DJI Phantom 4 Pro review – A superb airframe

One of the most famous designs in the drone world right now is the DJI Phantom series. They are still going strong even after 16 months since they were introduced. The Phantom 4 Pro isn’t available anymore; it’s been replaced by the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 drone which features a larger airframe and is recommended for people who need something bigger than what we have here today (the DJI Air 2s). If you want something smaller, then go with that instead – there isn’t anything left to mention about the original Phantom 4 Pro anyway.

Also Read: DJI FPV Review

Overview

I’m not sure how much detail I need to give here; you’ve probably seen drones like these before. The Phantom 4 Pro is made up of a rigid frame along with tall landing gear, hosting a centered camera from below. There are no foldable features on this one – instead, the propellers are removable for easy transport options.

There are two models of this drone, one being the Phantom 4 Pro and the other being the Phantom 4 Pro+. The latter has a built-in display on the remote controller. Otherwise, they’re identical machines.

The Phantom series has always been known for its luxurious white and silver colors with a few black accents thrown in. Recently there has been an Obsidian edition released; while the exterior may be dark, it doesn’t affect the performance of this great drone one bit.

Obstacle avoidance sensors are on every side of this drone. When active, the drone prevents crashing into anything except for straight up or down. The forward and downward sensors can also help to make course corrections around obstacles in order to avoid crashing or having precise landings.

The camera is contained in a three axis gimbal, able to capture high quality footage with its one inch CMOS sensor at 20MP. One of the best ones on the market when it comes to cameras geared towards consumers.

When it comes time to pack up, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro does not fold inwards. Installing the camera gimbal lock and protector (which is just one piece) before quick releasing all of its propellers will do the job instead.

New: Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

New: Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

DJI has put out an updated version of this great drone, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro v2.0 offers only slightly different features than what was offered before – propeller adjustments and ESC updates make for cleaner flights with less noise. A big new feature that many people are interested in is the inclusion of OcuSync technology which allows for multiple remote control units to interact and work together along with compatibility for use with DJI goggles.

Phantom drones

Phantom drones

Diving back into this article from before, I want to send you over to our DJI Phantom drones guide. If you’re interested in learning about where these are at historically or if there have been any changes made since they first came out, check it out!

Specifications and Features

DJI has many features for the Phantom 4 Pro that make it easier to fly than its cheaper counterparts such as the DJI Spark. In addition to these standard autonomous functions, there are also some additional ones called follow modes and other self-piloting features, but these do not compare with the Quickshot functions found on the Spark.

The remote control was one of the most impressive aspects of this drone, as it responded to my every command. One other thing I noticed about the controller is its low latency FPV capabilities–whether on the built-in display or my phone when flying with a regular Pro model.

A single battery will last up to 30 minutes while flying; however, if you are being careful then expect approximately 24 minutes in the sky before needing a recharge. This is because there’s a 5,870 mAh battery powering this 3 lb drone which can travel at speeds of about 45 mph.

Keep in mind that you are not allowed to fly higher than 400 feet off the ground. However, this helicopter has a maximum altitude of 19685 ft., so it can reach anywhere in North America except for the peak of Mount Denali (Alaska).

The Spec Sheet reports similar hovering accuracy when compared to the Mavic Pro and other DJI drones. Unlike the Ocusync system used by some models of drone, this model is rated for a long-distance connection of 4.3 miles as well – just like the Mavic Pro.

The camera of the phantom 4 is one of its greatest features. It captures film in high quality, even if it lacks a little bit when it comes to video quality. There are two kinds of resolutions for the cameras – standard and cinematic. The resolution varies based on what you’re looking for – if you’re taking pictures then use standard while if you want something more special use cinematic because it has higher specs than standard.

I won’t fully delve into what a 100 Mbps video means, but rest assured that it’s much better than the 60 Mbps which is on most other drones. (YouTube also converts 4k videos to 35Mbps or lower, so I might never really demonstrate the actual difference.)

Key Specs

  • 1388g (3.06 pounds)
  • 350mm diagonally (13.7 inches)
  • Approx 28 minutes flight time
  • Controller with flight and camera controls (optional touchscreen)
  • 72kph (45mph)
  • Front and rear collision detection

Camera specs

  • 4K video at 60fps
  • Max video bitrate 100Mbps
  • 128GB MicroSD
  • 20-megapixel, 1-inch CMOS sensor
  • Mechanical shutter
  • Aperture control f2.8-f11

Performance

The Phantom 4 Pro can easily be compared to a sports car. It is not too much more expensive than what most people would spend on such a vehicle. For an average person who doesn’t wish for something flashy, this drone provides all that one needs at an affordable price.

It’s quite apparent that the Phantom 4 Pro is equipped with an obstacle avoidance system on all four sides and underneath its body. And because of this, it will constantly warn you if you’re flying too low or coming too close to yourself or anything else for that matter. All you need to do is take a quick flight up – away from the ground and yourself- until there are no warnings left; then get back down again when all alarms have stopped going off.

This is a fast drone. It maxes out at 45 miles per hour when fully operational, but while flying you will average around 31 miles per hour. This drone accelerates quickly, but the ride remains smooth throughout. In comparison, the Mavic Pro’s top speed is nearly identical to this one; however, it can be jarring for videography purposes because of its responsiveness to controls. Compared to its predecessor, the Mavic Pro has more modes and features – something we will discuss at length in an upcoming article.

Unlike other drones before it, I found that default calibration for rotation was a little too fast. While this makes focusing easy enough, there were times when rotating around could cause the drone to spin out of control. This isn’t so bad if you’re taking shots of landscapes or close-ups of things on the ground; but if you want to capture distant scenery from afar using all the skills of a pro – this will make everything much harder than it needs to be.

This drone has a built-in object avoidance system that is capable of detecting obstacles up to 23 ft. away, which will prevent you from crashing into trees or anything else in your way. However, it doesn’t matter how advanced the technology behind this system is -you can always crash (i.e., especially if there are objects like tree branches during the winter). Overall, the Phantom 4 Pro is a very responsive drone.

It can fly up to speeds of 45mph and stays in place even when you change direction mid-flight – as long as you don’t fly out of range or above 400 feet. I would also recommend keeping it low enough so that other people don’t accidentally see what you’re doing – after all, this isn’t illegal where I live and many others wouldn’t understand (or appreciate) what we’re doing here. But if your laws are different from mine, then sure – please fly high!

Controls were quite straightforward and easy to use. I handed the controls over to someone who has never flown before- Adam Molina of Sound Guys. Within just a few minutes he was already well acquainted with the drone. He said Flying this thing was pretty damn cool. Later, when I was done flying around – I managed to land it right back on top of its case without any troubles at all; although unfortunately my phone didn’t capture it because I forgot to turn it on while filming.

My only complaint about the Phantom 4 Pro Performance is that when it lands, I find the machine spinning up while shutting down its motors – but this isn’t much of an issue when grounded. If you’ve landed in a hard-to-reach area (or have run out of battery power), this could cause problems; however, as long as there are no obstacles nearby, then this shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Camera

Camera

The 20 MP shooter on the Phantom 4 Pro is a remarkable camera. It takes breathtaking pictures, full of detail and clarity when compared to drones lower than $2000 such as the Mavic Pro. What sets it apart from other cameras though, are the 1 inch sensors which allow for greater image detail – something that cannot be found on most cheaper models.

After returning from my mission, I was quite surprised at how well the drone had flown considering the turbulent weather. Due to time constraints, I had no other option but to use an unfamiliar remote control; however, as soon as I turned it on, its stability became apparent- especially during a gust of wind when most drones would sputter or break down completely.

Getting footage with propellers was much more difficult than I had expected. This didn’t bother me too much, but I know it bothers some people. For those of you who are unable to handle the idea of seeing propellers in my videos, please don’t hesitate to contact me first before purchasing so we can figure something out together! My recordings were all 4K at 30 frames per second – all defaults that come standard when recording this way.

Additional video settings include 720p and 1080p up to 120 fps, 2720×1530 up to 60 fps, 4K up to 60 fps and Cinematic 4K up to 50 fps. Photos are captured in three ratios – 3:2 ratio at 5472 x 3648; 4:3 ratio clocks in at 4864 x 3648; 16:9 ratio is at 5472 x 3078. Surprisingly, the default photo capture mode was set for 3840 x 2160 pixels right out of the box.

DJI Phantom 4 Pro
Camera1″ CMOS 20MP 4K
LensFOV 84° 8.8mm/24mm f/2.8-f/11
(Roughly equivalent to 35 mm)
ISOVideo ISO 100 – 3200 auto, 6400 manual
Photo ISO 100 – 3200 auto, 12800 manual
Shutter8s – 1/2000s Mechanical shutter
8s – 1/8000s Electronic shutter
Video recordingMP4 or MOV
H.264 or H.265 (H.264 has the higher fps and Mbps below)
Cinematic 4K – 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (4096×2160) @100Mbps
4K – 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (3840×2160) @100Mbps
2.7K – 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (2704×1520) @ 60/65/80Mbps
FHD – 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1920×1080) @ 50/60/65/80/100Mbps
HD – 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1280×720) @ 25/30/35/45/60/80Mbps
Photo capture5472 x 3648 resolution 3:2
4864 x 3648 resolution 4:3
5472 x 3078 resolution 16:9
Single shot or burst 3/5/7/10/14 fps
StorageUp to 128GB micro SD
Class 10 and/or UHS-1 minimum, UHS-3 recommended for 4K video
Remote controllerMax 4.3 mile operating range
Video record button
Photo capture button
Camera tilt scroll wheel
Camera exposure value scroll wheel
Center focus and auto exposure button
Mobile supportFPV video streaming 720p by default, 1080p optional
Tap to focus
Full manual controls available
GimbalShock mounted
3-axis motorized
-90° to +30° vertical pitch

Photo and video samples

As always, we have cropped and compressed the images and video to fit best on your screen, but they are otherwise unaltered. No color corrections, no white balancing, these are just the raw experience using the default settings of the Phantom 4 Pro. The first two photos were taken during filming mode while the rest were captured using a stills function; all at the highest resolution possible with this drone.

If you are flying a drone in order to make money- either through payment or any other form of compensation- then you must use a different set of protocols and register for the Part 107 Drone License. Flying without this license can result in some very serious legal consequences, so we recommend getting your commercial license right away. To do this, head over to our Drone Pilot Training Material to learn more about what it takes to become an expert at these regulations.

Competition

Considering the class of drone here, there are many competitors. We do not include Mavic Pro, Spark, or other smaller folding drones in this classification because they’re just too small. When we speak of competition, we mean bigger drones with either an attached or built-in camera that can capture professional footage while still being portable enough to use in almost any situation. For example – the Phantom 4 Pro doesn’t sacrifice flying ability for portability since it’s a large sized drone and its price ranges from $1k-$2k which give it an appropriate place among most others.

From our initial testing, the Yuneec Typhoon H has proven itself to be one of the top competitors in this field. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium and GDU Byrd Premium 2.0 are two drones that match those specs as well. It will take some time before we can fully assess its capabilities; but the 3DR Solo is a drone we need to put through its paces before making any sort of judgement call on how it compares to other drones at its price point or even above it.

Short of running a side-by-side comparison at this time, let us offer our professional opinion – we believe the Phantom 4 Pro is one of the easiest to fly and produces some of the best aerial video quality for UASs under $2000. Drones costing less than $2000 can surpass it in some areas, but those drones require cameras and peripherals that would make them more expensive.

If you don’t care about how it looks or what the overall outcome is, the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus has everything you need. But if you’re looking for something that gives videos a bit more polish without paying top-dollar, then we recommend checking out drones such as DJI’s new Air 2s. While it might not be quite up there with the quality of its predecessors in terms of camera size (or price), it does offer an upgraded sensor and software to take higher quality pictures without breaking your bank account.

Conclusions

We love the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+. It’s one of the best drones out there – with its strong specifications, built-in features and its stability when in flight. Some people might think that it’s already outdated due to its lack of new features – but we don’t think so at all. All you really need is a new camera or few minor tweaks here and there; because despite what you may think, this drone is still one of the best ones out there right now!

When I use the Phantom 4 Pro, I’m constantly reminded of its size – as it isn’t quite as small or portable as some other drones on the market. But that doesn’t make it hard to carry or anything; all you have to do is plan ahead, unlike my Mavic Pro, which I can just pick up and take with me wherever I want.

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