The DJI Phantom 4 Is Amazing But So Is The Phantom 3

I've had a few months to play with the Phantom 4. I can say with certainty that it is better than the Phantom 3 in almost every way but it costs a good bit more and the Phantom 3 is still one of the greatest drones on the market today, especially at these incredibly low prices. 

I've used every DJI Phantom. I was blown away by the Phantom 1 and it was horrible at recording video. It had a stationary mount that you could screw a GoPro into. It didn't have stabilization and the footage was completely unusable but I still thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. The Phantom 2 came out soon after and had the ability to add a gimbal to your GoPro to get professional looking footage. I traveled around the world with the Phantom 2 and a GoPro for 3 months and I got some amazing footage.

Here's a quick clip of some of the footage I got in Iceland with a GoPro and without any sort of video downlink

 

The Phantom 3 Pro was the first time I had ever used a video downlink. Now I could look down at an iPad and watch in HD what my drone was seeing. It had an amazing range, incredible clarity, and zero lag. I was once again blown away that I could buy this for less than $1500 (now it's under $1000).

A few months ago the Phantom 4 became available. DJI sent me a test unit and I took it to L.A. and Hawaii as we worked on our next tutorial with Mike Kelley. It's certainly a nice upgrade from the Phantom 3. It's got a new shape, better battery, it's quieter, faster, and it has obstacle avoidance, but it's not mind-blowingly better like previous versions have been. 

Obstacle avoidance is probably the most exciting new feature.  Surprisingly, I found that I prefer to turn it off. It really slows the drone down and it limits how close I can get to certain things. It also makes launching and landing from your hand more difficult. If you're new to flying, you'll probably love it. If you're a veteran, you won't appreciate the training wheels. 

Perhaps the biggest improvements for me are the speed of the drone, which makes it fly better in high winds, and the improved battery performance. Other than that, it's pretty similar to the Phantom 3. Although the camera's lens is supposed to be improved, it's got the same 4k sensor and I can't tell a difference in footage, although I haven't tried to look at similar footage side by side at 100%. 

One strange issue I had with my Phantom 4, which is highlighted in the video above, is the drone descends significantly after going forward quickly. I still have not figured out why but I've learned to live with it. 

UPDATE: I've just been sent this video:

For me, the Phantom 4 is enough of an upgrade for me to buy one but I'm also the type of person who enjoys getting the latest iPhone every year. I can justify slight improvements because I use these tools for business and I enjoy having the latest and greatest technology. But most people aren't like me. Most people would prefer to get the most bang for their buck. If this is you, you may want to consider the Phantom 3 Professional or the incredibly priced Phantom 3 4k. It's only $600! That's really incredible. 

If this is your first time buying a drone, keep in mind that you will probably destroy it. That alone may push you to the cheaper Phantom 3. But, if you want the hottest toy, I mean tool, on the market today, the Phantom 4 will blow you away. 

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21 Comments

Daniel Haußmann's picture

Exactly my thinking. I rather invested in a backup P3 Pro unit than to upgrade to P4 + buying tons of new batteries.

Ya buying more batteries and a different case is a bummer

Re: the drop in altitude when stopping. I've noticed it in sport mode, but not with the sensors on. I've also noticed when in sport mode and stopping, the elevation increases with the act of stopping. (quite dramatically, I might add) My theory would be that the drop is to true up the altitude after the increase.

...and then I saw the update.

Chip Kalback's picture

Lee would you get this over the 3DR Solo? I'm new to drones and would love your opinion.

I'm leaning toward the Phantom 4, just didn't want to rule out the Solo either, especially since I already have a GoPro Hero4.

I don't know a thing about it. I always would suggest the industry standard which in this case is dji.

Leigh Miller's picture

No comparison to the DJI P3/4...I would leapfrog that and get the new Typhoon if you want to stay in this app price range.

Jon Dize's picture

The drop in altitude is NORMAL in MANUAL MODE, just like it is in a REAL HELICOPTER. LIKE a real helicopter, you get additional lift when the helicopter is moving in a direction rather in hover mode. So if you are moving forward and then pull the cyclic back to neutral to hover, if you do not pull up on the collective and add power, the helicopter will SETTLE since there is less lift in hover than when the chopper is moving forward through the air or sideways or... Same with the DRONE in MANUAL MODE, it acts just like the helicopter, but when you switch to GPS mode, the DRONE will make the pseudo collective and real power corrections automatically which keep the DRONE from SETTLING in hover mode. It is a NORMAL AERODYNAMIC function, not a fault of the DRONE, nor is it a PROBLEM perse'. You just have to fly the Drone like a real helicopter when in MANUAL MODE and apply power since you don't have the mechanical ability to control the attack angle of the blades like the collective does on a real helicopter, your only choice is to add power. No! I neither fly Drones, nor Helicopters, but I have been a fixed wing pilot for 39 years and understand the principles of Rotor Wing Aircraft.

Why have no other phantoms done this and why did dji release a firmware update to fix it?

Leigh Miller's picture

My Inspire1 does this too and it's more likely to happen when you are flying fairly fast then release the sticks to hover.

Jon Dize's picture

It is an aerodynamic issue that happens with real helicopters, I doubt there is a fix for it in manual mode. In GPS mode, yes, the computer will compensate by making adjustments to the throttle. Aerodynmic forces are funky like that... it's like when I make a banked turn of more than 10 degrees my the fixed wing REAL planes I fly, if I don't add throttle, the plane will start tightening the turn until the inside wing stalls and then... SPIN TIME AT THE OASIS!

Jon Dize's picture

I am considering a Phantom 4, but I am a Pixel Peeper... I want the best image quality and electronics I can afford since the image is what matters to me, so if the GoPro 4 has a better image quality and less pixelation, I would love to figure out a way to mount a GoPro 4 on the Phantom 4's gimbal. I know that may not be possible, but I may have to wait until the camera quality is better on the Phantom 4. Living in Las Vegas, surrounded by airports, National and State Parks, I have not been thrilled about getting a Drone. I've heard being a Private Pilot for 39 years may help me with acquire some airspace legally, so I may give it a shot.

The GoPro is actually worse because the lens is too wide but I haven't noticed as much pixilation with a lot of movement with the GoPro vs the phantom. Again, I have not done side by side comparisons though.

Denis Girard's picture

"If this is your first time buying a drone, keep in mind that you will probably destroy it." That sentence sums it all for me...I really want one , but I'm not a rich dude and investing in a drone knowing that I will destroy it scares me the most...Is it that inevitable? ;)

All depends on how careful you are. I have a few friends who treat their drone like a professional tool. Everyone else including me tends to keep pushing the limits and flying it in more and more dangerous spots.

You cant fly the Phantom 4 low to water, because your unable to shut off VPS on the phantom 4. You can actually cause a crash if you lose GPS and VPS is hitting the water, The phantom may crash. Where on the 3 you can turn VPS on and off. I still think phantom 3 is way better then the 4, I think the 4 was not that big of an upgrade for many.

Kris Singleton's picture

Are there now 4 Phantom 3's (advanced, professional, standard and 4k) or is one of those just a different name for one of the others?

Yes there are 4 now. I think the 4K is the standard with the 4K camera but double check

Kris Singleton's picture

Cheers! Will do. Is there that much of a difference downscaling 4k to 1080p compared to 2.7k to 1080p? You shot in 2.7k for the Iceland thing yeah? (two different cameras I know - Gopro vs Phantom 3/4 camera)

I would assume the more pixels the better

There are some attractive discount in DJI store!! http://click.dji.com/G_qeK-Yh_lwa1-sQ?pm=link