We knew the price point was left open for a reason and now DJI has delivered on the Phantom 4 Pro. The old Phantom 4 didn’t even get a year in the wild before DJI moved to up its specs. It was a necessary bump. The Mavic Pro outperformed the Phantom 4 in several key areas – most glaringly on range and live streaming capability.
Thankfully, we won’t have to compare the two any longer. It’s not just a bump in specs; it’s a damn wishlist of everything most wanted in a Phantom 4 Pro. Tip to the folks at DJI – you’re essentially competing with yourself now.
It’s cool to slow up on product releases. GoPro had to recall the Karma, so your hold over the consumer market is steady. It’s starting to feel a bit like Oprah in here. You get a drone. You get a drone. Everybody gets a drone.
First, let’s get the marketing bit out of the way before we head into the spec shootout:
Props to the sound designer for the startup beep. We all instantly know someone has a DJI product just by the beep. And now I want one. Damn marketing videos.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro vs Phantom 4
There’s not much changing on the design front. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. To borrow a line from Apple marketing the 6S, the only thing that’s changed is everything.
The headline out of the announcement is the sensor size. Gone is the 1/2.3” (CMOS). In its place is a 1-inch sensor. And that makes a world of difference. The current Phantom 4 shoots 12MP still frames. With a one-inch sensor on the Pro, the number nearly doubles to 20MP. I shoot a ton of stills with my P3P, so the sensor size matters.
Keeping with the camera, it’s 4K recording ability receives one hell of a jump thanks to its bitrate capability from 60mbps to 100mbps. If you’re shooting in auto, you won’t notice, but those of us that love to shoot in D-log, it’s a massive upgrade. More information means enhanced image quality.
In the Phantom 4 Pro is an enhanced image processing system that allows for 4K at 60fps. It’s why DJI needed the 100mbps bitrate. Without it, that’s recording level is not happening. In addition to the high-res slow motion shots, the Pro model supports the H.265 video codec (capped at 30fps in 4K). It doubles the amount of image processing over the H.264 codec.
Phantom 4 Pro Camera Lens
DJI was feeling it in their announcement. By releasing the MTF chart of the f2.8 wide-angle lens. Most companies refrain from publishing the MTF chart during the unveiling, but it seems the company is taking ‘Pro’ to heart.
Unfortunately, the Phantom series has one camera only. We can wish all we want for interchangeable lenses, but no way the company will ever eat into its Inspire line. Still, it won’t keep me from dreaming.
Another addition to the Phantom 4 Pro is the mechanical shutter. If you’ve tried capturing action shots, you’ve cursed the electronic shutter for years. The new mechanical shutter caps at 1/2000s in video to remove the rolling shutter effect, while the electronic shutter caps at 1/8000s for still shots.
Everything Phantom 4 Had Plus a bit More
When the Phantom 4 was released, the big headline was it was fast as hell. What was not talked about was the sport mode removed the safety features. That’s fixed with the Pro as P-mode enjoys a 10mph speed boost. That puts all sensors enabled at a top speed of 31mph in P-mode and 36mph in A-mode. Not quite the 45mph enjoyed in Sport mode, but it’s getting there.
Additional safety features include rear sensors for object avoidance. Why are rear sensors important? Most shots you see that have the rapid pull out is a Phantom going full speed in reverse. Having protection against the ‘oh shit’ moments is a nice addition.
Other features include the Mavic Pro’s gesture mode. Better Active Trak. And the range of the Mavic Pro. When it was announced, we all knew the 4.3 miles was making its way to the Phantom series. It may not fit in your pocket, but the Phantom 4 Pro is still portable and has redundancy. Double IMU units and a dual compass module.
Battery life eases up towards 30 minutes, but that’s perfect conditions. Shave off a couple of minutes for the real world. And the fact you’re like me and insist on racing it around at 45mph.
Phantom 4 Against the Phantom 4 Pro Specs[powerkit_table id=DJIPhantom /]
Which is the Better Buy?
Ah, the question everyone asks. And you’ll always get the ‘it depends.’ Yes, the Phantom 4 Pro is a massive upgrade on the camera, controller, and range, that doesn’t mean there’s not a market for the Phantom 4. Especially at the $1100 price point. The Phantom 4 Pro maxes out at $1800 if you want the dedicated screen on the controller. If you’re content with the standard RC, the price dips to $1499.
And that’s where it becomes interesting. Better range. Better camera. Better sensors. For $400 more? It’s not a contest for me. I’d hit the Phantom 4 Pro. Having said that, there will be absurd Black Friday deals and discounts on the Phantom 4. And if you love the Phantom 3 series, the Phantom 4 is an amazing drone. We shot test footage with it ungraded in auto, and it turned out remarkably well.
If you’re a hobbyist, you can kit out a Phantom 4 with plenty of extra batteries and be set for Christmas. Photographer or videographer? The upgrades for $400 are everything you want out of the Phantom series.
I use an iPad for the controller, so the 5.5-inch dedicated screen isn’t selling me on the additional $300. It’s undoubtedly bright, but you can get cheap sunshades and pick up two extra batteries for that cost. My mind may change once we go hands on and it would be nice to have a dedicated screen. Maybe a jump to screen size like an iPad Mini? That would push me over the edge.
Sound off in the comments on the Phantom 4 and the new Phantom 4 Pro. Good news is the ship dates should hold. There’s no design change, and you have to think if they shoved all the tech into the Mavic Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro should be easy.