When it comes to drones — the kind consumers fly, not the ones used by the military — China’s DJI is the leader. The DJI Phantom series of drones has always been at the front of the pack, and according to the Federal Aviation Administration, nearly 43% of drones registered in the U.S. are DJI Phantoms. The next biggest company has a 9.1% share.
DJI’s newest entry is the DJI Phantom 4, and this just might be the most important release to date.
It’s not just going up against established competitors like 3D Robotics and AeroVironment, Inc. (AVAV), the DJI Phantom 4 is expected to face the first quadcopter drone release of action camera giant GoPro Inc (GPRO) in the coming months.
Does the latest and greatest DJI Phantom have what it takes to continue DJI’s market dominance, or is it vulnerable to GoPro’s coming drone challenger?
We review the DJI Phantom 4 to find out.
DJI Phantom 4 Review: Incredibly Fast, Incredible Video Footage and More Autonomous Than Ever
The Phantom 4 is easily the best DJI Phantom ever.
Even though the newest drone from DJI is recognizable as being part of the Phantom series (with the exception of the red stripes, which are now missing), it has been completely redesigned to be better and easier to use than any of the company’s previous models. This is not an incremental upgrade — it’s a major leap forward in the consumer drone experience.
Robust new autonomous features make the DJI Phantom 4 an excellent choice for drone beginners. Optical sensors are employed for obstacle avoidance, which significantly reduces the chances of a crash or collision. ActiveTrack lets you set the Phantom 4 to automatically follow you, autonomously and with obstacle avoidance engaged.
Advanced drone pilots will appreciate the wicked Sport Mode that lets the DJI Phantom 4 hit air speeds of 44 miles per hour.
The stock camera has also been improved. The 4K camera is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal, and has a new lens that reduces curvature and delivers stunning, smooth Ultra-HD footage.
Expensive, and Not Perfect Yet
The biggest knock against the new DJI Phantom — at least as an easy-to-use “drone for everyone” solution — is its price.
The $1,399 sticker includes everything you need, including an excellent camera, but the extras quickly add up. An additional battery is $169 and a one-year protection plan to cover damage to the drone and its camera “sustained during normal use” adds another $299.
Buyers will definitely want to consider one or more extra batteries. DJI claims 28 minute battery life, but real-world experience tends to be more in the 20 to 25 minute range. After that, it’s a one hour wait for the battery to recharge.
The autonomous flight features also have a few quirks.
Collision avoidance only works with the drone in forward motion and ActiveTracking can be fooled if the subject wanders into a group of people. The DJI Phantom 4 can also occasionally balk at flying through crowded areas (between trees, for example) requiring the pilot to take over full manual control.
DJI Phantom 4 Key Specs
- Maximum flight speed 44 mph
- Maximum flight time 28 minutes using included 5350mAh LiPo battery
- Maximum control range 3.1 miles
- Integrated 3-axis camera gimbal
- Includes 4K camera (12.4 MP still photos)
- Four optical sensors, GPS+GLONASS dual positioning module
- Obstacle avoidance
- Weighs 3.04 pounds
- MSRP $1,399 ($2,099 as package with two extra batteries and backpack)
DJI Phantom 4 Review: Conclusion
The DJI Phantom 4 accomplishes a very impressive dual mission. It’s probably the easiest drone for a beginner to break out of the box and start flying, without worrying about immediately crashing it into a wall. It also offers advanced new features and capabilities that will appeal to experienced drone enthusiasts, including that Sport Mode with its 44 mph top speed.
The DJI Phantom 4’s built-in camera is also capable of capturing amazing, buttery smooth 4K footage.
However, the $1,399 price is steep and that alone is likely to keep the new DJI Phantom out of reach of casual consumers. For those with deep pockets, drone enthusiasts looking for an upgrade or professionals in search of the best aerial photography platform, the DJI Phantom 4 is well worth the price of entry.
For everyone else, there’s a good chance GoPro’s forthcoming drone is going to come in at a more budget-friendly starting price. However, DJI is hoping you’ll stick with the leading name and instead buy an earlier generation Phantom drone at a discounted price. The DJI Phantom 2 is being offered on its website for as low as $339 — GoPro camera extra.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.