A Review of the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadracopter 4K-capable drone
DJI's drones are some of the best known and best-selling consumer market quadracopters in existence today, and while competition among other drone makers is heating up, DJI’s rather affordable but decked out machines still have plenty to offer to their users. With the inclusion of 4K ultra HD video cameras, these little quadracopters become even more impressive and manage to grab some truly stunning UHD video footage of their adventures.
Unfortunately, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ doesn’t offer a built-in 4K camera of its own and instead comes with a Full HD gimbal stabilized shooting apparatus. However, attaching a separate 4K UHD action camera like the GoPro Hero 3 or Hero 4 is relatively simple to do. Also, unlike its Phantom 3 cousin, which is more powerful and equipped with 4K video recording out of the box, the Phantom 2 definitely offers a more affordable consumer drone package while looking very similar to and sharing many of the same specs as its newer cousin.
What we really like about the Phantom 2 Vision+ is that it’s almost as easy to set up and easy to pilot as a small drone of this type can be. Furthermore, whether you go for its built-in camera system or opt to attach your own 4K UHD video/photo camera, the Phantom 2 Vision+ offers an excellent platform for shooting videos and photos under all sorts of conditions while maintaining a superb level of stability during even rough flight patterns thanks to its Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal camera system.
Most of all, the Vision+ is well made, robust and really damn fun to fly while also offering a very good battery life for its price. On top of this, it can be set to autonomous flight patterns with no pilot involvement and also comes with a number of built-in security features that do a lot to dramatically avoid the chance of an accidental in-flight crash or fall from the sky.
We also loved the DJI remote control apparatus, which is very similar to the one included with the newer DJI Phantom 3 drone. While it lacks a few of the bonus options of the Phantom 3’s updated control system, this drone’s controller comes with essentially the same mobile device (tablet, smartphone) attachment port which can be used to connect the drone controls and in-flight streaming HD video to a mobile device with the DJI Vision app installed on it. With this, a user can enjoy live video of their flight and adjust course or other variables accordingly with an excellent level of precision.
Finally, the controls themselves are easy to learn, easy to use and very responsive. With just a small amount of field practice, almost anybody could learn how to fly this little camera equipped drone just fine and for most people, flying with excellent precision would be easy in less than a few days.
4.3 - 103 Reviews
On the other hand, the Phantom 2 Vision+ certainly isn’t without a few imperfections. For starters, this machine comes with only one battery included with the basic package, thus forcing you to wait for a recharge any time it runs out. While it would be nice of DJI to include a second spare battery with all of its drones, don’t hold your breath on that with the Phantom 2. Instead, though an annoying extra expense, it would be a good idea to plop down roughly $129 for a second battery from the DJI website itself or from Amazon.com. We should also mention that the recharge time in the Phantom 2’s batteries is a bit on the longer side, which is both another good reason to buy an extra set and one more dislike we have for this particular drone.
Another less than ideal aspect of the Phantom 2 Vision+ is the fact that its built-in camera, while decent, doesn’t offer nearly the same video quality that you could get by attaching a secondary camera like the GoPro Hero 3 or 4. We’d argue that the overall video quality of the native shooter on this drone is about on par with what you’d get from a mid-priced POV photo/video camera and this simply doesn’t compare to the beautifully crisp photos and videos we’ve seen come from the Phantom 3’s much more advanced native 4K shooting apparatus or what you’d get if you replaced the Phantom 2’s native shooter with a Hero camera or something similar.
On the whole, the Phantom 2 Vision+ offers a very complete beginner drone package that, while limited, is definitely a great buy for the price it’s selling at, as long as you don’t mind dealing with the native Full HD video camera that comes with this drone. Going for 4K video shooting will cost you enough extra money that you might as well just splurge on a 4K-equipped Phantom 3 or a Yuneec Typhoon Q500 quadracopter.
Max Ascent/Descent speed: 24 feet per second/ 7 feet per second
Vertical/ Horizontal Hover accuracy: + or – 3 feet/ + or – 8 feet
Max altitude: 19, 685 feet
Flight time: 25 minutes but variable depending on conditions
Flight control: downloadable DJI Pilot app for smartphone with touchscreen camera controls and a physical GPS/GLONASS 50Hz controller
Transmitter Frequency: 2.400 to 2.483 GHz
Connectivity: 1 x USB type A female slot for mobile device interface, 1 x MicroUSB female for firmware updates, 1 x charge port
Camera: Gimbal mounted 12 megapixel video/photo camera with Sony EXMOR sensor
Camera Resolution: up to 4K ultra HD at 3840 x 2160 for video and up to 12 megapixels for photos
Recording Media: microSD/SDXC card up to 64 GB
Gimbal: 3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw)
Weight: 2.86 lbs (with battery and propellers)
Dimensions: 23.2 inches diagonal from prop tip to prop tip
The Phantom 2 Vision+ essentially looks just like its predecessor the Phantom 1 and its successor the Phantom 3. With this model you get the same color coded self-tightening propellers and the same slot-loading battery pack that installs into the side of the drone. In this case of the Phantom 2 Vision+, the underlying camera gimbal package is pretty much identical to that of the Phantom 3 drone but instead of the more robust 4K video camera of the newer model, you get the leaner Full HD version that this quadracopter comes with. The camera’s three-axis gimbal built into the Vision+ is actually quite similar to the gimbal system that’s also available for the GoPro Hero 3 or 4 camera, thus making installation of a Hero very easy.
The drone itself, despite its entirely plastic body, is actually quite a robust little device. The hull barely flexes and gives when being handles and manipulated during assembly or external parts installation and the drone’s four arms feel firm, like they could actually handle even a sharper impact with a tree or the ground. In other words, anything less than something like a high drop onto hard concrete or stone isn’t likely to do anything more than scratch the drones hull, though the light plastic propellers might indeed break apart (but they can be replaced).
Finally, the legs of the Phantom 2 do indeed look rather weak. However, even here we have to say that they perform better than their appearance would suggest and in either case, they’re not designed to and don’t need to be designed to support a lot of weight. As far as protecting the drone from any slightly more serious landing shock goes, this little quadracopters legs are good enough for the job and their light build adds to flight time by saving on weight. Besides, if a leg should break during flight or landing, it can easily be removed with a Philips screwdriver and replaced.
4.3 - 103 Reviews
Setting up the Phantom 2 Vision+ is a pretty simple and straightforward process as far as the usual for these types of drones is concerned. If you’re going to stick with the drone’s built-in camera, there isn’t even a need to go through the process of removing it and attaching a 4K GoPro Hero camera/gimbal setup. Thus, as far as basic out-of-the-box setup goes, the propellers have to be screwed onto the drone according to their very clear markings about which one goes where and how. Furthermore, these props are self-tightening, so even if you didn’t attach them very firmly, they’ll do so on their own as soon as the drone turns on and rotates them.
Before flying the drone, you’ll also have to make sure that the Vision+ battery which is included with the drone is fully charged and that the remote control also has its needed four AA batteries for activation. Furthermore, the wireless range extender needs to have battery power and since the remote control depends on a mobile device for its live video feed and visual controls, the phone or tablet you attach to it has to have a decent charge. The main battery of the Phantom 2 can be powered up with an included wall charger or via a car charger that’s sold separately as an accessory item.
Finally, as we mentioned, the Phantom 2’s visual controls via Android or iOS mobile device screen require the download and installation of the DJI Vision app, which is available from the company website or on Google Play and the Apple App market. Furthermore, given the frequent app and firmware updates that have been given to the Phantom 2 Vision+, users who want their quadracopter and its software accessories to be fully up-to-date will need to install the latest Phantom 2 Vision+ Assistant software from the DJI website to their PC and then connect the copter to that PC via Micro-USB and use the software to ensure that all of the drones firmware is current.
The native camera of the Phantom 2 Vision+ is, as we’d already said, not a 4K ultra HD shooting device. In order to get that sort of performance, you’ll need to buy a third party 4K action camera and possibly even its own gimbal assembly for comfortable fitting. Luckily however, because the drone market is so developed by now (and particularly as far as very popular DJI drones are concerned), accessories abound and getting your hands on a GoPro Hero 3 or Hero 4 drone mounting package is very easy to do online. The same goes for a whole range of other accessories that have to do with the Phantom 2’s flight system, physical design and other aspects.
As for the native camera itself, it comes as a 1080p/720p gimbal-mounted shooter that can shoot Full HD at 20 frames per second and 720p HD at a rather low 60 frames per second. Furthermore it also takes 14 megapixel still photos with a max field of view of 140 degrees. There are also controls for ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. Furthermore, filed of view can be adjusted from its maximum of 140 degrees down to 120, 110 or 90 degree fields. While all of these are decent specs on paper (or on the screen), the problem lies in the simple fact that this droen’s camera doesn’t capture video or photos with nearly the same awesome quality as that of the Phantom 3’s native 4K camera or a GoPro Hero 3 or 4 shooter.
These latter two devices offer not only spectacular, crystal clear 4K video, they also deliver some absolutely awesome imagery at 14 megapixels and with much better color than what the native camera in the Vision+ offers. Users who want the RAW images made by this drone’s native camera will possibly be disappointed by their surprisingly weak quality, which even the GoPro Hero 3 can beat with its own native 14 megapixel JPG photos.
What really becomes obvious about flying the Phantom 2 Vision+ within a few minutes of having the drone in the air is the excellent level of responsiveness the controls offer. Even slight tweaks to the joystick and other remote controls will almost instantly be followed by a corresponding response in the drone regardless of how far away it is within its maximal range from the controller of roughly a mile. In other words, the drone can be controlled in such a way that it feels almost as if it’s an extension of your own body. This may sound a bit like embellishment but the practical effect achieved by the controls really works wonders on ease of maneuver.
Furthermore, learning to fly this little aerial beast is amazingly easy. Once the whole pre-flight setup process and checking of all power charges is done and you’ve got the drone up in the air, confidence in flying it will build with remarkable speed. What helps flight accuracy a lot is the Phantom 2’s satellite connectivity. While this requires some GPS calibration before each flight, it dramatically improves the drone’s ability to know its own relative position and properly orient itself for autonomous flying or a self-directed return to home and even landing.
The Phantom 2 also manages a pretty impressive level of flight time, clocking at a maximum of 25 minutes in the air and a maximum speed of 15 meters (about 60 feet) per second. It can also ascend at a rate of roughly 24 feet per second and maintain a relatively stable holding position in the air with just a couple feet of vertical variation and a few feet of horizontal variation.
On the other hand, the remote controller of the drone doesn’t allow for some of the more complex flight operations that are possible in more advanced DJI and Yuneec drones and until recently, there were also no gimbal controls on the remote itself. DJI has addressed this by releasing a new generation of controllers for the Phantom 2 which do allow for gimbal adjustment through a built-in roller. However, the finer controls of the camera and gimbal are going to be manipulated through the Vision app on your attached smartphone or tablet.
This is one area in which the generally superior Phantom 3 improved things by creating a separate controller for its gimbal-mounted camera, thus allowing a team of users to navigate a single drone with one person running the camera controls and the other person focusing on drone flight at the same time.
The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (the version of the Phantom 2 which comes with camera and gimbal included) is currently retailing on Amazon.com for $1,159.00
4.3 - 103 Reviews
• Excellent simple flight controls
• Easy to use
• Great flight time and speed
• Solid physical design
• Decent price
• Not built-in 4K video camera
• Photo and HD video quality is less than great
• Camera controls are a bit weak