Updated February 12, 2016 11:45 AM
The DJI Phantom 4 wass perhaps the most anticipated DJI product of 2016 alongside the DJI Inspire 2. Both should have common upgrades, with the Inspire 2 having some additional features geared more towards the professional market.
DJI’s most recent release, the DJI Phantom 4.
DJI Phantom 4 Initial Review
Well, it has finally launched and if you are on any DJI Facebook group you are sure to have been spammed by 1000 people to watch the video and “purchase” through affiliate links.
All that aside, we wanted to give a quick review of what we have seen and heard.
First off, we aren’t impressed with the Apple partnership. We wrote about that in this article…DJI and Apple Partner.
That aside, here is the video for those of you that missed it.
Let me preface this by letting you know how we will approach this review. We are a professional drone company. We have flown a ton of different multirotors, and we are going to approach this from the point of view of a professional drone company, not a consumer.
In this review we will discuss a few different things. What we like, what we don’t, and a conclusion. With that let’s get a few specs on the new DJI Phantom 4.
- Price – $1400
- Flight Time – 28 Minutes
- Camera – 4K Video & 12MP Photo
- Obstacle Avoidance
- Lots of “smart” features
What We Like
When Yuneec announced that it’s Typhoon H would have optional obstacle avoidance technology, we were excited. This type of tech had previously only been available on drones like the Matrice 100. However, we were a little disappointed that Yuneec made this an “optional” feature instead of a standard feature.
The Phantom 4 comes standard with obstacle avoidance, and from the video, it seems pretty impressive. We say that with a grain of salt though. Because we all know that first time pilots can get in way over their heads. A thin tree, or a power line, and you are going to find yourself with an expensive crash! However, at least you wont crash into a house now!
Increased battery time is something that drone pilots always groan about. The longer we can stay in the air, the better. So 28 minutes of flight time is a huge plus on this drone. It is about a 30% increase over some other industry standard drones.
The ActiveTrack and various smart features are cool. We like that this drone can follow and do things like smooth orbits. However, these features really aren’t that exciting to us. Our pilots are quite capable of producing any of these shots themselves with minimal effort. However, it has piqued our interest in regards to 3D modeling and taking orbits of static objects.
What We Don’t Like
Let’s start with the design.
Frankly, it is boring!
We were hoping for a new sleek, sexy looking machine. What did we get? A slightly pregnant version of the P3 with a few aesthetic changes on the underbelly. I understand, you aren’t going to reinvent the wheel. But compared to the Inspire 1 (arguably the sexiest drone around) this thing is BLAH!
Next on the list… The camera. We simply aren’t that impressed. It will shoot decent 4K video and the 12MP stills will be adequate for most situations. However, we again are professionals, and the sensor is still tiny so regardless of how many “megapixels” you have, the sensor will still be inadequate compared to a micro 4/3’s or full frame sensor. I understand that DJI probably won’t ever fit that quality of camera on their consumer drones, but a guy can wish can’t he? :)
At the end of it all… I like the title from the Wall Street Journals review… “DJI’s New Drone Outsmarts Bad Pilots.”
This drone is great for the weekend warrior, the real estate agent, or the wedding photographer. I want to emphasize that this is not a professional setup. It fits into the “prosumer” market, but must remain there. The camera simply isn’t up to snuff for higher budget video work, precision agriculture, or even accurate topographical mapping. Further, without a swappable payload, you are stuck with what you got.
That being said, it is a major advance in drone technology. Having obstacle avoidance will greatly decrease the amount of pilot error crashes. The fun “smart” features it offers are very cool and can produce awesome aerial shots for your ski edits, wedding videos, housing flyovers, etc.
I do not intend this review to sound condescending…However, I write it in response to the many calls we get a day from “professionals” asking for jobs and trying to argue their equipment meets our standards.
DJI Phantom 4 Rumors
UPDATE February 24, 2016 9:30 AM.
DJI released a new little teaser video this morning called “Return to Your Senses.” This is clearly a hint towards the new sensors on the Phantom 4.
UPDATE February 12, 2016 11:45 AM.
Couple new images came rolling in…. these look a little more promising than the leaked image yesterday.
UPDATE February 11, 2016 10:44 AM.
A leaked image that very well could be the Phantom 4 has surfaced. It is consistent with the gimbal being in the shell and retracting landing gear.
UPDATE February 9, 2016 6:42 PM.
Sources indicate that the release date for the Phantom 4 will be March 1st. This is a highly regarded source and can be quite certain that it is correct. The anticipated ship date will be sometime mid to late March.
Some features that it is now confirmed to have:
-Internal Gimbal. Essentially a normal gimbal but less should be exposed, most of it being in the shell.
I will continue to update this blog as news arrives.
The DJI Phantom 4 rumor mill is starting to churn. The last major platform release from DJI was the Agras MG-1 a few months back, and the Matrice in June of 2015. A smaller release of the Phantom 3 4K also happened last month. So it comes as no surprise that DJI is cooking up something special. We are quite sure the Inspire 2 is coming this year, hopefully with a true dual operator experience. But that begs the question – what will the DJI Phantom 4 have in store for us?
One feature we are really starting to think of as being a “for-sure” addition is an obstacle sensing system. In the Matrice, this is known as Guidance. Safety is a big push for DJI, and this technology could really make the Phantom a no-brainer operation.
The one thing DJI really has going for them is their relationship with the FAA. For commercial operators applying for a Section 333 exemption, having a DJI product listed on their application is worth its weight in gold versing a home build or any other drone. The FAA has been working closely with DJI, and we definitely know DJI wants to appease them. A lot of DJI’s success rides on what the FAA chooses to do. That being said, we can be pretty sure that the new DJI Phantom 4 will include a host of new safety features, geofencing, and protocols to limit the DJI Phantom 4 from flying in certain airspaces and sensitive areas (airports, stadiums, etc). They are already implementing that in the DJI GO App, but will probably be a little more native to this new platform.
There WILL be a new camera. The rumor is either a 6K resolution model or something similar to the P3 Pro with a larger sensor. A larger sensor would be my hope. I still don’t have the need for highly compressed 6K footage. A larger sensor for low light settings would be great. The 4K footage from the P3 Pro looks incredible in perfect light, but anything low light adds quite a bit of noise. Optical zoom is still a maybe. It does add a minor amount of weight and is something we would probably see in the Inspire series over the Phantoms.
DJI Phantom 4 Release Date
The DJI Phantom 4 is expected to be announced on March 4th, with orders shipping on March 29th. It should be pretty similar to a traditional Apple unveiling.
Our initial predictions were pointing at CES 2016 as a very likely event that they would showcase the new DJI Phantom 4. CES 2016 has come and gone, and all we have to show for it is a new Phantom 3 4K version.
The next major event that DJI is part of is the Camera & Photo Imaging Show (CP+) that is scheduled for February 25 – 28th in Yokohama. This is very unlikely, however. Especially with the recent news of a March 4th announcement…
DJI Phantom 4 Wishlist
Asking what we wish for is a lot different than what the DJI Phantom 4 will probably be. Here is a list of what we hope makes the cut for the DJI Phantom 4:
- Object Detection System – This is one I’m quite sure will make the cut. This is already a feature on the Matrice called Guidance, and I’m sure a smaller version will be made for the DJI Phantom 4.
- Larger Camera Sensor – I definitely don’t need any resolution higher than 4K, but a larger image sensor would be a very nice perk for low light.
- Strong Materials – The Phantoms have always been made out of the same plastic we have all grown to hate. It cracks for no real good reason and definitely doesn’t hold up to minor crashes very well. Carbon fiber or some radical change probably isn’t realistic, but a stronger plastic would be greatly appreciated.
- Lightbridge 2 – The DJI Phantom 4 will probably have an upgraded video transmission system, but whether or not it is Lightbridge 2 is yet to be seen. The major proponent of Lightbridge 2 is it’s ability to transmit two separate video feeds. This could make for a true dual operator system (fpv camera and video camera). Although I’m sure this will be reserved for the new Inspire instead of the Phantom.
- Parachute – This could be a feature that appeals more to the FAA than myself, but definitely has its place and time. In a stressful situation, it would be nice for this hunk of plastic to come down under a parachute than in absolute free fall.
- Longer Battery Life – This is one of those wishes that will never be truly satisfied. Like a girl too pretty, or a car too fast, we will never have too much battery life. We are “grass is greener” thinkers. As soon as we get 30min flight time, we want 45. Regardless, having more battery life would be very much appreciated