DJI has built an unparalleled camera drone with the Phantom 4 Pro+. With the updated camera, video downlink, and integrated controller screen it is clear that this is a professional level camera drone masquerading around in the body of a Phantom. The Pro+ is about as high-end as consumer drones get and you'd be hard-pressed to find anything remotely comparable in its price range. It is at the top of the field in essentially every metric, including video quality, flight performance, video downlink, and ease of use. This across the board dominance made it the clear choice for our Editors' Choice Award for the best high-quality camera drone. If you have any aspirations to turn your movie making hobby into a career, or just want your amateur films to have professional-level cinematic quality, you can't go wrong with the Phantom 4 Pro+.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ Review
Pros: Top quality, stable video, great flight performance, built in controller screen
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With the release of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, DJI has again made its Phantom line a bit confusing, so here are the details:
The V2.0 is mostly the same as its predecessor: same camera, same gimbal, same body, same flight sensors. It is also available with a basic controller ($1500) or with a controller that has a built-in, 5.5" screen ($1800). The difference is in the new propellers, which are meant to be more efficient and quieter (and can be purchased separately here), and a new OcuSync transmission system that can link to the DJI Goggles for an FPV flight experience.Bottom line, if you're getting a new Phantom 4 Pro you may as well get the V2.0. However, if you already have the original Phantom 4 Pro we see no reason to upgrade. But next time you break a prop, you may as well try out the new propellers, since they are compatible with the entire Phantom 4 line.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ is the best camera drone that we reviewed and nothing in its price range comes close to providing such high-quality footage in an equally reliable drone. The Mavic Air and Mavic Pro are much more portable but their cameras aren't nearly as powerful.
We don't give out a perfect 10 out of 10 often, but DJI has upped the ante to such a degree with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ that we just had to. This score of 10 in our video quality testing was far above the bottom score of 3.
DJI put a one-inch sensor in the Phantom 4 Pro+'s camera, and it shows. The footage this 4K rig produced in our testing was crystal clear with bright, vibrant colors. It is easy to manually focus and set exposure by tapping the screen. The gimbal stabilization was likewise superb. Even when we flipped it into sport mode and tried to recreate our favorite scenes from Top Gun the camera stayed locked in with the horizon and didn't shake or bounce. The only minor weak point was some propellor intrusion when turning at higher speeds, but generally, this happened at speeds far above what you'd reach in normal aerial videography (unless you're trying to get a follow shot of the Millennium Falcon).
Increased Frames Per Second, Aperture Control
One major improvement in the Phantom 4 Pro+'s camera is the ability to film 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (fps). All of the other models we tested max out at 30 fps. This higher frame rate results in incredible, high-resolution slow-motion footage and gives you the flexibility to slow the footage down if you captured that panning shot going just a bit too fast. Another upgrade to the mechanics of the camera is the ability to adjust the aperture (from F2.8 to F11), which allows you to point the camera at the sun without lens flares dominating the entire image. This feature is generally only found on professional level camera drones. The 4 Pro+ also records at a bitrate of 100 Mbps, which minimizes compression and lends a higher quality video.
Finally, for all of you camera geeks out there the Phantom 4 Pro+ opts for a mechanical shutter with a maximum speed of 1/2000s, which should eliminate any rolling shutter distortions. But this probably isn't something you'll need to think about until Steven Spielberg finds your Vimeo account and recruits you to capture his next aerial shot.
Ease of Use
Generally, we've found that DJI provides a great user experience out of the box, and the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ is the cream of the crop. It shared the top score of 9 in our ease of use testing, putting it well ahead of the low score of 3.
Out of the box getting the drone and controller charged up was simple, and using the large touchscreen made creating the required DJI account easy. The propellers also installed easily with a simple push and quarter turn, as opposed to other models that use a screw and require lots of spinning to get the propeller secured.
Best in Class Controller
Where the Phantom 4 Pro+ sets itself apart is the controller. Like most other DJI controllers it has nice, long joysticks with beveled edges that provide a solid grip. The joysticks have just the right amount of resistance to allow precise, controlled maneuvers. The pièce de résistance is the integrated 5.5" touchscreen LCD, which is so bright that images look sharper even when in direct sunlight. Not only is this screen slightly larger than most smartphones, it eliminates the need to bring extra cables to connect a smartphone. That larger size also better accommodates the additional interface for controlling the aperture. Additionally, smartphone batteries tend to last only 3-4 flights or less in cold weather. Having your phone die in the middle of a flight could leave you flying somewhat blind. The built-in LCD mitigates these types of issues. Also, it's nice to save your phone's battery for things like making phone calls, or Instagramming your amazing filming location to hype the release of your next amazing drone footage cut.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in our flight performance testing with its predecessor, the Phantom 4. Both models clearly lead the flight performance pack and are nearly identical in this regard. This score put the Phantom 4 Pro+ a good bit ahead of the lowest scoring gimbal model, which scored a 6, and even further ahead of the non-gimbal models, which both scored 5.
All aspects of the 4 Pro+'s flight is incredibly stable, from takeoff and landing to smooth, panning landscape shots to breakneck flybys (the 4 Pro+ can reach 45 mph in sport mode). Its autonomous flight functions were similarly stellar. Both the orbit point of interest and cable cam functions provided superb and stable footage. Like all of the models we tested, the follow mode was somewhat lackluster, you'll get much better results using a pilot to manually follow a subject. We had no issues when testing the 4 Pro+'s automatic return to home function, but we'd like to stress that this is a feature that should only be used if some sort of malfunction prevents you from flying the drone back yourself. This model also got a souped-up new battery that gives it a field-leading maximum flight time of 30 minutes.
Leading Obstacle Avoidance System
One area where the Phantom 4 Pro sets itself apart is its obstacle avoidance system. It has obstacle sensors that point down and out from all four sides of the aircraft (the old Phantom 4 only had front facing sensors). We certainly wouldn't recommend pushing the limits of this system because it is not foolproof, but we tested it from all five directions and found it to work well in situations where you might accidentally get too close to a wall or tree.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ was the clear frontrunner in our video downlink testing, earning another rare perfect score of 10 out of 10. The bottom-scoring gimbal model earned a 7 in this metric, and the non-gimbal models scored 3 and 4.
This perfect score was largely due to the built-in LCD display on the 4 Pro+'s controller. This 5.5" screen displays the downlink in full 1080p high definition. This large, high-resolution image lets you get the perfect framing and can make you feel like you're riding shotgun in the drone, right next to the camera. Even in our 300-foot flight test the video quality never wavered and never had any latency. The screen is plenty bright enough to be seen in even bright sunlight and was definitely the best performer in this aspect (DJI claims the screen is twice as bright as that of a smartphone, and we're inclined to believe them). Sure, this built-in screen adds a decent chunk to the 4 Pro+'s price tag, but it provides an unparalleled video downlink experience.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ was a leader in every metric except portability. It comes with a sturdy foam case that carries everything you would need for a full day of flying. In its case the Pro+ is still the same size as most people's daypacks, making it prohibitively large for people who want something that is easy to carry around. Despite earning the low score of a 3 for portability it is still easy to carry around for those who are trying to take videos in places that don't require much of a hike. The Phantom 4 Pro+ is best if you're going out with the primary mission of getting footage since it is far too large and heavy to carry along as an afterthought or for lightweight travel.
At a list price of $1800, the Phantom 4 Pro+ is one of the most expensive drones we tested. However, what you're getting is essentially a professional quality rig. So if you're looking for the absolute best quality, or want something that you can grow into in case aerial videography becomes more than a hobby, then the Phantom 4 Pro+ is a great value.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ is a professional-quality camera drone in a package that will be familiar to anyone who has used any of the many iterations of DJI's Phantom series. Whether you're a professional or an amateur, if you want professional level footage without having to shell out multiple thousands of dollars for a specialized pro rig, this is the drone for you.
Phantom 4 Pro Battery
- Cost: $169
Phantom 4 Propellers
- Cost: $18
Phantom 4 Charging Hub
- Cost: $90
- Can charge 3 batteres at once
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata