There were literally loads of stories I considered running for New This Week. Very excitingly, Sandisk announced the first ever 1TB SD card, which, when released, is going to mean that stills photographers are going to be able to fit a lot of RAW files onto a single card, and cinematographers will stand more of a chance using internal 4K recording systems. In other news, Olympus released a 4K capable DSLR, the E-M1 MkII, with some of the best 5-axis stabilisation technology around, with Olympus rep Janne Amunet claiming that their new MFT can stabilise handheld stills up to shutter-speeds of two seconds when coupled with Olympus' range of stabilised lenses. That is just incredible, considering most DSLRs would really struggle with handheld shots beyond shutter-speeds of around 30/100. If that sort of technology can be replicated across the board, it could change a lot of things for still photographers.
Sadly, however, for these two new cool pieces of news, something far more interesting and amusing happened in the world of drones. Last week, GoPro announced their first drone design, the pack-away "Karma", mounting their latest flagship, the GoPro HERO 5. I wrote at the end of my article about the "Karma" that while it had some cool features, it was unlikely to leave its main competitor, DJI, too concerned. Low and behold, a week later DJI have released their latest drone design, the "Mavic Pro".
It is safe to say that the "Mavic Pro" has blown the "Karma" out of the skies. Now, lets not get carried away here, the "Mavic Pro" doesn't really feature anything the "Karma" hasn't got, but what it does feature is just... better. This is hardly surprising; GoPro are new to the drone market, whilst DJI have accumulated years of experience of building drones which they have channelled into their new creation.
The first and most obvious element to consider, since these are both pack-away drones, designed to be especially easy to carry around, is the packed down size. The "Mavic Pro" is not only smaller, but folds down to the size of a water bottle, with the legs flush to the body in a very sleek design. The "Karma" struggles to look as elegant, with the rotating blades still evident even when packed away. If people are looking at packaway drones, it is because they want them to pack down, and the clear differences in design will be sure to make many lean towards the "Mavic Pro".
Camera-wise, the "Mavic Pro's" on-board camera is about as photographically capable as the GoPro 5, shooting 4K video at 30fps, and 1080p at 96fps. It also features a minimum focus distance of 19in, which is a vast improvement on the DJI cameras of old. The three-axis gimbal also features a new 90 degree mode, which allows the "Mavic Pro" to shoot vertical bird's-eye shots. The potential saviour for the "Karma" is that the GoPro 5 camera does detach and the gimbal can then be handheld, which does offer far more versatility than the "Mavic Pro", or indeed any DJI drone.
Other new features include a top speed of 40mph with flight times of up to 27 minutes on a single battery. There is also a "Tripod" mode, which minimises the drone's speed and sensitivity for gentle adjustments. The "Mavic Pro" also comes with a pack-away controller, but can be flown via mobile apps.
At a retail price of $999, it comes in cheaper than the "Karma" (+GoPro 5) which retails at $1,099.
People have been quick to wave the GoPro design away as obsolete, since, as a drone design, DJI have built a far more practical solution. However, I think the point about versatility is important. If you're just looking for a drone, clearly the "Mavic Pro" is better, with a ream of design features that do make the "Karma" look obsolete. But, if you're looking for a extreme-condition camera and also want to fly drones, the GoPro design enables you to have a versatile and attractive camera in the GoPro HERO 5, whilst also saving yourself $400 by not buying a drone with a camera already mounted in it. It is at least worth considering.