The all new Phantom 4 Pro was just announced by DJI alongside the Inspire 2. The Phantom line of quadcopters has gained international recognition due to its amazing design and features. Each of this series of drones has reached the top spot in its field when released to the public. The original Phantom 4, which was barely released a year ago, took the same path. It was brilliant. The new Pro is a step up from the old Phantom 4, adding new features and camera options to a drone that had already captured the hearts and minds of the people who used it, us included.
From the gorgeous new CMOS sensor, 1-inch and 20MP, with 12 stops of range and a 4K capability for video recording, all the way to the new array of flight sensors that make for a smoother, more amazing flying experience, the Phantom 4 Pro seems to have perfected the drone formula. This DJI Phantom 4 Pro review breaks it down to see if it really is as perfect as it seems.
|Dimensions||8.7 x 15 x 12.8 inches|
|Weight (With Battery)||3,06 lb / 1388 g|
|Max Speed||45 mph (Sport Mode)|
|Ascent/Descent Speed||19.6 ft/s
|Camera Sensor||1″ (full-frame), 20 megapixels|
|Lens||8.8 mm / 24 mm, f/2.8 – f/11.|
|Video Capabilities||UHD (4K):
4096×2160 (24/25 /30/48 /50/60p)
2720×1530 (24/25 /30/48 /50/60p)
1920×1080 (24 / 25 / 30 / 48 / 50 / 60 / 120p)
1280×720 (24 / 25 / 30 / 48 / 50 / 60p)
|Max Video Bitrate||100 Mbps|
|Video Container||MP4/MOV (AVC/H.264；HEVC/H.265)|
|Still Images||JPEG, DNG ( RAW )|
|Range||7 mi / 11 km|
|Battery||LiPo 4S 5870 mAh 15.2 V|
|Flight Time||Up to 30 minutes|
|Charger||17.4 V 100W|
|Charging Time||60 minutes|
The Phantom 4 Pro test model arrived in a gorgeous box that looked a lot like the original Phantom 4 box. Inside were pretty much the same contents as well. These included the body of the drone itself, which was packaged quite securely.
The remote controller was also included, again unchanged for the most part from its predecessor. Four additional pairs of replacement propellers were also present in the package, as well as DJIs own Intelligent Flight Battery system.
A charger for the battery and a power cable were present, along with a polystyrene packing and carrying case for the drone. These were found in the box beside the USB and microUSB connecting cables and a 16GB microSD card. Overall, the drone was packed and shipped very carefully, and the box was solid enough to withstand most accidents in transit.
The Phantom 4 Pro is an updated version of the Phantom 4, one of DJI’s most famous drone units. With only an 8 month gap between the release of the two drones, you wouldn’t expect much to be different with the new drone, at lease externally.
Of course, a better camera is the biggest design difference. Alongside this, more sensors have been installed on all four sides of the Pro, leading to better collision avoidance. The software has also been upgraded to provide more flight modes and time.
In terms of exterior appearance, though, the Phantom 4 Pro is so similar to the Phantom 4 that they could be the same drone. They are both very sleek in design, and come in a nice white color. The body of the drone has a very aerodynamic shape for cutting through the air with ease. They both have a nice plastic build that is rugged and lightweight, and weigh about 3 pounds.
Note – This drone must be registered with the FAA before flying. It’s the law!
The Phantom 4 introduced a more modular design for rotors – they could be twisted into place and then locked there. This design philosophy has been brought forward to the Phantom 4 Pro. The battery life of the drone has also been increased, with a full 30 minutes of flight time on paper, which translates to about 25 in less than ideal conditions. This is still quite a high flight time!
There are two pairs of sensors that detect obstacles while the drone is being flown. There are two sensors on the front of the body and well as two on the back. The sides of the craft have dual sensors for both visual and infrared identification of obstacles.
This is paired with the awesome VPS (vision positioning system) that points down towards the ground during flight. When added together, these sensors give the Phantom 4 Pro a whopping 360 degree obstacle avoidance system. With up to 30m range on the front and rear, and 7m on the sides, the drone is a little, intelligent powerhouse.
The flight speed of the new Phantom 4 Pro quadcopter is quite high, with a top speed of 31mph while the obstacle avoidance mode is active. This means that photos can be taken at really high speeds without the stress of possibly crashing the drone into a wall. Even higher speeds of up to 45mph can be reached by turning on Sports mode, although the obstacle sensing capabilities of the drone are rendered useless by this.
Additional features of the drone include some pretty awesome upgraded flight modes, all of which have been brought to life by the new sensors on the body of the drone. The Phantom 4 Pro has a Narrow Sensing mode, which allows it to fly down a narrow corridor or avenue of trees without crashing into the walls. This is also perfect for first person view shots while flying through windows. You can also draw your own flight path on the screen of the controller, in the all new Draw mode.
One of the last and more awesome features of the drone is the Active Track feature, in which a moving object can be identified as a target and followed by the Phantom 4 Pro. Unlike the original drone which could only track while moving forward, the Pro can make sideways and backwards flight as well while tracking.
While it is true that most drones find it tough to follow objects that move at high speed, the Phantom 4 Pro has an upgraded algorithm that can do just this. It keeps the object it is supposed to follow in view at all times without compromising the quality of the footage recorded during flight. More subjects can also be identified using this system, including vehicles and animals in addition to people.
Three different options are available in the Active Track mode – the Trace feature causes the drone to follow an object while staying behind it or in front of it. The all-round position sensing and obstacle avoiding feature means that the drone will always avoid anything in its path even when it isn’t facing the obstacle.
The profile feature allows the Phantom 4 Pro to fly next to the object it is following, capturing angles of the subject in profile. The last feature is spotlight, in which the flight path of the drone can change to anything, but the camera is always kept focused on the object that has been identified as the target.
Because of how it has been built for use by professionals in the industry, the Phantom 4 Pro also has 3 main modes which it can switch between for higher amounts of either automatic or manual control. This allows for the perfect balance to be struck between smoothness, speed, simplicity and intelligence during flight. Position mode is the first of these, allowing for TapFly, Active Track and the new collision avoidance feature to be enabled.
Sports mode leads to a faster flight with more agility at the expense of the collision avoidance feature being turned off. In Atti mode, stabilization is turned off and hovering is enabled. The last is tripod mode, in which the speed of the drone is limited to a paltry 7kmph and more precise movements are made available to pilots.
The older return to home feature of the Phantom 4 has been upgraded too. The Pro is able to intelligently activate the feature when the connection to the transmission source is lost. In addition to this, it can choose the best route by which to get home based on the environment between it and the home point.
It records the entire route by which it got there, including any and all obstacles it has seen. The flight path is then adjusted as necessary during the return trip so that all of the obstacles encountered on the way are avoided on the return. When landing, the most accessible and viable landing position is taken using the VPS mounted on the underside of the body of the Pro.
Gesture mode is the last of the features that can be used in the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. In this mode, one can take selfies using the drone alone and not the remote control unit. The Phantom 4 Pro can understand basic gestures made by a target and translate these into commands for its software.
For example, you can lift your arms when you’re standing in front of the drone, and the drone will lock on to you, focusing and readying for the shot. When your arms are held out, a three second timer begins which can allow a selfie to be taken without the transmitter in the shot.
Gimbal and camera
The gimbal on the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is a tri-axis technology. It is very effective in providing nice, stable images and video no matter what kind of weather and elements the drone is being flown in. the camera of the drone doesn’t use the same 1/2.3 sensor that is found in its big brother, the Phantom 4. Instead, it bring an all new 1 inch CMOS image senor to the playing field.
This sensor has four times the detection area of the older technology, which leads to a lot more detail in the pictures and video taken with this quadrotor. While the FoV isn’t as wide as in the Phantom 4, the Pro has the ability to capture images and video on a 24mm lens instead of a 20mm one.
Some of the older Phantom class drones had a very strange design feature in which they did not come with their own camera. This forced you to buy a GoPro in order to record video or take pictures. The quality was almost never up to par, even though GoPro is a great brand of cameras.
The Phantom 4 Pro, however has the camera fixed to the underside of the body. The gimbal was found to work extremely well under duress, resulting in incredibly smooth, sharp, and high quality images and video being shot.
The best part is that the gimbal is fully motorized, and can be controlled using the remote control unit and transmitter. The camera can be moved 90 degrees, from pointing ahead to straight down, manually. In the horizontal plane, the camera can be rotated about 360 degrees, but not on its own. Using the software’s Free Flight mode, the body of the drone can be rotated in mid air without disrupting the path of flight of the drone or the hover position.
Still Image Quality
Have you ever experienced a rolling shutter? This is the term given to the vibrated photos you get from a drone camera that is used while the drone is moving fast. When tracking a subject or panning fast, the still images you take have a tendency to display a shake that rather resembled Jell-O.
This can be quite annoying for photographers looking for professional, clear shots. The Phantom 4 Pro gets rid of this by using an all new mechanical shutter on the camera.
You can also control the aperture size now, which leads to more depth options. The camera can shoot 14 pictures/second in burst mode. All of the pictures can be taken from a variety of angles that simply cannot be replicated.
There are actually many different modes for shooting still images. Some of these are the same as can be found in a typical DSLR camera. Examples include burst mode photos, time lapses, HDR pictures and even exposure bracketed photos. Everything can be adjusted, even the white balance, when using the Phantom 4 Pro.
While automatic settings can be enabled and do a great job, they also have an affinity for exposing shadows. The manual mode allows for ISO and shutter control. Because of the fixed aperture, this is how the exposure time can be modified. This is a far simpler process than for most other drones, which results in it being easier to take good photos while flying at higher speeds.
All of the still images taken by the Pro are recorded in gorgeous 20MP resolutions. They can be stored on the SD card in different formats including JPEG or RAW and DNG. Aperture size can range from f/2.8 to f/11, which is a crazy range to have. This means that you will be able to get rid of the outside filters you had for previous drone cameras.
One of the most beautiful features of the Phantom 4 Pro is the quality with which video is recorded on this drone. It records in full 4K resolution at 60fps, and provides some of the most brilliant footage ever. The gimbal does an amazing job of stopping the rolling shutter effect from shaking the feed too much, which makes for some pretty incredible shots overall.
Phantom 4 Pro Footage (4K):
The video recordings also have the older 30 and 24fps recording framerates available. These take up less memory on your SD card and are better for video where length is more important than pure quality. The compression of all recorded footage is now of the h.265 variety instead of the original 60Mbps H.264 compression found in the older Phantom 4 model.
The controller of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is no different to the Phantom 4, at least on the outside. It is one of the most comfortable drone controllers out there, and there is no reason for DJI to change the external design of it just yet.
The buttons on the control unit have all been mapped to the mobile device that is connected to the controller when it is active. This means that a tap on the screen of the phone or tablet will lead directly to a change in the flight or the function of the quadcopter immediately.
A good example of this is the shutter button on the screen of the TapFly app on mobile – tapping it allows you to take a quick still of the environment. Conversely, you can take the same picture by touching a button on the controller itself, which allows you to keep your fingers on the buttons at all times while operating the drone.
The bottom of the control unit also features 2 additional buttons that can be programmed to whatever function you want – perfect for a professional photographer who wants quick shortcuts available when pressing a single button.
While a smartphone can be connected to the controller and used with it, it might be a better option to make use of either an iPad or a smaller tablet of another brand. The controller itself without the tablet is light, sturdy and very comfortable indeed. However, there were a couple of tiny discrepancies here that led to a less than 100% awesome experience.
One of these was the cover for the battery port on the controller. A rubber cover was used, which isn’t all bad. The problem was that the type of rubber used got dirty really fast. Unless you have some Kleenex handy to wipe the controller down after each use, you’re going to be in trouble.
In addition to this, it would have been nice to see a connecting cable included in the box that supported Apple products as well as Android. While there is a standard microUSB cable in there, it doesn’t support Lightning ports like on iPhone and iPad, which led to a new cable being needed from a third party. Overall though, the standard controller is just as good as the last model, if not better.
DJI has also announced an option for an even more advanced transmitter. This one has a touch screen display that is 5.5” in size. Even better, since it is built into the controller, it is purported to have lower latency when streaming video from the drone. It also takes away the need to pair a new mobile device to the drone before using it. The new controller should have the ability to enable Draw mode too, which causes the drone to follow a path that is drawn on the screen using a finger.
The new video transmission system to the controller is of the Lightbridge HD technology, and has been upgraded to support broadcasts in the 5.8GHz frequency. This just about gets rid of all lag during flight especially when the drone is being flown in an area where there is ton of interference on the 2.4GHz because of home WiFi networks broadcasting on the same frequency.
Even better, the video streaming and the transmission of actual flight data to the drone and transmitter act on different frequencies. This means that the two will never interfere with each other, thereby never affecting the performance of the drone.
Time Division Multiplexing is a special feature in the software of the Phantom 4 Pro video transmission system. It automatically judges the frequency of the interfering waves and fields in the area, and then switches over the control transmission frequency for maximum range and reliability. The range of the video transmission on the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is therefore an astounding 7km.
The 5.5” built-in screen on the new controller has a brightness setting that allows it to be twice as bright as a normal tablet screen. Colors are more enriched and visible, even when the controller is being used in direct sunlight. An HDMI port is built into the controller, along with a slot for a MicroSD card for storage of transmitted video immediately. There is also an integrated speaker for immediate playback and a WiFi adapter for instant sharing of captured video and stills.
The battery of the Phantom 4 Pro has been upgraded to provide a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. This is the perfect amount of time to capture some amazing footage. The app on the transmitter has a display for the remaining lifetime of the battery so you never run out mid flight, and has an intelligent system that calculates the distance from home that the drone is at, then tells you when you’re at the minimum level needed for a safe flight home.
Phantom 4 vs pro
|Feature||Phantom 4 PRO||Phantom 4|
|Flight time||30 min||25min|
|Max speed||14 meters per second||10 meters per second|
|Camera and sensor||1 inch sensor CMOS, Mechanical Shutter||1/2.3 inch sensor|
- 1 inch CMOS sensor
- 24 focal length of lens
- Mechanical shutter
- Great aperture range
- Six new sensors
- Ton of new features
- Great new transmitter
Overall, the Phantom 4 Pro is a very capable drone from DJI that goes above and beyond in terms of how well it performs. The upgrades to the camera and the sensor turn this into a beautiful piece of machinery that is nothing but the best in class for its range of drone.