Whether you’re a beginner drone pilot or an expert, you need to read up on the DJI Phantom 4. All of the hype around the new version was warranted. This sleek quadcopter will amaze you over and over. The DJI Phantom 4 has excellent reviews across the board. Everyone in the drone world is talking about how much easier it is to fly and use with all of the brand new features. I’m sure you’re dying to read about it so let’s jump directly into the specs.
1. Revolutionary materials and enhanced agility. The DJI Phantom 4 has a magnesium skeleton and a higher centre of gravity.
2. Multiple flight modes. Available modes include a “sport” mode for experienced drone pilots.
3. Longer battery life of up to 28 minutes with a maximum control range of 3.1 miles (5 km) and a positioning altitude up to 10 meters.
4. Sense and avoid. The DJI Phantom 4 can “see” objects directly in front of it and avoid a collision.
5. TapFly lets you fly by touching a spot on a screen. The drone then goes where it’s told.
6. ActiveTrack is a feature which makes it substantially easier to film moving targets.
7. A high-performance camera enables photographers to take full 1080p HD photos as quickly as 120 fps in 12 Megapixel Adobe PNG RAW. A 3-axis gimbal more or less eliminates vibration and unwanted movements in flight.
8. “DJI GO is all you need to fly, create, share, and connect.” -DJI
At first glance, the difference between the DJI Phantom 3 and DJI Phantom 4 appears to be minimal. Based on accounts from those who’ve directly compared the two in person, they’re not as similar as they first appear. When Placed side by side with the Phantom 4 it is immediately apparent how big of a departure the new design is from the previous versions. It makes sense for them to look reasonably different since the centre of gravity was altered. The whole aircraft looks impressively modern, mostly white with a grey underbelly.
The DJI Phantom 4 comes with a sturdy grey styrofoam carrying case as well. There’s a slot for everything you need to bring, including an iPad mini. The OEM case however will not accommodate the full sized Ipad but only the Mini. This is to be expected as the radio controller is designed for a Ipad Mini as well.
“P” is the mode with all of the assistive technology. DJI calls it IOC (Intelligent Orientation Control). This mode is where you access a lot of cool features including waypoints, active tracking, a tap to fly user interface, points of interest, and many others. This mode can race along at 22 MPH.
“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 in the DJI Phantom 3. It maintains a consistent altitude but allows complete drone control without GPS or “return to home.”
Some have had better results with battery life than others. For the most part, the battery has performed close to or better than stated. There’s also the option to buy additional battery packs for longer filming periods before needing to return home. The DJI Phantom 4’s case holds up to three batteries if you include the one inside the quadcopter.
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 will 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 reviewers 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 totaling the drone.
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.
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.
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.
The price tag is probably the biggest downside although we believe the cost is worth it. The DJI Phantom 4 will set you back USD $1,199.00. That includes everything you need to get started. If you know, you need a second battery you can bundle it in for USD $1,299.00 instead of paying USD $169.00 to buy it separately. The various light filters are USD $29 each, and you can snag propeller guards for USD $19.00.
There are a few places across the web advocating you shop the lowest absolute price. If you’re going in for accessories, especially a backpack, take a look at the bundles on DJI’s site to see if the overall price is a significantly better deal. Otherwise, you might end up thinking you snagged a great deal but finding out later the individual accessories you want would’ve come substantially cheaper bundled in a single package.
Already own the DJI Phantom 3? If there are no desperately needed features in the DJI Phantom 4, then you could wait for the Phantom 5. This version is the first iteration of several new cutting edge technologies. DJI is known for not having any of their accessories work in the next iteration. There are likely to be some tweaks in the DJI Phantom 4 V2 or 5 that make some of the new technology substantially less buggy and more useful. Of course, you could spend most of your life waiting for the next release or pick up a new Phantom 4 and start shooting amazing footage.
Experienced drone pilots can find a lot of excellent features to get excited about on the DJI Phantom 4. If you’re looking for a new camera drone capable of advanced functions, then go for the 4. If you’re missing shots because it’s just too much to fly and track a target at the same time with the drone you have, then you may want to consider the new Phantom 4. Although this quadcopter isn’t perfect at tracking just yet. It does well but still loses its target frequently enough it’s not going to be a complete substitute for a manual pilot. If there’s a difficult shot you’re struggling with the drone is likely to lose the target in the same scenario. Still the ActiveTrack is a very welcome feature and we find ourselves using it often.
I hope you enjoyed the review! Whether or not you buy the DJI Phantom 4, check back for Phantom 4 news and updates as information becomes available. Fly safe and capture some gorgeous imagery! You can purchase the DJI Phantom 4 Factory Direct and save on shipping, tax, duty, and broker fees.