As far as drones go, the DJI Phantom line really is the iconic design of the industry. The Phantom 4 Pro+ was as good as it gets for more than a year after the quadcopter was announced.
Note: Our initial review posted in November, 2017. We reviewed the Phantom 4 Pro+, with the display built into the controller.
Truth is, the Phantom 4 Pro is no longer in production, the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is the drone you want if you need a larger airframe, or something like the DJI Air 2S if you want a 1-inch camera, but not the size of craft. We, otherwise, have nothing new to say about the initial Phantom 4 Pro this update.
New: Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
DJI has released an update to this great drone, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is updated in mostly the same way that the Mavic Pro Platinum improves over the original Mavic Pro. To be specific, new propellers and updated ESCs create more efficient and quieter flight. The big update that many of us are excited for is the inclusion of OcuSync, which adds multi-remote connectivity and a wireless connection to the DJI Goggles.
- Fantastic camera
- Huge flight time
- Safe and capable drone
- Large and powerful airframe
- Reliable and safe
- Extreme GPS precision
- Stable and reliable airframe
Before we dive in, just wanted to point you toward our DJI Phantom drones guide. If you care to see the history and evolution of the Phantom line, this is it.
I’m not sure how in-depth I need to go here, I suspect you’ve seen this drone before. The Phantom 4 Pro is a quadcopter with a rigid design and tall landing gear. A camera hangs centered on the bottom. You can remove the propellers to ease transport, but there is no folding features on this one.
There are two variants of this drone, the Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+. The Plus model includes a built-in display on the remote control, otherwise, they are the same machine.
The standard color of the Phantom line is white with some grey accents. There is a new Obsidian version available – it looks amazing, but is the same drone on the inside.
Obstacle avoidance sensors are on almost all sides of this drone. When active, the drone will prevent a crash in all directions except upward. The forward and downward sensors can also help maneuver the craft, to skirt around obstacles and for precision landings.
The camera is on a 3-axis gimbal and packs 4K recording in a 1-inch CMOS sensor at 20 MP. One of the best on the market, on a consumer level.
When it comes time to travel, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro does not fold down, you simply install the camera gimbal lock and protector (that’s just one piece) and then quick release the propellers.
Specifications and Features
DJI offers many of the best flying features for the Phantom 4 Pro. There are follow modes and other self-piloting features, but they do not include the Quickshot features you’ll find on the Spark.
The remote control is part of the magic of this drone. Responsive controls are key to a successful flight, as is the low latency FPV on either the built-in display of the Pro+ remote, or your mobile device on the normal Pro model.
A single battery will net you up to 30 minutes of flight, but expect about 24 minutes in the air to be safe. That’s a 5,870 mAh battery hauling around a 3 lb drone at up to 45 mph.
Remember that you cannot legally fly more than 400 feet above the ground, but, the service ceiling on this machine is 19685 feet. You’ll be able to take flight everywhere in North America except the top of Denali in Alaska.
The spec sheet reports the same hover accuracy as the Mavic Pro and other DJI drones. While it does not use Ocusync, it is also rated for connectivity up to 4.3 miles as well, just like the Mavic Pro.
One of the best and most underrated features of the Phantom 4 Pro is the capabilities of the camera. The sensor is good, but the video capture speeds are better. 4K video comes in the form of standard 3840×2160 resolution or Cinematic 4K of 4096×2160, both at up to 30 fps. The kicker, those are at 100 Mbps.
I won’t fully dive into what a 100 Mbps video means today, but rest assured, the image clarity is vastly improved over the 60 Mbps that you’ll find on most other drones. (Also note that YouTube generally tunes down 4K video to 35 Mbps or less, so I may never get to effectively illustrate for you the actual difference.)
Enough with the talk, here are all the details:
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Things to know before you fly
- You must register your drone with the FAA before you fly
- You must affix your drone registration number to your craft
- Coming soon: The FAA will require you to pass a test before you fly your drone
- You must acquire your Part 107 certificate if you are to receive any compensation for your flight
- You must follow all of the FAA’s airspace rules if you are flying outdoors
- Hobby flights have different requirements from commercial flights
- In the eye’s of the FAA, drones are aircraft. Period.
- You need to acquire authorization to fly in controlled airspace
- Almost all drones over 249 grams will need a Remote ID broadcast starting April 21, 2021
The Phantom 4 Pro is a little like a sports car. Not a super car or a race car, just the kind of sporty car you and I can conceivably purchase on a modest budget. It is not super powerful, or super fast, but it’s more than enough to get out of control if you’re not careful.
Back to basics, the Phantom 4 Pro is equipped with obstacle avoidance sensors on four sides and on the bottom. Thanks to this, it is not as pleasant to fly the machine close to the ground, or close to yourself, the remote beeps at you, a lot. The solution is easy, fly. Get away from the ground, get away from yourself or a wall. The logic is sound.
This is a fast drone, it is rated for 45 mph at full tilt, but expect 31 mph while filming. It does accelerate quickly, but it is very smooth about it. Comparatively, the Mavic Pro flies at almost the same speeds, but it is a much more reactive drone. Responsiveness is fun while flying, but can be jerky for video recording.
We have more than a few words to share specifically comparing the Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro, stay tuned for that.
Despite the smoothness to it, I did find that the default calibration for rotation was very fast. Too fast. It was a little difficult to get a full 360 pan in the sky. I love those pans, but anything more than the slightest pressure on the sticks sends the drone spinning faster than I would have liked. Not too fast for focus, just a personal taste here.
Object avoidance is very helpful with this drone. It is able to detect an issue up to 23 feet away, helping ensure you stay clear of trees or other hazards of the sky. Don’t get me wrong, you can still crash, particularly with smaller things like the bare branches of winter, or another drone, but it’s pretty good at avoiding walls.
Overall, the Phantom 4 Pro is a responsive drone, fast and able to go wherever you point it. As long as you remain within line of sight and under 400 feet. Keep it legal. That said, if your laws are different than mine, you can soar this machine up to 19,685 feet. This is a service ceiling, you’re probably going to want to be 19,000 feet or higher yourself when you launch – very impressive no matter how you look at it.
Controls are easy to use and fairly precise. I put the controller in the hands of Adam Molina of Sound Guys, he’s flown, but is still a new pilot. It took no more than a minute for him to get the hang of it. Some of the footage in the video above is his doing. Good stuff Adam! Then I showed off and effortlessly landed the drone onto its case, wish I would have recorded that.
I do have one tiny complaint about the Phantom 4 Pro performance. Once landed, I find the machine spins up while shutting down the motors. The drone hops up just a tad and spins a little. This is no problem on the ground, but if you’ve landed on the case, it can be just enough to throw the drone over the side. This may be a calibration issue, or just our machine, but please be aware of it for your flights.
The 20 MP shooter on the Phantom 4 Pro is a great little camera. There is no question it produces superior imagery when compared to the Mavic Pro and other sub-$1000 drones. More than anything, the fact that this is a full 1-inch sensor sets the Phantom 4 Pro in a league of its own for drones under $2000.
I must say, I am very impressed with the stability of the camera on this drone. It has been windy around here, not ideal conditions to fly a drone, but it’s a loaner that I have to return soon, so I take what I can get. As I am carefully watching the drone to see it jumping around in the wind, I am more than pleased to get home to the footage to find it as smooth as can be.
Getting propellers in the shot is more common than I had anticipated. I am not put off by this, but I know some of you are.
I recorded everything at full auto settings, this is what you will see straight out of the box. My recordings were all 4K at 30 fps, again full default. Additional video settings include 720p and 1080p up to 120 fps, 2720×1530 up to 60 fps, 4K up to 60 fps and Cinematic 4K up to 50 fps.
Photos are captured in three ratios. 3:2 ratio at up to 5472 x 3648. 4:3 ratio clocks in up to 4864 x 3648 and 16:9 ratio is up to 5472 x 3078. Strangely enough, the default photo capture mode straight out of the box is 3840 x 2160 pixels.
|DJI Phantom 4 Pro|
|Camera||1" CMOS 20MP 4K|
|Lens||FOV 84° 8.8mm/24mm f/2.8-f/11
(Roughly equivalent to 35 mm)
|ISO||Video ISO 100 - 3200 auto, 6400 manual
Photo ISO 100 - 3200 auto, 12800 manual
|Shutter||8s - 1/2000s Mechanical shutter
8s - 1/8000s Electronic shutter
|Video recording||MP4 or MOV
H.264 or H.265 (H.264 has the higher fps and Mbps below)
Cinematic 4K - 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (4096x2160) @100Mbps
4K - 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (3840x2160) @100Mbps
2.7K - 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (2704x1520) @ 60/65/80Mbps
FHD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1920x1080) @ 50/60/65/80/100Mbps
HD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1280x720) @ 25/30/35/45/60/80Mbps
|Photo capture||5472 x 3648 resolution 3:2
4864 x 3648 resolution 4:3
5472 x 3078 resolution 16:9
Single shot or burst 3/5/7/10/14 fps
|Storage||Up to 128GB micro SD
Class 10 and/or UHS-1 minimum, UHS-3 recommended for 4K video
|Remote controller||Max 4.3 mile operating range
Video record button
Photo capture button
Camera tilt scroll wheel
Camera exposure value scroll wheel
Center focus and auto exposure button
|Mobile support||FPV video streaming 720p by default, 1080p optional
Tap to focus
Full manual controls available
-90° to +30° vertical pitch
Photo and video samples
As always, we have cropped and compressed the images and video to fit best on your screen, but they are otherwise un-altered. No color corrections, no white balancing, these are just the raw experience using the default settings of the Phantom 4 Pro. The first two images are actual photos taken using the camera mode, the remainder are stills pulled from the video. Enjoy.
If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
Considering the class of drone here, there is a good amount of competition out there. We do not consider the Mavic Pro, Spark or other smaller folding drones to be competition. To us, competition comes in the form of larger drones that have, if nothing else, a hanging camera setup. The Phantom 4 Pro does not make flight compromises to ease portability, and the price is north of $1000. I think that sets the stage nicely.
From our normal coverage, we consider the Yuneec Typhoon H as one of the top competitors. The Autel Robotics X-Star Premium and GDU Byrd Premium 2.0 also hit the same notes. We just got the 3DR Solo in house as well, it is on a different level than the Phantom 4 Pro, but we’ll put that to the test soon.
Short of actual comparisons at this time, allow us to give our opinion that the Phantom 4 Pro is one of the easiest to fly and produces some of the best aerial videos of all UAS under $2000. There are drones less than $2000 that can beat it, but they then need cameras and peripherals, putting them north of the mark.
If you don’t care about format, just looking for a drone that can pump out similar video from the sky, Yuneec has you covered with the Typhoon H Plus.
Newer aircraft offer some powerful alternatives to the big Phantom series as well. Craft like the DJI Air 2S offer the same size of camera, but with a much newer sensor and software, not to mention the smaller and more agile airfame and lower price tag. No longer is the Phantom series the best if you want a 4K camera in the sky.
Let’s look at some of the top contenders to the DJI Phantom 4 Pro:
- Great camera
- 5.4K video
- 8X zoom
- Compact and easy to use
- Fantastic range
- Powerful professional drone
- Interchangeable cameras
- 4K camera
- Enhanced obstacle sensors
- Fast data transfer
- Reliable drone
- Solid build
- Powerful zoom on the camera
- Large and powerful airframe
- Reliable and safe
- Professional camera drone
- Great Leica camera
We like the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Particularly the Phantom 4 Pro+. It is a well built, well spec’d and easy to operate machine that produces near-pro level video and some solid still photos. We see why it is still being offered as the leader in the Phantom line of drones. We know a Phantom 5 is coming, and that it will surpass this drone in capabilities, but there are few additions that are actually needed.
I am constantly reminded when using the Phantom 4 Pro that it is not as compact and portable flying machine. Not that it is cumbersome at all, you simply need to plan ahead to transport this machine, unlike the Mavic Pro, which I just grab and go without much concern.
The flight package is convenient, providing the battery and all the necessary cables and connectors for a successful flight. As always, second and third batteries would be great to have, this is a pleasant drone to fly, it’s sad when there’s no more juice.
To answer the question simply, I do not recommend this drone to just anyone. If you are looking to fly as a hobby, and are not as concerned with capturing the very best aerial video, you can spend half the price and will be happy.
The Phantom 4 Pro is a machine that is best suited to those taking drone flight and aerial photography seriously. If that is you, and you have just the right budget for this machine, do it. I truly know of no drone in the $1500 – $2000 range that can best this machine. Indeed, I know of no other competing drone below $2000 with a full 1-inch camera sensor.
As I say, be sure to check out the Yuneec Typhoon H for a drone nearly as capable, but at a lower price. Stay tuned for an in-depth comparison of these two.
Best of all, the original sale price of the Phantom 4 Pro and Pro+ has dropped a lot in the last year. At launch, you needed $1499 and $1799, today you can get into the Phantom 4 Pro for $1,049 and the Phantom 4 Pro+ for $1,499. (We’re seeing the drone for extremely high prices from time to time. Rarity is not in our favor with the V2.0 update of the drone on the market.)
- Multi-direction obstacle avoidance
When it launched, the Phantom 4 Pro looked like a superb iterative update, but this drone did not get the credit it deserves. The newer Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is the superior drone, but the differences are subtle. This airframe has proven effective for hobby and commercial purposes, putting multiple payloads into the sky.