At this point, we've all seen way too many nauseatingly shaky GoPro videos. And while the electronic image stabilization in the new Hero5 cameras helps, it doesn't compare to the results you get with the Karma Grip.
The Grip is the camera stabilizer found on the company's Karma drone plus the battery-powered handheld mount that's bundled with the drone. You can now get just the Karma Grip for shooting on the ground for $300, AU$460 and £250. It's expensive, but it's actually in line with similar 3-axis gimbals and GoPro's is way more flexible.
The stabilizer is ready to use with the Hero5 Black, but a $30 harness is available for the Hero4 Silver and Black and one for the Hero5 Session arrives in 2017. Since the Grip connects directly to the camera's USB-C and Micro-HDMI ports on its side, the two are completely integrated to give you both control and power from the handle.
On the handle you get buttons for power and changing shooting modes, adding highlight tags to your videos, starting and stopping recordings as well as a tilt-lock button that also gives you battery status. Normally the camera stays pointed forward regardless of how you hold the handle, but pressing the tilt-lock lets you aim the camera above or below the horizon and keep it at that angle. Double tapping it will lock the camera to follow a subject, so you can move around someone while keeping them framed in your shot.
There are no pan or tilt controls, though. The Grip also can't stand on its own and there's no tripod mount on the handle itself. Instead, GoPro includes a mounting ring that slips in between the handle and the stabilizer sections. The metal collar can attach to any GoPro mount or any other third-party mounts out there that use GoPro connectors.
Going a step further, GoPro will have an extension cable that connects between the stabilizer and handle. This way, you'll be able to mount the stabilizer on a helmet, for example, while mounting the handle on your body or backpack for power and control.
The Grip has a built-in rechargeable battery rated for up to one hour and 45 minutes of use and takes six hours to fully power up with a 1-amp charger. That is crazy long considering it's a non-removable battery, but GoPro offers a fast charger that promises to cut that time down to just under two hours. A USB-C port is used for charging the Grip and the camera, but can also transfer your shots without removing the camera.
The results speak for themselves. In the clip above, I mounted the Karma Grip with a Hero5 Black on the left strap of GoPro's Seeker backpack. On the right, I attached a Hero5 Black directly to the right strap. Other than some slight movement when I rode over bumps, the video from the Grip is perfectly smooth and stays pointed forward.
The camera's electronic image stabilization would have helped some (I didn't have it on), but you have to drop the resolution to at least 2.7K and record at no more than 60 frames per second to use EIS. With the Karma Grip, you can set the camera's resolution and frame rate to whatever you want.
Motor noise will get picked up by the camera's mics, which you can't hear in this scene over the traffic, but in very quiet shots you'll hear it. It's something I've experienced with all small stabilizers like this where the camera (be it GoPro, phone or otherwise) is mounted right next to the motors.
A good motorized stabilizer like the Karma Grip makes a huge difference in your results and makes GoPro's cameras that much more useful regardless of what you're recording. There are other GoPro gimbals out there, but this one adds some versatility the company's cameras are known for.