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Before you ask, this isn’t another one of those “drone nearly collides with helicopter” posts, but it does feature a Phantom 4 and an Apache Helicopter! Don’t believe me? Watch the video above!
If you haven’t seen the other 6 days of the review, check them out. We cover everything from taking it out of the box to avoiding trees. Most of the other Phantom 4 reviews out there simply go through a few tests and give their thoughts at the end, but we thought that was a bit boring, so we decided to do things differently. In the review for today, I’m going to be talking about the Phantom 4, not as some abstract piece of technology, but as a real tool that I used to shoot video in the real world.
To see what it’s like to use the Phantom 4 in a real environment, we wanted to be in a place where the scenery was beautiful, yet constantly changing. Since we live in Arizona, venturing out into the desert was the obvious choice. This is the kind of place where you don’t always get second chances to get that amazing shot, and that was certainly the case with this trip.
We started off by getting ready to leave for the day. The original plan was to do a range test with the Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 while we were out there, so we took two Phantom 4s, one Phantom 3 and the Inspire 1 (which we ended up never taking out of the case). We had three batteries for each Phantom 4 that took about 3 hours to charge with the two chargers that we had. After the charging was done, the drones were loaded into the truck and we gathered any other supplies that we would need while being out there. It was then time to head out to the open road which led us to a place near Saguaro Lake in about an hour.
Once we got out to the location for the range test, we noticed a few spots where there were tons of random objects laying around with bullet holes in them. Little did we know that this spot was highly populated with local shooters who were there to have fun shooting things on the ground and in the air. Knowing this, we still needed to get the range test done so we continued to take everything out of the truck and get the Phantoms ready. Immediately after getting in the air, there were rapid gun shots coming from multiple directions. It could have just been a coincidence, but it felt like they were trying to shoot us! We waited around until most of the people in the area were gone. At this point, it was getting dark and it still didn’t seem right trying to fly miles away with the risk of running into more people with guns, so that idea was scrapped for the day.
Since we came with off-road trucks, it didn’t make sense to leave without getting some footage of them driving through the desert, so that’s what we did. We stayed in the same spot and tried to get some shots of the trucks as they were climbing up some pretty challenging terrain. Thats when we heard a rather loud chopping sound. It sounded like a helicopter, but we didn’t see anything in the sky. Just a few seconds later as we were still filming the trucks on the hills, an AH-64 Apache Helicopter comes flying through the wash that we were standing in, at an altitude of less than 200 feet from the ground! After doing some research, it appears that the military does occasional training in that area, so for the helicopter pilots it was just another day, but for us it was an amazing sight.
A few minutes later when we were sure that the helicopter was gone, we got some high speed shots of the Land Rover Discovery driving through the wash. This is were the new Sport Mode on the Phantom 4 was really useful. We were able to get nice stable shots while still being able to keep up with the speed of the truck at all times. On average, the Phantom was going about 35mph, but there were times when I had to go the maximum speed of 45mph just to keep up. There were also times where I was less than 9 feet from the ground (lower than tree level) flying backwards at 30mph. These are the kind of shots that just aren’t possible on the Phantom 3 (due to speed limitations), and too risky to try with the Inspire 1.
After looking at the footage on the way back home, I was really happy with the shots we got. I wasn’t sure how well the camera would do in low light, but it seems to be pretty good, especially with the new noise reduction feature.
Since this is Day 7 of our 7 Day Phantom 4 review, here’s an overview of what my thoughts are after spending 7 continuous days with it. For the price, It’s a really impressive drone. They were able to add the additional cameras, processors, use higher quality materials like magnesium instead of aluminum and stay under $1400.
The new machine vision features like obstacle avoidance are really cool and they do work as advertised. In Active Track, you can’t run really fast when your really close to the camera and in some conditions it will get confused, but it works in most cases. For people who want to use it as a Follow Me type of drone, just be careful when you’re around lots of trees with thin branches, or telephone wires.
The video quality has improved. The average person might not notice the difference (other than the zoom and slow-mo feature), but filmmakers will appreciate the changes they’ve made. The only thing people complain about with the new camera is that there’s more lens flare when pointing it into the sun, but I haven’t had that as an issue. Some people like lens flare, some don’t.
Right now, There are two underrated features that I love about the Phantom 4. The first is Sport Mode. I can’t emphasize enough how nice it is to have a Phantom that can fly super fast while still being more stable than the Phantom 3. The other thing I love is the new propeller design. Being able to remove the propellers with one hand in about 5 seconds makes getting it setup a lot faster.
The simple fact is, if you have the money, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get the Phantom 4 over the Phantom 3. It already has some really useful features, and future software updates are going to make it even better. If you don’t have the money, don’t worry about it. The Phantom 3 is still one of the best camera drones you can buy and it’s now at a lower price than ever.
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