Reviews, Video

You need the GoPro Karma Grip for smooth motion video

The GoPro HERO5 is a lovely action camera with its built-in electronic stabilisation, but if you think it’s going to make your footage perfectly smooth, you’re in for a disappointment. No digital stabiliser currently available can make footage look good when the operator has been subjecting the camera to shocks from walking, running or whatever. A real stabiliser is a must-have for those occasions where you can’t keep the camera still. The Karma Grip has been specially designed to stabilise the HERO5.

The Karma Grip is a 3-axis stabiliser. It’s specially good when used with a HERO5, but it will, with some optional adapters, work well with HERO4 cameras as well. Contrary to the HERO5’s electronic stabilisation, you can depend on the Karma Grip to keep your footage nausea-free even when shooting 4K. Its three axis technology works great.

The Karma Grip comes in a stiff carry case. It includes the Grip itself, a USB-C to USB-A charging cable and an adapter ring for attaching the Grip to a GoPro mount. It is battery-driven and has a HERO5 cage permanently installed. Starting the Grip without the camera mounted made the device protest with a rattling sound. I quickly turned it back off not to damage the unit — not that I think it would, but you never know.

With the HERO5 in place, it immediately and 100% silently moved the camera in its default position and direction. Starting up the Karma Grip takes a few seconds, but once the device is ready, your camera is ready as well. The HERO5 is powered by and shooting is controlled off the Karma Grip. That saves your HERO5’s battery and makes it possible for you to shoot extended periods of time — the Karma Grip’s battery stamina is much better than the HERO5’s.

The camera always levels, whatever you do with the Grip. Even when moving it with relatively violent motion, the camera stays level. By looking at the camera, you get the impression shocks aren’t being absorbed, so I decided to stampede my way around a few cobble-stoned streets, ignoring baffled looks of passers-by. And lo and behold, the footage was still buttery smooth with my shocking behaviour not being transmitted to the footage.

The Karma Grip has a few extra tricks up its sleeve as well. You can fix the camera direction by holding the lock button. That allows you to point the camera upwards, for example. You can also use the lock button to follow an object until you unlock it. The latter feature wasn’t entirely clear to me, not even after trying it out several times. As far as I could tell, it only works vertically — you’ll point the camera upwards, for example, then lock to follow and it will keep the camera focused on the vertical axis, but not the horizontal one.

When the Karma Grip is operating, there’s one thing you need to get used to: it’s not by handling the camera itself that you will change its focus. It’s by manipulating the Grip. For example, if you want to camera to ‘look’ sideways or towards you, you must gently manipulate the Grip until the camera faces the direction you want.

Other things you can do with the Karma Grip

Except for just holding the Karma Grip when walking, running, cycling, skiing or speedboating, you can also buy (well, nit yet at the time of writing, but soon) an optional 1m extension cable that reduces the grip of the Karma Grip to a battery holder and remote control you can put in a safe location, e.g. your rucksack. You can then mount the actual mechanics anywhere you want — on a helmet, fixed to a harness, whatever.

Here, the adapter ring in the carry case comes in handy. It lets you mount the upper part where the camera sits on any GoPro mount. For example, if you have the brilliant Large Tube Mount, you could mount the stabiliser head on that mount and extend your camera’s reach considerably, even without that cable. I tried this with a 200cm monopod and it works really well. It should work even better when used with a panoramic pole that extends several metres further.

The Karma Grip is really a must-have if you move while capturing video. It will avoid jerky footage completely and make your movie look professional. The Karma Grip costs 350 Euros.