DJI has issued the end-of-life notice for the Phantom 4, it was officially discontinued on April 30, 2017. The Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Pro keep the line of Phantom drones going, but like we pondered for the Phantom 3, is the Phantom 4 still worth buying?
Some basics are true here, the DJI Phantom 4 is an important step in the progression of modern quadcopters. We still think that the Phantom 3 is the drone that ushered in the market shift from niche product to must-have camera tool, but the Phantom 4 is certainly the superior model of the two.
To ascertain the value of the Phantom 4 at this point, I think it critical to understand how it differs from the other DJI drones. One should also evaluate how it stacks up against the competition. The idea is simple, the Phantom 4 was a superb piece of flying equipment for its time, but at a little under $1000, is it still worth buying?
The Phantom 4
Unlike our Phantom 3 rundown, we will not be treating all of the models of Phantom 4 together in this one. The Phantom 4 Pro is a step above the Phantom 4 standard in almost every way, and the Phantom 4 Advanced is up there as well.
What you get with the Phantom 4 is the iconic quadcopter design, a 4K, 12 MP camera on a Gimbal, forward and downward visioning systems, 28 minutes of flight time, a huge service ceiling and up to 45 mph ground speeds.
When I talked about the Phantom 3, the defining characteristic in its continued value was the camera capabilities. The earlier Phantom 3 models had a 2.7K sensor, the latter two models came with 4K shooters. We all know that there is more to a camera than just a pixel count, which is why you shouldn’t shrug off the fact that the Phantom 4 camera is identical on the spec sheet.
Improved optics make a huge difference, and there was even a Sony sensor in the Phantom 3 4K model. The Phantom 4 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor continued to solidify DJI’s competition against the similarly evolving GoPro cameras of the time.
Improved flight modes, better object detection for better collision avoidance, a higher speed and greater flight time and distance are all important as well. The Phantom 4 is, effectively, an iterative update over the best Phantom 3 models, but again, it is our opinion that the real world improvements exceed what the spec sheet tries to tell us.
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How outdated is the Phantom 4?
Looking beyond the Phantom 4, the Phantom 4 Pro was announced in the fall of 2016, the Phantom 4 Advanced in the spring of 2017. While the similarities between the Pro and Advanced are more than we care to count, they are both well beyond the Phantom 4 standard.
Just as the Phantom 4 outperforms the best of the Phantom 3 line, the Phantom 4 Pro and Advanced outdo the standard Phantom 4. Multi-directional vision systems provide improved obstacle avoidance, speeds are higher and the battery lasts longer, but more than all this, the new drones have a far improved camera.
The Phantom 4, as mentioned, has a 1/2.3-inch camera sensor, the newer drones in the Phantom line come with a full 1-inch sensor. This new sensor has a mechanical shutter, captures 20 MP images and bumps the maximum video bitrate from 60 to 100 Mbps.
As we mentioned briefly above, the newer, compact, folding Mavic Pro has the same camera sensor, at least on the spec sheet, and the even newer than that, even more compact and folding Mavic Air uses the same size 1/2.3-inch sensor with the updated 100 Mbps data rate to capture even better images from the sky. We’ll talk about both of these machines below.
Update: DJI has launched the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. This new drone takes the Phantom 4 Pro, adds in OcuSync connectivity, updated ESCs and high efficiency propellers to improve the flight experience. Just another step above, making the decision to buy the original Phantom 4 harder to make.
Should I buy the Phantom 4?
I’m droning on (pun intended) about the newer quadcopters in the Phantom 4 line, what you came here for was to find out whether or not the Phantom 4 standard is worth buying. If I have to give a Boolean answer, False. Admittedly, the Phantom 4 is a great drone, but we feel there are other drones that are a better purchase for your dollar.
Let’s see, we’ve seen the Phantom 3 for as little as $399, but the 4K models have been $750 or more. The Phantom 4 Advanced starts at $1350 and the Phantom 4 Pro at $1450. The standard Phantom 4 clocks in about $900 last we looked. So, the Phantom 4 fits perfectly in the middle ground of the line for both specs and price.
I have three final thoughts before you spend your money. First, if photo and video quality are your focus, the Phantom 4 Pro or Advanced are absolutely worth saving up for. The improved camera is more than just a little spec bump. Second, if you are just looking for a fun drone to bounce around the back yard, not really planning to take videos, the Phantom 3 standard at less than half the price of the Phantom 4 is a smart move.
Third, if you are content spending just shy of a thousand dollars, are happy with the forward and downward object avoidance, like the 1/2.3-inch camera sensor and are good with about 25 minutes of flight, buy the Mavic Pro! “Wait, you never said anything about the Mavic Pro!” No, we hadn’t, but how can we not?
On the spec sheet the Mavic Pro offers a very similar set of capabilities to the Phantom 4. However, it comes in a smaller package that folds to become one of the most portable drones around. The remote is smaller and the Mavic Pro flies a tad slower, but can go further and it’s in the prime of its life with new accessories only recently being announced.
Update: And now the Mavic Pro is the perfect companion for the new DJI Goggles, a VR headset with FPV goggle capabilities that can do more than just connect to your drone.
Another major consideration: DJI Mavic Air
If the DJI Mavic Pro is somewhat to your liking, but you want just a little better camera, the new DJI Mavic Air may be the machine for you. The Mavic Air is smaller than the Pro, but packs more flight features and an updated 100Mbps data rate for video capture. It’s the same size 12MP camera sensor, but that expanded data rate, and newer materials and software all around, make it a better camera experience compared to the Mavic Pro, and I’d debate it’s better than the Phantom 4 as well. Not half bad for $799.
Quick safety break:
Looking to buy the Phantom 4?
Offering a valuable performance increase over the best of the Phantom 3 line, the Phantom 4 was the logical update to the Phantom drone line. A capable quadcopter with an easy to use controller, rich set of autonomous flight features and a camera that defined aerial video for a time. The Phantom 4 is certainly a great machine, made even better by a fair price.
We do, honestly, think you are better off skipping this drone now that it has been officially discontinued, but we would’t blame you for taking a closer look.
It almost feels wrong to put a purchase link now, but, if you are still interested, grab the Phantom 4 for $773 from Amazon today. We’re seeing prices for it new as high as $1000, but used for under $700. At this time, we feel like $750 is a good selling point, still a tough sell, but worth it.
When we suggest that the DJI Phantom 4 is not worth buying at this point, we say so based on the price being comparable to the Mavic Pro. When, and if, the Phantom 4 price drops to at least a couple hundred dollars less than the Mavic Pro we will change our opinion. Until then, we think you can do better with your money.
I must repeat myself, the Phantom 4 is a fantastic drone, you will not be disappointed or ripped off for purchasing it. You can, however, get a better bang for the buck by considering the Phantom 3 for less camera intensive needs or the Mavic Pro for more portable needs. Same goes if you jump up to the Phantom 4 Pro or Advanced for the best camera in a DJI drone under $2000.
We rarely tell you not to buy a good drone; what do you think, is the Phantom 4 worth your money today?
Remember, the Phantom 4 is officially discontinued on April 30, 2017. You will still get support and all the things you would expect from owning the drone, but the machine will no longer be rolling off the assembly line.
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