When DJI released the first Phantom at the end of 2012 the company singlehandedly created a new standard in mid-sized, consumer-grade quadcopters equipped with GOS functionality.
Since that time, the company has grown fast and invested in R&D projects that include the DJI Inspire 1 (see full review here) – perhaps the best professional-grade flying camera on the market.
The Phantom 2 Vision+ brings many of these same innovations to the company’s consumer-grade product line.
Combining lessons learned from previous iterations of the Phantom product line, DJI installed its own HD camera mounted on a Zenmuse 3-axis gimbal for video recording quality that is yet unmatched in the consumer-grade quadcopter space.
In addition to providing more accurate tilt ad pan functions, the new gimbal system corrects for horizontal, vertical, and angular shake (older Phantom models relied only on a rubber platform to ward off vibration).
The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ offers a ton of premium features at a reasonable price but is it really the ultimate consumer-grade quadcopter?
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Overview of the Phantom 2
Much like its predecessor, the Phantom 2 Vision, the Vision+ offers many high-end features designed to make getting into the air as easy possible regardless of skill and experience level.
Some of these features include color-coded propellers that are self-tightening and a slot-loading battery pack (no connectors to mess with), and the quadcopter boasts flight times of nearly 25 minutes (one of the longest flight times of any modern flying camera).
The Vision+ is equipped with a powerful camera capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps (or 720p at 60fps) using an f2.8 lens coupled to a 14 MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor.
Image can be stored in DNG RAW or JPEG formats. It’s worth noting that while the camera looks different than the one installed on the original Phantom 2 Vision, the specs are about the same.
The primary difference is that the Vision+ boasts the same 3-axis gimbal found on the professional-grade DJI Inspire 1. Even with sudden movements, the gimbal actively stabilized the camera so video always looks smooth.
This is a huge improvement over previous Phantom models and is what truly sets this model apart as a serious contender for the title of top consumer quadcopter.
Out of the box, the Phantom 2 Vision+ is nearly ready-to-fly. The propellers need to be installed but they are color-coded and self-tighten as soon as the quadcopter takes off.
The batteries and wireless range extender need to be charged, the Vision+ app needs to be installed on a compatible iOS or Android device, and the radio control needs to have four AA batteries installed.
It’s also worth mentioning that there have been numerous firmware updates to the Phantom 2 Vision+ in the last several months aimed at improving performance – a few minutes should be taken to install the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Assistant software for PC or Mac to ensure no firmware updates are available for the drone prior to the first flight.
Phantom 2 Performance
One of the features that makes the Phantom so easy to fly – even for pilots without any prior quadcopter experience – is the built-in DJI Naza-M flight control system. This system combines a barometric altimeter, inertia sensor, compass, GPS, and LED flight indicators.
After a quick calibration of the compass (something that needs to be done before every flight), the Phantom 2 Vision+ is ready for takeoff and with the Naza-M flight control system working seamlessly behind the scenes, stable flight is easy for anyone to master within just a few minutes behind the controls.
With everything setup properly, the Phantom is ready for liftoff. Although this model doesn’t offer automatic takeoff and landing functionality like other models in this price range, the Naza flight control system will regulate the throttle for the first few seconds after takeoff.
Although the heavier gimbal and camera setup sometimes make the Phantom want to drop a few feet from time to time, Naza-M will recover on its own within a few seconds of hovering and the remainder of the flight should be trouble-free.
Once airborne, the most notable feature of the Phantom 2 is how well the gimbal system works when stabilizing the camera. Even abrupt movements of the controls do not result in a shaky image making the Phantom 2 an excellent choice for those fast actions shots from above.
In terms of durability, the Phantom 2 is relatively tough considering that it weighs nearly three pounds. That said, props on this model tend to break easily during a crash so plan on having an extra few props available if you plan on shooting a lot of footage in a day.
The heavy weight of the Phantom does provide additional flight stability during windy conditions – something that smaller quadcopters (such as the Parrot Bebop) struggle with. Although the added weight can result in harder landings, the added stability is certainly worth it.
The GPS feature of this quadcopter is top of the line and provides pilots with tons of useful features including a return home function should the drone lose contact with the radio control for any reason and the ability to set up to 16 waypoints along the route just by tapping on the smartphone or tablet screen.
With a top speed of 33 MPH and flight times of up to 25 minutes when flying conditions are optimal, the Phantom 2 Vision+ can get from place to place quickly. That said, the quadcopter only has a range of about 800 meters (0.5 miles).
Many of the newer DJI products, such as the Inspire 1, have a range of over one mile. Still, for the entry-level price of this unit and the high-end features that come pre-installed, the limited range of the aircraft won’t matter too much to many pilots.
If you are looking for a quadcopter that is ready-to-fly out of the box and doesn’t require any tinkering to “just work”, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ could be exactly what you’re looking for.
The included camera and gimbal system works very well and serves as an excellent entry-level flying camera setup with solid video and photos.
That said, the unit cannot be upgraded with a different camera like the Phantom 2 so you’re stuck with the included equipment. And for just a few hundred dollars more, the DJI Inspire 1 offers a much better camera as well as other features not included in the Phantom 2 Vision+ package.
- All-in-one design makes it easy to setup and use right out of the box (no prior experience necessary)
- RAW photo support (14 MP)
- Live smartphone/tablet video feed
- Complete control of camera in-flight using DJI Vision+ app (iOS and Android version available)
- Incredibly long flight times (up to 25 minutes)
- Camera cannot be upgraded
- No microphone for in-flight audio support
- Wireless range extender needs to be charged separately from the control unit
- Transmitter range rather limited in this price range (800 meters)
The DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ is an exceptional piece of equipment that meets the expectations of enthusiasts who have come to expect a high-quality, RTF product from DJI.
With the latest firmware upgrades applied to the quadcopter, the flight control and camera systems work flawlessly and make it easy for just about anyone to pick up the controls and be flying around safely within a few minutes.
As your piloting and photography skills increase, however, you may become frustrated by the camera quality and be forced to purchase a different quadcopter just to take advantage of the latest video equipment and functionality.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!