DJI Phantom 4: Best Drone For Aerial Photography
Like the Phantom 3 Professional that came before it, the DJI Phantom 4 is built for “high-level aerial photography and cinematography”. This means that this is being sold as the must-have, top-of-the-line camera drone for budding film-makers.
According to Andrew Nixon at BestDroneForTheJob.com, the Phantom 4 is “the most intelligent, easy-to-operate flying camera drone available for less than $2,000.”
Sure, OK. But is this better than the Phantom 3? and could DJI go further when designing their next drones?
Similarities between the Phantom 4 and prior models
Size and shape: both the Phantom 3 and 4 have a diagonal size of 350mm with four pairs of propellers.And they share the same 3axis gimbal with the same pitch.
The camera: the camera offers the same field of view on the lens.The same shutter speed and similar capabilities on still photography mode. The only difference is the addition of HSE. As you will see below, it is the video recording where it steps up its game.
The app: Many of details here are pretty much the same, but there is one new addition to the controls that has really impressed some users. The TapFly feature is kind of self-explanatory – tap the touch screen of the mobile device. Pooint the drone at an area you want to go to, and it will fly right there.
As this is the new, top-of-the-line model that is designed to surpass all of the other models that have been created by so far in the Phantom range, there are some clear improvements.
Some have been designed to enhance the user-friendly flight controls; some add greater potential to the camera, and some are just there to look cool.
Improved video capabilities: Both the 4 and the three professional have 4k video recording, the ability to produce 12.4 mp photos and a video downlink range of 5km. Despite the similarities, users feel that there is some clear improvement to the quality of the footage, especially when it comes to the lack of image distortion, sharp focus, and color.
A more powerful battery: This drone uses a 5350mAh battery rather than 4480mAh to keep up with all the demands in flight. Be aware that the batteries have changed shape again, so you can’t use your old Phantom 3 battery as a spare.
Sports Mode: sports mode makes the drone much faster, with an ascent of 6m/s and max speed of 20m/s against the 16m/s of the Phantom 3. How does this help with aerial photography and filmmaking? To be honest, it doesn’t at all; it just looks cool.
Obstacle sensing technology: This new feature senses hazards between 2-49 feet. It is a pretty neat trick for avoiding trees and people when flying indoors, but there is room for improvement as it shuts off if you use the optional prop guards, and it also doesn’t work in sports mode.
Upgraded and User-Friendly Software
This drone has been designed so that pretty much anyone can get hold of this machine and flew it. Which is a slight departure from the 2nd Phantom. That was seen to have a steeper learning curve.
If the Phantom 2 was supposed to be the simple, easy-to-use equivalent to the ultra-sleek, high-tech Phantom 4, then this theory has just been blown out of the water. There is, however, an important warning about this being “crash proof”.
The sensors are on the forward facing camera for forward flight. Fly sideways in a panning shot and you might hit a tree, so don’t rely entirely on this drone to fly itself.
There are also questions over its ability to handle power lines as it seems to only detect big dark patches of areas as hazards. The combination of the obstacle sensor and the TapFly function do still allow for much greater control and skillful, with some users tackling difficult flight patterns and canopies with greater ease.
The 4th gen model’s controls and user-friendly nature essentially mean that the 2nd model is now somewhat redundant. This is the improvement to the Phantom 3, building on many of the technological aspects of the camera work, but it is seen as the new idiot-proof model too.
With so much going for it so far, this drone seems like the obvious best drone in the range, but there are some downsides to being aware of.
What are the potential issues with the new model?
The following issues will depend a little on personal preference, and few are deal breakers for keen buyers. But there are some interesting omissions with the software. Some aspects of the specification that don’t always meet buyer expectations.
Weight: this model is much heavier than the 3rd Phantom at 1380g compared to 1280g, making it a little cumbersome.
Flight time: considering the increased potential with the battery, buyers might expect a longer flight time. Instead, it offers just three extra minutes compared to the standard 3rd gen model.
The questionable object tracker: In theory, this feature is a great technological advancement – get the drone. To latch onto a target through the mobile app. It will follow it at a secure distance for smooth filmmaking. There are two issues here, though.
Firstly, it can get a little confused between people – potentially making it anxiety-ridden in crowd scenes. Secondly, it places a toe on the line of what is legal in drone-based filming. It is too easy to follow an unknowing target and be accused of harassment.
How could the 5th version of the Phantom DJI drone be even better?
There is always room for improvement with any product line and there will no doubt be a new Phantom 5. That builds on the work of the designers and takes operators in new, exciting directions. Clear areas of consideration here are the battery and some of the issues with the obstacle detection.
The problems of weight and flight time could be fixed with a lighter, stronger battery. As it is, the DJI Phantom 4 is one of the best drones around.
Because it definitely does its job for that main purpose of aerial photography and cinematography. It is surprisingly easy to fly, and there are plenty of interesting new features that enhance the experience.