For the majority of drone enthusiasts out there, DJI are the entrenched market leaders in drone industry and a household and reliable brand. They have more than a dozen phenomenal devices in their repertoire majority of which are loaded with Ultra High Definition (UHD) or even higher video capturing features. Exploring these splendid machines is not an easy task by any stretch of imagination but we are here to make life easier for you. So, we bring to you our comprehensive guide on the Phantom series of drones manufactured by DJI.
This is a legendary series of drones that has managed to gain plenty of traction among drone aficionados around the globe. Their trademark design, superb landing paraphernalia, a formidable quadcopter chassis at 350mm and white paint job has achieved unparalleled success in the consumer market over the years. Let’s compare the different variants of the DJI Phantom drones series.
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Fundamentals about DJI Phantom Series
As you all know that the DJI Phantom series is not a new one. As a matter of fact, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro was released quite recently at the end of the year 2016 and is a part of the fourth generation of the series. The first product of this series hit the shelves in January, 2013.
What is of great significance is the fact that the design and entire frame of the DJI Phantom series drones is more or less the same beginning from the first drone of the series till its latest member which is the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. The main difference among the drones of varying generations of this series lies in their flight capabilities and software features.
It all started off with a quadcopter that required pilots who had the skill and the prowess to fly these magnificent Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The device also allowed users to attach a GoPro action camera and provided a flight duration of no more than 10 minutes. This brilliant concoction has now transformed into a fully autonomous precision UAV with camera capabilities that are comparable to a top quality DSLR camera. Global Positioning System further added new dimensions to drone flying as it made room for higher flight accuracy even while the machine was in the state of a hover and some interesting features such as return to base.
The most recent model that has been released boasts a flight duration of 30 minutes, a control range of a whopping four miles, the option to let the user use his/her smartphone or the dedicated radio controller to manoeuvre the machine and other prolific features. GPS and 5-way obstacle avoidance sensors have converted this device into an impregnable fortress that is immune to crashes. The latest machines are equipped with advanced and autonomous modes of flight and include cameras that have left the GoPro action camera far behind.
If you are looking to purchase a new drone, you can still get a brand new DJI Phantom 3 and newer. The DJI Phantom 3 was released in April, 2015, DJI Phantom 4 in March, 2016 and the latest DJI Phantom 4 Pro and DJI Phantom 4+ in November, 2016.
Let us have a closer look at the drones that are still available for sale in the market in addition to the early drones of the series.
|DJI||Phantom||Phantom 2 Standard||Phantom 2 Vision||Phantom 2 Vision+||FC40|
|Release date||January 2013||December 2013||October 2013||July 2014||January 2014|
|Price (As of Nov. 2016)||$450||$339||$470||$623||$738|
|Maximum battery life, flight time||Under 10 minutes||25 minutes||25 minutes||25 minutes||25 minutes|
|Remote control||Factory RC remote||Factory or smartphone/tablet||Factory or smartphone/tablet||Factory or smartphone/tablet||Factory or smartphone/tablet|
|Range||0.6 mile||0.6 miles||0.2 miles||0.4 miles||0.5 miles|
|Camera||No, mount action camera||No||1080p, 14MP||1080p, 14MP||720P|
|DJI||Phantom 3 Standard||Phantom 3 Advanced||Phantom 3 Professional||Phantom 3 4K|
|Release date||April 2015||2015||2015||2015|
|Price (As of Nov. 2016)||$450 (Watch for sales.)||$699||$897||$699|
|Maximum battery life, flight time||25 minutes||23 minutes||23 minutes||25 minutes|
|Remote control||Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet||Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet||Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet||Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet|
|Range||0.6 miles||1.2 miles||3 miles||3 miles|
|Camera||2.7K, 12MP||2.7K,||4K||4K, 12MP|
|GPS||GPS||GPS / GLONASS||GPS / GLONASS||GPS / GLONASS|
|DJI||Phantom 4||Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+||Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Advanced+|
|Release date||March 2016||November 2016||April 2017|
|Price (As of Nov. 2016)||$1024||$1499 and $1799||$1349 and $1649|
|Maximum battery life, flight time||28 minutes||30 minutes||30 minutes|
|Remote control||Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet||Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet
Pro+ has built-in 5.5-inch display
|Factory with smartphone as FPV or smartphone/tablet
Pro+ has built-in 5.5-inch display
(31MPH with all collision sensors active – Forward, backward and downward.)
(31MPH with all collision sensors active – Forward and downward.)
|Range||3 miles, official, ~4 miles possible||4.3 miles||4.3 miles|
|Camera||4K 24fps, 12MP||4K 60fps, 20MP||4K 60fps, 20MP|
|GPS||GPS / GLONASS||Dual GPS / GLONASS||Dual GPS / GLONASS|
This was a white colored drone that came with red stripes on leading arms and offered a flight duration of just less than 10 minutes in addition to a simple gimbal to attach the GoPro action camera. This was not a user-friendly drone on the whole and was a first generation drone of the Phantom series as the manufacturers were still new entrants and were testing the waters.
You might be able to get hands on this machine from certain retails for about $550 in used condition or at $699 for a brand new machine to get a feel of some vintage drone flying.
Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision, Phantom 2 Vision+ and FC40
All of the above mentioned models were released between the end of year 2013 and the mid of year 2014. This series of drones featured GPS positioning, handheld mobile device support for manoeuvring the device in addition to VR goggles integration and WiFi connectivity for extended control range.
The addition of enhanced gimbal camera mounting allowed top quality image stabilization and steadiness. The flight duration offered by the machines were around 15 minutes.
DJI made a name for themselves because of the significance they attributed to minute details. Provisions such as self-tightening propellers, “Home” location marking by GPS for automatic return to base and enhanced flight capabilities were introduced in these machines. What is really impressive about DJI is that this was not the pinnacle of their achievements. Big things were yet to follow and we still anticipate more stuff coming from them in the future.
FC40 was the last machine of this generation of drones and ironically the least equipped of them all. Enhanced flight controls, image stabilization and gimbal for mounting purposes were introduced in the Vision and Vision+ variants.
The most attractive feature of this line of drones is the inherent notification system that lets the pilot know if the drone is flying in a no-fly zone. There are a number of laws in the US in relation to flying drones so this feature tends to provide a lot of help to you even if you forget any law or are not aware of it.
These devices fall in the price range of about $285 to $499 and you can grab a few decent deals as well. Initially, these devices were stacked in the price range of about $800.
Phantom 3 4K, Phantom 3 Professional, Phantom 3 Advanced and Phantom 3 Standard
The Phantom 3 series was launched in the spring of 2015 and included four top of the line models. One can comfortably guess the features boasted by these devices from their names. Phantom 3 Standard machine offers camera recording capabilities of 2.7K and does not come with the lightbridge downlink feature that can enhance the control range to 1.25 miles.
All the devices in this line come with the best features that were part of the previous generation of the Phantom drones. In addition, they also came up with new features such as the Follow Me mode, GPS waypoints Course lock and base station lock.
The DJI Phantom 3 advanced model included the 2.7K video recording feature and also offered the enhanced controller range.
The Phantom 3 Professional version includes all the features discussed above while bolstering the video recording capabilities to 4.7K video resolution. It also comes with a larger charger to provide users with faster charging times.
Similarly, the Phantom 3 4K model boasts all the features contained in the previous versions, video capabilities of 4K video resolution and a Sony camera sensor. Frequencies are also different that provide support for non-North American airspace.
A maximum flight duration of about 25 minutes was offered by the machines of this series and prices ranged in between $400 and $850. At the time of their launch, prices were as high as $1000.
Also, these devices came with visual positioning system to provide support for tight corners or when GPS was not functioning well. It is not recommended to fly these devices indoors but you may well try it out for yourself if you cannot resist the urge.
This model was launched in the spring of 2016 and came with enhanced features in contrast to the previous versions of the series. However, it did not come up with any major overhauls. Some of the more attractive features included enhanced flight speed, flight duration, control range and collision detection system. As far as the flight experience is concerned, it is pretty similar to that provided by machines of the previous generations.
In order to offer additional flight duration, the engineers had to make a compromise in terms of the weight of the device. More powerful motors and advanced flight capabilities notwithstanding, this machine still offers an enhanced battery life. Moreover, an improved control range of 4 miles was also a compelling feature of this device.
At first glimpse, the camera looks quite similar to the DJI Phantom 3 Pro but it offers video recording at 1080p video resolution at a frame rate of 120 frames per second. Moreover, the video recording capabilities can be used at 2.7K.
It should be noted that the DJI Phantom 4 was officially discontinued on April 30, 2017. The machine can still be bought from hobby shops but the manufacturing has been stopped.
You can buy the DJI Phantom 4 for about $1200 but we suggest you keep a lookout for attractive deals since the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Pro+ are becoming more and more popular among the masses.
Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4+
One year down the line and we might be talking about the DJI Phantom Pro as if it were a thing of the distant past. But currently, this one is a glistening and a shimmering gem of a drone that is a tremendous upgrade from the DJI Phantom 4 Standard.
As far as the flight experience is concerned, additional positioning sensors allow for seamless obstacle avoidance. With such exquisite features, unless you bump your device head on into an obstacle yourself, the collision detection system will prevent virtually all other potential crashes. The collision detection system is omni-directional and will prevent your device from crashing into obstacles.
The actual difference in the DJI Phantom 4 Pro lies in the camera it is equipped with. It is loaded with a complete 1-inch sensor, supports 4K video recording up to a framerate of 60fps, which was limited to a 24fps and also includes a mechanical shutter. The camera is 20 megapixel and has a bitrate of 100 Mbps and also includes H.265 recoding.
We are not finished yet! The previous generation drones allowed the user to control their machine with their dedicated radio controller while viewing the video feed on their handheld mobile devices. This is still a feature present in the DJI Phantom 4 Pro but the Phantom 4 Pro+ does not include it. You get a screen built into the dedicated controller for DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ offering brightness level up to 1000 knits. It is a 5.5 inch 1080p touch display attached to a radio controller with a control range of a whopping 4.3 miles.
The controller also includes an HDMI port at its back. So, you can view the video feed on your LED display and watch it with your friends and family.
Just to make things clear, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro alongside the DJI Inspire are heavily focussed on the quality of the camera as they are considered mere tools to take the exquisite camera into the sky. The enhanced modes of flight will render your aerial cinematography experience as rewarding and professional as possible. Follow me modes feature the capability to track objects and people regardless of the fact that they are in motion or in a state of rest. The drone can slowly encircle the desired object, follow it or even follow you as run in front of it.
The Phantom 4 Pro can be bought for $1429 while the Phantom 4 Pro+ can be bought for $1749. Remember that the Phantom 4 Pro+ comes with an inbuilt display screen in the radio controller. The devices have been fully available for shipment since January, 2017.
Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Advanced+
The DJI Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Advanced+ are the latest releases by DJI and were launched in April, 2017. I will not make an attempt to hold you in this section for a longer period of time. Have you gone through the specifications we discussed about the Phantom 4 Pro above? Now just eliminate the rear facing vision systems for collision detection and here we are! This version is slightly lighter than the Pro model but features some of the most exciting functionalities possessed by the Phantom 4 Pro in addition to a flight duration of half an hour and 30 miles per hour of flight. What’s more could you ask for?
The difference between the Phantom 4 Advanced and the Phantom 4 Advanced + is the same as that between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro+. The “+” symbol represents the addition of the display feature to the radio controller. As a matter of fact, the display is so good that you can even see it clearly in bright daylight.
The DJI Phantom 4 Advanced can be ordered for $1349 if you are interested in the normal model and if you are looking for the DJI Phantom 4 Advanced+, then you will have to spend $1649.
I believe that it is a tad too early to envisage what features will be included in the DJI Phantom 5. We are yet to know of any leaks neither are there any rumour mills moving around regarding whether the DJI Phantom 5 will be released any time soon. We are pretty sure though that the next generation Phantom is nearing its release. We are anticipating advanced obstacle avoidance, collision detection, an enhanced camera sensor and probably a design that is retractable to allow for comfortable portability. But these are what we really want to be a part of the next generation Phantom and not necessarily what the manufacturers are thinking of.
Rest assured, we will update you as soon as we get an inkling about the Phantom 5 release. You can share with us what you are speculating about the next DJI project in the comments section.
Conclusion on DJI Phantom Drones
If you are a drone aficionado trying to determine which one of the Phantoms should you go for, then the answer to this question is rather complex.
Firstly, every new generation is definitely better than its predecessor. Even if you think the upgrades a minimal, they pack a power punch in terms of flight capabilities, camera prowess and ease of use. So, you should become the best judge and figure out if you are looking to put a top quality camera in the sky or just wanting to get a drone that can be played around with to spend some quality leisure time.
If you are a professional cinematographer who is looking to purchase a drone to capture aerial videos and images from a height no more than 400 feet, which in fact is the legitimate altitude allowed to fly your drone, then we suggest you to get your hands on the latest generation of Phantom for a successful venture.
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Having said that, if you are someone who is not bothered by the features and camera qualities in the latest generation Phantom drones and are virtually looking to fly a device in your backyard only, then you should only buy the DJI Phantom 3 Standard especially if you can grab a decent deal for yourself or purchase a refurbished one.
The market boasts numerous choices and we sincerely hope that you grab the best possible choice for your drone. The DJI Phantom series is a great machine to be had and most of their devices are durable and longlasting.
Which one of the DJI Phantom line is your most favorite? Let us know in the comments section.
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