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It seems as if just yesterday we were raving about DJI’s latest quadcopter changing the way we think about drones and aerial photography. Today we’re excited to be able to review the brand new DJI Phantom 4quadcopter which features:

  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Fly-by-touch “Tap Fly”
  • New “Active Track” tracking software
  • Point of Interest
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An advanced stereo Vision Positioning System (VPS) gives the Phantom 4 precise hovering, even without satellite positioning support, making it easier and safer to fly. The VPS also allows it to brake instantly and hover when joystick controls are released. If disturbed during a hover, it will track the Phantom 4’s movement and return it to its original hovering point. 

       

The most significant advancement of the DJI Phantom 4 cannot be described by a single feature.

Dji Phantom 4 Review

In fact, it isn’t a single feature but rather the combination of all the technology (GPS, obstacle avoidance, stabilization software, fly-by-touch, return to home and automatic lift-off) that makes it, by far, the easiest drone to fly in the world.

The result is a drone that is ideal for both beginners and advanced users.

The ease of flight is a game changer because it means that drone operators can now focus on capturing the perfect aerial shots instead of concentrating on flying. This translates to beautiful video of your favorite vacation spot, your neighborhood or your action packed adventure. (Speaking of camera, it is one of the best ones on the market, but more on that later.)

Dji Phantom 4 Comparison
As it stands, the DJI Phantom 4 is in a class of its own with the rest of the drone community trying to catch up. For the sake of comparison, here’s how it differs from its predecessor, the Phantom 3.

DJI’s New Features

The new killer features that make the DJI Phantom 4 special are the obstacle avoidance, the active track and the tap-to-fly.

Obstacle avoidance, as the name states, uses 4 individual sensors in the front of the quadcopter to map out the environment and avoid obstacles that might be in the flight path of the drone.

If it senses that it will run into an object, the drone will automatically slow down and come to a complete stop (or rather, hover) instead of crashing into the obstacle. I cannot overstate how useful this will be for beginners learning how to fly.

Obstacle avoidance

The Phantom 4 is the first commercially available drone to receive this technology so if you want to stay safe, this is a big plus. Not only will it avoid walls, trees and buildings (saving you from potentially costly damages), it will ALSO avoid people which means it can save you from a potentially catastrophic situation. You can be more creative when recording with the Phantom 4 drone.

That’s what I call a small feature with big payoffs!

Obstacle Avoidance Testing

In our testing, we noticed that we could still make it crash if we tried hard so it’s not perfect. Due to the sensors being present only on the front of the drone, if you force it to move sideways at rapid speeds or reverse it into something, the sensors won’t be able to pick up the obstacle.

However, when using tap-to-fly, the second major feature on the DJI Phantom 4, it worked flawlessly.

Tap To Fly For The Phantom 4

The second important feature which makes this drone accessible to anyone is the “TapFly” feature which, as the name suggests, allows you to tap on the display attached to the radio controller to tell where the drone to fly.

DJI Flying App

The way it works is that the DJI controller allows you to attach a smart device (Ipad, Iphone and Android phones) to the radio controller. In addition to providing you with a real-time video feed of what the drone sees (FPV), it also allows you to tap in any direction, and the drone will fly towards it until it reaches the target (or reaches the maximum distance).

It will automatically account for wind, obstacles and fly itself towards your target.

There are two major benefits to this:

1. If you’re trying to capture aerial shots, you can concentrate on the camera while the drone does the flying. You’ll capture beautiful video without having a second operator (something that is common in professional aerial photography).

2. It means that anyone, even a 4-year-old, can fly a drone, even if you’ve never flown anything before.

Of course, you aren’t limited to using Tap To Fly and during our sessions with the DJI Phantom 4, we certainly didn’t use the feature to its maximum extent.

If you want to enjoy the experience of flying, you’ll want to switch the drone to the manual acrobat mode which provides you with maximum flexibility. When in the acro mode, you can race around relatively quickly and even capture some pretty cool videos of yourself dodging obstacles “star wars” style.

Phantom Flying Review

When you’re tired, you can use the smart “return to home” function which will return the drone back to you. (This is great because that means the drone won’t run away.) The smart part of this feature is that it will gain altitude and avoid obstacles on the way back. (In other words, the drone won’t crash into a tree if you activate it in a park)

Drone Speed and Range

One of the refinements with the new DJI Phantom 4 is that the improved motors allow you to fly faster (20m/s) than ever before. That’s almost 45 mph which is very fast for a drone.

Phantom 4 speed
Another refinement is that they raised the motors ever-so-slightly from the frame so that you don’t see them when you’re capturing footage looking straight ahead. Although this is a huge improvement over the previous generation, if you’re going at maximum speed, you’ll still notice them a little. (As soon as you slow down a little or aim the camera down, you don’t see them at all.)

At those speeds, you can quickly capture any sporting activity, and you’ll even keep up with cars (for the car shots, you’ll want to gain altitude as the car speeds off into the distance for a neat effect).

Active Track

Speaking of capturing cool action shots, the new feature using smart image recognition technology is called “Active Track”. This allows you to select a target on the radio’s display to track and follow.

Active Tracking and Tap Fly

Once activated, the drone will fly on its own, following the target (all while avoiding obstacles) and it will do it’s best to keep the camera centered.

In other words, you can set the drone to follow you through a field and then let it record you as you navigate through your adventure.

That said, in practice, we found that it wasn’t perfect at tracking rapid movements in spite of doing quite well with slower targets.

With software updates, I suspect that the image tracking will improve to the point where the drone can follow you down a narrow path. I would love to be able to go skiing with this thing! Perhaps with a few software updates.

For now, I use the tracking for slow moving targets and capture the video manually so I can compose the perfect shot.

The Camera

As with the previous generation of the Phantom, it features a 4k camera positioned on a gimbal that allows you to look adjust from straight forward to straight down.

4k Camera

The camera receives minor improvements (it was already quite good) in image quality thanks to slightly modified optics (f/2.8) and a faster processor. I’ll let the images speak for themselves but suffice to say that you’ll have to pay quite a lot more if you want any additional quality.

In fact, when it comes to all-in-one solutions, this is just about as good as you can get barring the DJI Inspire one (which is twice the price). The only thing we’re not crazy about is the audio for our productions.

Slow Motion Video

My favorite feature of the new camera is the ability to record at 120 frames per second in 1080p. This opens up a whole new world in terms of action and sports videos.

quadcopter hovering

At 120 fps, you can now slow down footage by a factor of 4x which seems to be the perfect speed for capturing fast human movement (jumping, hitting a baseball, mountain biking, skiing).

Even though recording at 120fps will fill up your memory card rather quickly, it provides much more flexibility when you’re doing any post-editing work. (I typically include at least one short burst of slow motion in nearly every short video I produce.)

High Resolution 4k Video

Now while I rave about the new slow motion, the real beauty is in the 4k footage. Because you’ll often find yourself flying above landscapes, with the increased resolution of 4k, you’ll achieve a much clearer picture.

In other words, if I’m not shooting slow motion video, I default back to 4k as my standard recording mode. I don’t know how they did it, but the image stabilization is incredible. Even in strong winds, you get perfectly smooth video worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Dji Phantom 4 Scenery Review
One of my favorite recording techniques is to use the “point of interest” feature which locks onto a point and then circles it in a perfectly smooth motion.

Battery and flight time

Regarding battery life, the DJI Phantom 4 pushes the boundaries even further with improved motor efficiency which allows it to fly for an impressive 28 minutes on a single charge. (At least, that’s the official statistic from DJI)

In my tests, I found that it depends on how you fly the drone. If you’re flying aggressively at high speeds, then the battery life might be reduced to as little as 20 minutes. That being said, it’s considerably better than the competition, and I usually averaged around 25 minutes of flight time which is excellent.

To give you an idea of how much you can do with the DJI Phantom 4… just image how far you can drive in 25 minutes. Considering it flies at 45mph (71kph), you can quickly max out the range and come back without even breaking a sweat. Just make sure you don’t land in water.

DJI Phantom 4 Review Speed

I picked up an extra battery for long day trips and even though I don’t usually use it, I like being able to charge a battery while I use the other one. DJI once again changed the format of the battery (meaning that the older batteries aren’t compatible) which is a shame but understandable. Concerning charge time, the charge takes slightly longer with a time of approximately 45 minutes.

Speaking of the charger, it’s almost as if they copied the Apple product line with the glossy white finish. I’ll admit, it is a beautiful finish, and you would almost confuse it for an Apple product.

AIRCRAFT

Weight (Battery & Propellers Included)1380 g
Diagonal Size (Propellers Excluded)350 mm
Max Ascent SpeedS-mode: 6 m/s
Max Descent SpeedS-mode: 4 m/s
Max SpeedS-mode: 20 m/s
Max Tilt AngleS-mode: 42°
A-mode: 35°
P-mode: 15°
Max Angular SpeedS-mode: 200°/s
A-mode: 150°/s
Max Service Ceiling Above Sea Level19685 feet (6000 m)
Max Wind Speed Resistance10 m/s
Max Flight TimeApprox. 28 minutes
Operating Temperature Range32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)
Satellite Positioning SystemsGPS/GLONASS
Hover Accuracy RangeVertical:
±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)

VISION SYSTEM

Vision SystemForward Vision System
Downward Vision System
Velocity Range≤10 m/s (2 m above ground)
Altitude Range0 – 33 feet (0 – 10 m)
Operating Range0 – 33 feet (0 – 10 m)
Obstacle Sensory Range2 – 49 feet (0.7 – 15 m)
FOVForward: 60°(Horizontal), ±27°(Vertical)
Downward: 70°(Front and Rear), 50°(Left and Right)
Measuring FrequencyForward: 10 Hz
Downward: 20 Hz
Operating EnvironmentSurface with clear pattern and adequate lighting (lux>15)

REMOTE CONTROLLER

Operating Frequency2.400 – 2.483 GHz
Max Transmission DistanceFCC Compliant: 3.1 mi (5 km)
CE Compliant: 2.2 mi (3.5 km)
(Unobstructed, free of interference)
Operating Temperature Range32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)
Battery6000 mAh LiPo 2S
Transmitter Power (EIRP)
  • FCC: 23 dBm
  • CE: 17 dBm
  • MIC: 17 dBm
Operating Current/Voltage1.2 A@7.4 V
Video Output PortUSB
Mobile Device HolderTablets and smart phones

INTELLIGENT FLIGHT BATTERY

Capacity5350 mAh
Voltage15.2 V
Battery TypeLiPo 4S
Energy81.3 Wh
Net Weight462 g
Charging Temperature Range41° to 104°F (5° to 40°C)
Max Charging Power100 W

GIMBAL

Stabilization3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw)
Controllable RangePitch: -90° to +30°
Max Controllable Angular SpeedPitch: 90°/s
Angular Vibration Range±0.02°

CAMERA

Sensor1/2.3” CMOS
Effective pixels:12.4 M
LensFOV 94° 20 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.8 focus at ∞
ISO Range
  • 100-3200 (video)
  • 100-1600 (photo)
Electronic Shutter Speed8 – 1/8000 s
Image Size4000×3000
Still Photography ModesSingle shot
Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3/5 bracketed frames at 0.7 EV Bias
Timelapse
HDR
Video Recording ModesUHD: 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 Bitrate60 Mbps
Supported File SystemsFAT32 (≤32 GB); exFAT (>32 GB)
PhotoJPEG, DNG (RAW)
VideoMP4, MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)
Supported SD CardsMicro SD
Max capacity: 64 GB
Class 10 or UHS-1 rating required
Operating Temperature Range32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)

CHARGER

Voltage17.4 V
Rated Power100 W

APP / LIVE VIEW

Mobile AppDJI GO 4
Live View Working Frequency2.4 GHz ISM
Live View Quality720P @ 30fps
Latency220ms (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 S7 edge, Samsung S7, Samsung S6, Samsung S5, Samsung NOTE4, Samsung NOTE3, Samsung tabs 705c, Ascend Mate 9, Ascend Mate 7, Huawei Honor 8, Huawei P8 Max, Vivo X7, Xiaomi 5, MI 3, Google Nexus 6p, Nexus 9, Google Nexus 7 II, LG V20, Sony Xperia Z3, Smartisan T1.

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

 

 

In The Box

Phantom_4_en_v1.2

FAQ

1.What is the Phantom 4 Obstacle Sensing System?

The Phantom 4 is equipped with an Obstacle Sensing System that constantly scans for obstacles in front of it, allowing it to avoid collisions by going around, over or hovering.

2.Why does the Phantom 4 have a composite core?

The advanced composite core embedded into the aircraft greatly increases rigidity, minimizing unwanted vibrations. This ensures the precision and performance of the inertial measurement unit (IMU). The weight of the aircraft is also reduced through this composite.

 

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