DJI has a long history of producing outstanding quality drones with some of the best aerial videography systems. With the Phantom 4, DJI is stepping up the drone game even further, blowing its competition off the charts.
The Phantom 4 looks very similar to the previous generations of the Phantom series. It is slightly thinner and lighter thanks to its magnesium skeleton that provides extra agility and improves performance. It isn’t a beautiful looking drone, but it covers up in terms of the technology it packs!
DJI says the Phantom 4 is one of the most advanced drones they’ve made, and that is absolutely true. The Phantom 4 relies on GPS and GLONASS to locate itself on earth, but it also uses the Visual Positioning System to determine its physical location with respect to its surroundings using four optical and two ultrasonic sensors. In addition, it features an obstacle avoidance system that is a first in the Phantom series. This uses two front facing optical sensors paired with the drone’s computer to stop the drone from crashing when an object appears in its path.
Now that the drone consists of so many sensors to accurately determine position and avoid obstacles, DJI stepped up the piloting experience with ‘TapFly’ and ‘ActiveTrack’. Like the Phantom 3 Professional, the drone connects to the controller with DJI's Lightbridge Video Downlink, allowing for a 5 km range. This also allows for a live video feed on the iPad or smartphone connected to the controller. TapFly makes controlling the drone child’s play - just double tap the location where you want the drone to go to and it will fly there. In ActiveTrack mode, all you do is select the moving object - a person, a car or anything else - that you wish to track and the drone will follow along. In both modes, the drone uses all the sensors to pilot itself. These features make the Phantom 4 a compelling choice for novice pilots and videographers.
The Phantom 4 is a true filmmaker’s tool. The 12.4 MP camera can shoot 4K video @ 30 fps. It is stabilised by its own 3-axis gimbal. The camera module is essentially borrowed for the DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone. In terms of picture quality, this drone does an excellent job, as visible in the videos linked below. The drone also features a ‘Sport Mode’ (in addition to other pre-programmed flying modes) that allows the drone to capture high quality footage at speeds of upto 72 km/h.
DJI promises a 25% increase in flight time with the Phantom 4, from 23 minutes on the Phantom 3 Professional to 28 minutes on this. However, actual flying time is usually lesser, which means spare batteries are a necessity for long duration flights. Sadly though, the batteries itself are very expensive.
As you can tell, there isn’t a lot going wrong with this drone. Initial reviews of this drone conclude the same. Casey Neistat, popular YouTube vlogger and filmmaker from New York considers this to be one of the best drones out there - visibly evident in his vlogs. I’ve linked two of his videos for you to experience the video quality from the Phantom 4.
Coming to the price: $1399. This is just for the drone and the controller, with no spare batteries or a carrying case. Pretty steep? Yes, but when compared to other drones in the market, the Phantom 4 is an excellent choice even at this price point.
I’m looking forward to get my hands on this for a review, so hit me up of you plan to purchase one (or own one already)! Meanwhile, take a look at the outstanding landscape of South Africa filmed using this drone by Casey Neistat.