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Phantom 4 Review

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Product Review

The new white Phantom 4 drone is a real success: hip, accessible, and ubiquitous. The chassis has been redesigned and now it's smaller and more streamlined. This new design yields longer battery life and makes the rig a bit more portable. At the same time the upgraded motors enable pilots to use the new Sport Mode, which take the Phantom 4 to a speed of 45 miles per hour! And that's really fast.

The Phantom 4 orientation is based on downward-facing cameras and sonar sensors, which enable a Visual Positioning System. This allows the drone to know where it is without completely relying on GPS. Add to it the additional inertial measurement unit (IMU), and you'll understand how the Phantom 4 feels impressively stable while flying.

Its lighter form makes it a bit unwieldy when flying in stronger winds, but consumer drones shouldn't fly during strong winds anyway. The drone's amazing camera shoots 4K video and takes 12MP still shots and a newly designed gimbal provides noticeably smoother videos.

The new Phantom 4 offers 2 main improvements: automated flight control, and the collision avoidance system. Not that you can fly it fully autonomously and command it with a flick of a finger, but it's definitely much easier to fly and control and the on-board sensors keep it from zipping head-on into a tree.

The new object detection and avoidance feature is truly exciting. It will prevent you from flying your new Phantom 4 into trees or buildings, making it miraculously safe for any flying skill level, whether amateur or experienced film makers.

The only problem though is that the obstacle detection feature is useful when you’re flying forward. It relies on forward-facing cameras that can recognize large objects. If there are obstacles on the right, the Phantom 4 won't see them.

Try the obstacle avoidance feature to see how it works. If you're flying the drone with another person and you'll direct it towards that person, you'll see how it stops about four feet in front of your friend, refusing to get closer. It's fun and exciting, but it's not always effective. For example, it won't detect bushes.

The obstacle detection works best when combined with the second best new feature of the Phantom 4: TapFly. This feature allows you to use the touchscreen to tap any point in the drone camera’s field of view and have the Phantom fly towards it. There’s a horizon line you can use to control the altitude of your automated flight, and the collision avoidance system will keep the copter away from most solid objects.

Another interesting new feature is the possibility to track people in relatively open settings. The idea here is that you can train the drone’s camera on a subject like a cyclist or a runner, then have the drone follow them, flying above and behind them as it captures a smooth, gliding shot. It works well, though the drone can get confused if someone of similar appearance crosses paths with your subject.

There are no huge differences in quality between the Phantom 4's camera and the cameras of its predecessors, but when looking at footage from an older Phantom next to footage from the 4, you’ll notice the latter has considerably less chromatic aberration, less noise, and slightly less distortion.

The Phantom 4 is very stable, even in moderate wind. Much of this excellent stability comes from its doubled number of downward facing cameras and sensors. This quality is extremely useful indoors which is one place the Phantom 4 is simply incredible. It manages to maintain its increased stability even when flying within a stadium.

In conclusion, the Phantom 4 is a very advanced drone compared to its competition. Experienced pilots will be able to fly it easily in no time. For new amateurs it may take a while to get used to its innovative new features. The new Sport mode is really amusing, taking the drone to unusual fast speeds. The Obstacle Sensing System can help avoid head-on collisions as well as track subjects. And the slow-motion video is a nice addition to an already excellent camera. There is no doubt, the Phantom 4 is the best Phantom ever Phantom DJI produced. You can't go wrong with this innovative flying platform.

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