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GoPro exits drone business, but also drops price on GoPro Hero 6 Black

GoPro-Karma-Flying-Hero-Review_thumb

In a move that will surprise approximately nobody, GoPro officially announced they’re exiting the flying camera business.  This was rumored over the weekend with the slashing of some 245 jobs, but solidified today in their earnings call.  Of course, while this ending was hardly a surprise, there were numerous signs of a possible Karma 2 drone as recently as this fall.  CEO Nick Woodman had made multiple overtures to numerous media outlets towards a second gen drone coming out in 2018, as had other employees in the company.

GoPro Karma Ends:

GoProKarmaFlying

The challenge for GoPro though was realistically twofold.  First, there was the hardware piece – the reality that the GoPro Karma drone was like carrying around a long-haul UPS semi-truck compared to a smaller DJI Mavic (or even the more tiny Spark). And that ignores that the hardware was less capable, lacking things like obstacle avoidance or having half the battery life.  But in many ways, it wasn’t actually the hardware that really was the kiss of death: It was the software.

The GoPro Karma’s software was kindergarten level at best, lacking virtually the bulk of autonomous modes found in other drone companies (especially DJI, but even various drone startups).

Which isn’t to say that it was all bad on the Karma drone.  For example, while the controller was bulky as hell to carry around, I actually found it a really solid solution that was super easy to see in sunlight.  Further, their ‘Passenger’ app which allowed secondary camera pilots using just a smartphone to connect and oversee the camera pieces was at the time relatively new, and is still lacked on DJI’s lower end models (it’s available on their higher end units targeting prosumers/pros).  And finally, GoPro’s cable cam implementation is actually more usable than DJI’s, because it can be repeated over and over again automatically – perfect for doing the same segment repeatedly to get the perfect shot (3rd party apps on DJI’s drones can fill this gap, but it’s not first party).

Of course, all of this ignores the initial issues Karma faced around falling from the sky unexpectedly.  But in some ways, that was realistically more a case of GoPro being more honest than most of its competitors.  One only need to look DJI forums to see that they’ve got plenty of odd flyaway and bad-behavior situations…they just…well…ignore it.

Still, the move for GoPro to remove itself from the drone game is hardly good news for consumers.  Not only is having more competition a good thing in terms of product/price/feature options, but it’s actually a good thing for consumer drone protections.  The reality is that many drone regulations in the industry are knee-jerk reactions, and companies like DJI and GoPro do quite a bit of work (read: lobbying) to fight for your ability to use drones in a responsible manner.  The more consumer-focused drone companies that leave this realm, the less likely you’ll be able to keep flying drones in a responsible manner long term.  Sure, companies like Amazon, Intel, and others are out there fighting for drone rights – but that’s mostly in a business setting, and not so much for people like you and me.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens down the road with the remainder of the Karma line, which still has the GoPro gimbal within it.

But the Hero 6 gets a price cut:

GoProHero6Black

On the more positive side of things (for consumers anyway), GoPro has slashed the price of their new GoPro Hero 6 Black action cam, which came out this past fall.  The main driver for this was the fact that GoPro horribly missed their already reduced holiday (Q4 2017) expectations by a boatload.  GoPro said during their earnings call that they hope this increases demand for the product, which given the upcoming winter sports (ski/snowboard/etc) season, it’s fairly well timed (though, a month ago would have been better).

Of course, there actually were various GoPro price cuts during the holidays, even on the Hero 6 Black for short periods of time.  Some of them were temporary, and others permanent.  Here’s where everything is though now, after the dust settled:

GoPro Hero 5 Session: $199 (that’s the little cube-like camera with 4K)
GoPro Hero 5 Black: $299 (simply the previous model, with a screen and 4K)
GoPro Hero 6 Black: $399 (the new model, 4K/60, screen and all)

When you look at the Hero 5 Session and Hero 5 Black, those are solid prices, especially the Hero 5 Session.  I mean, to step back and think you’re getting a reputable camera at $199 with 4K that’s fully waterproof, that’s awesome.  As much as I’m not personally a Session person (because it lacks a screen that I like for previewing), I can recommend to those in more family type situations for beach vacations and such.

And the Hero 6 Black and $399 versus the previous $499 does make a boatload of sense in getting people to upgrade and see the benefits there (albeit probably limited for most people).  I’ve bought two Hero 6 Black cameras and use them as my daily drivers for on-the-move video capture and photo capture.

The real question is how this impacts competitors, specifically Garmin as well as others.  Garmin’s got their VIRB Ultra 30 sitting at $399, which is looking a bit pricey now.  Certainly Garmin can argue that the VIRB Ultra 30 has more advanced sports related metrics (and that’s very true), easily dominating GoPro in that arena.  But inversely, for the majority of the population, GoPro’s image quality and equally priced Hero 6 are better than the VIRB Ultra 30.  So that’s a bit tricky.  And that ignores the Hero 5 Black now being $299, with equal resolution specs to the VIRB Ultra 30.

GoProHero5vsVIRBUltra30

Also note, none of this at this point directly impacts the GoPro Fusion camera, which is kinda in a self-imposed beta exile like thing right now.  GoPro has of course started shipping that (you can see my unboxing below), but some of the app pieces aren’t yet there till this month or next.  So while you can definitely use the camera, it’s a bit less refined than some competitors.

As for my thoughts on the GoPro Fusion camera, I’ve almost finished my in-depth review. Actually, all of the video content is done, I’ve just gotta finish writing up the text.  In some ways, it reminds me a bit of the Karma drone – but not totally.  Yes, it’s bigger and bulkier than its competitors (by a fair bit), and it’s software isn’t as advanced either (yet).  And there’s some bizarre quirks with the hardware design.  But the image quality is very very solid, and so for the right person, it’s definitely appealing.  Whether or not that’s enough to make their investments worthwhile…that’s another question.  And whether or not GoPro can convince more mainstream people to use it (outside of influencers who had cameras sent to them), is tricky.  I think the technology makes sense, but maybe not in that sized package.

With that – stay tuned for plenty more news from CES 2018, which officially opens its doors later tonight to the media, and then to the general public tomorrow.  Hang tight, plenty of goodness coming!

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33 Comments

    • Not surprised, when you try and milk customers to an extent that frustrates them and overcharge for the latest kit. Great hardware ruined by stupid software design choices. It’s my camera so why the **** do I need to log in to change some settings !?!?!

    • I’m curious what Hero 6 feature are problematic for you? Certainly, there’s some minor software things that annoy me, but I’ve had really good experiences with mine. I do agree, the forced login is stupid though, but not a deal breaker in this day and age.

      As for a sale, that’s gonna be a tough one for them. I struggle to come up with viable buyers.

    • Having lost days worth of videos using Quik I no longer bother unless using for updates.

      All the apps require login now, desktop and phone just to do basic stuff I can already do on my Mac, my guess is this so they can try and upsell cloud storage. Now there is nothing more infuriating than getting to a location and setting up your camera only to have to log in to the app to check a shot or fire a remote picture or quickly change settings. Yes I know if you turn off cellular then it will just let you in but why should I need to do that. You also have to remember your account details so no complicated passwords – I gave them false info because why would I need to risk my details with GoPro just to use a camera. Also try finding your GoPro at a running event where 20 other GoPro’s all have ridiculously stupid names you cannot change. Yes as you say not a deal breaker but annoying, especially when the shot has run past you before you are set up.

      The camera’s themselves I love, have a few but they are no longer the only player on the block. Look at the reviews on Amazon for what was a £500 camera and poor build quality and freezing.

    • Hmmm, wonder if Garmin would be interested? There may be some antitrust issues, but I’ve seen a lot worse. Certainly worth doing the analysis and some initial due diligence. Wonder if they need an in-house M&A lawyer…?

    • Giles E

      What about the unexpected? What about Red Bull going out on a limb and buying GoPro? Would be unexpected, but their marketing arm seems to have very little in limits.

    • the5krunner

      often when a company is put up for sale the share price can rise.

      if you take a look you’ll see it fell to a 5 year low

      link to google.co.uk

    • Mike Richie

      @5krunner – I believe that the price dropped on earnings report and news of the jobs cut and then rose after it was announced that they were shopping the company.

      @Ray – what about DJI? They could certainly wrap up the sports camera space, and both brand awareness and GoPro’s media operation would be a plus. Hopefully they could fix GoPro’s software miss-steps. And they may have deep pockets.

    • Yeah, I don’t see any US buyers. And probably not any European buyers that could afford it.

      Perhaps some Asian buyers, but I don’t see DJI as one of them. For two reasons. First, they’d like nothing more than to make GoPro (specifically, Nick), hurt. And second, they’ve got the engineering to do this themselves, with no real benefit to buying GoPro.

      I suspect we’ll see them enter the action cam market this year anyway.

    • Mike Richie

      I’m not sure what would make Nick hurt more than to steal his company 😉 The advantage for DJI would be more in marketing then technology, plus no GoPro competitor with a different owner. I can also see some product synergy as they enter the action cam market. Although, you certainly know a good deal more about it than I. I am looking forward to the day when you take out your camera, flick the switch, tell it what kind of shot you want, leave it in the air and then just go do your ride or whatever.

    • Ken

      In the middle of Paris, or any other large city it’s not an issue, but if one is somewhere more remote, where one doesn’t have cell coverage then it is an issue. Yes, those places still exist (& they’re usually where I take a lot of video)

  1. Kyle

    It wasnt enough to upgrade year in and year out. Not to mention, GoPros are a niche market. On top of those…you have smartphone cameras that are getting better and better everyday. With that, GoPros for most consumers are useless unless you want it for sports..which again is a niche market. With all that being said…paying $500 is ridiculous.

  2. Quick niggle in the opening para: “there was numerous signs” should be “there were numerous signs”.

  3. Sébastien Gagné

    “halving half the battery life”
    Sooo a quarter battery life ?

  4. John B

    The latest GoPro desktop editing software makes me not want to use my cameras.

    • NIck Tsilas

      Yeah agree. Have had GoPros since the 2 and bought the 6 just before Thanksgiving. Love the 6 but stopped using it because of their ridiculous editing software. Have been planning to use Adobe’s Premier Pro and even got my subscription, but just haven’t had the time to learn it. Need something simple and less involved. Hours of great video on SD cards never to be viewed because of GOPro’s crappy s/w or because its just too involved to learn Premier Pro.

  5. Scott E

    Just as a side note CNBC is reporting that GoPro was shopping for a partner or seeking to sell the company. The competitive action camera landscape may be shifting.

  6. ReHMn

    …and here is something for the droners:

    link to dronestagr.am

  7. Matt

    Hey Ray,

    The session intrigues me at this price point. Any updates on better gimbals for running though? I’d love to have them on some of my trail runs, but obviously I need better stability.

  8. Steven

    The Hero 6 has 3.7 stars on amazon at $399. The Yi 4k+ has 3.9 and $279. For the research of many, that says that the Yi is a better camera at a lower price. GoPro has failed to dominate the action camera market, despite acquiring some great IP/knowledge (Dashware?) along the way. The video quality itself doesn’t really stand out against peers in a meaningful way that makes up for the freezes/fails/short battery life of the GoPro. The Sony FDR-X3000 was released in 2016 and its video quality is on par and better in all my use cases than the Hero 6 Black.

    Despite the dashware acquisition for me the decision tree is: want overlays? Virb. want great video with OIS? Sony. Want cheap? Yi. Want good low light performance over everything else? GoPro in some situations.

    • Having used the Yi (and owning the 4K+), it’s hardly a better all around camera. It’s just that they do a better job of having people write Amazon reviews. 😉

      It’s more resolution at a lower price, but things like build quality are also lower, and that matters when you start talking using it in rougher conditions.

      GoPro has totally botched the Dashware acquisition. Such a waste on both sides.

  9. Giles Roandight

    Typo?

    ” And that ignores that the hardware was less capable, ”

    I think you mean software

    • Giles Roandight

      …or maybe not.

      I thought that you had finished talking about hardware as the previous section started

      ” First, there was the hardware piece”

      Obviously wasn’t paying enough attention.

      I’m just talking to myself now so I’ll stop.

      Ignore! 🙂

  10. steve24601

    so… is it risky to buy a GoPro now? If they go under, will I be a proud owner of a brick should they shut down all their servers?

    • I see no risk there. To be clear, GoPro is doing just fine (albeit missed a target). It’s just that they realized they don’t make any money making drones that are uncompetitive.

      I plan to keep on buying and using GoPro’s.

  11. dizpark

    A quick question about European pricing. Does the price drop for Gopro Here 6 Black apply to Europe as well (I could not find any such press release with figures). I checked the price trend on Idealo Germany. Their price watcher shows the lowest prices over a period of time. It debuted at ~ 560 EUR, then recently stabilized at around 500 EUR and since January 7th has dropped to 429 EUR. Is that it? Or can we expected a further price drop?

    • Julian

      Directly from GoPro it went down from €569 to €429 when they announced the cut; it also went down to €429 on Amazon.de and other European Amazon sites, so I presume that €429 is the new suggested retail price.

      I was actually following the price before they announced the cut as I’m interested in purchasing one. It’s much more appealing at the new price. Like steve24601 above, I wonder if it would be a risky purchase though.

  12. FD

    As all things I buy I do a huge review search, forum, ask friends, a laborious job. At that time I went to the Gopro 4 Silver. The thing that disappointed me most was the menus and such, they were just terrible – almost like a military software. But all in all it had “right from the box” quality that all my friends guaranteed that their “gopro lookalike cameras made in the same factory for half the price” had but in fact they didn’t. After some time I went to the 5 Session because the 4 Silver was just too bulky for mountain biking. It has a brilliant design and so far so good.

    I still remember one of the key factors that made me buy a Gopro, I wanted something that didn’t give me a headache, a niche camera on the niche market, I wanted something that everybody else had, lots of info, forums, feedback, accessories, market for selling it second hand, etc.
    I think that “pack” it’s still their biggest asset, as long as they dont keep making mistakes. They built a brand even if nowadays others have similar quality they are still followers.

  13. Martin

    Hi Ray,

    what’s the GoPro price tag in Europe after the price drop?
    I can’t find it in Germany anywhere near 400€. E.g. Amazon.de has it for 429€. Any chance to get it cheaper?

    Thanks.
    Martin

  14. Larry

    Given the price drop for the Karma drone, does that change your view on the buying decision? I’ve been thinking about the DJI Spark, but essentially for $100 more, I can get the Karma with an extra battery and equivalent accessories (controller, grip, etc.) as I would get with the Spark Combo. I already own the Hero 5, so I don’t need a camera.

    Which, between those two, would you suggest?