The Chinese-based firm, DJI Technology has released to market its latest consumer drone model, the DJI phantom 4. As the latest model in their prosumer line it is exceptionally user-friendly and designed for those who want a drone to enable them to capture stunning photos and videos rather than for the experience of being a pilot. This is no surprise and what Phantom lovers have come to expect from DJI products.
Although the Phantom 4 has plenty of new beginner and safety features, this does not mean that drone hobbyists will be unhappy with this model. Experienced users won’t be left feeling unchallenged as DJI has implemented a new manual sports mode. The included “sports mode” feature also allow advanced users to have the opportunity to film high speed action shots while controlling the Phantom manually if they choose. There is a large list of upgrades and improved features on the new model that vastly improve the ease of use of this camera drone. Many of these features were designed to compensate for common human errors that often led to crashes with previous models.
The Phantom 4 has some notable updates from it’s predecessor the Phantom 3
- The strengthened materials used in the construction of the DJI Phantom 4 make it lightweight (just 3.04 pounds) while increasing rigidity.
- The re-positioned camera gimbal (moved to the centre of gravity) increases overall stability to reduce the amount of movement the camera experiences. Creating a more stable platform reduces camera shake and results in better quality video and still photos.
- The camera has been updated with newly designed optics for greater sharpness and image clarity.
- Onboard optical downward sensors and motion sensors monitor the surroundings during flight to prevent crashing. These sensors relay information to the software to enable it to avoid common obstacles like houses, trees, and birds. The sensors identify items as much as 30 feet below its path and as far ahead as 50 feet. This provides plenty of time for the drone to change its path away from the object.
- Simple programming allows users to use tablets or computers to program the destination while the phantom drone follows the path and avoids obstacles along the way. The drone is designed to transition smoothly from start to finish to guarantee a smooth landing at the destination point.
- New advanced, automated flight modes makes this one of the easiest drones to operate to date.
- The aerodynamically-redesigned body helps to reduce drag and make the quadcopter move much faster. This allows it to reach the surprising top speed of nearly 45 mph when it is in sports mode.
- New sports mode unleashes the drones full flying potential.
- The propellers are easy to attach and remove due to an innovative push-and-lock system. They are also more stable during flight.
- New higher thrust motors are taller moving the propellers further up. Positioning the props higher reduces the risk of them getting in the shot.
- Increased battery life
- Better frame rates and slow motion (120fps @1080p and 4K @ 30fps)
We are getting closer to artificial intelligence – DJI’s new smart features practically operate the drone for you
The DJI phantom 4 is the premium model for aerial photography. It has been designed to recognize three-dimensional images and can lock onto an image to keep it in the frame and centred even when the object is moving. The operator is able to control the camera separately from the drone, using real-time monitoring on their tablet to ensure they are getting the image they prefer. The drone is also capable of “pausing,” a feature that allows the user to have the drone hover over a specific area during the flight. There are a number of additional statistics that prove this to be a fast, effective, and high-quality design.
Let look at the Phantom 4’s new Smart Features
“P” is the mode enables the smart functionality. The mode in which most pilots will operate in. When enabled you will be able to access a lot of cool features including waypoints, active tracking, a tap to fly user interface, points of interest, and many others. In this mode speeds are limited to 22mph.
“S” is the designated setting for “sport” mode. This mode is where all the excitement happens! None of the assistive technology works in this mode, but you can push the DJI Phantom 4 to an impressive 45 MPH. This mode isn’t for the faint of heart or beginner pilots. We can see forgetting you have the PH4 in sport mode could become problematic.
“A” is the same as “attitude mode” in the DJI Phantom 3. It maintains a consistent altitude but allows complete drone control without GPS or “return to home.”
Sense and Avoid:
One of the most advanced features on the DJI Phantom 4 is its ability to avoid collisions. As long as you’re in “P” mode and the IOC features are active the DJI Phantom 4 will prevent itself from crashing with a relatively high reliability. The biggest catch is the object must be in front of the quadcopter, and the drone must be going forward.The main time you will run into an issue as a beginner pilot is using the active track feature. The drone flies in a circle facing its target. If there are any obstacles in its horizontal path, it could crash into them as it rotates. If you’re piloting the DJI Phantom 4 manually, then you might also run into issues when driving the drone sideways or backward.
There are two obstacles you need to watch. Not only will they harm your drone but they may also make it unretrievable. The first is bare trees. Tree branches flush with leaves or needles are accurately detected, but some users have had an issue with trees in locations the leaves have already fallen. Second, power lines. Similar to bare tree branches they’re just too thin and sparse to be reliably detected. It’s best to fly where neither obstacle is present when using the sense and avoid feature.
TapFly is a fantastic new feature that’s extremely friendly toward beginner pilots. As the name implies, you touch a spot on your screen, and the quadcopter goes where directed, hovers, and waits for its next instruction. The resulting video is amazing. Despite multiple rapid instructions the drone smoothly transitions between them and still produces a high-quality seamless video. We wouldn’t recommend putting full confidence in this feature. It would be wise keep your hands on the radio and ready to take control. You will want to take off from the ground and reach a safe altitude before activating the Phantom 4’s TapFly feature.. Still, it’s impressive the controls are straightforward and intuitive enough that most anyone can take such high-quality footage without running into issues.
Following objects and taking high-quality video at the same time can be a daunting task even for experienced drone pilots. ActiveTrack lets you draw a box around your target and tell the DJI Phantom 4 to follow the item you’ve selected. It’s not perfect. Multiple reviewers have reported it losing your target if they transition into a group. There were also issues picking up the target and keeping up from time to time. Ultimately, it’s a vast improvement even with kinks. If it does lose its target, it hovers and waits for its next instruction.
What else does the Phantom 4 have to offer?
High Performance Camera:
The camera on board the DJI Phantom 4 operates at 1080p and can capture as quickly as 120 fps, critical for slow-motion video. If you did want to change out the camera that’s not an option, but the camera it has is already excellent. It can shoot clean video at up to 4K at 30 fps and photographers can capture images in 12 megapixel Adobe PNG RAW. The blades do an excellent job at staying out of your shots except at high speeds. “Sport” mode is where you’re most likely to see them appear.
DJI GO APP:
The software provided along with the drone is user-friendly. The only part that may be difficult is navigating through the sheer volume of settings to configure the quadcopter to your exact requirements. Expect to miss a setting from time to time if you’re changing them frequently. The device you use to launch DJI GO becomes a touch screen controller. Flight becomes significantly more intuitive than one would expect. You have a significant amount of control over the camera as well, as if you were holding the camera in your hands
The whole list of Phantom 4 Accessories is available at DJI’s online store. I specifically want to bring your attention to the three battery charging hub and the car charging kit. While expensive, DJI does provide all of the accessories needed to work efficiently on the go.
There are also multiple light filters for the camera including ND4, ND8, and ND16 to help avoid overexposed photos. A hood is available for both smartphones and tablets to reduce glare in bright light. In combination, these particular accessories make working in almost any outside environment practical.
So does this drone and is features warrant the price?
Although the price may shock consumers new to the drone scene as many consumer drones are typically listed around $500 or less. While the the Phantom is being offered for $1000+ depending on model and accessories. While this does put it in the top price range, those who have seen it in action feel that the drone is worth every penny. Of course if you are using it commercially or for the sole purpose of photography than this is one of the best valued camera drones available today.
DJI Technology has been considered the leader in the consumer drone market because of the quality and innovation of their equipment. Sales of their products accounted for nearly 70 percent of last year’s $2 billion in sales in the consumer drone industry. Because of this, their newest release has been greatly anticipated, and the unveiled machine has apparently lived up to the hype. We are impressed with everything their new quadcopter has to offer and will take top positions in our camera drone buyers guide.