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      Reviews

      GoPro Karma Grip Review

      GoPro Karma Grip Review

      Written by Craig Rhodes-Harrison

      Towards the end of 2016, GoPro unveiled their new HERO5 camera platform. The show didn’t stop there though as GoPro went one step further by announcing the introduction of KARMA Grip, their first attempt at unlocking the ever-growing, hand-held gimbal market.

      It’s great to see GoPro fill the existing vacancy in their offering as effectively KARMA Grip is the answer to many GoPro user’s prayers who up until now, have had to rely on third party gimbals to satisfy their stabilization wants and needs. That said, there are several top quality, third party gimbals in the market, that are specifically designed around GoPro cameras. Will KARMA Grip hold its own or will it be outgunned? Read on for more.

        

      The Basics:

      KARMA Grip arrives in a neat and durable, black case along with the relevant charging and mounting accessories to get you started. There are two parts to the actual gimbal, the camera harness and the handle part of the grip.

      The standard camera harness is designed around the HERO5 Black, however KARMA Grip is also compatible with the HERO5 Session and HERO4 Black via interchangeable camera harnesses, each of which are sold separately.

      The harness itself follows a simple but robust design and its relatively easy to plug in the camera, although you do have to remove the side door of the HERO5 Black for KARMA Grip to access the brain of the camera via the USB-C and Micro-HDMI ports.

      The cylindrical, handle part of the grip consists of the built-in, rechargeable battery, USB-C charging port and control panel. KARMA Grip follows a simple four button approach namely:

      • Start and stop video
      • Power on/off and changing mode
      • Highlight tagging
      • Tilt-locking and battery status

      The first three buttons are self-explanatory and all relate directly to the camera whereas the final button relates only to the KARMA Grip. The tilt-lock feature is not ground-breaking, however it is something that all decent gimbals tend to have as it’s great for locking the camera at a set angle, following a specific subject as well as those above or below the horizon shots. So far so good, however an adjustable tilt or pan setting/control would be a neat addition.

      When it comes to mounting KARMA Grip, the gimbal arrives with a metal mounting ring that fits around the neck of the device. That ring is compatible with most GoPro mounts so the options are diverse, however users should think carefully before mounting due to the size and weight of KARMA Grip. The good news here is that GoPro will be launching an extension cable soon which should solve all mounting concerns.

      Design & Build Quality:

      KARMA Grip is made from a combination of hard plastic and durable rubber, similar to what can be found on the HERO5 Black. The first thing that comes to mind when picking up KARMA Grip is that this ‘thing’ is hardcore. This gimbal was meant to be used and ultimately put to test in the toughest environments where users wouldn’t dare venture with other gimbals.

      In terms of size and weight, KARMA Grip is on the heavier and bulkier side, however in terms of actual dimensions (length, width and diameter) it is much of a muchness. Again, the build quality speaks to the avenue that GoPro was pursuing when launching this into the saturated gimbal market, that of the USP of strength and durability.

      Performance:

      At the end of the day, gimbals can have all the technical features in the world or be class-leading from a build and size perspective however where the cookie really crumbles is around the stabilization and its performance thereof.

      In this department, GoPro’s KARMA Grip knocks it out the park. KARMA Grip is hands down the strongest gimbal I have personally handled and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get the motors to drop or fail which was relatively easy on other gimbals. This translates into ultra-smooth footage and a device that you can rely on consistently to deliver the goods in almost any conditions bar underwater.

      When it comes to battery life, KARMA Grip offers between 90 – 120 minutes, which is not bad considering the battery must power multiple motors as well as charge the camera when in use. One thing to note though is that KARMA Grip takes incredibly long to charge (up to six hours) and with no replaceable battery, users need to manage the battery quite carefully when on full day adventures

      Wrap Up:

      If you’re looking for a hand-held gimbal that has multitude of controls for adjusting angles, tilt and pan settings then KARMA Grip will leave you wondering. However, if you’re an outdoor, adventure enthusiast like me then the strong, simple and powerful nature of the KARMA Grip will leave you shocked at just how capable this gimbal is as well as how incredibly smooth the footage is.

      There’s definitely room for improvement on the KARMA Grip (size, mount ability and control options) however in terms of the fundamental, stabilization job to be done here, KARMA Grip is right up there with the very best, but goes one step further by being the most rugged and durable option on the market.

      If you’re interested in more GoPro content then swing by Craig's personal Instagram account (@craigrh_).

      GoPro Hero5 Black Review

      GoPro Hero5 Black Review

      Written by Craig Rhodes-Harrison

      In October 2016, GoPro unveiled the new HERO5 camera platform consisting of the HERO5 Black and HERO5 Session. On surface level, one might think that it’s just a costume change however when you dive into it, the HERO5 range has so much more on offer and a lot more bang for your buck.

      As per GoPro’s naming convention, the HERO5 Black is the flagship model of the range and for all intents and purposes, it’s an all-out powerhouse that scales to suit the needs of both personal and professional use.

      New And Improved:

      Getting into it, the launch of the HERO5 Black saw the continuation of the previous high spec photo (12MP) and video modes (4K) however a few noticeable new additions were also thrown into the mix namely: voice control, built in EIS, touch display, GPS and advanced audio.

      Voice Control is often seen as a gimmick however it’s safe to say that they thought this one through. The HERO5 Black supports ten languages and twelve different commands which include the likes of changing camera mode, triggering the shutter button and highlighting those awesome moments during the action.

      The voice control range is around 3 metres however it is affected by wind and loud background noise levels. Still, there are very few occasions when it’s in your hand or mounted on or near your body that it doesn’t pick up voice commands. One just needs to speak slowly and clearly for best results.

      The built in EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) is another new feature and possibly the most noticeable for those shooting video.  In videos, most shaky movement comes from the outsides of the field of view so essentially EIS shoots a higher resolution (4K) and then cuts off 10% of the sides providing you with a smooth video at the resolution of your choice (up to 2.7K). How cool?

      The announcement of the 2-inch touch display brought a lot of stoke to the previous HERO4 Black users however some felt the HERO4 Silver touch display was overly complex. Thankfully GoPro took the general feedback into account as the HERO5 Black’s new and improved menu system is clear, logical, user friendly and responsive to touch in most conditions bar under water.

      GPS is another new feature added to the HERO5 Black however the initial launch just saw the GPS feature used for geo-tagging photos and videos. Months later, GoPro released telemetry via their Quik for desktop app which allows users to add speed and mapping gauges to their HERO5 Black videos. A nifty feature indeed however one does tend to wonder if there’s more in store for the GPS feature. Let’s hope so.

      The last new feature to talk about is advanced audio which supports both auto and pro-tune modes. Auto mode drives the camera to automatically select between stereo and wind reduction for optimal sound whereas in pro-tune mode, the HERO5 Black allows you to manually choose between stereo and wind reduction. The pro-tune audio files also save out separately for that higher level of professional editing. The level of manual audio control is impressive but perhaps not something that everyone will use.

      Design And Build Quality:

      Unlike the previous models, the HERO5 Black is waterproof up to 10m as is and therefore does not need a protective or waterproof housing. The HERO5 Black sports a matte grey finish with a durable rubber, outer shell as well as a removable glass lens and two side doors which house the charging ports, SD card and battery.

      When it comes to size and weight, the HERO5 Black is lighter than previous models (in their casing) as well as slightly more compact and rounded in shape. Durability seems to be on point although the rubber shell does show scuff marks after considerable switching in and out of mounts. The lens and touch display are surprisingly scratch resistant. 

      On the overall, the design and build quality of the HERO5 Black is right up there with its performance. It’s slick, durable and more compact than ever which bodes well for the GoPro evolution.

      Photo And Video Performance:

      In photo mode, the HERO5 Black offers the same 12MP performance as the HERO4 Black. The same standard modes of single photo, time-lapse mode and burst mode are also there, however they can now be activated via voice control e.g. ‘GoPro Burst Mode’ or ‘GoPro take a photo’. All the above-mentioned modes have pro-tune options where one can manually adjust the EV comp, ISO and colour of your images. That is nothing new however the nice touch here is that there is a live preview of the setting changes via the touch display.

      When it comes to photo quality, the main difference between the HERO5 and the HERO4 does not necessarily come in a change in resolution but rather via the new photo modes of RAW, WDR and linear. In a nutshell, RAW presents a separate and larger JPEG file that allows one to access and unlock more detail in the image using third party editing software systems. The everyday GoPro user won’t need this however professional users will appreciate this.

      WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) is used to improve shadows and even out the over-exposed spots which presents users with a well-balanced photo. Note that both RAW and WDR are only accessible in photo mode and not time-lapse or burst mode. Lastly, linear mode allows you to remove the fisheye angle normally seen in all GoPro photos which is great for shooting portraits.

      Normal 

      Left Image: Normal, Right Image: WDR on

       

       

       Left Image: RAW on, Right Image: Linear Mode

      Moving on to video, the HERO5 Black offers the exact same shooting modes as the HERO4 Black however the built in EIS makes a world of difference by presenting super smooth imagery. Take a look at the difference between EIS turned off and EIS turned on. Impressive right?

      As for the battery life, due to the increased battery size, the HERO5 Black lasts longer than the HERO4 Black although it’s still advised to only use the Wi-Fi when truly needed. When shooting at 4K resolution the HERO5 Black will deliver between 60 – 90 minutes of life per battery depending on the surrounding environment conditions (heat etc).

      The Complete Package:

      For those that were wondering about whether your favourite mounts from previous cameras still apply, the answer is yes. In addition to that, there are a bunch of new mounts that have come out however we will cover those in a separate review.

      The launch of the HERO5 platform saw a significant shift in making their cameras and software simpler and easier to use. They succeeded in doing that with the HERO5 Black however they also overhauled their original ‘GoPro app’ and labelled it Capture which is now the key to getting that content off your camera and onto the world-wide web

      On top of that, GoPro has also recently launched two other mobile editing suits, Quik and Splice. Quik is also available on desktop however its primarily a mobile device platform that automatically assists in putting together short edits that are themed and synced to music. Splice is only available on mobile however it is the app for those that want a little more manual control of their edits.

      Wrap Up:

      To wrap things up, the GoPro HERO5 Black is as good as the hype surrounding it. GoPro took what needed improving on their previous models and packed it into a new camera that is lighter, far more powerful and even slightly cheaper than its predecessors - now that’s what I call progression!

      The HERO5 Black is not a faultless canvas however it’s damn close and with its improved ability to satisfy both personal and professional users, it’s a powerful tool that anyone with a need for photo and video content should consider at the top of their list.

      If you’re interested in more GoPro HERO5 Black content then swing by Craig's personal Instagram account (@craigrh_) for more GoPro content.

      Drone Technology Marches On ...

      Drone Technology Marches On ...

      By Dave Estment

      It’s been challenging getting my DJI Inspire booked onto aeroplanes, due to its size and controversial looks, which caused airport security to give me a hard time – as if I were about to highjack the plane or something sinister like that. To address this issue, it was time to look for a smaller drone that could up the game technologically and produce even better imagery.

      The Inspire has served us faithfully for the last three years, producing world class HD video at up to 120 frames per second for amazing slo-mo footage that has blown our clients away. However, in my opinion, the image quality of the photos could be improved, particularly in low light. Don’t get me wrong, the images are more than acceptable for the purposes required, but I’ve been hoping for DJI to provide a new, large sensor camera on a smaller frame that would improve the video quality even more and produce higher grade photographs. Guess what? A couple of weeks ago DJI launched the Phantom 4 Pro. My prayers were answered.

      Just in time, because we are doing a long-term time lapse video of a massive development project by Fortress Income Fund on the old Clairwood Race Course, near Durban. Fortress is one of our esteemed, long term clients who is leading the way in the warehousing and logistics industry, and since this is a 3-year construction project, we’ll be doing quite a few trips in the foreseeable future. Their compelling visual portfolio will include traditional ground based progress photos and videos, as well as regular aerial coverage.

      It was a pleasure to check in at the airport yesterday with my Phantom 4 Pro, which performed perfectly during the morning to capture this early stage of development. Here’s one of the aerial photos that I took, to show you the image quality:

      Aerial View of Fortress Construction Site

      The Phantom range of DJI drones have been the most successful in the short history of stabilised flying film and photo platforms, but they have always been the bridesmaid to the amazing Inspire range of professional DJI drones. That has just changed, as if the engineers at DJI sensed my dilemma and worked overtime to deliver a new Phantom that fully qualifies as a professional filming drone, good enough to be used in Hollywood feature films. 4k video at 50 FPS and a bit rate of 100 Mb/sec! Yes please. It is half the size of the Inspire, ideal for hand luggage in its discreet carry case that holds 4 batteries and all the bits required for shoots.

      The tech specs and smart functionality are mind blowing, enabling even more precise flying and route planning than before. The inspire doesn’t come close – sorry Inspire 🙂 My favourite features on this little powerhouse include a camera sensor (ALMOST 5 X BIGGER than previous ones), manual aperture, shutter, ISO and exposure control, manual and auto focus, plus a host of setting options. The bit rate of 100 Mb/sec ensures that all the data is accurately captured and the new route planning functionality such as Tripod Mode, Draw, Tap Fly and obstacle avoidance will certainly assist me in complicated route planning and camera control.

      Thank you for the new P4 Pro, DJI. And thank you Action Gear team for your support. May technology keep marching on . . . I love it!

      You can check out the rest Dave Estment's blogs here

      DJI Range Specifications Explained

      DJI Range Specifications Explained

      Curious about some of the range specifications for the various DJI products? Search no more.  Here's a bit of useful information from our friend Grant recording the times at Pretoria altitude. 

      In South Africa, we fall within the CE Specifications, the same as Europe, and that means we are limited to half the transmission power as compared to the USA. DJI automatically adjusts the power output of the transmitters depending where the craft is being flown. This is not something that can be bypassed.

      SO LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT THE DIFFERENT MODELS:

      TYPE OF DJI DRONE:

       RANGE SPECIFIED IN SA:

      DJI Phantom 4*  up to 3.5 km
      DJI  Phantom 4 Pro  up to 3.5 km
      DJI Mavic Pro  up to 4.0 km
      DJI Inspire 1  to 3.5 km
      DJI Inspire 2   up to 3.5 km

      *It uses Lightbridge for the Control and the Live Video feed to the operator

      Please remember in South Africa the CAA has limited Drone flying to 500 m of the operator, so the figures are academic anyway.


      WHAT ABOUT THE FLIGHT TIME?

      If you've ever asked the question "How far can I fly my drone from me?", it's highly likely that you've ventured on to DJI and other website for the answers. The other specification on the DJI website that can be confusing is the flight time. All of the Flight Times on the DJI website are for Standard Sea Level, with no wind.

      If we look at the Phantom 4 specification, we see the following:

      Max Flight Time Approx. 28 minutes

      On the Highveld, in Pretoria or Johannesburg, we are over 1 km above sea level, and generally we are much hotter than the standard sea level specification, so we experience reduced flight times.

      So, how long does the Phantom battery last? My Phantom 4 consistently produces flights of 18 minutes, with the flight battery down to 30%.

      Please take note of this.

      DJI Phantom 4 Pro / Pro+ Specifications

      DJI Phantom 4 Pro / Pro+ Specifications

      Written by Daryl-Leigh Preuss

      The DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Pro +, the ideal drones for hobbyists and professionals alike! Take a closer look at these incredible aircraft's.

      What's the difference between the DJI Phantom 4 Pro & Pro +:
      The difference between the Pro and Pro+ drones, is that the Pro+ unit has a built in screen on the remote (there is thus no need to connect to your phone or tablet). The drones, themselves, are exactly the same.

       

      Specifications:

      • 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor
      • Shoots 4K/60fps video
      • Burst Mode stills at 14fps
      • Airframe made from titanium and magnesium reducing weight
      • Five-directions of obstacle sensing
      • Four-directions of obstacle avoidance

      Camera with 1-inch 20MP CMOS Sensor

      • Eliminates rolling shutter distortion when taking a photo of fast moving objects
      • Supports H.264 4K videos at 60fps or H.265 4K at 30fps (Both with a 100Mps bitrate)
      • Advanced sensors and processors enable more image detail and image data

      Five-Directions of Obstacle Sensing

      • High resolution stereo vision sensors placed at the front and rear
      • Infrared sensing systems placed on the left and right sides
      • Protected from obstacles allowing you to achieve more complex shots

      Remote Controller

      Phantom 4 Pro:

      • Upgraded Lightbridge HD video transmission system
      • Added 5.8 GHz transmission support
      • Choice between 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz
      • Maximum video transmission range of 7km

      Phantom 4 Pro +:

      • BUILT-IN 5.5in 1080p screen
      • 1000cd/m2 brightness (More than twice as bright as conventional smart devices)
      • Vivid colours easily visible in direct sunlight
      • No mobile device required
      • DJI GO app included (Hardware and software can be fully optimized reducing video lag)
      • Share images almost instantly using the DJI GO app
      • Integrated HDMI port, Micro-SD card slot, microphone, embedded loudspeaker and Wifi connection
      • 5 hour battery life
      *Unobstructed, free of interference, when FCC compliant


        Features:

        Draw

        • Waypoint control!
        • Draw the route on screen and the Phantom 4 Pro will move in that direction without changing altitude.

        Draw Modes:

        • Standard: The aircraft follows the route at a constant speed with the camera facing in the direction of flight.
        • Manual: The aircraft only moves along the route when instructed. The camera can face any direction in this mode.

        ActiveTrack

        • The Phantom 4 Pro automatically recognizes, follows and captures subjects as they move
        • Advanced image recognition algorithms allow it to track fast moving objects while keeping it in the frame for a smooth shot.

        TapFly

        • Fly in any direction visible on-screen with a simple tap
        • Automatically avoids obstacles
        • Tap the screen again or use control sticks to change direction
        • TapFly allows you to turn and tilt the gimbal of the Phantom 4 Pro without changing the direction of flight.

        TapFly Modes:

        • TapFly Forward - Tap to fly in the selected direction
        • TapFly Backward - Tap to fly in the opposite direction of the tap
        • I.e. Tap in the bottom right corner of the screen to fly backward towards the top left
        • TapFly Free - Lock the forward direction of the Phantom without locking the camera direction allowing it to turn as it flies.

        *Obstacle Avoidance is not available with TapFly Free!!!

        Return to Home

        • The Phantom 4 Pro automatically chooses the best route home depending on environmental conditions
        • It records its route as it flies, allowing it to return along the same route avoiding obstacles even if the control signal is disconnected
        • At takeoff, the Phantom 4 Pro will record the scene below and compare its recording with what it sees as it returns, ensuring a precise landing
        • It will alert the pilot and hover at the appropriate height if it senses any water or obstacles below

         

        Gesture Mode

        • Selfies can be captured using gestures instead of the remote conroller
        • The Phantom 4 Pro will recognize the gesture then lock and centre the subject in the frame
        • Hold your arms out to signal the aircraft, a three second countdown will begin giving you time to strike a pose!

        Sensor Redundancy

        • The Phantom 4 Pro features dual compass modules and dual IMU units
        • Ensures a stable flight
        • Constantly compares the data received through both pairs
        • Any inaccurate data is simply discarded without affecting flight keeping flight steady and reliable

        Intelligent Batteries

        • Maximum flight time of 30mins
        • DJI GO app shows battery lifetime and calculates remaining flight times according to distance traveled and more
        • It will alert when it reaches a minimum safe amount required for a safe journey home
        • It also has an advanced battery management system to prevent overcharging and over draining
        • When placed in longer term storage, batteries will discharge to maintain good health

        DJI GO

        • There are a large number of Intelligent Flight modes available on this app
        • Provides access to full manuel camera controls (ISO; aperture; shutter speed; image formats etc.)
        • All changes appear instantly on-screen