GoPro Karma is more than just another camera drone (hands-on)

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Editors' note: On November 8, GoPro announced a recall of all Karma drones and has temporarily stopped sales. Owners can get a full refund by returning their Karma to GoPro or their place of purchase. To participate in the recall, visit GoPro's site.

GoPro just proved that there's still room for something fresh in consumer camera drones.

After being teased for months, the company finally unveiled the Karma, its first drone designed for its cameras, but simplified for novice drone pilots.

Take the Karma's controllers, for example. Many camera drones come with controllers loaded with switches, buttons and knobs. Sure, some are friendlier to use than others, but the Karma's remote has the familiar feel of a gaming controller. On top of that, you don't need to tie up your smartphone or drag along a tablet to get a view from the attached GoPro: The controller has a flip-up touchscreen.

The Karma's small, too. Like fold-it-up-and-stick-it-in-a-regular-backpack small. In fact, it even comes with the backpack. And of course it's made to work with the new Hero5 Black and Hero5 Session cameras, but will also work with Hero4 cameras. So you're not stuck with a camera that's permanently attached to a drone, you're getting a camera you can use on its own or in the drone.

Perhaps its greatest asset is the three-axis camera stabilizer on the drone. Not only will it keep your video looking smooth in the air, but it can be removed and attached to the included Karma Grip. GoPro says the grip can then be used handheld, perfect for running, riding, skating, etc. alongside your friends, or mounted on other gear.

gopro-karma-preview-13.jpg

The controller has a built-in LCD screen and is designed for ease of use.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

For years now camera makers big and small have been trying to one up GoPro in a category it basically created. Now it's GoPro entering a category with a clear leader in DJI. GoPro already has wide brand recognition, though -- something DJI's competitors and DJI too, for that matter, can't really claim.

Combine that brand recognition with the flexibility of using the Karma in the air and on the ground and its potential ease of use, and the Karma might be a spoiler this holiday season.

Karma arrives on October 23 for $799 without a camera, $999 with a Hero5 Session and $1,099 with the Hero5 Black.

Stay tuned for our full review.

Executive Editor David Carnoy contributed to this preview.

 

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