DJI Phantom 4 Pro
The all new DJI Phantom 4 Pro Reviewed
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review Summary
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is the standout 4K champion of drone technology to date. DJI have taken the best of the Phantom’s predecessors and fixed the worst of the previous models. It isn’t cheap but generally in the drone world you get what you pay for so you can expect a lot of bang for your buck with the P4P. If budget allows then the P4P+ is probably worth the investment but the basic model is anything but basic and will suit the needs of even the most hardcore drone enthusiast as well as high end photographers and videographers.
Ease of use
Value for money
First Impressions of the Phantom 4 Pro
At just shy of £1600 you would expect the first impression of the latest DJI drone to be nothing short of mesmerising and whilst we had probably completely overhyped the situation, upon unboxing the neatly packaged P4P we were not disappointed one bit. Greeted by the premium casing of the main body of the UAV the rest of the box contained the remote controller, propellers, the intelligent flight battery, battery charger, power cable and manuals. You will also find the Gimbal clamp, USB cable and 16GB Micro SD card as well as a carrying case. Everything here was pretty standard so we got to charging the depleted battery and installing the DJI Go app on my Sony Xperia X Android mobile phone (although I didn’t actually need it) followed by the DJI Assistant software on my PC, updating the firmware on the drone whilst I was at it.
Phantom 4 Pro Technical Specs
We will get on to our full review shortly, but if you want to take a look at the key technical specifications here you go:
Flying time: 30 minutes
Control range: 7KM
Video Resolution: 4K 60FPS – Supports H.264 4K at 60FPS or 265 4K at 30FPS (100MBS)
Obstacle Sensing: 5 directions
Camera: 20MP CMOS 1 inch image sensor
Transmission: 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz – 7KM range
Before we get in to our full review why not check out the video below created by DJI showing off the Phantom 4 Pro in all its glory.
Check out this amazing 4K video of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro in action:
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Full Review
The Phantom 4 Pro produces some of the best video footage (if not the best video footage) I have ever seen from a domestic drone. In fact, the footage is such high quality that the P4P will be more than enough tech for most photographers and videographers and drone enthusiasts will not be left disappointed either.
We tested the P4P over 8 flights and took all kinds of different shots in that time. Here we break down what we found to give you the most honest review of the Phantom 4 Pro possible.
Controller – 10/10
It makes sense to start with probably one of the most impressive features of the Phantom 4 Pro (and it hurts me to say this a little bit), the controller. How can the controller be quite so impressive you might ask – well quite simply it is because of the in-built display on the controller that this feature gets full marks for us.
Not only is the controller as easy to use as previous DJI models, it sports the most impressive display we have ever seen on any drone controller. Imagine using your iPhone (and a plus size version at that) and then brightening the display by around 4 times – this is what you get with the P4P controller! No more will you experience filming in bright sunlight squinting at your screen or trying to view it from an inconvenient shady spot – the P4P controller display is perfectly clear even in direct sunlight. This was one of the reasons we did so many tests as flying in the UK meant it took a few days before we found any real sun – that’s what we told the boss anyway!
On a serious note, the controller sets the P4P apart from its competitors and when you consider that it outputs at 1920x1080 on the display at 1000cd/m2 this is one seriously impressive upgrade – perfect for flying or filming/taking stills.
Unlike the Mavic Pro the controller operates on 2.400GHz – 2.483Ghz and 5.725 – 5.825GHz with the Mavic just operating on the single frequency range and it enjoys a range of a comparable 7km. This means that you are free from the interference you sometimes experience in busy areas as you can switch between frequencies mid flight. You can also output to other external devices via HDMI and USB should you so wish.
The controller also features a built in microphone, loudspeaker and a micro SD card slot. The battery life of the remote controller lasts up to 5 hours according to DGI but we found it to be closer to 3 hours when using full brightness and filming in full 4K. The built in WiFi is very handy for sharing videos quickly that you have edited on the fly – again very nifty and a nice touch!
Ease of Use – 9/10
The first thing you will find with the Phantom 4 Pro (and we have much to be grateful for here) is how easy it is to fly the P4P. As you would expect with a DJI product they have catered for all needs and all levels of piloting skill when it comes to flying this premium level drone.
New on this model is the ‘draw’ flying mode which we must admit we quite liked thanks to the new display. Essentially you can just draw your flight path on the display of screen and set your drone to fly that path. The drone will descend to a safe cruising altitude of around 15-18ft until it reaches it’s target and will then await further instructions.
The Phantom 4 Pro now sports 5 obstacle sensors so as long as you have the sensors switched on it is almost impossible to crash this thing – just make sure that if you are using it indoors that you have enough light as this can cause issues – as we found out on flight number one.
The TapFly function does exactly what you would expect and is a familiar feature to anyone who has used previous models and it worked a treat for us and was probably the most fun out of all of the flying modes – the feature has received an upgrade though with Reverse TapFly which again does what it says and produces some excellent shots.
The Gesture mode is another feature of the P4P that is pretty cool although it does leave you feeling like a bit of a loon when you are gesturing wildly to your drone. The drone uses what DJI term as advanced computer vision technology to interpret your gestures as instructions for flight and other functions such as setting the camera timer – we found this to be a little gimmicky but we can see where it would have its uses and it is pretty good for taking selfies if that’s your thing.
The return to home function is pretty standard and as you would expect with such a premium UAV it does so with the aid of all its danger sensing devices in operation and usually takes the same flight path back as you took.
ActiveTrack is another great feature if you are filming yourself or another moving object – we will discuss this more in the camera section of the review.
Safety – 9/10
Safety and accident prevention is a hot topic amongst drone users and more so amongst non-drone users it seems, which is probably why DJI have put so much emphasis on ensuring the Phantom 4 Pro is as safe as can possibly be for a part manual and part automated flying machine. The P4P is a hefty unit and could do some damage if it malfunctioned or crashed so it was crucial really that they got this right and from what we can see… they did!
5 directions of obstacle sensing from high res vision sensors (hence why the light is important) as well as two infra-red sensors on the left and right of the drone make this the safest drone we have ever tested.
The intelligent battery system also goes some way to instilling a lot of confidence in users not just in terms of their own personal safety but also in terms of having confidence that you won’t lose your device when flying at long range – but we will cover more of that in the battery section.
Camera Quality – 9/10
The camera quality on the Phantom 4 Pro is second to none and is a significant improvement on the Mavic Pro with the camera capable of taking full 4K video at 60FPS. DJI say that the P4P is the first drone they have made that includes a mechanical aperture that eliminates rolling shutter distortion that can make for blurring images of fast moving shots. We found that when taking stills using the raw DNG file types our images were unbelievably clear when viewed on a 5k 27inch iMac at 100% in Photoshop.
The mechanical shutter is not something that you will find on the Mavic Pro and you can expect a speed of 8-1/2000 s although the electronic shutter speed is the same on both models at 8-1/8000 s.
The biggest draw for the Phantom 4 Pro range comes in the size of the sensor. It has a whopping 1 inch CMOS sensor that provides an impressive 20M pixels – the Mavic Pro peaks at 12.71M.
Thanks to the superior flight handling of the P4P we found that on the whole our shots were clearer and video was steady even with fast moving shots. We used ActiveTrack to capture moving vehicles and large birds in flight and the footage was simply sublime – to be honest David Attenborough would have been proud. Earlier models did have some issues with the gimbal which produced shaky or jittery shots when moving but this has now been rectified – if you have an earlier model then you should get in touch with DJI and they will replace the part or service your drone under the warranty.
ActiveTrack on the Phantom 4 Pro has three different modes; Trace, Profile and Spotlight. Trace will fly and follow behind the target whilst profile flies alongside the target and was our favourite. These shots are action packed and look like something out of a Bond movie. Spotlight keeps focused on a set target but allows the camera to fly in different directions which again produces some amazing cinematography (although it is a little more hit and miss we found).
Battery – 9/10
The intelligent battery system (as DJI brand it) is pretty impressive. 30 minutes of flight time can be expected from your high end drone from a full charge but it is the built in active battery management system that is really impressive. The controller will alert you if you go beyond a safe distance to ensure your P4P has the required battery level remaining to return home safely.
One of the reasons that the battery tends to be depleted when you first receive your shiny new P4P is that if a battery is left for some time unused it will auto deplete to ensure it has a better long term lifespan.
Value for Money – 8.5/10
Value for money is a tough one as it depends on what you need your drone for. There is no getting away from the price tag but when you consider what you are getting for your money it is hard to quibble. I have yet to meet someone who owns a Phantom 4 Pro who thinks that they have been ripped off.
Photographers and videographers generally scream from the rooftops about the value for money you get with this device as they know the cost of just the equivalent camera equipment – let alone the cost of the getting the kind of shots the P4P is capable of if using another method.
The only real comparison is to the Mavic Pro which comes in at around £500 cheaper but when you consider the extra kit you get with the P4P there really is no comparison – just the controller display alone is worthy of the £500 in our opinion.
The Bad Stuff
This is probably the hardest review we have ever written in that it is very hard to be objective when everything seems so darn perfect. DJI have really produced a piece of real class with the Phantom 4 Pro here but the one thing we have to mention is that it is not the most portable of drones. This is one area where the Mavic Pro excels over the P4P. You do get a nifty carrying case with the P4P which makes up for this but you are going to want to plan when and where to take it so don’t expect to be just taking it on the bus everywhere you go.