Recently, we discussed the AR.Drone and it’s uses for aerial footage. At the end of the review we briefly went over what seemed to be an even better option since it supported the option of sporting a GoPro from it’s frame vs a semi-HD built-in camera that the AR.Drone had. That option was the DJI Phantom Quadcopter.
We still have yet to achieve the opportunity to sit down with one so thoroughly test it so we have only been able to go off of the discussions we have had with others who have. All of which proved to be much better than the AR.Drone, despite having less flight time per battery.
This October they have released the next generation of Phantom, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter. This time coming with it’s own integrated 1080p HD camera vs requiring you to supply one. For those who prefer to stick with the GoPro (like us), it is said that it may offer the option to include it as well (although this hasn’t been confirmed just yet).
- Integrated 14MP camera with 1080p HD video recording on a microSD card and live first-person view (FPV) Wi-Fi streaming of video and telemetry to the free Vision app for iOS or Android
- Included Wi-Fi extender allows live remote video streaming from up to 980 feet away
- The integrated camera tilt motor will automatically compensate for the Phantom’s single-axis motion by tilting the camera for smoother video, and it’s manually controllable via the Vision app
- Fly up to 25 minutes on a single charge using the included 5,200-mAh lithium polymer (LiPo) battery that’s easily removable and contains intelligent circuitry and a charge-remaining indicator built-in
- The Phantom 2 Vision also includes all the features you love from the original Phantom
Is it worth the extra price? The biggest benefits are extra flight time and the ability to view the video live without any interruption to the guidance of the drone (which was reported about the previous model when using GoPro’s WiFi stream). As live video is very important to a successful shoot/flight, this is a benefit without a doubt. It’s ability to allow for smoother video without the use of additional hardware is also a major benefit. Battery life however, we were not able to agree on as a major benefit as you could always simply bring multiple batteries to a flight.
Our conclusion was that if you are an avid GoPro supporter, you may be best sticking with the previous model. Some have said they have found ways around the GoPro WiFi conflict, so this allows us to still sway more into it’s direction. If you need something that comes ready out-of-the-box without the need of GoPro or any other equipment, then the new DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter is for you.
Since we haven’t had the chance to physically sit down with the device, we are unfortunately unable to provide you with a product score. We can easily tell you though that we like the idea of a product that is more durable, professional and versatile than an AR.Drone for aerial footage. If we had a choice between the DJI Drone and the AR.Done, we would probably chose to purchase the DJI (not that the AR.Drone isn’t very entertaining at it’s cheaper price).
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For me, the GoPro is great for mountaineers, skiiers, white-water rafters, mountain bikers etc. It’s not much use for serious videography and certainly it is useless for serious photography.
However, the Phantom 2 is an amazingly good quadcopter and therefore, after much research, I’ve decided that for professional quality still images and video, I need a Phantom 2, a Sony RX100 and, from Holland, a mounting board and FPV kit to handle it. The total cost will be twice that of a Phantom 2 Vision but it just goes to prove the adage that you usually do get what you pay for.
In order not to be misleading, DJI really do need to remove all references to ‘High End’, ‘Professional’, and ‘Quality’ with respect to their description of the Phantom 2 Vision’s camera.
Unfortunately, the FC-200 camera on the DJI Phantom 2 Vision suffers from serious quality control problems. Many owners have reported extreme softness on one side of their images (usually the left).
Aside from that, my own research and testing has shown that, whilst images from some examples of the camera are acceptable (provided one’s expectations aren’t too high), images from other examples are about what you might have expected fifteen years ago from a cheap compact – even when shooting RAW (the camera produces .dng files).
In any event, the FC-200 is certainly NOT what DJI describe in their advertising as a ‘High End Camera’ and any photographer expecting to get decent prints from this is going to be sorely disappointed (unless he or she is very lucky).
You can read more about this on my blog
I would point out however that they aren’t pushing so hard as to claim they are a great photography option. The Phantom is more for video, both for hobby (flight lovers) and other purposes. Basically, just like GoPro users are for video more than photos, only the Vision’s camera isn’t as nice as the GoPro.
DJI does make a version of the Phantom 2 that is for the GoPro. You can buy the motorized gimbal to keep the camera pointed and all sorts of other add-ons (mostly only for tech-savvy users though as some add-ons may require modification to the chassis or electronics).
You can also find some companies selling it with the add-ons pre-attached. This is an example with the GoPro Gimbal attached.
I and many others, including DJI, would highly discouraged trying to use any sort of transmitter using the 2.4Ghz frequency (i.e., wifi) since this is the same frequency used by the Phantom to control its flight. Most all “fly away” situations can be attributed to 2.4Ghz interference whether coming straight from the Phantom itself (using GoPro wifi) or from the environment (flying in heavy urban areas). The best way to get first person view is to simply install a video transmitter operating on a different frequency – such as 5.8Ghz.