We’ve seen the Phantom 4 features, but what about video quality?

According to DJI, the Phantom 4 has a new sharper lens with less distortion. To test this,we took the Phantom 3 and Phantom 4 up to about 300 feet and looked closely at the horizon. After reviewing the footage, it looks like there is a small improvement in lens distortion, but the Phantom 3 had hardly any distortion to begin with, so this isn’t an improvement that you’ll notice often. We still need to do a proper sharpens test, but images do seem slightly sharper.

The Slow-Mo

One thing that surprised me is the 1080P 120FPS slow-motion mode. For a few days of owning the Phantom 4, I knew that the 120FPS feature was in the app somewhere, but I never bothered to look for it since slow-motion modes never look all that good on most consumer cameras and smartphones. Today was camera day though, so I thought I would give it a try. Surprisingly, the footage was actually usable. It didn’t look anywhere near as good as 4K, but it didn’t have all those crazy video compression artifacts that most cameras have when shooting in slow motion.

What DJI Doesn’t Say

Based on what DJI says, it would seem that the Phantom 4 camera hasn’t really improved, but I have found some clear differences between the two cameras and so far I’m happy with what I’m seeing. The first thing i noticed right away is that the Phantom 4 has better white balance settings. It adjusts the white balance more accurately and the white balance presets seem to give better results. Here are two images using the sunny white balance preset. The bottom image is the Phantom 4 and the top image is the Phantom 3.

Phantom 3 White Balance

Phantom 4 White Balance

I can’t say for sure, but it seems like there is slightly more dynamic range in the images from the Phantom 4 compared to the Phantom 3. I keep seeing shots where the highlights and midtones are the same is the Phantom 3, but the shadows seem to have more detail. The Phantom 4 also seems to get the exposure right more often. With the Phantom 3, I would try to shoot in full manual mode, but with the Phantom 4 I’m usually just leaving it in auto and setting the white balance.

No optical zoom? No problem!

Although the Phantom 4 didn’t turn out to have optical zoom like we thought, it does have something else. In the DJI Go app, you can now pinch to zoom in and out digitally. This feature is only available on the Phantom 4 and what’s cool about it is that you can get 2x digital zoom in the 2.7K shooting mode. If you’ve ever felt like the wide angle lens on the Phantom was just a bit too wide, this feature is great. Some people might say to just shoot in 4K and zoom in when you get the footage in the editor, but that’s not the best idea and here’s why.

When you shoot in 2.7K and zoom in using the DJI Go app, it’s only recording a small section of the image sensor, so there’s less pixels to compress when it makes the video file. This means you should end up with a cleaner image with less compression artifacts than shooting in 4K and cropping in later.

Is it better in low light?

While doing some test shots for this review, I found something pretty interesting in the DJI Go app. There’s a new setting called 3D noise reduction. This setting is already on by default, but I tried turning it off and notice a pretty big difference in the amount of noise it was pulling out of the image. This is actually a feature that’s only available on the more expensive DJI X5 cameras, but now it’s on the Phantom 4!

Before getting the Phantom 4, I didn’t think it was going to make experienced cinematographers any happier than they are with the Phantom 3. After doing this review though, I feel like it would be worth it to upgrade to the Phantom 4, even if it was just for the improvements I mentioned above.

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