Having owned the GoPro Hero 4 Silver for about two years now, I’ve managed to take plenty of shaky footage. I’ve also forgotten to record almost anything (like when I was in Barcelona and Ibiza). However, even when I’ve managed to get some shooting done atop a standard handheld mount, the footage was always sub par. I like walking and want to actually be able to move around while using my camera without the end footage looking like an unstable mess. As such, I’ve recently decided to upgrade my camera equipment by purchasing a GoPro Karma Grip. Now that I’ve used it for about a month or so, I figured I should write up a review of all the pros and cons of this gimbal, and if I actually think that buying the Karma Grip was even worth it.
The Karma Grip set me back $299.99. Plus, since I have a GoPro Hero 4 Silver, I needed an adapter harness which cost me another $30. Oh and I stepped on that damn adapter harness the other day and now need to buy a new one because the exposed metal will scratch up the camera itself…why do I leave things on the floor? The adapter harness is only needed for the GoPro Hero 4’s, if you have a 5 or 6, you won’t need to buy one.
Anyways, the price itself can be quite a hurdle for a lot of people. Especially, when that it about the same price that I paid for the camera when it was brand new and probably more than I could sell it for at the moment.
Of course there are cheaper options, that will work as a stabilizing rig. Are they better? I’m not sure, as the Karma Grip is the first one I’ve tried out. Some of the one’s that I looked up reviews on, seemed to have their fair share of issues, but maybe there’s a chosen one out there.
Before I even get into the things that I dislike about the Karma Grip, let’s go over what I bought it for, and see if it does the job.
Is it really that much of an upgrade? Visually? Yes! I love how smooth the footage I shoot looks and the absolute freedom of movement that I get to experience while filming with my GoPro. It takes the basic action camera and enables you to get clean and stable footage. Really, it allows you to get the most out of filming with a GoPro, at least with most filming situations.
Here is a quick comparison video, I put together, showing the difference between using my Hero 4 Silver with and without the Karma Grip. It’s obviously most noticeable while walking, but even panning shots have so much smoothness.
Even though, Adobe Premiere Pro had some issues while exporting this video (not related to the Karma Grip) and so it’s not perfect, one can still tell the quality difference between not having the Karma Grip and utilizing it. Here’s another video I shot, to demonstrate. (Note: audio was removed because of how windy it was at the beach)
Doing a simple video like the one above, wasn’t even really possible before I got the Karma Grip. It would have been messy and my walking/arm movements, would have been all over the place. This is what I absolutely love about the Karma Grip and as its main function, I think it does a pretty damn good job, for those of us with non-professional needs.
Now on to my gripes about this thing. The sound isn’t great. Not that it’s much worse than the GoPro in its other housings BUT there is now a noticeable electronic hum in the background of all the Karma Grip footage. The microphone is picking up the mechanical workings of the Grip and is in every clip that you shoot.
Does the sound bother me? Not that much. It’s noticeable and sounds like an air conditioning unit running but it doesn’t personally take me out of what I’m watching. I know that some people get extremely annoyed with things like that. It is pretty stupid that they didn’t figure out how to have cleaner audio with the Karma Grip, but it’s not personally a deal breaker with me; just a minor annoyance.
Another gripe about the sound is the lack of being able to hook up an external microphone. So, even if I had a mic to hookup with a windscreen in my above beach walk clip, I couldn’t use it while using the Karma Grip. Lame. I guess you would have to set up an independent audio rig to be able to get clean audio on some days?
The microphone does work, but wind is going to be a problem at times.
The first time that I seriously used the Karma Grip was while I was at the Florida Aquarium. It seemingly had a full charge but by the last exhibit of my walk through, the battery was crapping out. A little more than an hour? I’m not sure that this is the actual battery life, as I haven’t done another long recording session with the Karma Grip but you’ll probably need to turn it off a lot to conserve battery life.
Also, why in the hell is it charging the camera battery while in use? My camera battery is fully charged and I have backups in case I need them. The Karma Grip has to be charged through a USB and doesn’t have a spare battery to my knowledge…so why would I want to waste the charge? Spare camera batteries are easy and cheap, so WHY?!?
Then comes the charging of the Karma Grip battery. If you get the Karma Grip, I would highly recommend getting the GoPro Supercharger, which will greatly cut down on the charging time. Again, my Hero 4 Silver’s battery life isn’t bad, and it charges pretty quickly without the Supercharger. The Karma Grip? Well…
It took somewhere around 14 hours for me to get a full charge after the aquarium visit. I used my laptop and the USB cable. 14 hours! Now, I have a Supercharger, so this won’t be an issue for me. However, I did want to see what it was like on it’s own, and holy shit was it a long wait.
Imagine if you were in another country and had been recording early in the day. You go back to your hotel room to charge up, before seeing some more of the city that you’re staying in. You have backup GoPro batteries and plenty of Micro SD space, but during the few hours while you’re in your room; the Karma Grip has barely recharged.
When you start up the Karma Grip, it’s also supposed to start up your GoPro camera. It doesn’t seem to with the harness adapter. Maybe the standard holster that is used with the GoPro 5 and 6 actually does this. Mine does not, which means that I have to start both of them up separately.
Not a huge problem, but then the camera does the whole ‘connected to USB’ screen for 5 to 10 seconds. If you have it turned off, so you can save battery life, then you have to go through this each time you turn it back on. Hope you didn’t want to capture a fleeting moment.
The Karma Grip isn’t waterproof but is apparently ‘splashproof’. Rain and snow should be fine. No submersion. So just keep that in mind.
The Karma Grip is pretty pricey. Then again, so are most gimbals. Then again, so it just about everything made by GoPro. I’ll get plenty of use out of this rig, so I’m not too bothered by the costs, but it is definitely something that you should take into account.
I DO like the Karma Grip. There’s a bunch of stuff that I want to record an incorporate into videos over the next few months, that I think will be pretty great with it. I really enjoy the picture quality and stability that I get while using the Karma Grip. Exactly what I wanted.
There is of course, the litany of things that kind of suck about it. I’ll need to do some more testing to truly find out the battery life of this thing, but frankly wasn’t impressed with that first longer recording session. With the Supercharger, that shouldn’t pose too much of an issue, but that is one more thing that people will have to pony up the cash for to get the most out of this product.
I feel like with some changes, the Karma Grip could have been amazing. If the electric hum was eliminated or minimized and using Karma Grip to charge my GoPro’s battery was an optional feature, then this thing would be great for $300.
As it stands, I think that it’s a good product. Flawed but still useful for my purposes.Other people will have completely different needs and the Karma Grip might be entirely wrong for them. I’d say to do some serious research before you decide.