When GoPro made the decision to recall the Karma Drone, the action camera company was faced with a dark cloud that could over shadow sales of the new HERO5. But there was a silver lining in the Karma Grip, and it proved to be a life preserver (and the drone is back and better than ever). How does GoPro’s handheld gimbal perform? Well, I’m impressed, but there is room for improvement.
Off the bat, how does the Karma Grip perform? BUTTERY SMOOTH. I tried it walking along a lovely river bank, moving the camera up and down to see just how well the Karma Grip can stay level with the horizon, and I was pleasantly surprised that it never drifted on me. Then I ran up and down steps to see if I could get it to bounce and show some jitter. It did a tiny bit, but all in all, it performs as advertised. You can even turn the Karma Grip on yourself and it stays locked on you.
Check out my video below:
It’s easy to see how GoPro manages to get such performance out of the Karma Grip, and while it’s pretty beefy, it’s very comfortable in your hand. The grip handle has control buttons including shutter button, power/mode button, HiLight tag, Tilt lock, plus an array of LED battery status lights.
Doubling as a battery, there’s a USB-C charging port in the grip recharge. The rated battery life of the Karma Grip is roughly an hour and forty five minutes, which mirrors the HERO5 when shooting in ProTune.
The drag here, though, is that with built in batteries, once your Grip’s battery life is depleted, it’s time for lunch so you can recharge. It takes around 6 hours to recharge the Karma Grip through its USB-C, but you can get an optional GoPro dual port “Super Charger” which cuts recharge time down to 2 hours. The other option is to purchase multiple Grip handles and swap them out.
The Karma Grip was designed to work with the HERO5, which has re-positioned its power and data ports, so the harness of the Karma Grip only works with the latest model. But before you HERO4 Black users sigh, you can get an optional HERO4 version of the harness for $29.95 and then easily swap it out. The harness for the HERO5 Session will be available by summer.
GoPro is also making available an optional Grip Extension cable, which will enable users to use the Grip handle as a remote control and place the gimbal on a mount that the handle itself can’t accommodate, like your Helmet or chest mount. I dig this and look forward to it being released.
Sliding the HERO5 into the harness. is a SNUG fit, and that’s a good thing because without the wiggle room, you know that you’ll be able to connect the HERO5 to it easily because you don’t have to worry about plug alignment (although I did). But here’s an annoyance for the HERO5. You have to remove the battery door completely by pulling it out from the camera in order to use it with the Grip. Not only is this a concern for alignment issues the more you do it, but now you have to find a place to safely put your connector door, and losing it is a definite cause for concern.
The HERO5 is built to be waterproof without the iconic GoPro polycarbonate case, and if you lose the battery door, you can’t use your HERO5 in the water without replacing it. The takeaway here though, is, DON’T LOSE THE CAMERA DOOR!
And if you haven’t read the instructions, DO, because improperly trying to put the door back on could cause plastic latch become stressed and break. Turns out, there’s a trick to it. You slide the latch out from the door itself, to expose it, and that makes it much easier to put back on. Once I figured that out, it went on without a problem. So don’t force it; re-read the instructions to see how it goes. But if you break it, a replacement part is $19.99, which honestly seems about $10 too much.
Once you have the HERO5 inserted, everything can now be controlled by the Karma Grip. You turn the Grip on, it turns the HERO5 on. Then, you can control recording, Camera angle, and settings via the mode button. I love this as you can manipulate the controls remotely from the buttons that are remarkably tactile and easy to operate one handed.
If you want to use the Gimbal with another GoPro Mount, then you’ll need to unlock the gimbal from the grip handle with a twist, slide the mounting ring on, and then place the gimbal back in place to lock it down again. Very easy to do, and being able to use the Grip with your other GoPro mounts provides for a near infinite number of possibilities.
Walking along the lane in the video above, I did notice though, that when you’re walking with the Grip, if you bring in lower to the ground, the gimbal has a harder time keeping the image steady without jitter. Going up a flight of stairs produced the same issue, like the Karma Grip was working overtime to keep up. But when holding it regularly, so your arm becomes part of absorbing the shock, it’s like flying.
I’m not near the ski slopes without making a day of it, so the best I could do to test the Karma Grip at speed was to stick it out the car window, and the results were fantastic. It was like I had connected the Karma to the car itself. It does a great job keeping the image steady, even when the car is moving to avoid a pot hole or hitting one. I imagine that snowboarders and skiers are going to love this thing for that capability.
The Karma Grip is $299, unless you need the Hero4 harness, which adds another $30. You’re also going to want the SuperCharger, so that adds another $50. Then comes an additional battery grip, if you’re on location and don’t want to stop for two hours, those are an additional $99 each. Lastly, count on buying at least one door or maybe two at $19.99 each because you know you’ll likely break or lose one. All in all, if you’re the type that likes to get it all at once, you’re looking at maybe around $500 all in. You can save 20% though, if you become a GoPro Plus member.
All in all, I love the Karma Grip, it provides users with that steadycam like feel that’s very professional and natural to watch. I think the GoPro is definitely going to give the Osmo a run for its money. At the end of the day, for the action camera crowd the Karma is a must for your camera quiver. And with a $599 upgrade to give your Grip wings with the Karma Drone, it can only get better Karma from here.