How We Fly the DJI Phantom 4 (Review)

For all the talk of DJI completely nuking the GoPro Karma announcement, there’s another angle. And it’s internal. Of course, the DJI Mavic Pro was designed to rain on GoPro. But there’s way too much tech inside of the handheld drone to simply make a comparison between the two (don’t worry, we’ll do that in another piece).

DJI Mavic ProDJI Phantom 4 ProDJI Inspire 2
12 megapixel sensor with an ISO range of 100-3200 for video and 100-1600 for photos. 20 megapixel one-inch sensor with an ISO rage of 100-6400 (manual) for video and 100-12800 (manual for photos). Camera includes a mechanical shutter at 1/2000 s. Electric shutter hits 1/8000 s. Either the X4S or X5S. The X4S is similar to the Phantom 4 Pro's camera but is on a 360-degree gimbal. The X5S accepts different lenses and is a micro 4/3 sensor.
4.3 miles / 7 km maximum video transmission range. 4.3 miles / 7km maximum video transmission range. 4.3 miles / 7km maximum video transmission range.
27 minutes under optimum conditions. 21 minutes on average with 15% reserve. Max is 30 minutes under optimal conditions. Real-world will hit 25-27 minutes. 27 minutes with the X4S camera attached.
1.62 pounds. 2.94 pounds. 7.58 pounds.
C4K at 24p. 4K at 24/25/30p. FHD at 24/25/30/48/50/60/96p. HD at 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p Records in both H.265 ans H.264 at a bitrate of 100Mbps. 4K up to 30p and FHD up to 120p. Dependent on the camera chose, but can shoot up to 5.2K. The X5S can handle both Cinema DNG and Apple ProRes (licenses needed).
Modes iclude single shot. Bursts of 3/5/7 frames. Interval timing in hover and auto exposure bracketing of 3/5 frames at 0.7 EV bias. Modes iclude single shot. Bursts of 3/5/7/10/14 frames per second. Interval timing of 2/3/5/7/10/15/20/30/60 s in hover and auto exposure bracketing of 3/5 frames at 0.7 EV bias. Same. 20MP stills and modes are truly professional. 20 frames per second in burst mode.
The Mavic Pro is the ultimate in portable drones. It will fit in an oversized pocket or a simple bag. Fold and go for professional results. It's in a class all by itself. For its price, the Phantom 4 Pro represents a near professional level aerial platform that retains the portability of its predecessors, but has all the latest in technology, including the 100Mbps bitrate and one-inch camera sensor. It's not cheap, but it's truly a professional drone and aerial platform. It is the first, true dual operator drone with its front-facing 720p camera for the pilot, while a second operator controls the 360-degree gimbal.
DJI / B&H / Amazon DJI / B&H / Amazon DJI / B&H / Amazon

Lost in the GoPro Karma vs. DJI Mavic Pro froth yesterday was the OcuSync Transmission System. Full 1080p live feeds at 4.3 miles. That far outstrips the Phantom 4 and the current Inspire which offer 3.1 miles. Note, these specs are perfect environments. No radio interference and crystal clear line of sight.

Phantom 4 vs the DJI Mavic Pro

There’s almost zero difference between the two. The FOV on the camera is narrower on the Mavic Pro, but for the average user, the difference is negligible. If you liked the Phantom 4 for its portability over the Inspire series, well the Mavic Pro fits in your pocket.

DJI Mavic Pro outdoors

Speed goes to the Phantom 4, but barely. You are losing the obstacle avoidance in both, so you’re comparing 40 mph and 45 mph. It’s not that giant of a difference, especially when you factor in the footprint of the Mavic Pro. Flight time goes to the Phantom 4 by a minute. Real world conditions? Both drones are on equal footing.

Where the unknown lies is durability. The Phantom series can take a hit. Our dad somehow managed to flip it during landing. Alex has knocked a tree chasing our nephew and our Phantom 3 Pro smelled like a pine tree for weeks after I decided to powerslide it down the driveway.

The Mavic Pro is a lot of folding and unfolding with the props attached. Great feature, but a lot of wear and tear on those four stress points. The good news is you can buy replacement parts and opt for the DJI Care to extend the warranty. For something as small as this, I’d do it for peace of mind.

DJI phantom sideview

Not because DJI can’t deliver on durability, but it fits in a small bag. How many small bags have hardened foam to protect objects? Exactly. Buy DJI’s or the coming third-party bags which afford more protection. It makes for great marketing, but it’s $1000. How many of us walk around with our smartphones with no case?

We’ll know as the review units start hitting. I can’t wait to test it out compared to a Phantom. And it makes you wonder where the Phantom line goes from here.

DJI Inspire vs DJI Mavic Pro

Now it’s a battle between a professional drone (Inspire) and one targeting consumers (Mavic). Here’s where I think the Mavic Pro is the most compelling in the interim. Better battery life and range means you can scout shoot locations. The DJI Inspire is limited in battery life more so than the Phantom but offers the Zenmuse X5(R) cameras. A 360-gimbal and more.

It shouldn’t be the Inspire vs. the Mavic Pro, but instead the two compliment each other. Having multiple Mavics downlinking live feeds will be huge for professionals looking for the best shoot locations. You’re not wasting a battery on the Inspire to grab a look, and you have more range in the Mavic. If I were looking to kit out a pro-level drone package, I’d include a Mavic Pro from a pure scout perspective. The 4K option is a bonus.

DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2?

Phantom 4 Pro. I was hoping for multiple announcements, but from a marketing perspective, DJI wanted to crush GoPro Karma’s announcement. So, we didn’t get the product refreshes.

The selection of the name – DJI Mavic Pro – screams updates are coming to the Phantom line. Either a Phantom 4 Pro with more camera options or possibly a newly designed Phantom 5. I’d lean towards a Pro model on the Phantom 4. It makes more sense to offer better camera options that outstrip the Mavic Pro and whatever magic is in the new DJI intelligent battery. And the price range is open for a new Phantom SKU.

DJI Inspire 2 Rumors

I don’t think we’ll see retractable landing struts in a Pro model, but an introduction of a new Zenmuse camera with zoom features and a higher bitrate seems like a lock. The inclusion of the OcuSync Transmission system is a lock and battery life should eclipse 30 minutes in real world conditions.

All of DJI product lines have multiple SKUs. The Phantom 4 is lacking its sibling and it’s at odds with the pace of product announcements – look at the Osmo.

Inspire 2. Ah, the wink and nod of it’s coming. Above I talked about how the Mavic Pro compliments the current Inspire. The same holds true on the potential Inspire 2. The two big Inspire 2 rumors are a true two-person flight control with a front-facing camera. And different payload options. Current Inspire owners have to choose between the Zenmuse X3 and X5(R). Possible Hasselblad partnership? We can hope.

Other features have to be battery life. Yes, the Inspire is doing more, but 18 minutes? Work some magic and match the Mavic Pro’s battery life. Hey, let me dream. And the inclusion of the OcuSync system. 1080p live streams from an X5R or the ability to control zoom and focus from a second pilot? Oh hell yes.

Mavic Pro Pushes DJI

The presentation showed that DJI can push technology to the limits. Now the flying camera should share its tech with its bigger siblings. Better cameras. Battery life. Flight distance. The works.

DJI showing off the Mavic Pro wasn’t just a counter to GoPro. It shows us the future for prosumer and professional drones.