DJI Phantom 4 – The next evolution of aerial cameras?

DJI has been come to be known as the top manufacturer in consumer drones over the past couple of years. The recently announced Phantom 4 makes some big claims around its new features that promise to bring professional results to the average person. From a photographer’s point of view, is this a machine you should seriously look at? That’s the question we are going to look at.

phantom-4-frontSpecifications

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way with a list of bullet points for the specs:

  • Weight (battery included): 3.04 pounds
  • Max flight speed: 44.7 mph (sport mode)
  • Max flight/ascent speed: 13.4 mph (ascent), 8.9 mph (descent)
  • Flight time: over 28 minutes
  • Camera range: up to 3.1 miles
  • Obstacle sensing system range: 2.3 feet to 49 feet
  • Video positioning system range: 0 to 32.8 feet
  • Slow motion video recording resolution: 1920 x 1080 at 120 frames per second
  • Battery capacity: 5350 mAh

The Phantom 4 Camera

None of the hype makes any difference is the camera can’t deliver professional results. But first, here are the important specs you will want to see:

CAMERA

Sensor 1/2.3” Effective pixels:12 M
Lens FOV ( Field Of View ) 94° 20 mm ( 35 mm format equivalent ) f/2.8 focus at ∞
ISO Range 100 – 3200 ( video ) 100 – 1600 ( photo )
Electronic Shutter Speed 8 s to 1/8000 s
Max 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
Time-lapse
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 )

While the specs tell part of the story, what it doesn’t tell you is that the optics have been improved for noticeably improved image quality. Having owned all of the DJI products for the past couple of years, outside of the top-end X5 camera on the Inspire 1, the Phantom 4 delivers exceptionally good images.

 

At $1,399, the Phantom 4 is going to be priced about the same as an entry level DSLR but with a wealth of features to get the camera into the air quickly and easily.

Advanced Features

phantom4-features

Obstacle Avoidance
The Phantom 4 features a forward-facing vision detection system to sense and avoid obstacles that are about 3″ or larger. In some modes the copter will just stop and hold position, and in other modes it will attempt to climb higher to avoid the obstacle.

Tap to Fly
Tapping on the screen will tell the copter to fly to that point in the distance. Think of this as a form of “cruise control” so you can focus on getting the shot instead of controlling the copter.

ActiveTrack
ActiveTrack is one of the most interesting features, Where many copters are promoting “follow me” features, ActiveTrack is essentially “follow that“. If I am shooting a bike race, I can select a specific person and the Phantom 4 will follow that person and keep the camera aimed at the subject.

POI
Point of Interest allows you to select a point, set altitude and distance, and then have the Phantom 4 automatically circle the location keeping the camera pointed at the target area.

Waypoints
While not the “drop the pins on a map” type of system, the Phantom 4’s waypoints system allows you to fly a course while recording points along the way, thus recording the flight for future use.

Summary

phantom4-camera-600x600The Phantom 4 is not revolutionary as much as it is a big evolutionary step forward. For someone that has never flown a “drone” before, it is easy to use and will provide excellent results. For those with prior experience, the stability is a dramatic step forward and the camera really delivers fantastic results.

Pricing and Availability
The Phantom 4 will be available at dealers on April 1st for $1,399 with extra batteries costing $169. The demand is expected to be quite high so if you want to be one of the first, be sure and get a pre-order in from a reputable dealer such as Multicopter Warehouse.

KerryG

Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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