DJI Phantom 4: Is This the Best Drone of 2016?
DJI Phantom 4Starting around $1300
Ease of Flying/Stability9/10
- ▪Best in class videography
- ▪Great Features: Obstacle avoidance, TapFly, ActiveTrack
- ▪Expensive, is it worth the upgrade from the Phantom 3?
- Range: 5km
- Flight Time:23-28 min.
- Weight: 3 lbs (register)
- Size: Full Size
- Camera: 4K, 12MP
The DJI Phantom 4 is one of the best drones on the market today. DJI has taken an excellent drone and raised the bar again. The guys at Half Chrome will focus this review on the new features of the Phantom 4 and compare it to the Phantom 3 so you can figure out which drone is best for you. If you want information about the updated Phantom 4 Pro click here.
The Phantom 4 starts with a new clean look. The drone’s skeleton is made of magnesium, making it lighter, sleeker and easier to control by raising its center of gravity. The motors are also redesigned to be more efficient and powerful. These improvements combined with its larger battery make this a faster drone with more flight time. DJI says it has a top speed of 44 mph (70 kph), a flight time of 28 minutes, and a range of 3.1 miles (5 km.)
The 4K camera on the DJI Phantom 4 takes breathtaking video, check it out in our review video.(scaled down to 1080p). Combined with their state of the art software and gimbal it allows you to take professional-quality videos and photos. Our testing also indicates that the camera has built-in OIS (optical image stabilization) which provides an even smoother video and better photographs. With the Phantom 4, you can now take video in 120 fps for excellent HD slow motion videography. Many of the camera specs are similar to the Phantom 3 but our experience is that the video from the Phantom 4 is more crisp and free of digital artifacts. DJI also moved the camera forward and the props higher, just enough so that you no longer see the propellers or motors when flying fast, accelerating, or operating in wind.
The image quality is improved a bit from as compared to the Phantom 3 Standard that we tested and it is the first drone we have tested that produces comparable quality to the iPhone 6s. Believe it or not, iPhones take stellar photos in good light. The Phantom 4 does have a wider field of view than a typical handheld camera, making it more suitable for aerial photography and FPV flight. The horizontal field of view (HFOV) of the Phantom 4 is about 84° in video and 82° in photos, giving it an effective focal length of roughly 20 mm. Compare this to the Phantom 3 at 73° in video and 76° in photo, and you can see that DJI has increased the video HFOV by about 11°. A great improvement. For reference, the HFOV of an iPhone is about 59° (34 mm). In addition to a slightly sharper image and wider FOV, we think the color is better in the Phantom 4 and the over-corrected distortion that existed in the Phantom 3 has been largely removed.
The Phantom 4 transmitter has a built in place for your smartphone to keep it secure while you fly. It may be hard to tell one transmitter from the next, but somehow DJI managed to elevate their game here too. The transmitter is super user-friendly and packs up more nicely than other versions. DJI really puts some thought into improving each new generation of high-performance drones.
One of the best new features of the DJI Phantom 4 is its active Obstacle Avoidance system. Two cameras on the front of the Phantom 4 allow it to see and react to obstacles in its path. This will bring the drone to from full speed to full stop in a few short feet, fast enough to save your drone from a crash. We demonstrate the system in our review video.
Critics say that obstacle avoidance isn’t of much use unless there are also sensors on the left, right, and back. At Half Chrome we can’t wait for the Phantom 5, which will hopefully have these features. What the forward sensors will give you is some piece of mind when flying forward. These sensors are particularly helpful for the ActiveTrack function, TapFly, and return to home. Read below for more details.
DJI’s Vision Positioning System has been updated, allowing better control and stability indoors and out. They added an additional downward facing camera as compared to the top-tier Phantom 3 models. So now there are a total of 2 downward facing cameras and 2 ultrasonic sensors that are improving the Phantom 4’s hovering accuracy.
A very cool feature of the Phantom 4 is the quick release feature and color coding for the 4 propellers. These clever spring loaded connectors keep the props secure with just a very small turn of the wrist. We have included a video of this in our review video.
Another little thing DJI added is a much-improved camera protector. This bit of plastic covers the lens and also keeps the gimbal from being abused during transport. Another little improvement that makes this a truly great buy.
We here at Half Chrome are big fans of the Phantom 4 carrying case. It does a great job of packaging and protecting your drone in as compact a way as possible. We do love drones that can be packaged without removing the propellers, but taking these props on and off is so easy that it is really no big deal at all. This case is lightweight and can hold a total of 3 batteries (including the one in the drone), the remote, two sets of props, and the charger. The case is small enough to fit in a large backpack. The case is available in many Phantom 4 Package deals. There are a variety of aftermarket cases on Amazon that look like really good choices as well.
Phantom 4 New Flight Modes
Another thing that separates the Phantom 4 from the Phantom 3 is that they have added some fantastic new flight modes. You can fly in sport mode which will allow you to maneuver the drone unlike any other Phantom at speeds up to 44 mph. Or you can opt for a more stable setting to help you capture that perfect shot.
The Phantom 4 has added an ActiveTrack feature. The drone pilot can choose a target, such as a car for the Phantom 4 to follow on their FPV screen, tap it and the Phantom will follow that target. You don’t need a tracker and the tracked object doesn’t need to be holding the remote. The sensors and camera on the Phantom 4 do the work for you. You can even tell the drone to take a 360-degree rotating video of the target. This feature works well in optimal conditions but can lose the target if it is shifty or changes direction quickly. Half Chrome recommends closely monitoring the Phantom 4 while using this feature. We provide a cool demonstration in our review video.
TapFly is another great Phantom 4 feature. With TapFly you tell the Phantom where to go by tapping on your FPV screen. The Phantom 4 will then fly there using its sensors to avoid obstacles.
Other great features
A nice addition to the Phantom 4 is that it will automatically save and log your flights. You can see your flight route, flight time, distance, location, and speed. You can even play back a particular flight and see how you handled the controls.
The Phantom 4 is both GPS and GLONASS enabled. GLONASS is basically the Russian version of GPS. The drone and remote will acquire a staggering number of satellites very quickly. This allows for great positioning and accurate responses. The Phantom 4 on board systems are constantly checking the data it receives to help make this an easier and safer drone to fly.
In the DJI Go app they incorporated software so you can edit your drone’s footage and share on social media. All footage is streamed to your phone or tablet in 720p while it is recorded on the drone in full resolution.
Phantom 4 vs. Phantom 3
You may be asking which drone is best for you, the Phantom 3 or the Phantom 4? That depends on what exactly you are looking for, what you want to do with your drone and your budget. The Phantom 4 is an excellent drone packed full of great features. The Phantom 3 is also a great drone and does a great job of capturing high-quality video at a fraction of the price. The 4K video is fantastic on the Phantom 4 but does have some drawbacks. It has a larger file size and requires a 4K monitor to display. The Phantom 3 Standard records in 2.7K HD and the video quality is top notch. If you don’t need fancy avoidance systems or do not have the budget for a Phantom 4 there are four different Phantom 3 models to choose from. They start under $500. You can read our review of the different Phantom 3 models HERE. If you want the newest and best DJI model then go with the Phantom 4.
Here is a list of our favorite Phantom 4 upgrades, listed our order of importance:
- Props don’t invade your video anymore (only an issue at high speed, high acceleration, or wind)
- Longer flight time
- Advanced flight modes like Active Track and TapFly
- The best Phantom camera with improved image quality and 4k
- High-speed video capture in 1080p
- Forward Obstacle Avoidance
- Faster speeds
If you love your Phantom 4 and want to pick up some awesome accessories for it…
We have done some research to help you find the right accessories for you new Phantom 4. Whether you are looking for a backpack, spare props or a spare battery we have you covered. We’ve got that and more here for you. Check out our best accessories for the Phantom 4 here.
Shop for Phantom 4 accessories in our Amazon aStore.
What is the best drone for you???
No worries, Half Chrome Drones has you covered. Maybe you want an aerial photography drone, or maybe you want a fun toy. Want FPV? We’ve developed an advanced system to match you to the right drone. We call it our Half Chrome Drone Cipher™, go check it out. We also are constantly updating our Best Drones Now page to help you stay current.
Maybe you want us to do the work for you???
We’ve flown, crashed and taken pictures with a ton of drones. You want to know which one we think is best? Sure. Are you on a budget? Of course. We have three great articles breaking down the best drones in your budget. Check them out.
This website contains affiliate links, which means we receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. For full details visit the disclosures and disclaimers page.