The next legacy in the Phantom series is out, and DJI continues to live up to their standard of excellence. The Phantom 4 takes the guesswork out of difficult flight and creates an automated experience only utilized in much more expensive drones.
This new model truly is the “drone for everyone,” and many consider it to be first “real” drone, considering it actually does control much of its own flight.
Are you already asking yourself what makes the Phantom 3 that much better than the Phantom 4? No need. We were huge fans of the Phantom 3 and spent hundreds of hours flying it. Now we’ve got you covered and we’ll break down why the Phantom 4 truly is a step up from its predecessors by looking at a variety of factors important for any dronie. By the time you’re done reading our DJI Phantom 4 review we guarantee you’ll see why DJI continues to impress avid drone lovers and new pilots alike.
Design & Speed
For most newbies the Phantom 3 might look like the Phantom 2, and the Phantom 2 like the original. It’s no different with DJI’s newest release of the Phantom 4, but what actually changed design-wise with DJI’s newest Phantom release?
Gone is the matte finish and in its place is a glossy plastic frame that glistens when flying on a sunny day. The body has been thinned down slightly, which helps the Phantom reach much higher speeds (which we’ll discuss soon).
Every model before the Phantom 4 had colored bands stretching down the arms – the Phantom 4 loses the bands and instead exposes the motors on the end. Many are referring to the new style as aggressive, and we agree, but also think it’s simply more impressive. The simplistic design perfectly juxtaposes the intense speed and advanced features included in the Phantom 4.
The camera gimbal has support from both sides, which reduces the need for additional clunky mechanisms on the outside that could slow down the drone.
The legs of the DJI Phantom 4 are slightly longer and thicker, which helps to increase safety when landing – even in rough weather conditions.
The DJI Phantom 4 also has an upgraded battery. DJI claims it can hold you up for 28 full minutes, but the max we hit was about 25 ½. The Phantom 4 does only come with one battery in the original package so we suggest picking up an extra one if you don’t want your flight day to end shortly after it started.
The hover itself is also greatly improved. DJI claims the Phantom 4 is five times more stable than the Phantom 3 series, and we believe it. The hover mode holds within an inch or two every time it’s in the air. This can be attributed to an additional IMU and the array of cameras helping to its virtual positioning system absolutely crush it.
All of these new features not only help the Phantom 4’s aesthetic value they also help one of its coolest new features: speed.
The Phantom 4 essentially has three max speeds for each flight mode (flight modes we’ll discuss extensively in the “Flight” section):
- 22 miles per hour when object avoidance is turned on
- 35 miles per hour in normal flight mode
- 45 miles per hour in sport mode
Advanced pilots will find the new sport mode a real treat. DJI even said it’s similar to flying the Inspire 1 and we agree. The quickness and agility at full speed awed us, and we recharged our batteries a number of times to continue experiencing the power of the new Phantom 4. Professional camera operators using sport mode will finally have the ability to ramp up to high speeds without having a commercial grade machine – and stunt scenes and car chases won’t be an issue anymore.
In the next section of our DJI Phantom 4 Review we’ll discuss the newest feature from the drone kings – obstacle avoidance.
Yes, this is the feature everyone is talking about, and for good reason. Welcome to the future of drones.
So what exactly can the Phantom 4 do besides whiz through the skies at 45 miles per hour? The Phantom series now took a page out the Matrice 100’s book and has the ability to dodge obstacles for the pilot that forgot to turn, or was just too busy staring at their aerial views.
DJI responded to everyone saying “don’t buy a drone if you don’t know how to fly it” and put the power of simplicity in the pilot’s hands. Now the Phantom 4 is pilot-proof as it uses up to five optical cameras to build a map of objects constantly changing around you.
This new technology in the Phantom 4 is known as the Obstacle Sensing System, and it can decide where to stop, hover, or redirect itself based on the volumetric map it’s building during your flight.
Try to smash it into a wall and it abruptly hits the brakes. Run it into your sister and it avoids her like the plague. Shoot it towards a tree… you get the point.
Keep in mind the Obstacle Sensing System does have a few minor limitations. The cameras are forward facing, meaning if you back up and a large branch is behind you, you’re going to hit that branch.
We’ve already touched on the Sport mode, but it’s important to reiterate that while in sport mode obstacle avoidance is disabled.
The Phantom 4 still has the same intelligent flight modes most pilots of the Phantom 3 series loved. From a subjective standpoint we thought they were slightly more accurate, although DJI has made no comment about this. If you need a refresher on each of the flight modes available in the app, check them out here.
In addition to these flight modes and the sport mode, the DJI Phantom 4 welcomes an array of autonomous flight modes.
TapFly isn’t really a mode of flight, but a feature within all of them. TapFly allows you to tap anywhere on your mobile device’s screen to send the drone soaring in that direction. The live feed is coming directly from the FPV camera attached to the gimbal underneath, and it responds insanely fast to the touch of the screen.
The drone eases into turns and flies forward when using TapFly. You can’t make sharp turns or head back home without taking full control yourself or using the “return home” button.
AutoTrack is the other new autonomous flight feature. Click on an object (i.e., a person) on your device and the drone will center them into the frame – and keep them there. The technology is exactly the same here as the Obstacle Sensing System, but it’s also letting you lock onto a target while avoiding others.
The AutoTrack feature works best when you’re closer to the target you want to track. Get too far away and you’ll find the drone struggling to connect with the target. Still, AutoTrack takes away the need for the target to be holding an iPhone device and only uses its cameras and sensors to hone in. The Hexo+ might be revolutionary…
But that revolution may have passed with the Phantom 4 here now. TapFly and AutoTrack are incredible new features but they do have their limitations. Keep this in mind if you’re buying the Phantom 4 strictly to utilize them.
Camera, Gimbal & Controller
The camera itself didn’t receive a massive upgrade from DJI, mostly because it was already pretty stinking good. The Phantom 4 did get a new lens that supposedly shoots sharper pictures at the edges of your shots, but to us they looked pretty much the same (I didn’t say we had a great eye for photography).
The camera does allow you to shoot 1080p at 1200 frames per second for the first time. This ramps up your ability to catch some clean, slow-motion shots. Also assisting in keeping your shots perfectly still is the remarkably balanced gimbal. You’ll find the gimbal is able to withstand stronger winds and flight speeds – mostly a modification necessary because of the new max speed.
If you were a pilot a few years ago you might remember the complex and frustrating first controller DJI released with the original Phantom. You borderline needed lessons just to get in the air.
The new controller is simple, sleek, and easy to use. Again, it’s a controller for everyone – not just the expert level pilots.
The DJI Phantom 4 is starting at $1,399 as of March 2016. If you’re looking to catch a good deal thinking the price will drop soon, don’t hold your breath.
The Phantom 3 series all did drop, but not for a while after their release. Below is a graph of the price of DJI’s Phantom 3 Standard on Amazon from late 2015 to early 2016 (DJI being the actual retailer on Amazon as well). Remember, the Phantom 3 standard was released in March 2015 for $799.
The Phantom 3 Professional didn’t even officially drop until February of 2015, almost 11 months after it came out.
The Phantom 4 carrying case is a nice upgrade from the Phantom 3 and it’s included unlike with the Phantom 3. You also get a nice array of accessories and have the option to purchase a DJI Care program, which covers most types of damage you can do (if you do back up into the tree we mentioned earlier).
If you’re the type of pilot who knows their specs and wants them laid out in front of you, here you go.
- 3.04 pounds
- Max Flight Time
- 28 minutes
- Max Ascent Speed
- 13.5 MPH
- Max Descent Speed
- 8.9 MPH
- Max Speed
- 44.7 MPH
Obstacle Sensing System
- 2-49 ft.
- Need clear patterns and adequate lighting
- ISO Range
- Video: 100-3200
- Photo: 100-1600
- Shutter Speed
- 8s to 1/8000s
- Max Image Size
- Max Video Bitrate
- 60 Mbps
- JPEG, PNG
- SD Cards
- Micro SD, Max Capacity: 64GB
If you’re a new pilot we suggest you check out some of the additional resources below.
Videos & Reviews
Are you still not convinced or do you just want to hear what others have to say about the Phantom 4? Below are a few our favorite videos and articles about the Phantom 4. Check them out if our DJI Phantom 4 review wasn’t enough.
Tom’s Tech Time does a nice job of summing up the new specs on the Phantom 4:
That Drone Show touches on a lot of the amazingness we’ve already discussed at the Phantom 4 unveiling:
Tested shows the incredible power of the Phantom 4:
Check out Geoffrey A. Fowler of the Wall Street Journal control the Phantom 4 with his mind and shred a hot dog in the same review.
Still not convinced? Click the link below and explore DJI’s playground. Their array of videos, resources, and support team will help you realize why the DJI phantom 4 is the newest, and sickest piece of drone equipment on the market yet. Have questions about our DJI Phantom 4 Review? Feel free to contact us on the right about any of your needs.