Meet The Awesome DJI Phantom 4

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DJI Phantom 4

DJI revealed the Phantom 4 drone in New York, we were expecting a refined design, better battery life, and maybe even a camera upgrade or two and we are happy to announce we got it all and more.

The Phantom 4 is an evolution of the Phantom 3, and from the outside it might be difficult for a drone novice to tell them apart.

The matte white plastic has been swapped out for a glossy finish, with the body and landing gear slimmed down to cut a better line through the air, but otherwise the basic design hasn’t changed.

The camera gimbal is supported on both sides now, rather than just one, and a lot of the mechanism has been moved inside the drone body, which again helps with the aerodynamics.

Exposing the motors gives it a more aggressive look, but also makes room for the activity LEDs to sit underneath them. This will let experienced pilots get that little bit closer to walls and obstacles when flying in low light.

DJI Phantom 4

Even the landing gear has been redesigned, with longer, thicker legs that should mean safer landings even if it’s windy.

Combine that with DJI’s Care program, and you shouldn’t have to worry about accidents keeping you grounded.

All minor tweaks by themselves, sure, but as a whole they give the Phantom 4 a much fresher look – even if it meant ditching the coloured go-faster stripes of the old models.

The 4K camera on the Phantom 3 could produce some incredible looking video, so it’s not a massive surprise that DJI hasn’t messed with the formula.

The sensor stays the same for the Phantom 4, just with a few little tweaks.

DJI Phantom 4

The lens has been upgraded for sharper pictures, particularly at the edges of your shots, and for less distortion.

DJI’s demo footage looked great, but we’ll need to see video side-by-side with the Phantom 3 to see if the differences are easy to spot.

You’ll be able to shoot 1080p at 120fps for the first time, which should make for some cool slo-mo shots, but 4K recording is still stuck at 30fps.

A boost to 60fps would have been ace, but seeing as the top-end Inspire doesn’t even do that yet, it’s not a surprise to see it missing here.

It’s how you’ll use the camera that’s changed, with ActiveTrack taking the challenge out of flying and focusing on a subject at the same time.

DJI Phantom 4

Rather than flying the drone and controlling the camera angle simultaneously (normally a two-person job for serious drone photographers), the Phantom 4 lets you tap on the remote screen to select a subject.

The drone then creates a 3D model of that object, and automatically keeps it in the frame as you fly around. You can make fine adjustments to focus, framing and camera settings on the fly, or let the Phantom do all the work.

The Phantom can do all this while keeping an eye out for obstacles – keeping you from crashing your ultra-expensive drone because you were too busy following the action on the ground.

Two cameras on the front and two on the bottom of the drone create a 3D model of the world around it, with the electronic brain inside searching for trees, walls, and any other barriers that would otherwise bring it down.

Try to drive the Phantom 4 into a wall and it’ll automatically slam on the brakes. Aim it at a building, and it’ll go above or around it before returning to its original trajectory. If the 3D model can’t find a way around, it’ll just hover in place until you take control again.

DJI Phantom 4

This safety net will be perfect for novice pilots, but it gets even easier. TapFly is the second new flight mode, which ditches the twin-stick controller in favor of touchscreen controls.

Tap a button to take off, set the maximum distance you want it to fly away from you, and the Phantom 4 will move towards the horizon. You can tap anywhere on the live video feed and the drone will change direction.

It dodges obstacles in this mode too, so newbies can get closer to their subjects even if they haven’t got the skill to keep it steady by hand.

Twin ultrasonic sensors combine with the cameras to keep the drone perfectly level when hovering. Other Phantoms we’ve used constantly adjust their position, inches at a time, but the Phantom 4 was eerily still – if the propellers weren’t spinning, you’d think it was frozen in mid-air.

DJI Phantom 4

It’s impressive stuff, and we can’t wait to see what kinds of footage will start springing up on YouTube once experienced pilots get their hands on one.

The Phantom 3 was hardly a slouch, but the Phantom 4 is a bit of a speed demon.

Normally it can zip along at 35mph, but switch to Sport mode and you’ll get a Fast and Furious-style nitrous boost that pushes the top speed up to 45mph.

DJI Phantom 4

It becomes an entirely different beast when you’re flying at full whack, with impeccable speed and agility. DJI’s pilots compared it to flying the pro-level Inspire, only for significantly less cash.

You’ll get through batteries a lot faster in Sport mode, so beginner pilots should stick to Normal mode to stay up in the air longer.

DJI has boosted flight time to 28 minutes, up from 23 in the Phantom 3, but has used a larger battery to do it. That means any spare batteries you’ve got for an existing Phantom are pretty much useless.

DJI Phantom 4

The tweaked looks, faster top speed and improved camera lens are all welcome changes, but it’s the clever subject tracking and automatic flight modes that will make it perfect for novice pilots and experienced aerial photographers alike.

At £1229 in the UK it’s more expensive than the Phantom 3 Professional, but if you’ve waited this long to get onboard the drone bandwagon, the extra outlay definitely looks worth it.

You’ll be able to pre-order one today, or pick one up from an Apple store  at the end of March.

DJI Phantom 4

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