DJI has announced a version of the Phantom 4 – like the Pro and Pro +, it features the 1″ Sony Sensor, larger lens and higher resolutions and bitrates. It is sold without the rear and side obstacle avoidance (I personally don’t use them anyway!) – the good news is that you get the top of the line camera and the other cool stuff – for less money – $1349 (bring your own device) or $1649 with the built-in Android based ChrystalSky Monitor.
Shipping NOW……you can order now at the DJI Store by using this link (info and ordering!)
DJI was kind enough to send us an evaluation (pre-release) model so we could test the new Phantom 4 Advanced + with the built-in CrystalSky Monitor.
What is CrystalSky? Simply speaking, it’s the best and brightest monitor available for consumer and prosumer level drones. DJI says it this way:
“A maximum 2000 cd/m² of brightness means the CrystalSky monitor is more than four times as bright as typical mobile devices. On-screen details are clear and sharp, and colors are vibrant, giving the quality needed to fine tune image composition. A dedicated Sunlight Readability Enhancement mode is especially designed for processing the image in real-time to ensure more comfortable viewing under bright light.
* 5.5” / 7.85” 1000 cd/m2 7.85” Ultra Bright 2000 cd/m2
Resolution: 2048×1536 (7.85’’) / 1920×1080 (5.5’’)
Let’s get back to the CrystalSky in a minute – first, we will describe the new Phantom 4 Advanced so consumers are clear about what they are getting – or not getting. At first glance the P4A looks exactly like the other Phantom 4 models. However, the advanced Sony 1″ Sensor means we can only compare it to the Phantom 4 Pro (and Pro+). We did an extensive review of the Phantom 4 Professional (without CrystalSky), which is located here.
Here are the differences between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Advanced.
- The Phantom 4 Advanced lacks the rear facing optical avoidance cameras – and also the left and right side infrared sensors.
- The Phantom 4 Advanced uses a single frequency (2.4GHZ) for it’s R/C control and image transmission – the Pro model has the option of using 2.4 or 5.8 or both. Note – the Advanced may have less range due to this single frequency.
- The weight of the Phantom 4 Advanced has been shaved down by 20 grams – allowing for slightly longer flight times.
- The Price – as of May, 2017 – is $150 less.
Some in the R/C community have opined that the price difference should be larger – after all, $150 may not be enough enticement to make the “P4P Shoppers” decide to get the P4A instead. This is especially true when some savvy shoppers are able to find discounts on the Pro model…making the difference even less. Pricing on these machines seems to change almost monthly and so I would expect we will end up with the P4A being at about $1300 “Street Price” without the CrystalSky and $1600 with. )P4A+ model) – maybe even less during some sale events.
A Look at CrystalSky
In theory, CrystalSky provides these advantages and more:
1. Phantom is sold as a complete off-the-shelf system.
2. Monitor is purpose-built and has better screen (brightness) than most other devices on the market.
3. DJI can hone the Android (CS uses Android) version of their apps and features on a “reference” device, therefore providing a cleaner interface without the clutter of a multi-purpose monitor.
4, HDMI out is included and additional MicroSD Storage can be installed in the R/C control, giving you more flexibility in terms of memory for various functions.
The 5.5″ included display is stunning – even in direct sunlight. No viewing hood or stepping into the shade is needed. Here are two pictures which give some example of the difference (direct sunlight shining into the monitors). For reference I used an iphone 6s, which has quite a nice screen. I turned both monitors up to full brightness.
The above is a picture of part of the system settings – as you can see, the CS is easier to read.
With a more colorful palette on the screens, the difference is even more noticeable. Check out the difference above for a good maps view.
CrystalSky represents an entire line of monitors – designed and built by DJI (in general) for the prosumer up to the full-blown pro. The offering of the small CS on the P4P+ and P4A+ is a good thing (more options are always good), but at the same time many of the “middle of the road” and other users find their existing devices adequate. As an example, I will probably continue to use an iPad mini on my Phantom 4’s – the reason is partially financial and also because it has a larger screen. Also, being old fashioned, I remember that…for years…some of the top DJI Pilots and Tech people suggested that IOS was a better system for their app. While I don’t expect this to remain true forever, I am usually a year or two behind the curve with my own equipment. Lastly, I use a Mavic Pro with my iphone 6s – so I already have a “small screen” model. All the more reason for my iPad mini to be used on my Phantom 4’s for the present time.
As is often said about such new products – we are only at the beginning!
Note – if you buy a Phantom 4P or 4A with CrystalSky you cannot use it with your other devices – BUT, you can (and many are) buy an additional P4 R/C Controller and use that as before with any compatible device. These R/C controllers are selling for reasonable prices on eBay, classified sections and elsewhere.
Back to the Phantom 4 Advanced Bird
The Phantom 3 and Phantom 4 lines are well documented and reviewed here on our site and at hundreds of other places online. Therefore, we will keep this review short and concentrate mostly on the differences…and if and why you might consider buying one.
The #1 new feature of the Phantom P4P and P4A is the camera. They both use the same larger sensor, better and larger lens and vast numbers of new settings. They have focus – something not available on any of the former P3’s or the first P4. The camera has higher resolution (bigger pics – 20MP) and a higher bitrate (more information taken in) for Video, making it capable of stunning images. Here is a jpeg taken on auto (sized to 50%) with no special editing:
Sample Video Selection from Phantom 4 Advanced
It’s Good – But is is neither Fish nor Fowl? Is $150 enough difference to tempt the Masses?
The decision whether to get a built-in monitor vs. using your device is one which needs to be made prior to purchase. My own opinion – and actually buttressed by an insider in the industry – is that most sales of Phantom 4 models will be “bring your own device”. There are numerous reasons for this – price being one. Also, the multitude of uses that many of us get from our phones and or tablets (text, telephone calls, GPS and other) make it a very flexible setup. On the other hand, those looking for a simpler interface and a RTF (ready to fly) packaged setup may be drawn toward the + models. Personally, I will use my ipad mini…although the screen is not as bright, it is larger and that appeals to these old eyes.
The bigger question is why DJI even made this model. Some customers have been able to buy the Phantom 4 Pro at $100 or larger discounts making the price difference very slight. On the other hand, DJI probably has something in mind. Perhaps they wanted this model at a more competitive price point for the Big Box Stores (Best Buy, etc.) and will also lower the price for some sale events. One can imagine a $1199. Father’s Day Special at Costco or something of the sort which would make the machines literally fly out the door.
As Drone consultants we have to think of these broader issues while also serving our other readers who are comfortable digging around the forums for the “next great deal” and, given the choice, would buy the higher end machine (Phantom 4 Pro). Far be it from me to guess what long term plans the DJI Marketing Dept. has, however the P4A and P4A+ do give them an entire line which could be sold in different channels – everything from local hobby shops to the discount web properties (Woot, NewEgg), etc. and any discount would not hurt the cash cow P4P and P4P+.
As it stands the P4A is the equal in image quality and in most flight systems to the P4P. That makes it the 2nd best consumer camera drone made. Pictures and Video from the machine will be identical to the P4P (the best consumer drone under 2K currently made). Prospective customers, as always are going to have to check their wallets and decide what fits both their budget and their needs.
Remember that the other DJI Models still have some great selling points! The Mavic Pro is outstanding in terms of portability and built in intelligence. For most consumers the pictures and video will be fine!
The original Phantom 4 with the fixed focus lens can also be looked at as a possible advantage to the less skilled photographer. As you step up to the Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro and Advanced, you’ll have to learn more about camera settings, focus and other “prosumer” camera tips.
Think about your needs – and your budget – and make the right decision based on how you intend to use your machine.
Thanks for Reading,
Note – You can support this site by purchasing your drone equipment through our links. For example, the Phantom 4 Advanced reviewed above is available at this link.
The Amazon link to the same machine is below:
Gallery of Still Images from P4A+ – click once or twice for full-size view.
Here is a Dropbox file with these pics (zip) in slightly better quality.