DJI maintains its leading position as market leader in the consumer UAV market. The new Phantom 4 ($ 1,399) refines the iconic design of its predecessors with a brighter, more streamlined chassis. It contains all the functions that made the Phantom 3 Professional $ 799.99 at Amazon our first choice and adds a number of new features, including a security system that stops the drone when it detects an obstacle. It is absolutely expensive, but it is the best consumer drone we have tested and an easy choice for our editor’s choice. If you are on the market for a drone and do not want to spend that much, consider the Phantom 3 Professional, which can now be used for less than $ 1,000.
The $ 4,829.99 Phantom on Amazon retains the same basic print and design as the Phantom 3 series, but the white plastic shell has been streamlined to improve looks and aerodynamics. The plane is about 7 by 11.5 by 11.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 3 pounds, so you must register with the FAA before flying to the United States.
DJI contains a surprisingly compact and functional carrying bag with the Phantom 4. It has space for the drone, remote control, charger, propellers and a number of spare batteries (a battery is included with your purchase). It is the best free cover I’ve seen for a drone – it even has a handle and a latch to keep it securely closed. But I still prefer to use the $ 119.75 Think Tank Airport Helipak at Amazon for transportation. It is designed for earlier Phantom models, but the Phantom 4 is perfect.
The cardan has been redesigned. The flexible shock absorber is now in the chassis and the camera is attached both left and right. It can swing up and down, and the drone attachment point provides a modest left and right movement, but it can not rotate like the high-end Inspire 1 $ 2 $ 599.00 at Amazon. The micro-USB port and microSD memory card slot are now part of the chassis instead of the shock mount and are more easily accessible.
The remote control is almost unchanged compared to the one that came with the Phantom 3 Professional and the $ 729.00 Phantom 3 Advanced at Amazon. It has the same integrated clip that is suitable for everything from a small smartphone to a tablet of normal size, and an identical control layout. The biggest difference is that one of the buttons that were not previously marked – that on the shoulder at the top right of the remote – is now a special pause button. If you press it at any time, the Spirit stops and floats.
The FAA has designated certain parts of the United States as no-fly zones for drone pilots. Before you take your Phantom to a place, you should check Airmap.io to see if it is within five miles of an airport or designated as a national park. If it is the first one, you can call the control tower and request permission to work. The DJI app will not let you take off if you are in a flight ban. It is possible to ignore: you must have a verified DJI account and use the DJI website to do so. DJI wants to ensure that drone operators have a sense of responsibility when they enter an area that is generally referred to as a no-fly zone. If you exempt an operator under Article 333 of the FAA, the radius of the non-major airports is smaller, 2 or 3 nautical miles because there is a flight instrument procedure published for takeoff and landing. Section 333 operators must have a pilot’s license, so hobbyists prefer to stick to the five-mile rule.
The Phantom 4 is fun to drive, and thanks to some new features it is even easier to drive than the previous models, but it is still a powerful plane and you have to be careful before you install it. air. You must ensure that the remote control and the flight battery are fully charged before you leave.
It is easier to transport the Phantom with its loose screws. Their installation is simple. The accessories are marked with a silver or black ring around the hub. The black marked pair corresponds to the motors marked with three small black dots, while the silver accessories are attached to the Phantom engines that are not marked. Instead of screwing as with previous models, the accessories click with a push and a twist, just like the one from the Inspire 1. This design change allows the Phantom to enjoy a higher top speed.
To turn on the Phantom, place it on a flat surface, press the power button on the back of the battery, and then press the battery again. The drone will make a number of beeps and calibrate gimbal to ensure a standard image capture (you can adjust the gimbal role during the flight if the Phantom is a bit out of balance for the power process). The on / off button on the remote control behaves in the same way.
Make sure your phone or tablet is securely locked in the clip and is connected to the USB port on the remote control. After you start the DJI Go app – available for Android and iOS – you can adjust the flight and video setting settings, enable smart flight modes, and view the flight data. telemetry.
In most modes, the Phantom needs a GPS lock to take off – and it acquires this slot very quickly when travelling outdoors. If you set the controller to A (Attitude) mode, you can fly without GPS. This is useful when using the Phantom indoors – the downward-facing Vision positioning system helps stabilize when GPS is not available – but for maximum stability, it is recommended to use GPS for all external flights. the Phantom 4 remains stable when the wind is a problem.
There are two different ways to control the Phantom 4 in the air. You can use the control buttons on the remote control to fly in a traditional, manual way, or you can dive into the automatic flight modes of the drone and have them fly yourself. A number of fundamental aspects of take-off and landing are fully automated and initiated via the control application.
Manual flying is what I and other experienced drone pilots are accustomed to. The left control lever moves the Phantom up and down and is also used to turn the Phantom on its axis. The right joystick sends it forward, backward, left or right. The sticks are analog, so you can adjust the speed with which the Phantom moves, and the directional movements can be combined. If you want the drone to fly in the direction of 11 hours, you can easily do this. If you want to control flying manually without jeopardizing your life or physical integrity, the DJI Go app has an integrated flight simulator that allows you to fly a digital drone through a virtual landscape.
The intelligent aircraft modes, which are available for the first time via a firmware update for the Phantom 3 and Inspire 1 models, are still there. Race Lock and Home Lock both change the way the drone responds to commands. Course blocking sets the Phantom on a straight path based on the direction of its nose when the setting is enabled. You can yaw to keep the camera at a point in space and, as long as you keep pressing the right joystick, he will continue to follow his original path.
Home Lock is used to bring the Phantom back to you. If you are unsure of the direction in which to tip your nose (for example, when the camera is aimed at the ground), you can use Home Lock to control its movement relative to your position, rather than the direction that tip the nose. By pulling the right joystick towards you, you always bring the spirit closer and if you push it forward, it will move away from you.
With the Waypoint mode, you can reproduce a flight path time after time. There is a warning – you must first physically follow the path and back it up before it can be controlled automatically. But once activated, you have the freedom to the vulture and tilt the camera as it flies through the sky, a blessing for filmmakers. There are currently a number of third-party applications that support real pre-scheduled flights for the Phantom 3 series: Airnest, Auto Logic Autopilot Flight $ 29.99 on iTunes Store and FreeSkies CoPilot. These applications have not yet been adapted to support the 4 Phantom, but the drone uses the same SDK as the Phantom Series 3 and Inspire 1, it is only a matter of time before adding it.
Landmark is an automated way that allows the user to maintain perfect circular paths around a point in space, while the camera is trained at this point. You have to fly over the point, set it up with the application and then reset the Phantom to set the initial radius of the orbit. You can adjust the height, speed and radius in an average orbit and tilt the camera up and down. When I tested this feature for the first time with the Phantom 3 Advanced, I noticed that the landing gear has sometimes appeared in the frame, but I did not see it happen when I was working with the Phantom 4.
And there is the Follow Me mode: the Phantom will follow the remote control as it moves on the ground. The obstacle avoidance system works here, so you can use it safely in more areas than you could with previous models, which really needed an open space without obstacles.
Active Track is one of the new modes introduced with the Phantom 4. Behavior is similar to Follow Me – the drone tracks and follows a topic. But instead of following the person who owns the remote control, he can follow a topic that you have set. I was able to draw a box around me on the screen of my phone and the Phantom 4 followed me as I walked past my driveway. It is possible to circle around the subject as it moves, simply by moving the control stick as ghost tracks. It is a clear visual effect. The tracking system is not perfect – you must select an object of considerable size to follow. As I hovered about 150 feet in the air, I noticed that a car was too small to follow.
Finally there is TapFly. In this mode, you use the screen of your phone to control the Phantom, instead of the control buttons. A skyline is placed in the middle. If she taps on top of an area, she places the drone on a path to that object and taps under it, the ghost moves in that direction as it descends. With a slider you can set the cruise speed to 22.4 mph and there is a stop button on the screen to cancel the flight. The pause button on the remote control is also available in this mode, and of course the Phantom freezes in its tracks when it detects an obstacle in its path.
The new function of the Phantom 4 star is to avoid obstacle. To test it, I tried to let the Spirit fly into a wall. He stopped and floated on the spot and refused to continue. I tried to fly it in my car. I tried to steal it in myself. In any case, the mind detected the obstacle ahead of him and stopped in his tracks. The system is not infinite – the obstacle sensors only look at the front, so if you fly to the side or turn around a subject, you should always use your eyes to make sure the path is clear.
The maximum speed has been improved. In standard mode, Phantom always navigates to approximately 35 miles per hour in most scenarios. I had a flight where the telemetry data showed that I was approaching 45 miles per hour, but I probably had the advantage of the wind down there. The Phantom 4 only scores so fast in Sport mode, which is activated by turning the fly mode toggle switch on the remote control to the S position. The Phantom responds much better to the sports mode, turning, up, down and turning on its axis at high speed. And it can fly faster – DJI notices it with 45 mph, but I hit 50 mph at one point. The speed increase is palpable and although I noticed that the landing gear and propellers occasionally end up in the video recording in Sport mode, the range is still reasonably stable. The screws never came in the standard flight plan.
The range is phenomenal. In an unobstructed area, protected from visual obstacles, I could fly about 4500 feet before the video signal was cut, giving you the freedom to work within the visual range of your plane without having to worry about a stuttering video stream. In a busier suburban area, the range is just under 1,800 feet – both are the best we’ve seen in a drone, including the Inspire 1 pro-class from DJI.
In the United States, recreational drone flying is limited to a ceiling of 125 meters above ground level. If you are flying in an area where regulation is more relaxed, you can set the maximum altitude to 500 meters from the application.
Thanks to the double inertial measuring unit (IMU) and the GPS and GLONASS satellite stabilization, the Phantom 4 is the most stable drone I have used so far. If you want it to float, it floats and is insensitive to sudden changes in the wind. You can also fly indoors without the help of GPS – the downward facing cameras and sonar, which are part of the VPS of the drone, play a role there. They read patterns on the ground to keep the aircraft in place. VPS is also used when air is being flown on the ground, inside and outside – it automatically adjusts the altitude to compensate for changes in the terrain. In combination with the obstacle avoidance system, VPS will prevent the Phantom from falling into the ground by flying low in an area with varying terrain. It can be turned off when flying in an area where sudden height differences can cause a collision between the mind and an object above its propellers.
The battery life is also improved. The Phantom 4 has a speed of 28 minutes per flight, but it is an ambitious estimate. The aircraft will automatically land when the battery drops to about 10%, a useful safety feature. Count on real average flying time for about 23 minutes. This is a clear improvement compared to the 19 minutes that I received with the Phantom 3 models. It takes about an hour to fully charge a battery.
Video and image quality
DJI has not made any major changes to the camera of the Phantom 4, but still uses a lens that captures a field of view of 20 mm (full-frame equivalent), diagonally 94 degrees, with an f / 2 aperture, 8 fixed. Video recording is available with a quality up to 4K and photos can be captured in JPG, Raw DNG or Raw + JPG with a resolution of 12 megapixels.
DJI says that improvements have been made to the lens of the camera to give sharpness to the edge of the frame, but I can not really see them. That is not a bad thing – apart from a certain nominal rectilinear deformation at the edges of the frame, which is a complaint that comes close to mosquito fever, there is not much to complain about the camera.
You can record at 4K cinema resolution (4096 at 2160) at 24 or 25 fps. This setting is best used by professionals who appreciate the wider aspect ratio of 1.9: 1 offered by the format. If you shoot with the intention to present video on HDTV, stand in 16: 9 format 4K UHD (3840 by 2160) fits that bill and is available in 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. You can also shoot at 2.7K (2.704 at 1.520) with the same frame rates.
If a faster frame rate is desired, you can record video at 1080p on 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, 60 or 120fp. Using one of the higher settings greatly facilitates movement and allows you to slow down images for slow-motion playback. There is also a 720p setting – the same options are available here as at 1080p, minus the 120fps setting.
To keep things consistent on my timeline, I shot the film for this review to UHD 4K at 30 fps, a traditional choice for video. If I were to make the video for my own purposes, I would have gone with one of the 24 fps options, simply because I prefer the look.
I also used the default color output setting for recording. This series is ready for editing, with a minimal need for color correction. Other styles are available, including Black & White, Vivid, Art, Film, Beach, Dream and Classic, all with a different filtered appearance. A LOG mode is available for professionals who want the freedom to classify series in post-production. It copies video with lower contrast and a wider dynamic range, ideal for color correction.
The video is pretty clear and the compression ratio of 60 Mbps does a good job of minimizing the artefacts. I noticed signs of compression when I fly in Sports mode on a sandy beach and when I pan the camera on the same sand covered with sand, but most of the time, images are sharp and full of detail. The scenes look good, with a precise color and sufficient contrast to give them a natural look. The automatic exposure may be a problem depending on the subject, but the remote control has a scroll wheel that can be used to adjust the exposure when shooting in automatic mode view, and fully manual exposure control is possible.
The fixed aperture and ISO 100 base sensitivity limit your ability to choose a suitable shutter angle on a sunny day. If you use a shutter speed of twice the frame rate, you can create motion blur and give the video a smoother, more natural look. I used a gray filter 3 PolarPro modes to reduce the amount of light and achieve a shutter speed of 1/60 when shooting at 30 frames per second. PolarPro filters are marketed for the Phantom 3, but work perfectly with the Phantom 4 camera.
Similarly, the quality of the still image is solid for a camera of this type. The 1 / 2.3-inch image sensor has the same dimensions that you will find in most shoot-and-shoot cameras. The JPG engine captures beautiful sharp photos with uniform illumination and no signs of distortion. The raw images show a bit of distortion and lighter corners, but both can easily be corrected with your unprocessed converter of choice – I’ve processed the still images in this review with Adobe Lightroom. To get a good profit in video and quality, you have to upgrade to a drone with a larger image sensor. DJI Inspire 1 offers its X5 camera with Micro Four Thirds and Yuneec sells Tornado H920 with CGO4, which is identical with the functionality of the Still GH4 Micro Four Thirds Panasonic video camera and camera. Both models support interchangeable lenses, although you are limited to the use of primes smaller or light zooming because of the physical limits of stabilizing the gimbal.
Additional functions of the application
There are some functions that are nested in the DJI Go app and that are worth mentioning. Every flight you make is recorded so you can go back and view your flight route on top of a satellite map of the world. You can play the real-time track or at an accelerated pace, and see your altitude, distance from home, speed, flight mode and battery at any time. The log also shows the total flight time, the total distance travelled and the maximum altitude.
There is also a tool for editing videos built into the application. It’s pretty simple, but you can quickly make a short highlight of it without falling into a serious edition. You can choose to edit from the buffered video stored on your phone, which can be of varying quality, or you can copy video from the Phantom of the memory card for the original images. It is also possible to stream live video to YouTube using the same stream as your smartphone.
The Phantom 4 is the best consumer radio DJI has released so far. It takes everything we like about the Phantom 3 Professional and improves it. You get smooth video recording 4K and stabilized, longer flight times, the ability to capture aerial photos at speeds up to 50 mph and capture a 12 megapixel in your choice of RAW or JPG. Front-mounted cameras prevent the drone from encountering obstacles in its path and it can follow moving subjects independently. And the new flight mode that allows you to control the drone simply by tapping the screen of your smartphone is a welcome addition.
There are also physical refinements. The slim chassis and ratchet propellers allow faster flight, carrying bag included is very useful and the gimbal ring is better in the body to improve the stability of the video and reduce the penetration of screws or series landing. You only see the accessories when you fly in Sports mode.
Put it all together and you have a plane that ousted its predecessor, Phantom 3 Professional, as our Drones consumer’s choice, but you have to pay for the upgrades. The Phantom 3 Pro was $ 1259 when it was launched, at the price of $ 1399 Phantom 4. And you can now get the Phantom 3 Pro for less than $ 1,000. But after spending some time with the Phantom 4, I am convinced that the upgrades – including the extended battery life and the obstacle avoidance system – are worthwhile. If you want the best drone, there is this side of professional models like the Inspire 1 Pro ($ 3899), the Phantom 4 is that.