UPDATED 11/20/2014 – DJI Innovations led the quadcopter industry in 2012/13 with it’s introduction of advanced features and ready-to-fly Phantom models. Until recently, the choice of a Phantom was quite easy – there was ONE model. However, their offerings have now multiplied into many 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.
Some models were upgraded in November, 2014 – deals are available on the old models in some cases – be an educated customer and read about the upgrades here.
Please note – we have recently published an ebook with a vast amount of information about all 5 models – it will very likely save you time and money BEFORE you make a buying decision. The book is available as a paperback or ebook at Amazon – click this link to see the new book.
Guide to 2014 DJI Phantom Models
DJI is currently offering five models of the Phantom – 2 are built on the original Phantom platform and 3 are built on the newer “2” Platform.
Built on the Original Phantom Platform:
Phantom 1 – the original Phantom, updated with various improvements. (Amazon Link)
Phantom FC40 – Built on the Phantom 1 platform, the FC40 adds a camera and FPV (Smartphone or tablet view) with limited functionality. (Amazon Link)
Built on the Phantom 2 Platform – longer battery life, larger payloads:
Phantom 2 – Improved Phantom with large capacity battery and longer flight times. (Amazon Link)
Phantom 2 Vision – Phantom 2 with 14MP Tilt Camera (Amazon Link)
Phantom 2 Vision + – Phantom 2 with Video Stabilization Gimbal and 14MP Camera (Our Review – Amazon Link – NEWEST MODEL)
Pictorial Descriptions – Know your Phantoms!
The Phantom 1 and FC 40 have a rectangle shaped plastic battery door on the front and a large single round status LED on the rear. The FC40 model (shown) has an included camera, while the Phantom 1 comes with a small plastic GoPro holder but no camera.
The Phantom 2 series has a very large slide-in battery on the rear with 4 slot LED’s on it as well as an on-off button. The basic P2 comes without a camera, while the cameras for the Vision and Vision+ are shown above.
Approx. selling prices for the current line in US Dollars are given below:
DJI Phantom Quadcopter (original model, slightly updated) – $480 (no camera)
(Note- DJI does not show this model any longer on their site – it is available from other sources – BUT, there are some deals on the Phantom 2 (older model) as low as $500, so that is a better buy)
DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter (original model, slightly updated) – $500 (basic camera)
DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter (newer model, more capabilities) – $680 (no camera or gimbal “bare” with one battery – newer model)
DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter- (current top of the line with better cam and FPV) – LOWERED TO APPROX. $800 DUE TO NEW VISION 2+
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter- (current top of the line with camera gimbal and FPV) – $1200+
The DJI Web site has Black Friday (and probably some ongoing seasonal) discounts – as well as worldwide shipping and the newest upgraded models – here is a link (select the products tab at the web site).
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 “Vision” models only) which are capable of 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.
3. Photography – Two of the models (Phantom and bare Phantom 2) come without cameras included. This allows the buyers to mount the camera and/or gimbal of their choice.
The FC40 and 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 – DJI has released both PC and Mac versions of their DJI update assistant software.
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!”.
As always, think carefully and research as to exactly what you want to do with the quadcopter – and let that guide your decision. I enjoy still photography as opposed to video, so I choose the basic Phantom model and mount various cameras (Canon s100, GoPro, etc.) on it. However, if I wanted to do serious video, I’d choose the Phantom 2 Vision+ due to the camera gimbal which makes the video almost perfectly stable.
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!
NOTE: Some Phantom 2 models were updated in November, 2014 to include heavier-duty motors, better propellers and a new transmitter and compass with improvements. You may want to specify (to your choice of vendors) that you want the newest model (sometimes designated as version 3). One way of confirming that you have the newest model is that it has a rechargeable LiPo battery in the transmitter.
Also, you can purchase worldwide – with free shipping – direct from the DJI Web Store. This way you are sure of getting the newest models (Phantom 2 models were recently upgraded!). They also have some discounts, free shipping and holiday specials. Click here for the official DJI store.
NEW- Phantom Vision 2+
This is the NEW AND MORE POWERFUL model – it costs a little more, but it’s worth it. You can get the old model for about $100 less, but we suggest the newer model due to more stability and other improvements.
Phantom Vision 2
Phantom 2 w/o camera (may include camera gimbal which auto-levels the camera!)
Phantom FC 40 (FPV Cam)