an Osmo, the GoPro Karma fits that bill. You get it all for another $100. But, for the extras, you’re losing range, safety features, and battery life. That’s a tough sell with the Osmo Mobile out for $300. DJI also has its reputation in the consumer and professional drone industry. GoPro is the new kid on the block. But it’s not new in the world of action cameras. It’s the standard bearer the same way DJI enjoys its niche.
If I had to pick, I’d lean towards the Mavic Pro based on specs. That’s also realizing I own an Osmo, so the stabilization grip doesn’t sell me. I’d buy a Hero5 anyways, and the sheer portability of the Mavic Pro is astounding. Its feature set outstrips the Phantom 4 in range and livestreaming. A drone that’s not even a year old.
A versus on specs isn’t the end all. But you get an idea of what each offers and where each falls short compared to its rival. Now comes the test of footage and stills. And that comes down the person controlling the shot. You don’t have to look far on DJI and GoPro to see amazing footage and stills.
Look for our hands-on review in the coming weeks and sound off on what you think on the two. We all have opinions, but we can agree it’s a great time for drone enthusiasts no matter which company you side with. You know me, I want both.