DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review
DJI continues to push the limits of drone technology at a blistering pace, and their latest “prosumer” drone, the Phantom 4 Pro is no different. By now, everyone into drones should be familiar with the “DJI look”…a white, square-ish drone with 4 propellers and a camera on the bottom.
Fortunately, now we’re starting to see the designs move from a boxy, DIY look, to a sleeker, smoother look (just look at the Mavic Pro!) In some ways, DJI is positioning itself to be the “Apple” of drones, with their success with higher end consumer models like the mid-tier Phantom 3 Standard and film-grade Inspire 2.
Billed as the heir to the successful Phantom 4 (which is no longer being produced), the Phantom 4 Pro is a strong contender and (despite similar looks) packs a better camera, improved battery life, and obstacle avoidance from all sides. The key difference between the Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro Plus is the inclusion of the built-in “crystalsky” ultra-bright controller screen that an be seen clearly in peak daylight.
Our DJI Phantom 4 Pro review is going to focus on the key areas of design, usability, software, camera, and overall specs. Our goal is to use our extensive user-based research to show you what the P4 Pro is really like. Let’s get started!
“…the company’s latest flying machine, the Phantom 4 Pro, looks like it’s poised to be the new king of the skies.”Wired.com
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review: Design
In making this DJI Phantom 4 Pro review, we drew on lots of different resources, from DJI themselves, to Youtube, to actual users via Amazon. The Phantom 4 Pro may look similar to the Phantom 4 in design, but what it lacks in difference, it makes up for in features. You’ll still see the sleek, white, curved design, which moves away from the sharper, angular design of the Mavic Pro.
The P4 series is already a big improvement in the looks department over the P3, as they removed many small exterior divots, screws, and unsightly design features. The camera also looks much better, having swapped the aluminum exterior for a smooth white plastic casing. We think the P4 Pro is built to impress potential customers and hobbyists alike with it’s clean, purposeful design.
The Phantom 4 Pro stays true to the 4 separate, fixed arms with propellers on the end for propulsion & lift. The stock propellers are plastic, yet look polished and less “cheap” than the P3 series propellers. There’s clearly a big design difference and intent between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Mavic Pro. The Mavic Pro seems to be catering towards a mobile, portable, “good enough to get the shot” type of package, while the Phantom 4 Pro is bigger and houses more powerful hardware, including a beefed up camera and better software.
This is another key point – the Phantom 4 Pro seems geared more towards the aspiring professional videographer, while the Mavic Pro (despite being plenty capable) is more for showing off vacations, traveling, and hiking. The actual controller is very familiar to the older Phantom series, with two joysticks, several buttons for assignable actions, and scroll wheels for camera gimbal control.
A key design difference is the addition of the Phantom 4 Pro Plus option. This option includes the built-in controller screen (deemed CrystalSky) that’s up to 4x as bright as most mobile devices. That means you can see the screen in full sunlight, which is huge if you’ve ever tried to get a tough shot on a sunny day. The CrystalSky screen includes a separate battery which helps you keep your phone charged and separate (Ever tried to take a call mid-flight on your DJI GO app? Yeah, it’s not fun.).
The new screen also promises increased video latency (smoother video), dual SD card slots, and an HDMI port for output to FPV and media devices. The CrystalSky screen is backwards compatible with the Phantom 3 series, as well as the Inspire, Matrice, and Mavic as well. It will set you back a few hundred bucks compared to the traditional option, but it’s certainly worth considering.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review: Features
Max Speed: 45 MPH
In reality, this should fast enough for 95% of all pilots
Max Flight Time: 30m
30m is likely a max under perfect conditions, but it’s still an improvement over the P4
4K & 1080p Video
4K: 24/25/30/60p | 1080p: up to 120p
A 1″ sensor & unbelievably crisp and bright images excite us the most
Better obstacle avoidance, more autonomy, and tap to fly help lessen the learning curve
“With incredible obstacle avoidance and a kickass new camera, the Phantom 4 Pro sets a new standard for quadcopters”Digitaltrends.comClick Here
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DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review: Camera & Video
The Phantom 4 Pro’s camera is the biggest improvement over the Phantom 4. The on-board camera has been redesigned to include a 1”, 20MP CMOS sensor, a mechanical shutter, and more powerful video processing software. All this adds up to a clearer, more dynamic image in both video and photo output.
The 1” sensor is important because more information is captured in every pixel, which improves low light performance, signal-to-noise ratio, and dynamic range. This new sensor is almost 4x the size of its predecessor, has a max ISO of 12,800, and increased image contrast. This means you’ll have sharper images that can be printed on larger format media (great for selling large prints). The improved depth on the image means that you’ll be able to get more out of your post processing work as well.
The Phantom 4 Pro uses H.264 4K/60p and H.265 4K/30p processing at 100Mbps bitrate, which means the ability to get high-resolution slow-motion shots. The H.265 codec doubles the amount of image processing that H.264 can handle, which means a huge boost in image quality. To get the most out of this codec enhancement, you can film in HDR D-Log mode to get the most out of any post-processing color grading work.
The mechanical shutter is also a marked improvement from the Phantom 4 model. The new mechanical shutter operates at of speeds of up to 1/2000s to eliminate any rolling shutter distortion or “jelly effect” that was known to happen when operating at fast speeds or tracking fast-moving subjects. A new “burst mode” can shoot blazing fast 14 fps and 20MP images to capture everything from high speed racing to vibrant action scenes. On top of this, the inclusion of a new, high-aperture lens allows filmmakers to have even more control over depth-of-field when working to get the perfect shot.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review: Software
Some of the most exciting capabilities of the Phantom 4 Pro are unlocked via the powerful suite of software that’s included with the DJI Go App. DJI’s flight autonomy software not only helps pilots come up the learning curve faster, but greatly expands what’s possible with your drone. Pilots can use the software via the DJI GO app, which is available on iOS and Android, as well as the CrystalSky screen that comes with the selection of the Phantom 4 Pro+ model. We’ll cover the latest updates to TapFly, Obstacle Sensing, Autonomy Modes, and Return to Home (RTH)
TapFly mode is a DJI-specific feature that lets the user fly any direction by tapping on the remote-control screen. The Phantom 4 Pro retains the ability to perform forward and rear-facing obstacle detection when using the TapFly forward and TapFly backward functions. Users can regain control of the drone via the joysticks by tapping again on the screen or enabling the TapFLy Free mode. TapFly Free allows the pilot to lock the direction of the drone while moving the camera separately from the flight path of the drone, almost like it’s traveling along an invisible rail!
The Phantom 4 Pro is fitted up with improved stereo vision sensing on the front and rear of the aircraft, and a new pair of infrared sensing systems on the right and left as well. This system works non-stop to calculate the relative distance and speed between the drone and objects, allowing for the drone to see in “3D machine vision”. This network of detection equipment, combined with a downward facing senor, forms a comprehensive obstacle avoidance capability that hasn’t yet been seen in DJI’s product line.
The advanced sensing capability allows the Phantom 4 Pro to do some really cool things in the air. For example, the ability to hover in place precisely (without GPS!) and navigate complex environments enables the pilot to take bolder moves to get shots in tough to reach places. For the especially tricky areas, the pilot can enable “narrow sensing mode” which lets the drone see directly forward in more detail and fly through small spaces.
The P4 Pro can fly up to 31mph forward while relying on the obstacle avoidance system to prevent a collision. The sensing capability in the front and rear is 98 feet of vision, while the side sensors can detect about 22 feet. Therefore its advisable to fly more slowly when moving left to right and vice versa with your Phantom 4 Pro. The side sensors are activated in DJI’s beginner and tripod modes to provide better protection to those just starting out.
Improving on previous designs, DJI included dual-band satellite positioning using the GLONASS and GPS frameworks to help position the drone in real-time. We were happy to see them include redundant compass and IMUs, which collect critical flight telemetry data. Having backup IMU/compass capability helps to reduce the amount of errors that can be caused by improper calibration.
Intelligent Flight Modes
To unlock the potential of the Phantom 4 Pro, pilots need to learn how to use the variety of software features included in the DJI Go app suite. The introduction of the Phantom 4 Pro came along with a few new abilities including Draw, Active Track, and Gesture mode, while enhancing the capabilities of favorites like Position, Sport, Attitude, Follow Me, Beginner, and Course Lock. For the purpose of this DJI Phantom 4 Pro review, we’ll just focus on the newer features….
New Flight Modes
Draw mode allows the user to draw a route on the screen with their finger, and have the drone follow that path with the altitude locked. This is important for pilots who want to focus on camera control and get more complicated or difficult shots.
Gesture mode lets you take selfies, or “dronies”, completely free of the remote control. When in gesture mode, face the camera and lift your arms to have the drone “lock on” to you and place you in the middle of the frame. When you’re ready for your debut, move your arms to the side to start a 3-second countdown which will snap a picture of you (and a few friends) automatically!
ActiveTrack technology means that the drone can recognize and lock on to subjects while keeping it in frame. If you’ve ever produced a professional drone video, you know this can be a challenge, especially with a fast-moving subject like a car, person, or animal. Drone video quality is all about getting smooth, centered footage, and ActiveTrack is the technology to help you get there with modes like Trace, Profile, and Spotlight.
Trace mode allows you to either follow or remain in front of a subject at a predetermined angle and distance.
Profile mode lets you fly along the side of any subject to let you get different horizontal angles.
Spotlight mode is great because it keeps the camera trained on the subject while the pilot can fly anywhere they want.
Return to Home Mode (RTH)
DJI has further upgraded the return to home feature with the inclusion of “Smart Return Home” which forms a map of its flight environment in real time. That means that if the control signal is lost, the aircraft will select the best flight path to return, including sensing forward as far as 100 ft to avoid obstacles more effectively. The Phantom 4 Pro also records the scene below the drone at takeoff and tries to match it exactly on landing to enable a more precise touch down. If obstacles like water or obstructions are found, the pilot is notified and the drone will hover at an appropriate height. This is extremely good news for new pilots because crashing/losing an expensive drone is a big risk to take. These upgraded “Smart Return Home” capability should allow you to breathe a little easier when pushing the limits with your new drone in the friendly skies.
You’re going to want a few new accessories to go with your shiny new Phantom 4 Pro. We recommend picking up a Phantom 4 Battery or two to start (Yes, your old Phantom 4 batteries are usable and cheaper!), and a Phantom 4 Pro Backpack eventually if you find yourself using it quite often.
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Phantom 4 vs. Phantom 4 Pro Comparison Table
|Specs||Phantom 4 Pro/Pro+||Phantom 4|
|Sensor Size||1" CMOS (4x Bigger)||1 / 2/3" (4x Smaller)|
|# Side Sensors||Right/Left||None|
|Transmission Range (miles)||4.3||3.1|
|Battery Life (minutes)||30||27|
|Max 4k FPS||60||30|
|Max Photo ISO||12800||1600|
|Max Video ISO||6400||3200|
|Aperture Range||f 2.8-11||f 2.8|
|Shutter Style||Mechanical (Faster)||Electrical (Slower)|
|Max SD Card Capacity (GB)||128||64|
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review: Final Verdict
The Phantom 4 Pro may look similar to it’s predecessor, but under the hood it packs incredible technical specs that blow the Phantom 4 out of the water. In key areas of image quality, battery life, software, and obstacle avoidance, the Phantom 4 Pro is better in just about every regard. The only reason you should choose a Mavic over the Phantom 4 Pro is if you need the portability and can deal with less power under the hood. We’re going to be upgrading to the Phantom 4 Pro ourselves in the Spring and recommend that you do the same!
TL;DR: The Phantom 4 Pro is the prosumer king of drones right now. If you’re serious about drones and can afford it, you won’t be disappointed.