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Which camera drone – a look at the changed market

Funny, isn’t it, when a new product, which changes the market arrives, another – from a competing brand – is not far behind? So, too, with camera drones (although I might add that the topic of this discussion came about a fair bit sooner than I had thought). At any rate, following GoPro’s announcement of the Karma drone (which I covered last week), DJi announced their new drone, the Mavic, which is specced and sized to compete in exactly that segment; small drones that easily pack into a backpack. Before I get into it, let me just say that I have not actually interacted with either, but I have read a fair number of articles on either, and base my comments on those.

GoPro Karma DJi Mavic
Collapsed size (HxWxL) 89.9 x 224.3 x 365.2 mm 83 x 83 x 198 mm
Weight 1006 g 743 g
Flight time 20 minutes 27 minutes
Remote control Included Optional
Camera Several options Mounted to gimbal
Gimbal Removable Fixed to drone
Horizontal speed 56 km/h 65 km/h

The specs for DJi Mavic can be found here, while the specs for GoPro Karma are here. The major differences are that the DJi is more portable, cheaper, and has more capabilities, as it includes sensors for obstacle avoidance, and has subject tracking capabilities, while the GoPro lets the user choose between different camera options, remove the gimbal for handheld use, at a somewhat higher price point. The Mavic is announced at $749, without a remote control, relying entirely on a mobile app. In comparison, the Karma is announced at $799, without a camera (which is great if you’ve already got a compatible camera).

There is one other major difference; the field of view of the two drones. Where the GoPro has a wide-angle lens that offers a focal length of 17.2 mm, compared to the DJis 28mm. While the GoPro is able to provide longer focal lenghts (and narrower fields of view), this comes at the cost of reduced image quality (though if what you’re after is 1080p video, this is less of a consideration).  The Karma can be bundled with a GoPro Hero 5 Session or Black, at prices of $999 or $1099, respectively. One caveat about the Mavic; the only price I can find for it is $999, with a “fly more combo” priced at $1299. I’m assuming that the first of these prices includes the remote control module for the Mavic, while the latter combo includes more batteries – the details were sort of sketchy though.

So; which one to get? I think it depends on your needs. I can see use cases for both, but I really like the modular concept of the Karma. Unlike the Mavic, you will in every likelihood be able to upgrade the camera at a later point, and the removable gimbal lets you not only record stabilised handheld video, but should also let you replace the gimbal module when or if it gets damaged. In comparison, the Mavic is more of a one-trick pony, albeit with one feature (subject tracking) that makes for a drone with more dynamic capabilities.

Caveat lector: The reason I only included these offerings (despite knowing full well that there are others out there), is that DJI is the established manufacturer in the field, while GoPro has solid credentials in the action camera realm. They are the two that are realistic competitors for my money.

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