Earlier this year I purchased the then-relatively-new DJI Osmo hand-held gimbal/camera combo. It looked like it was going to be everything in one package; I previously owned a GoPro Hero3 Black, but had not used it with a gimbal or any type of stabilization. The Osmo offered all of that in one package and then some.
It had occurred to me to just get a stabilizer for the Hero 3/4 cameras, but in reading reviews and doing some research, along with my own experiences with cheaper "universal" type handheld gimbals (for smartphones, etc), there were some reservations I had with third-party Chinese stabilizers. They often would drift wildly, or otherwise not yield optimal results. By having a stabilizer, grip and camera all built by the same manufacturer and designed around each other, it would ensure the best possible results with a little fuss as possible. That's where the Osmo came in.
Back in September, GoPro announced its newest series of action cameras, The Hero 5 – they also announced the Karma drone (which was DOA, having issues since its release and has now been formally recalled). An interesting piece that came with the karma drone, was the "Grip" portion. The grip created additional functionality for Karma owners by allowing them to detach the gimbal from the Karma Drone and attaching it to a grip for handheld use. This concept wasn't entirely new, as DJI had already done it with their Zenmuse gimbal/camera systems (X3, X5, and X5R camera/gimbal combos) for their drones and allowing users to attach them to an Osmo grip to allow for handheld use. Yuneec also does this with their drones.
Being the gearwhore that I am, I went out and got my hands on a Hero 5 Black and the Karma Grip to compare it against my Osmo – and that's what I'll be covering here. I'll try not to go into too much technical detail or specifics – there are plenty of videos and articles about that – What I want to go over are usability and feature differences between the two to hopefully help you make a decision if you're in the market for either of these products, since these are the real-world things that you'll be living with as an owner of either of them.
Price-wise, the Osmo comes in at $569 (USD). By comparison, the Karma Grip may seem cheap at $299, but remember that you also have to purchase a GoPro to go with it, which can range from $199 to $399, depending on the model.
Out of the box, the Karma Grip will ONLY work with the Hero 5 Black ($399). So, that effectively brings the price of a Karma Grip setup to right around $700 if you don't already own a Hero 5 Black. This puts it more in line with the newer Osmo+, at $649. Unfortunately, I don't have one of those to review here, but the rest of the review should remain relevant.
Note: Additional frames are necessary to make it work with the Hero 5 Session ($299) and the Hero Session ($199) cameras. The gimbal may also work with an adapter/frame combo for the Hero 4 series of cameras, but I'm not entirely sure. While the Karma Grip will work with other cameras other than the Hero 5 Black, the frames/adapters are not yet available for other cameras. The adapters/frames attach to the gimbal via 2 allen screws (below).
I want to briefly go over the defining features of each system. They both do the same thing – stabilize footage -- so I won't go over the physical or technical nuances of each gimbal – That info can each be found on their respective websites (For the lazy like me: DJI Osmo and GoPro Karma Grip / Hero 5 Black). Technically, as far as camera specs and gimbal performance, let's call them just about equal, though we'll have some test footage later on. In the interest of trying to keep this short, I'll be highlighting the tangible real-world differences between the Osmo and the Karma Grip.
- Price: $569, including X3 4K camera
- Video Resolutions:
C4K up to 25fps
4K up to 30fps
2.7K up to 30fps
1080p up to 100fps
20p up to 60fps
- Joystick - control pan/tilt
- "Trigger" to control tilt/pan lock
- Selfie mode
- Removable battery
- Smaller, lighter
- More ergonomic handle
- Rosette mount
GoPro Karma Grip
- Price: $299, Grip only ($599-699 with GoPro camera)
- Video Resolutions:
4K up to 30fps
2.7k up to 60fps
1080p up to 120fps
720p up to 240fps
480p @ 240fps
- GoPro Hero 5 series cameras are waterproof to 10m
- Touch Screen
- Voice Control
- GPS (limited)
- Internal Battery
- Camera can be removed
Pros & Cons
The Karma Grip doesn't look quite as comfortable as the Osmo's grip, and is slightly heavier, but that hasn't proven to be a much of a problem as I thought it would be initially. In fact, after using both, while the Osmo's grip is more ergonomic, I find that holding it in a way that the controls are always accessible fatigues my hand more than holding the Karma Grip's simpler "tube" design, and the entire body is more mechanically "grippy" through all of the rubber bits, while the grip on the Osmo's handle comes more from its shape.
Both handles feature a couple different buttons to perform various functions:
- Start/Stop Record
- Trigger/Orientation Lock
GoPro Karma Grip
- Start/Stop Record
- Orientation Lock
By far the most awesome thing about the Osmo is the joystick and trigger. They function flawlessly and are very intuitive in their function. The sensitivity of the joystick can be customized via the DJI Go App – you can make the gimbal accelerate or decelerate to your liking, reverse the orientation of either (or both directions), and make additional customizations for you own personal preference. The trigger quickly takes care of orientation-related duties -- clicking and holding the trigger locks orientation around a point, double clicking re-centers the camera, and a triple-click will spin the camera around into "selfie" mode for vlogging, or panoramic selfies. By comparison, the GoPro Karma Grip offers (almost) none of this.
In-use, each of the gimbal/camera systems performs stabilization duties just about equally. The joystick and trigger on the Osmo are intuitive and allow for quick flips from a "selfie" to a front-facing camera view, for vlogging or home videos. The joystick allows additional control for that perfect angle or framing, and is definitely something I wish the Karma Grip had. Instead, the Karma simply offers a tilt-lock function with its orientation lock button. By default, the Karma will keep the camera flat and level, and will adjust for movements along all 3 axes. Tilting the handle up or down does nothing and will not change the camera's tilt unless the lock button is used.
I'll come right out and say that the battery life on the Osmo is abysmal. I own 6 batteries for it, and they run down VERY quickly, and for whatever reason don't seem to hold their charge very well, either. A few days off of the charger, and a freshly charged battery will have run down 10-12% for no reason. On the up side, batteries are fairly cheap (third-party batteries are available), and you can have as many as you need -- of course, your weight and space taken up in your bag increases as well.
By contrast, the Karma Grip has an internal battery, charged via USB-C and has an advertised 1 hour and 45 minute battery life. Its status is indicated by 4 small white LEDs on the front of the grip. Additionally, the Karma Grip will power and charge the GoPro while it's in use, so even if the Karma Grip expends its battery, your GoPro will come off of it fully charged and ready to go.
In my short experience with the Karma Grip, the battery life is exceptional -- I've had it out all day with me just for testing and filming random things, and only expended 50% of its battery. I could not find what the mAh rating on its internal battery is (not published anywhere I could find), but it does appear to (and possibly exceed) its advertised battery life, and far outperforms the Osmo in this regard. The only concern is how much a replacement will cost once the battery starts degrading after repeated charge cycles.
The USB-C port on the bottom of the Karma Grip can also be used to charge both the GoPro and the Karma Grip simultaneously, as well as allow you to offload your footage from the GoPro without detaching it from the grip.
In the Outdoors
In inclement weather, though, I'd feel more comfortable using the Karma Grip. With all of the rubber and grommets on it, I would hope it's at least somewhat water resistant, as the GoPro Hero 5 series of cameras are waterproof to a depth of 10m. It wouldn't surprise me if the Karma Grip was built to handle some rain. The Karma Grip handle is relatively bare bones but does appear to be more durable and rugged compared to the Osmo. The Karma Grip's buttons are membrane-type and covered in a matte rubbery finish as opposed to more traditional buttons on the Osmo.
On the other hand, the Osmo is not something I'd be comfortable taking out in the rain (although I have taken it out in a VERY light rain for an establishing shot and it was fine for the few minutes it was out) -- with the camera's fan vent and other exposed ports, It'd be very easy to get something wet, causing some sort of failure or short.
This is what won it for me. With the Osmo, you can only use it with the grip, which can quickly become a hassle if you're trying to travel light (not that it's heavy, but it can get bulky when you have limited space in your bag).
With the Karma Grip, I can detach the camera from the gimbal and take handheld footage, or leave the gimbal behind if I don't need it. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but considering how big the Osmo setup can get once a phone is attached as a monitor, and needing to be agile, it can become an issue if all you want to do is take some quick footage wherever you are, and don't always want to carry around an "apparatus".
Each manufacturer has different accessories available. However, the DJI accessories are more versatile and are unique for the Osmo system -- they also seem to be more geared toward serious filmmaking rather than simply capturing moments. The DJI accessories are designed more around extending functionality or creating a better end-result. Things like the Z-axis attachment, external coldshoes, and the simple inclusion of a rosette mount on the Osmo's handle demonstrate that this system was designed with extensibility in mind.
Most of the GoPro accessories are designed around action sports or multiple mounting options to make it easier to have a GoPro with or on you to capture the moment. Body harnesses, wrist mounts, and suction cup mounts -- all of which are compatible with the Karma's mounting collar (included).
Here's some sample footage from each camera, in 4K (each camera was filmed in 1080p, presented at 4k so you can view the full resolution side-by-side). This is normal walking pace and a normal stride, and is representative of the results that one with absolutely no experience or practice with either would get straight out of the box. The Hero 5 Black's electronic image stabilization is "off", and is using a "medium" field of view to try and match the FOV of the Osmo.
To me, the subtle "bounce" from walking is more noticeable in the Osmo footage, while the Karma Grip/GoPro combo seems to deliver smoother results overall. The bounce can be remedied with a $130 Z-Axis attachment, which smooths out any vertical movement, and delivers buttery smooth "flying" shots during movements like walking, or changing elevation (such as stairs).
(I'll update this post soon with an example of the Osmo with the Z-axis attached, and comparing it against the Karma Grip/GoPro combo, as well as against the Osmo without the Z-Axis attachment.)
So, Which one is for me?
In the end, you can't go wrong with either system. I think I can sum it up like this: If you're more of a vlogger or YouTube content creator, the Karma Grip is the way to go. For more serious filmmakers that want additional options to get the best footage possible through the use of external microphones, manual pan/tilt, and different attachments (like the Z-axis), then go with whichever flavor of the Osmo fits your budget. Additionally, the Osmo grip does give you an upgrade path if you want to spend many times the cost of the grip on a better camera/gimbal combo like any of the X5's.
For me, I'll be keeping the Karma Grip, selling my Osmo, and maybe looking into getting the Osmo Mobile. I thought I would want or use all of the extra features of the Osmo when I got it, but in the end you're left with a big furry contraption that just makes you look like a weirdo when you're just trying to make a quick video. Also, just being able to detach the GoPro and film stuff handheld without needing anything else is a huge plus that, for me at least -- outweighs any additional control that the Osmo gives me.
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