Yeah, we know, the GoPro Karma Grip stabiliser/gimbal has been out for well over a year now - GoPro test samples are like gold dust - but we finally got our hands on one for a trial over our Christmas break.
Having previously tested and then gone on to use the REMOVU S1 as part of our arsenal for a couple of projects, we've always wondered how the 'official' GoPro stabiliser would measure up. Bear in mind, most first-party GoPro accessories tend to be the go-to bar the odd exception... *cough drone cough*
We really liked the REMOVU, though there were one or two features that we were pretty sure the Karma Grip could improve on out the box. So, without any further ado, let's get into it.
What They Say
"Mount your HERO6 Black or HERO5 Black to this handheld, wearable stabilizer to capture incredibly smooth video. Also compatible with HERO4 cameras, harness sold separately.
"Run, jump, hike, bike ... Karma Grip will keep your shot steady and your mind blown.
"Karma Grip can be handheld or body-worn to capture incredibly smooth shake-free video.
"Karma Grip and your GoPro work together as one. Simply connect your GoPro, turn on the grip and go. The two can charge at the same time, and you can offload your footage without un-mounting your camera."
What We Say
The main gripes we had with the REMOVU were to do with how its third-party-ness kept bumping up against the user experience. The camera and gimbal both require operating separately, and the design compromises they've taken to make it more compact meant that crucial buttons are sometimes hard to reach, or completely impossible to get to in the case of the settings toggle on the side.
- Price: £299
- Weight: 604 grams (with GoPro 5)
- Battery life: They say 1 hour 45 minutes
The GoPro Karma Grip does away with all of that - compatibility is key. As the camera itself connects to the handle, all the controls you need to operate it are within reach of your thumb: on/off/mode toggle, record, Highlight Tag and Tilt Lock.
The main mode is 'follow', where the camera will basically follow where you point it whilst stabilising the shot. You can grab, twist and hold the GoPro to change the angle which ends up being pretty foolproof and is in our opinion much better than fiddling around with a joystick. You can hold or tap the 'Tilt Lock' button to keep the camera angled vertically in line with the handle, good if you're getting a shot from up high or down low.
"You won't have to take it apart to charge it or view the footage - one port in the handle will do everything you need"
Another great feature stemming from its hyper-compatibility is that you won't have to take it apart to charge it or view the footage - one port (a future-proof USB-C - nice) in the handle will do everything you need. However, when you start talking about charging, things start to break down.
The battery is non-removable, meaning that once it's dead, it's dead. That would be OK if you could have enough charge for a full day, but GoPro themselves rate the Karma Grip to last 1 hour and 45 minutes, which it doesn't do in cold temperatures. We're talking about the one hour mark, at which point you've now got some dead weight on you because this thing is heavy.
You can see why that's so - it's definitely sturdy. Whereas other action cam gimbals like the Feiyu Tech G5 or DJI Osmo feel like they could snap if you dropped or packed them wrong, the Karma Grip looks and feels bombproof. We had no hesitations stuffing it in an avi pack for the day, and whilst it ain't actually waterproof, it will survive getting dropped in the snow or being used in a snowstorm.
But all that adds up in weight. It's almost 50% heavier than the Removu S1, and when it's a device that's primarily meant to be used at arm's length, extra weight matters. It's annoying that given the battery is both un-removable and heavy, it doesn't stand up to the competitors'.It’s bulky as well – yes, the chest-mounted shots Travis Rice puts out are impressive, but we can’t imagine it’s a very comfortable way to use it. And again, this is in stark contrast to the S1, which at a push can even be head-mounted.
But does it stabilize doe? Yes, of course. What we love about GoPro is that their products do generally work as advertised, though as always you have to be doing something cool for it to look cool. Video comes out buttery smooth, but as with almost all stabilizing rigs it might need a bit of tweaking in post-production... if you're really anal. The motors are pretty loud when in use, but it won't be noticeable on your video unless you're shooting in a very quiet space - in other words, it's fine for filming snowboarding.
This was a surprising test - we'd already identified flaws in the Karma Grip's rivals and had a very good idea that they'd be resolved by GoPro's own product, and they were. What we weren't expecting was for the stabiliser to actually come out below our expectations - in all honesty, I would personally prefer the REMOVU S1. The extra weight and limited battery life are crippling if you want to use this kind of kit professionally in the mountains, so 200g extra (it might seem picky, but it all adds up) for something that doesn't last half the time seems crazy.
"It does its job superbly and the ease of use means that pretty much anyone picking this up will be able to up their filming game"
However, as a consumer product, this thing is ace. Don't get me wrong - it does its job superbly and the ease of use means that pretty much anyone picking this up will be able to up their filming game. It's right up there with the Osmo in that respect, and in terms of ruggedness it keeps pace with the famous camera for which it's designed.
If you like casually filming holidays or want to up your season edit game, and you have an extra £300 burning a hole in your pocket, then get one. It does the job fantastically, and although we only used it for a couple of weeks, it seems like it'll last a while.
If you're a professional, want something a bit better tuned for lightweight packing or more versatile, get the S1.