DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Review
Whoa whoa whoa, this is a photography website, why are we doing a review of a quadcopter? Have I lost my marbles and forgot which website I was writing for? Actually, this is going to be photography related as aerial photography and videography is taking off (literally and figuratively) with the new generation of drones that are on the market. In this review we are going to look at one of the most hyped products on the market right now, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. Yeah, that name is getting pretty long but the system is based on the second generation Phantom platform (hence Phantom 2) and the Vision+ offers a stabilized 3-axis gimbal and camera with near-GoPro quality versus the original Vision that offered a 1 axis gimbal and a not-so-great camera.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+
The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ is what I consider to be a 4th generation quadcopter. The ease of use, stabilization, and GPS functionality make it one of the easiest multi-rotor copters to fly. If you go out of range or otherwise lose signal, the Phantom will return back to the point of takeoff and even land automatically.
Supported Battery: DJI 5200mAh LiPo Battery
Weight (Battery & Propellers Included): 1242g
Hover Accuracy (Ready To Fly): Vertical: 0.8m; Horizontal: 2.5m
Max Yaw Angular Velocity: 200°/s
Max Tiltable Angle: 35°
Max Ascent / Descent Speed: Ascent: 6m/s; Descent: 2m/s
Max Flight Speed: 33mph (Not Recommended)
Diagonal Motor-Motor Distance: 350mm
Operating Environment Temperature: 0℃-40℃
Sensor Size: 1/2.3″
Effective Pixels: 14 Megapixels
HD Recording: 1080p/30, 1080i/60, 720p/60
Recording FOV: 110° / 85°
Flying the Phantom 2
I have a long history of flying planes, helicopters, and quadcopters so flying the Phantom 2 is unlike anything else I have ever flown. With earlier quadcopters, a simple mistake can get you into trouble quickly and you could expect to break a lot of props while learning to fly. The Phantom 2 is more like playing a video game, it’s so simple to fly that people with zero previous experience can take off and fly like a pro on their first flight. It is more like suggesting where you want it to go than actually “flying” it. due to it’s small size, and thus small landing gear, the hardest part of flying it is landing it. You just have to take it slow and be careful and landing it will become easy fairly quickly.
The Vision+ Camera System
The Phantom 2 Vision+ has a stabilized camera that automatically adjusts for roll, pitch, and yaw to create amazingly smooth video. Using an app on your iPhone or Android phone you can change settings, take stills, stop/start video, and adjust the up/down pitch of the camera.
The camera itself is along the video quality of a GoPro Hero 2. It isn’t really broadcast quality but can take some very nice stills and the video can turn out nice if you are flying slow (more tips later in this article).
The camera/app setup allows you to see real-time video from the camera for a first-person-view (FPV) experience while flying and for framing your shots.
Setup and Usage
Normally I would go into a lot about the setup and usage of a product but it is really best to read through the manual and videos from the DJI website. In essence though, putting batteries in the transmitter, charging the WiFi extender, and charging the battery for the copter are all you really need to get started. Screw on the props and it is ready to fly. There are tons of videos on YouTube for learning how to fly as well.
Getting the most out of the Phantom 2 Vision+ camera
Pictures and slow moving video certainly look pretty good but any fast motion video smears and pixelates very bad. For best results keep your bird moving nice and slow, especially when turning left/right. To minimize the fisheye effect, either have the camera pointed straight down or straight out, anything in between will enhance the fisheye look which looks really bad on video. It is best to edit the footage and remove up/down camera moves. Also set the camera to the narrow field of view to help minimize distortion. If shooting stills, the best tool for editing them is Adobe Lightroom as it has a preset for the Vision that will reduce the fisheye effect. If you are using Lightroom or Photoshop, be sure to turn on DNG Raw format so you are working with the best quality images.
Before and After Editing in Lightroom
Another option is to shoot at 720p / 60fps. The higher framerate allows you to slow down the video quite a bit resulting in VERY smooth video. The downside is that the 720p mode has more of a fisheye effect than you might want. Again, keeping the camera straight forward or straight down will minimize this.
Sprucing Up The Travel Slideshow
My wife and I often travel and when not somewhere exciting we spend time exploring around Colorado where we live. In the past we have put together different slide shows of photos taken on these trips and posted to my personal website at http://kerrygarrison.com. With the Phantom 2 Vision+, I did some flying while my wife operated the camera controls at several spots during a recent outing. I added these video clips into the regular slideshow to really enhance the feeling of being there for the viewer.
The Phantom 2 Vision+ may be small and easy to fly, but it certainly is not priced like a toy. The complete system will set you back around $1,700 but when compared to more professional units starting around $3,000 it is a good way to start learning how to fly these types of aircraft and honing your aerial shooting skills.
For more information go to http://www.dji.com
If you have any photos or videos you have shot with a Phantom 2 Vision+, please post them in the comments!