The DJI Phantom Quadcopter Buying Guide

DJI Phantom guide
Guides

By Bob Hammell

*** Edit: the information in this article is outdated. Although the previous model Phantoms are still great machines we suggest you look at the DJI Phantom 3 or the DJI Phantom 4 instead ***

DJI is one of the leading developers and manufacturers of high performing unmanned aerial systems for both recreational and commercial use.

Their DJI Phantom Quadcopter series started a wave of creativity sparked by hardware and technology that give you total freedom in the skies and the tools to take video to a level that is only limited by your imagination.

This series of DJI drones include the following models:

  • Phantom
  • Phantom 2
  • Phantom 2 Vision
  • Phantom 2 Vision+
  • Phantom FC40
  • Phantom 3 (Professional and Advanced)

Which one is the right model for you?

We will take a look at each DJI quadcopter and compare their features and specs so you can make a more informed purchasing decision.

Phantom 1

The Phantom 1 is the most basic quadcopter DJI has to offer and was the first they built. This multi-rotor aircraft is designed for aerial filming. It has a compact and integrated design that makes it easy to tuck away in your backpack should you venture on foot to your recording destination.

It does not come with a camera, however, you can mount a GoPro or any other light and handy camera on the Phantom 1 so you can shoot footage from the air which will bring you a new travel experience. It has two flight control modes, an Attitude Control mode and GPS Attitude achievable due to its Naza-M autopilot system and GPS module.

The Phantom 1 comes equipped with a failsafe function enabled by the Naza-M autopilot system which means if communication between the main controller and the transmitter is lost or disconnected the system will automatically trigger Return To Home and safely land where it took off from. This quadcopter has a maximum flight speed of 10 M/S, includes high intensity LED lights to aid orientation during flight and has a battery capacity that will allow you 10 to 15 minutes of flight time.

The Phantom 1 is still for sale and you can check the price here.

 

Phantom 2

The Phantom 2 is an improved version of the Phantom 1 with a newer design, more advanced technology and a higher capacity 5200mAh lithium polymer battery that offers up to 25 minutes of flight time. This quadcopter has an integrated battery compartment for easy battery replacement and self-tightening propellers.

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Its new advanced technology consists of an integrated GPS auto-pilot system that offers position holding altitude lock and stable hovering which enables you to focus your attention on shooting footage. Additionally the Phantom 2 has an auto Return To Home and One Key Go Home feature. If the Phantom 2 and its controlled were to get disconnected during flight, the Return To Home function which acts as the system’s failsafe protection would activate automatically, detecting if the signal is good enough and then return home and land safely. The One Key Go Home function enables you to setup a specific button so you can activate this feature manually.

Even though neither includes a camera, the Phantom 2 is a significant upgrade from its predecessor. The Phantom 2’s No Fly Zone feature is a testament to that.
In order to improve the flight safety of the Phantom 2 and prevent flights from accidentally ending up in areas that are restricted, new firmware was integrated into the Phantom 2 series which includes the No Fly Zone feature. These zones have been divided into two categories which consist of category A and category B.

The difference is that category A zones are associated with large international airports and have stricter flying limitations than category B zones which are associated with small airports and have less flying limitations. The limitations consist of restricted range and height of flying within the No Fly Zones. This was implemented to help users of the Phantom 2 fly the quadcopter safely and legally. It also testify DJI efforts to keep the quadcopter market out of troubles, even if a stupid pilot last January dared to drove a Phantom over the Istanbul airport! QuadHangar is strongly against this behavior: fly hard fly safe, fly tomorrow again!

The Phantom 2 is still a best-seller quad, check the price here.

 

 

Phantom 2 Vision

The Phantom 2 Vision is a DJI quadcopter that provides a high quality photographic experience by allowing you to take photos and record video. The DJI Vision 2 comes equipped with a high performance camera and a 4GB micro SD card. The camera takes 14 megapixel still photos and records full HD video at 1080p 30/60i. It has camera tilt control so that during flight the camera will be stabilized on the tilt axis, which can easily be remotely controlled through the app, making it simple to use.

Camera settings include Picture Quality, Exposure Compensation, ISO, White Balance, and JPEG or RAW capture which can be adjusted  through the Vision app. You can also monitor real time flight data along with having a live camera view up to a distance of 300m with a Wi-Fi connection to your mobile device. Photos and videos you capture can be sent directly to your phone using Wi-Fi, no PC required.

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The Phantom 2 Vision is often out of stock, check the availability and price here.

 

Phantom 2 Vision Plus

The Phantom 2 Vision Plus adds radar positioning and return home. Its flight radar displays the current position of the Phantom 2 Vision+ in relation to where the pilot is located. If the Phantom 2 Vision+ exceeds the control range of the remote control it will automatically trigger the Return To Home function so the quadcopter will fly back to the point it took off from and land safely.

Like the Phantom 2 Vision, this quadcopter also carries a high quality camera, includes a removable 4G micro SD card and adds a built-in three axis gimbal that helps stabilize the camera while flying, making super-stable videos. It records full HD video at 1080p/30fps and 720/60fps, providing super clear video and also giving you the option to take slow motion videos. The photos are taken at 14 megapixels.

The Phantom 2 Vision+ is the most expensive of the family, check the current price here.

 

Phantom FC40

The Phantom FC40 is arguably the most popular of the series.

It includes its very own built-in DJI designed smart camera that shoots 720p/30fps HD video with support for Android and iOS app control. It provides a full FPV experience up to 100m using a 2.4G Wi-Fi connection. For those getting started with aerial cinematography it is the recommended option.

The Phantom FC40 is compact enough to fit in a backpack and features a new 5.8GHz remote control that will not interfere with the 2.4G
Wi-Fi when in flight. While in First Person View its DJI smart camera has a 10x digital zoom function and the photos you snap can  synchronize to your in-phone photo album.

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The Phantom FC40 will soon be out of stock, check the current price here.

 

DJI Phantom Comparison Chart

Enough talking! Here is QuadHangar comparison chart that provides a visual help you choosing your next quadcopter.

Model

Phantom 1

Phantom FC40

Phantom 2

Phantom 2 Vision

Phantom 2 Vision+

Camera Add-on GoPro Built-in 2.4G Wi-Fi Camera 720p/30fps HD Video Add-on GoPro Built-in 14MP camera 1080p HD video, JPEG/RAW formats Built-in 14MP camera 1080p HD video, FPV link, JPEG/RAW formats
Gimbal None None Add-on None 3-axis stabilization
Image armour hard case armour hard case armour hard case armour hard case armour hard case
Flight Duration 10-15 minutes 10 minutes 25-28 minutes 20-25 minutes 20-25 minutes
Battery 4 AA 4 AA 5,200-mAh lithium polymer (LiPo) 5,200-mAh lithium polymer (LiPo) 5,200-mAh lithium polymer (LiPo)
Remote Control 2.4GHz 5.8GHz 2.4GHz 5.8GHz New 5.8Ghz with smartphone holder
Range 300meter/ 984 feet CE: 400m / FCC: 800m 300meter/ 984 feet CE: 300m / FCC: 500m CE: 400m / FCC: 800m
Size 8 x 17 x 17 inches 18.9 x 13.4 x 4.7 inches 14.6 x 8.3 x 13.2 inches 14.6 x 8.3 x 13.2 inches 12.5 x 8.1 x 17 inches
Price
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Our recommendation

For photography and aerial video, the Phantom 2 has the best price/quality ratio. It also gives the flexibility to choose the gimbal and the camera, creating a configuration that can be upgraded in the future.

The best camera out there at this moment is definitely the GoPro Hero 4 that can create amazing videos 4K resolution also without the drone.

This came more expensive than buy a Phantom 2 Vision or Vision+, but the extra investment is worth. You can also opt for a GoPro Hero 3 and save a couple hundred bucks while keeping the flexibility for future upgrades.

The build-in camera of those models is high quality, but not at the level of the GoPro 3.

If your interest is pure photography and no video, then the best bang for your bucks is the Phantom 2 Vision with its 14MP camera and RAW capture.

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