DJI Phantom 4 Review

Review of: DJI Phantom 4
Price:
$900 - $975

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On February 20, 2017
Last modified:May 19, 2018

Summary:

When you breakdown all the features of the Phantom 4 and compare it to other quadcopters in the same price range, it has few competitors and proven itself to be reliable! It offers amateur filmmakers and video enthusiasts a lot of bang for the buck! Unless you are producing commercial quality film, the Phantom 4 is a good fit for anyone taking footage for websites and YouTube.

Only a few minor things dropped the Phantom 4 down to 4 stars. We feel the obstacle sensors could have been extended to include sides and rear for almost full coverage. The Live streaming remains unchanged from the Phantom 3 Professional. The camera has only been enhanced marginally (still a great camera, but we were expecting more changes there).

Overall, in this price range, the Phantom 4 is a great purchase if it meets your needs and intended usage.

DJI Phantom 4 Review

The Phantom 4 is an extremely impressive package, and it all starts the moment you open the box. The first thing is the case it comes packaged in, it is a very sturdy dense foam case with a hinged lid and latch. The case itself should easily last a year with regular use, so you won’t need to buy an aftermarket case for awhile unless you want to – or get one as part of a package deal.

As you start pulling out all the various parts you may feel a little like you would if you just received a new Apple Mac Book Pro, or similar Apple product. DJI is really striving to make the experience of ownership equal to the technology behind their products – and the Phantom 4 series don’t disappoint in this respect.

Very Sleek Design & High Quality Parts

The look and feel of quality is evident with each piece, and it makes unpacking your new Phantom 4 almost as much fun as flying it (well, sort of, more like the feeling when you get that Christmas gift you were really hoping for). We don’t think it will be long (if not already) before all other quadcopters are compared to DJI products in the same way computers, tablets and cell phones are compared to Apple products now – DJI is setting the highest standards and others brands may find it hard to catch up and match! Currently, most are brands are lagging far behind DJI in both design and technology.

Phantom 4 Shell & Gimbal Improvements

The Phantom 4 has improved the shell, battery and flight time over the Phantom 3 series. Battery capacity is about 20% better and DJI claims this increases flight time by 20-25%. Although, in reality, it seems it is more in the range of a 10-15% improvement (which is still great!). That said, expect to pay more for extra batteries too! The shell is sleeker, and DJI says it has been reinforced to prevent stress cracks around the rotor motors – an issue that sometimes occurs on the Phantom 3’s with extensive use.

The flight time for the Phantom 4 is 28 minutes, and the Phantom 3 Professional is 23 minutes (both under optimal conditions).

The gimbal assembly has been moved inside of the new Phantom 4’s and provides more protection from the elements and crashes (should this occur). This new design gives the Phantom 4 a clean look, but the downside is you have to unscrew the gimbal cover to access it should you have to adjust or replace any parts on it – or maintenance if required.

Phantom 4  Camera a Little Disappointing

Phantom 4 features a 4K video capture at 30 frames per second and Full HD 1080p at 120 frames per second for smooth slow motion. The later is double that of the Phantom 3, but you would hope they might have included a zoom feature and increased the maximum bitrate, which is still 60 Mbps for both the Phantom 3 and 4.  We have to assume DJI wanted to keep these improvements for the Phantom 4 Pro.

The sensor is still the same as the P3 Pro at 1/2.3” CMOS and effective pixels: 12.4 M (total pixels: 12.76 M). The lens too is the same at FOV 94° 20 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.8 focus, and ISO range remains the same between 100-3200 for video, and 100-1600 for photos.

All that said, the camera is still a great camera but DJI didn’t really change much compared to the Phantom 3 Pro camera.

Phantom 4  Obstacle Avoidance?

One of the most sought after features on all higher end drones is obstacle avoidance. A feature that allows us to use the built in tracking options without the worry of hitting trees, walls or power poles etc. While the Phantom 4 has these, they only have them on the front and bottom, nothing for sideways, reverse or upper obstacle avoidance.

In our opinion, this does not make the Phantom 4 a unit that can be relied on to fly without supervision when using the follow me mode and similar options. It does not have enough sensors and it may react to obstacles by stopping in the middle of a shoot and ruin perfectly good footage. This may be an issue if you are capturing footage that may be hard to duplicate e.g. action shots, wildlife or just the time of day, or weather.

Of course, for most applications, obstacle avoidance in front and below the unit great to have and in most case all you might need. If you plan on shooting indoors, or in areas where numerous obstacles are present and you need to shoot in reverse, moving sideways and so on, then the Phantom 4 may not be the best option.

Keep in mind, most full featured quadcopters or hexacopters with full 360 obstacle avoidance will typically cost you $500 to $1000 more than the Phantom 4. In some case you might find lower priced options with other brands, but we have found it usually comes at the expense of lower quality in the rest of the unit (e.g. Yuneec Typhoon H).

Advanced “Smart” RTH (Return to Home) Function!

This is a very sensible improvement to the Phantom series. On the Phantom 3 series, if you lost a connection to it, you could tell the unit to climb to a certain height and return to its starting point (you). But what if it encountered an obstacle on the way back – CRASH!  The Phantom 4 series fixes this and incorporates obstacle avoidance in the return path so you won’t have to worry about it crashing into a tree, building or other obstacle – A Much Needed Improvement!

Phantom 4 Propeller Improvement!

DJI have positioned the propellers higher up on the Phantom 4 thus reducing the risk of seeing them in your footage. This is especially true when the quadcopter is flying on an angle during fast forward flight. DJI claims this also increases the units speed – the verdict is still out on that one.

In addition to this, The Phantom 4 has push and release propellers – no more screwing them on or off as is the case with the Phantom 3 series. While this is not a big deal, it is an nice upgrade! These new Push-and-Release propellers are faster to install and more secure than the self tightening propellers used previously. This security allows them to handle faster acceleration and harder braking.

Built in Redundancy Backup

Both the Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro have dual compass modules and dual Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) to ensure, you always stay in the air and on course! On rare occasions, inconsistencies in compass or IMU data can affect the way an aircraft behaves. The Phantom 4, and Pro, features dual compass modules and dual Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) that allow it to constantly compare the data it is receiving through both pairs. This data is run through advanced algorithms to check accuracy and any inaccurate data is simply discarded without affecting flight.

Phantom 4 Speed

The phantom 4 is a very fast quadcopter and will easily reach speeds of 72 km/h (45 mph). That said, it is primarily for sport mode and film quality will suffer at these speeds. Vertical speeds are a maximum ascent speed  S-mode: 6 m/s (20 ft), and a maximum descent speed  S-mode: 4 m/s (13 ft). At these speeds you want to be sure you are very familiar with the Phantom 4 and an experienced pilot.

Live Streaming Remains Unchanged at 720p

The Phantom 3 Professional offered live streaming at 720p with a maximum range of 5km (3.1 miles) using Lightbridge 1. 5km is a very good range, but that is of course, under optimal conditions. These specs have remained unchanged in the Phantom 4. That said, unless you are streaming high resolution wildlife and nature scapes to broadcast television, or very high end devices, how much higher a resolution do you need?

Phantom 4 Flying Modes

The Phantom 4 is flexible enough to meet different flying demands. In Position Mode you can use satellite and Vision Positioning, TapFly, ActiveTrack and Intelligent Flight Modes. Sport Mode adds extra agility and speed, reaching 45mph (72kph) while maintaining satellite and Vision Positioning systems. Atti Mode holds the Phantom’s altitude and level but switches off satellite positioning making it ideal for smooth film making movements.

One of the major complaints with the Phantom 4’s is the VPS over water at low altitude. If the surface of the water has movement, the unit has difficulty remaining stable and your footage will suffer as a result. We have included a video below to address this issue with a proposed solution (however, is putting tape over the sensors such a good idea? Maybe, if all else fails).

Check out the most popular flight mode features of the Phantom 4 & 4 Pro in the videos below…

Should You Buy The Phantom 4?

When you breakdown all the features of the Phantom 4 and compare it to other quadcopters in the same price range, it has few competitors (other than DJI’s own Mavic Pro). It has proven itself to be reliable and offers amateur filmmakers and video enthusiasts a lot of bang for the buck!

But much depends on your intended usage and where you will display the video footage you capture. If you plan to use the footage strictly for web display, it is defiantely a good choice. If the same applies, but you need to pack it into remote locations (or carry it around for those spur of the moment captures), then the DJI Mavic Pro is a much better option (just a little less stable under windy conditions due to its size).

If you need footage suitable for higher end productions, possibly for commercial use, then the Phantom 4 Pro is going to be a much better choice for the extra $400 to $500. It offers better features for film and photography.

As far as post editing goes, you should be able to easily edit the footage on a computer with 8gb ram and good video card. The software you use will also determine the type of computer you need.

If you are a beginner, and this is your first purchase, you might be better to purchase the Phantom 3 Standard (new or used) and learn to fly it first before dropping more money on a unit like the Phantom 4 or 4 Pro. Even with all the features on these units, crashes are still common and it will be much less traumatic seeing a $400 unit crash, versus a $1000+ unit hitting the ground or other obstacle.

If you are an experienced pilot and you are now ready to jump into the more expensive range of Quadcopters and the Phantom 4 is in your budget and needs, then by all means, it is worth the money and won’t disappoint! Even if funds are tight, if you are looking at a Phantom 3 Pro vs the Phantom 4, wait and spend the extra on the Phantom 4 – The new RTH features alone are worth the extra $200 to $300.

Check the links below for the best available deals…

Visit Amazon.com For Phantom 4 Current Pricing & Deals

 

DJI Phantom 4 Photo Gallery

View high resolution images of the DJI Phantom 4 below.

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DJI Phantom 4 Video & Related Information Videos

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DJI Phantom 4 In-Depth Specifications

Aircraft

Weight (Battery & Propellers Included) 1380 g
Diagonal Size (Propellers Excluded) 350 mm
Max Ascent Speed S-mode: 6 m/s
Max Descent Speed S-mode: 4 m/s
Max Speed S-mode: 20 m/s
Max Tilt Angle S-mode: 42°
A-mode: 35°
P-mode: 15°
Max Angular Speed S-mode: 200°/s
A-mode: 150°/s
Max Service Ceiling Above Sea Level 19685 feet (6000 m)
Max Wind Speed Resistance 10 m/s
Max Flight Time Approx. 28 minutes
Operating Temperature Range 32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)
Satellite Positioning Systems GPS/GLONASS
Hover Accuracy Range Vertical:
±0.1 m (with Vision Positioning)
±0.5 m (with GPS Positioning)
Horizontal:
±0.3 m (with Vision Positioning)
±1.5 m (with GPS Positioning)

Gimbal

Stabilization 3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw)
Controllable Range Pitch: -90° to +30°
Max Controllable Angular Speed Pitch: 90°/s
Angular Control Accuracy ±0.02°

Camera

Sensor 1/2.3” CMOS
Effective pixels:12.4 M
Lens FOV 94° 20 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.8 focus at ∞
ISO Range
  • 100-3200 (video)
  • 100-1600 (photo)
Electronic Shutter Speed 8 – 1/8000 s
Image Size 4000×3000
Still Photography Modes Single shot
Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3/5 bracketed frames at 0.7 EV Bias
Timelapse
HDR
Video Recording Modes UHD: 4096×2160 (4K) 24 / 25p
3840×2160 (4K) 24 / 25 / 30p
2704×1520 (2.7K) 24 / 25 / 30p
FHD: 1920×1080 24 / 25 / 30 / 48 / 50 / 60 / 120p
HD: 1280×720 24 / 25 / 30 / 48 / 50 / 60p
Max Video Bitrate 60 Mbps
Supported File Systems FAT32 (≤32 GB); exFAT (>32 GB)
Photo JPEG, DNG (RAW)
Video MP4, MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)
Supported SD Cards Micro SD
Max capacity: 64 GB
Class 10 or UHS-1 rating required
Operating Temperature Range 32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)

Vision System

Vision System Forward Vision System
Downward Vision System
Velocity Range ≤10 m/s (2 m above ground)
Altitude Range 0 – 33 feet (0 – 10 m)
Operating Range 0 – 33 feet (0 – 10 m)
Obstacle Sensory Range 2 – 49 feet (0.7 – 15 m)
FOV Forward: 60°(Horizontal), ±27°(Vertical)
Downward: 70°(Front and Rear), 50°(Left and Right)
Measuring Frequency Forward: 10 Hz
Downward: 20 Hz
Operating Environment Surface with clear pattern and adequate lighting (lux>15)

Remote Controller

Operating Frequency 2.400 – 2.483 GHz
Max Transmission Distance FCC Compliant: 3.1 mi (5 km)
CE Compliant: 2.2 mi (3.5 km)
(Unobstructed, free of interference)
Operating Temperature Range 32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)
Battery 6000 mAh LiPo 2S
Transmitter Power (EIRP)
  • FCC: 23 dBm
  • CE: 17 dBm
Operating Current/Voltage 1.2 A@7.4 V
Video Output Port USB
Mobile Device Holder Tablets and smart phones

Intelligent Flight Battery

Capacity 5350 mAh
Voltage 15.2 V
Battery Type LiPo 4S
Energy 81.3 Wh
Net Weight 462 g
Charging Temperature Range 41° to 104°F (5° to 40°C)
Max Charging Power 100 W

Charger

Voltage 17.4 V
Rated Power 100 W

App / Live View

Mobile App DJI GO
Live View Working Frequency 2.4 GHz ISM
Live View Quality 720P @ 30fps
Latency 220ms (depending on conditions and mobile device)
Required Operating Systems
  • iOS 8.0 or later
  • Android 4.1.2 or later
Recommended Devices
  • ios: iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPod touch 6, iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad Air 2, iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 3 Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad mini 4, and iPad mini 4 Wi-Fi + Cellular. This app is optimized for iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
  • Android: Samsung tabs 705c, Samsung S6, Samsung S5, Samsung NOTE4, Samsung NOTE3, Google Nexus 9, Google Nexus 7 II, Ascend Mate7, Huawei Mate 8, Nubia Z7 mini, SONY Xperia Z3, MI 3, MI PAD

*Support for additional Android devices available as testing and development continues.

 

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