DJI Innovations led the quadcopter industry in 2012/13 with it’s introduction of advanced features and ready-to-fly Phantom models. Up until recently, the choice of a Phantom was quite easy – there was ONE model. However, their offerings have now multiplied into 5 different products. The beginner may become confused when trying to compare the features, benefits and pricing – so Droneflyers.com is going to offer a basic guide to deciding which model may be for you.
UPDATED 4/14 TO INCLUDE NEW PRICING AS WELL AS VISION 2+ MODEL MENTION.
——Phantom Vision 2+ ————
Introduced in April, 2014, the Phantom Vision 2+ sells for approx. $1300 and contains a 3D Gimbal as opposed to the simple tilt arrangement of the Vision 2
Let me start with the “street” pricing – that is, the price that you can expect to pay for the various models. This will help many of you make a decision, as your budget may only allow for spending up to a certain level.
DJI Phantom Quadcopter (original model, slightly updated) – $480 (no camera)
DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter (newer model, more capabilities) – $680 (no camera)
DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter (based on original model, but with low budget camera and FPV) – $550
SALE – $499-$519 including shipping for the FC40 on Amazon (2/2014) – hit this link and the price should show (unless sale is over)
DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter- (current top of the line with better cam and FPV) – LOWERED TO APPROX. $1,000 DUE TO NEW VISION 2+
Let’s go through the major differences in the simplest way possible….
1. Flight Times – The Phantoms with a “2″ in the name feature the new (and expensive) battery capable of keeping the quad in the air for 20 minutes or longer. The other two (Phantom and Phantom FC 40) models have approx 10 minutes flight time.
2. GPS Capabilities – The original and all current Phantom models use built-in GPS for various functions. The well known functions are keeping the quadcopter from drifting too far due to wind, etc. and for the RTH (return to home) function. However, DJI has recently announced various upgrades and apps (for “2″ models only) which promise waypoint control – this means a series of pre-programmed points of flight can be set on your smart phone or tablet and the copter will follow them. UPDATE – This is now available on both Vision and Vision 2+ models. Phantom 2 can be upgraded with the addition of a DJI Bluetooth module to do waypoint (autonomous) flight paths.
3. Photography – Two of the models (Phantom and Phantom 2) come without cameras included. This allows the buyers to mount the camera and gimbal of their choice. Some features are built in allowing easier installation of camera stabilizers (gimbal).
Update – some models of the regular Phantom 2 now come with the camera stabilizer (gimbal), which is separately very expensive! Amazon has the Phantom 2 w/gimbal for about $869 – see this link.
The other two (plus the new vision+) models include cameras, but there are vast differences between the capabilities on the included cam. The Vision has a 14MP Camera which is capable of high resolution still shots and HD video. It also can be tilted in one direction (up and down) from the controller. The FC 40 holds an inexpensive camera for the beginner to have fun with and to get the hand of aerial photography and video. It must be adjusted before you start flying as there is no control over it’s angle when flying.
The new Vision 2+ includes not only the 14MP camera, but a stabilized gimbal which allows it to stay in place as the quad moves and also be pointed in any direction from the ground.
4. FPV – (First Person View) – Both of the Phantoms with cameras feature the ability to let you, from a IOS or Android device on the ground, see what the camera sees. The FPV on the Phantom 2 Vision has a much longer range (300 meters as opposed to 100 on the FC 40) as well as many more control options.
FPV would have to be added (by the user) to other models. This is a semi-technical undertaking, even when purchasing items designed for it.
5. Software compatibility – as of the writing of this article (mid- 2014), DJI has released a Mac version of their DJI update assistant software.
Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to recognize the Phantom models easily. The Phantom 2 and Phantom 2 Vision have a much larger battery protrusion on the front of the copter, while the Phantom and Phantom FC40 has a relatively small door. The Vision has large round Camera, while the FC 40′s is square with rounded edges.
Note that this article is for those relatively new to the hobby. Those who wish to do various modification and additions can make most any of these Phantoms do MANY other tricks. However, if you are looking for a ready-to-fly Phantom, the information above should give you something to get started with.
Our recommendations – As a site for beginners, we generally do not suggest buying a higher priced and more sophisticated machine as your first quad. It’s better to learn the basics of flying and the technology involved on a low-cost and possibly indoor (depending on your weather and flying room) quadcopter like the Hubsan X4 or others suggested in our beginner articles. However, for those who want to use a machine primarily for photography and video, a Phantom could be a great 2nd quadcopter. You’ll have to check your budget – and use the Droneflyers maxim “don’t fly anything more expensive than you can afford to lose!”. My own take on that is that the stock Phantom at about $475 and a Mobius camera (about $80) provides a nice platform for experimentation – and although I don’t want to lose $550 in the mill pond, it won’t feel as bad as losing $1200. As always, think carefully and research as to exactly what you want to do with the quadcopter – and let that guide your decision.
As mentioned above, in April 2014 DJI announced the Vision 2+ model, which seems to be superior to the older vision due to the 3D gimbal which is included. Click this sentence for an Amazon link to the new product.
So that’s the scoop – check your needs and check your budget and make your decision! All the models are linked to below (Amazon links)….in descending order of price!
NEW- Phantom Vision 2+
Phantom Vision 2
Phantom 2 w/o camera (may include camera gimbal which auto-levels the camera!)
Phantom FC 40 (FPV Cam)