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Review: DJI Phantom 4 Pro

Paul Schmutzler reviews DJI's popular Phantom 4 Pro drone, testing usability, stability, overall construction, and image quality, as well as 120fps 1080p capture and intelligent flight modes, and compares it to its DJI stablemates Mavic and Inspire.

For the past few weeks, I've been reviewing another one of DJI's drones. This time it's one of the professional models, the Phantom 4 Pro.

The Phantom is a pretty different animal from even their Mavic series (reviewed here). It's a larger drone with a very different design, with much stronger and larger propellers as well.

Controller

The Phantom also comes with a dedicated controller that does not require you to use your mobile device along with it. The controller's substantial. It's quite heavy and large, but the sticks on it feel quite different than the Mavic's sticks. They have more room to move around, and there's less resistance on the sticks, making it much easier to make fine movements. There are also some additional hardware buttons since it's a dedicated controller. Some are underneath the controller where your fingers would be, and there are some at the front right and left. This also makes it easier to perform certain actions without having to tap on a button on the screen or go into a menu while you're flying.

DJI GO App

The screen interface that you work with is the DJI GO app. The controller essentially has a small Android device built onto it. I really liked having the dedicated controller because the screen is much brighter and larger than my phone and it's easier to operate outdoors even in bright sun.

Design and Construction

The drone itself is a very common design. The Phantom series has been around for a number of years, and a lot of people are familiar with it. In fact, it's sort of become the face of what people think drones look like. This model is a stark white with long propeller arms and the camera is underslung directly in the center of gravity.

A pair of beefy landing legs are permanently attached and are not retractable on this model, unlike the Mavic. It makes it a little more challenging to travel with, due to its size, but I felt better landing this one, because I didn't feel like I was pushing the camera gimbal or the drone itself down in the grass or gravel when it landed. On one side you'll find the interface options for the drone, including where the MicroSD card is inserted.

Battery Life and Removal

I did have one gripe about the design of the hardware of this drone: removing the battery. You're supposed to squeeze release buttons at the top and bottom of the battery to slide it out. But I found I would have to wiggle and squeeze really hard to be able to get it out every time. Putting it back in was never a problem though.

Flight time on this drone on a single charge was about what I expected. It could range between 20 and 30 minutes depending on the flight time, the speed of the wind, and what type of mode I was flying in.

Gimbal Stability

By far, this is the most stable hovering drone that I've used out of all of DJI's drones. The larger propellers really seem to make a huge difference with that. It just enables it to move and maneuver very easily. In fact, when I first started operating this drone having come from the Mavic Air and the Mavic Pro before that, it was a lot to get used to. The larger propellers make it feel like going from driving a car with a six-cylinder engine to an eight-cylinder engine. As soon as you press the lever, it responds immediately.

I don't recommend trying to operate this drone indoors. DJI does not exclude flying this drone indoors. In fact, it has sensors that will help it avoid obstacles even inside, but I did fly this indoors once or twice and I found it challenging due to its responsiveness and the controls.

The camera gimbal on this drone is fantastic. You can tilt it any direction and it is very responsive and stable. I had no problems getting stable shots even in high winds.

Image Quality

Another fantastic feature about this model is the ability to shoot a 120fps 1080p footage. Shooting this high-quality slow-motion video from a drone can really set your videos apart from others'. I found the image quality of the recordings about on par with the other drones that I've used.

The one thing I did notice was the lack of clarity at the edges of the image. That's likely an issue of lens quality on this drone. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's something that might make me second-guess my decision to buy this drone over, say, perhaps, a higher-end drone like the DJI Inspire.

Flight Modes and Overall Experience

The Phantom also has some different intelligent flight modes that some of the other drones don't. For instance, it has a Follow Terrain mode which will enable the drone to stay at the same altitude relative to the ground even if the ground is rising or lowering beneath it as it flies across a path.

Overall, my experience with the Phantom was great. I had no issues with software since everything was hard-baked onto a dedicated controller rather than relying on an app and my own mobile device. The drone's flying capabilities are really impressive. I even shot some stuff over a soccer field with 30-mile-an-hour wind gusts. And although the software was yelling at me to land, I was still able to hover where I needed to and get this shot before I brought it back home.

So that's my review of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. It's a step above the Mavic and it's a step below the Inspire. The main reason that most people are going to choose the Mavic over this one is the portability. The Mavic is a folding drone and is perfectly adequate for most shooting but the Phantom really steps it up by being able to hover better and fly faster than the Mavic.

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Whether you're just a hobbyist, or a pro who just needs a little bit of drone footage here and there, the Mavic Air could be a great drone to start with.