It’s been a rough couple of months for the drone industry but there’s certainly a case to be made that DJI have emerged from the ashes as the new leader for the category. Now that their Mavic drone is finally in the hands of customers, the positive impressions are rolling in. Likewise, their upcoming but unannounced Spark drone is already turning heads. On the back of these gains, it’s telling that the Chinese company aren’t just content to deal in new products but has also looking backwards to refine their past achievements.
After all, if it ain’t broke – don’t try to fix it.
DJI’s new Phantom 4 Pro comes close to being one of the best examples of this mantra in action in recent memory. It builds on everything that worked in the favor of the its predecessor and bundles in a few smart additions that make a solidly compelling package. Even if the high price-tag might hold it back from being the drone that everyone buys, the robust feature-set on offer all but assures it’ll probably up being the one that everyone wants to.
On its own merits, it’s a solid drone that offers intuitive controls, high-end performance and delivers the results to match. However, it’s important to look at exactly what it does to eke out an improvement on its predecessor.
With that in mind, the first thing to look at here is the design of the Phantom 4 Pro. Little has been changed from the original Phantom 4’s Apple-inspired quadcopter design.Your mileage with this aesthetic might vary (personally, I found it a little too plastic for my own tastes) but at the end of the day it feels like DJI have gone for function over form here. The Phantom 4 Pro looks more or less how you’d expect a drone to look, wrapped up in a style that may – or may not – be to your liking. All told, these everyday build qualities means it sits a little closer to DJI’s consumer-grade products than their commercial-tier offerings.
Underneath those consumer-level aesthetics, the Phantom 4 Pro brings together some professionally-targeted specs. It tops the battery found in the original Phantom 4, upping the stakes to 5870mAh. It’s an investment by DJI that pays off to the sum of roughly 30-minutes of active flight time on a single charge. They also throw in a second battery to sweeten the deal allowing you to hot-swap them and get more use out of it each session.
In terms of the camera, the Phantom 4 Pro is packing a 20-megapixel sensor that delivers twelve layers of dynamic range. In both low-light and naturally-lit environments, footage shot with the Phantom 4 Pro looks crisply detailed and well-colored. What’s more, a lot of what you’re getting here can be customized from within the tablet-controller hybrid that comes with the drone – which offers up a surprisingly robust set of settings to be tinkered with.
In the roughest of terms, this controller sits pretty close to that of the original Phantom 4. However, rather than rely on your smartphone of choice, DJI have now built a Android-powered tablet display into the controller itself. While I was skeptical at first, this ultimately proved itself to be a much more elegant and intuitive way of controlling the drone. It didn’t take long for to win me over. It’s easy enough to get the drone in the air and while we had some initial trouble finding our way around the ‘follow’ function, there is a lot of smart integration between the tablet and the drone itself that still managed to impress us for the most part.
On the video-front, it’s capable of shooting 4K video at up to 60 frames per second. What’s more, the Phantom 4 Pro delivers some of the smoothest drone footage I’ve ever seen. The camera hangs on a 3-dimensional gimbal axis that can easily adjusted and smoothly controlled using the Phantom 4’s tablet-controller hybrid.
All these positive things said, we were a little disappointed that DJI don’t allow you to make use of the tablet controller’s on-board storage to hold onto footage. While anyone going out to shoot footage is going to probably have an SD-card or two on hand, it is a little annoying that you can’t make use of the space that’s there if you happen to forget your SD card or run out of space.
It’s hardly a dealbreaker but it does showcase some areas for improvement. Still, it doesn’t get much better than this. Tallied up, DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro feels like a product destined to sharpen the brand’s competitive edge among the prosumer crowd. After all – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, perfect it.