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Review: DJI Phantom 2 Vision, a high-end iPhone-compatible flying camera drone

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
With the iPhone-connected drone craze in full effect, AppleInsider decided to put to the test one of the most advanced, Apple-friendly prosumer aerial cameras available today: the DJI Phantom 2 Vision.




Like many other drones, the Phantom 2 Vision is a radio-controlled quadcopter that connects with Apple's iOS ecosystem of devices. But unlike many other options, it includes a dedicated physical controller, a stabilized HD fisheye-lens camera, GPS positioning for steady flight and emergency returns, and a Wi-Fi booster to aid connectivity with an iPhone or iPad at long range.

It's this added functionality that places the DJI model at the higher end of the consumer-level drone market, both in terms of specifications and price. While a maxed-out Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition, complete with HD camera and GPS, sells for $299.99, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision costs four times that, at $1,199.

In other words, while the Parrot Drone might be classified as a more recreational toy, the DJI Phantom lineup is intended for more serious users who want to shoot high-quality photos and video from the air.

For the purpose of this review, DJI loaned AppleInsider the standard Phantom 2 Vision package with an included 4 gigabyte micro SD card and a single smart battery. New orders of the Phantom 2 Vision are currently advertised to come with a free second battery, which we were not provided.



Tech specs



The Phantom 2 quadcopter boasts integrated GPS which allows for position holding, offering a more stable picture than competing drones. The GPS radio also allows the drone to automatically return home in the event that the drone loses connection with the controller.

The included Wi-Fi range extender, which is advertised to have a communication distance of 300 meters, connects to an app built for Apple's iPhone, allowing real-time viewing of the Phantom 2 Vision camera, as well as flight information such as distance, altitude, speed, battery level and GPS signal strength. The integrated camera can also be tilted up or down with the dedicated app, and videos and pictures can be snapped through the touchscreen controls.




The fisheye camera will snap 14-megapixel photos with field of view options ranging from 140 degrees to 90 degrees. It includes a 1/2.3" sensor size, while HD video can be recorded at 30 frames per second in 1080p, or 60 frames per second 1080i.

DJI says that a variety of 46MM lens filters are "coming soon," and will be attachable to the front of the camera lens, though we were not able to test these out. There is an official lens profile from Adobe available for the Phantom 2 camera, allowing users to remove lens distortion caused by fisheye.


Sample shot taken with DJI Phantom 2 Vision camera.


Perhaps most impressive is that the Phantom 2 Vision manages to accomplish all of this on an advertised flight time of 25 minutes on a single 5200mAh LiPo battery charge. In our tests, we found that the drone does in fact live up to these estimates, though the connected app on our iPhone would begin warning us once the device reached less than one-third of its remaining charge, making us extra cautious in pushing the limits.

Cheaper versions of the Phantom lineup sans camera can be purchased, but they lack the tilt controls and stabilization features found with the built-in camera found on the Vision model. There are various mounts available that allow third-party cameras, such as a GoPro, to be attached to the bottom of the unit.



Setup



The DJI Phantom 2 Vision comes mostly assembled, with the high-definition camera already attached and minimal hardware-related effort required for takeoff. Inside the box are the drone, two sets of four plastic blades for flight, an advanced rechargeable battery, a dedicated physical controller, Wi-Fi signal booster to allow live video on an iPhone, and a clamp to hold the iPhone (or another smartphone) in place on the controller.

But before we took to the skies, we wanted to make sure we were running all of the latest software, lest we crash and break our $1,200 flying drone.

Updating the firmware on the Phantom itself was relatively simple. The unit has a micro USB port on the back that we plugged into our Mac, then we downloaded and launched the Phantom 2 Vision Assistant Software, which automatically updated everything as needed.

Everything seemed simple enough, until it was time to update the firmware on the controller itself. While an instructional video on DJI's site shows a micro USB port on the bottom of the controller, there was none to be found on our unit.




It was only after we read through the manual that we learned that some versions of the controller require disassembly to access the USB port inside the device. Once we discovered this, we took apart the controller, plugged it in to our Mac, and launched the Vision Assistant Software. Nothing.

Some searching around online revealed that updating the controller requires separate software, named Phantom RC Assistant Software. As it turns out, this application was not yet available for Mac.

Since our initial experience, DJI has in fact released a Mac-specific controller update. The company also informed us that new orders of the Phantom should feature an external USB port on the controller unit. We'll give them a pass on these issues, but our initial struggles should be noted.




While the firmware process was a bit of a headache with controller, setting up the Phantom drone itself was thankfully a great experience. The four plastic blades that lift the device into the air come with a rather ingenious design: The self-tightening blades can simply be screwed on by hand, allowing users to easily transport the unit without protruding blades, and then assemble and fly their drone on the go with minimal effort.

And while we wouldn't call the Phantom "small," it is portable enough that we could easily fit it inside of a backpack with the propellers removed and bring it with us on the go. Once we were at our destination, we simply attached the propellers, fired up the drone and remote, and took off with ease. Packing it back up requires a special wrench that helps remove the blades.

Control and flight



Let's get it out of the way: This thing is fun.

The DJI Phantom 2 Vision is stable in the air, it's fast, and it's incredibly easy to control. After a quick compass and GPS calibration, with completion signaled by colored lights on the back side of the drone, we were off and flying in no time.




The real key here is the physical controller, powered by four AA batteries, which allows for precise and comfortable control. In short, it's great and incredibly easy to figure out.

The left stick controls ascent and descent by pushing up and down, while the "yaw" of the drone can be rotated left or right accordingly. The right stick controls forward and backward motion, as well as strafing left or right.




Flying is a breeze. After carefully getting the Phantom airborne, we were soon zipping around, doing low flyovers, going under obstacles and bringing it in for a safe, soft landing.

We did notice that the Phantom was quick to lose GPS signal, but thankfully the unit notifies this not only on the iPhone app, but also through indicator lights on the back of the unit. We were surprised how easily it would lose signal with cover over head -- for example, while flying under the Washington Square Arch in Manhattan, and under a low bridge in Central Park, the GPS connection was lost immediately.

The 25-minute flight time on a single charge was more than enough for us to get the kinds of shots we were interested in. For a professional or serious enthusiast, we think two fully-charged smart batteries would do the trick --?50 minutes should be enough time to get what you need.




The "smart" battery also includes its own LED lights on the back, allowing users to check the status of it before it's even plugged into the Phantom. The battery could be completely recharged in a little over an hour when plugged into the wall.

Camera quality on the integrated shooter was mostly good, though we found that the Phantom 2 Vision did not perform as well in low-light situations as a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition. Video quality became somewhat grainy on an overcast day, but photos and video looked vibrant and great as long as we were shooting on a bright day.



In terms of braving the elements, we came away thoroughly impressed with the Phantom 2 Vision. We were at first reluctant to try the device on a snowy day in Manhattan, but searches online showed comments from users who said that their drone operated just fine even in rain (not that we would recommend doing this). So, we decided to give it a shot.

The Phantom not only handled snow and wind with ease, but it even fared impressively when we tested it in more extreme conditions: -25 Fahrenheit while in the mountains of Banff in Alberta, Canada. Exposed to these temperatures, our iPhone completely shut down and made us lose control of the camera, and yet the DJI Phantom 2 Vision kept right on flying with no troubles (though we kept it close by, just in case).




We did experience one low-altitude collision, where the propellers clipped an obstacle, and we're are happy to report that there was no visible damage to the unit. Just try not to get it stuck in a tree, or crashing into something at a high altitude, and we think you'll be OK pushing the limits with the Phantom.

iOS integration



The main reason we wanted to test the DJI Phantom 2 Vision was to see how it ties into Apple's iOS ecosystem. Once connecting to the signal of the Wi-Fi range booster attached to the top of the drone's remote control, we were able to launch the dedicated DJI Vision application on our iPhone 5s and see exactly what the Phantom's camera was seeing.

Setup and connection to the camera is relatively easy, though we found it sometimes had difficulty connecting if we did things out of order. For example, turning on the drone first, then the Wi-Fi repeater, then the controller would allow us to properly connect, but a few times we forgot and powered things on in the wrong order, we couldn't get our iPhone to connect.




There is a slight amount of lag in transmitting the live video over Wi-Fi to the iPhone, which is understandable. But the live video feed becomes incredibly important as the Phantom gets to high altitudes or far distances.

More than a few times, we flew the drone so high or so far away that it was nothing but a speck in the distance, and telling what direction it was facing was impossible. In these situations, we found ourselves relying on the live feed on our iPhone to pilot the drone, and in these instances it worked very well.

Piloting by iPhone is aided by onscreen indicators with a compass, altitude, speed, battery and more. We wouldn't want to try any advanced maneuvers in tight spaces while piloting via the iPhone, but for open areas at long or high distances, we could fly with confidence.

Controlling the camera via the iPhone application is also great. The camera can be tilted up or down with touchscreen controls, while shooting settings can also be changed. Users can of course snap pictures with a tap, or start and stop video recordings.

The DJI Vision app can also be used to transfer photos and videos from the camera to the iPhone's Photos application. Content is also stored onboard the unit with a micro SD card slot on the rear of the camera. While transferring pictures over Wi-Fi is acceptable, we imagine most users will copy large HD video files to their Mac or PC direct from the micro SD card.

Unfortunately, one feature we were really looking forward to testing isn't yet available. DJI plans to update its official iPad app to allow Phantom 2 owners to be able to chart a GPS path on a map, allowing the drone to fly a set course a number of times and giving videographers the ability to get the best shot possible.

There are some other DJI products that do offer this functionality, but an update for the company's iPad "Ground Station" app was not yet available during our testing. We believe this will be a great selling point for the product, if it works as advertised whenever it launches.

Conclusion



At $1,200, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision isn't cheap --?but you get what you pay for. This drone is easy to fly, well made and durable, and really performs, whether at high altitudes or in low temperatures -- or both simultaneously.

Anyone looking to casually fly a drone for fun and occasionally snap amazing aerial footage will automatically be turned off by the price tag. For those people, we recommend checking out the Parrot AR Drone ($299.99), which is the most common choice available today.

If you're a professional photographer, or someone who is especially serious about getting great aerial footage, though, the Phantom 2 Vision is easy to recommend. We expect the platform to become even better when support for the Ground Station iPad app launches, whenever that may be.

That's not to say the unit was without issues: We had a few minor hiccups connecting our iPhone to the camera over Wi-Fi, and low-light footage proved somewhat grainy. In addition, our controller did not ship with an external micro USB port. DJI, however, has assured us that new orders will feature an accessible external port for easy firmware upgrades.

But perhaps the most annoying experience we had with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision had nothing to do with the device itself. Instead, it's the crowd it attracts.

Literally every time we took to the skies, people would gather around us. As it turns out, having a somewhat creepy looking drone buzzing overhead tends to grab people's attention.




Most everyone that we talked to were fascinated by the Phantom 2 Vision, and wanted to know the product's name, price, and where they could buy one. We spent almost as much time fielding questions as we did flying the drone.

This might explain why the Phantom 2 Vision comes with its own stack of business cards. It turns out, it's a product that sells itself.

And rightfully so. This drone is extremely fun and easy to fly, it captures spectacular aerial footage, and a single charge is adequate enough to get what most people would be interested in shooting. If you're not scared off by the price, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision is easy to recommend.

Pros

  • Easy to fly, especially with a dedicated physical controller and integrated GPS
  • Included Wi-Fi booster allows iPhone connectivity and live viewing at up to 300 meters
  • Well-built, fun, durable, powerful, and boasts relatively impressive battery uptime


Cons

  • At $1,200, we wish the integrated camera were slightly better in lower-light situations
  • Support for DJI's iPad course-plotting app is coming, but when?


Score: 4 out of 5



ratings_hl_40.png

Where to buy



DJI is running a special promotion for the Phantom 2 Vision that includes an extra battery pack worth $160 with each purchase. The $1,199 bundle is available at Amazon, where it is tax-free in all states but AZ, CA, KS, KY, MA, NC, NJ, NY, ND, PA, TX, and WA.

B&H Photo is also offering the free smart battery, and is tax-free outside of NY.

Adorama is also selling the DJI Phantom 2 Vision, but does not offer the free $160 battery. Tax is only charged on their orders when shipped to NY & NJ.
post #2 of 56
Pull! BOOM!
post #3 of 56
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
Vision did not perform as well in low-light situations as a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition.

 

Two possible solutions:

 

1. GoPro could add a video-out port to a future model that the Vision quad-copter could use.

 

2. GoPro could buy DJI.

Sent from my iPhone Simulator

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Sent from my iPhone Simulator

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post #4 of 56
Have they fixed the battery issue where the unit just drops out of the sky without warning? Wanted to get one, but watching a $1200 toy drop into the ocean isn't really fun.
post #5 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post

Pull! BOOM!
C'mon..man up ..."MARK"...jus go for the high house, it's a high flyer ; > /
post #6 of 56

When I saw the videos, I thought that the one area in which it falls down in is the aerial footage. It's constantly jerky and quickly becomes wearing to watch. To that extent, it's an expensive toy. I'm sure it's great fun to play with.

"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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"If the young are not initiated into the village, they will burn it down just to feel its warmth."
- African proverb
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post #7 of 56
I don't know why they didn't list my site as well. Head over to dronesetc.com and on top of the free battery, we're offering free overnight shipping.
post #8 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

Two possible solutions:

1. GoPro could add a video-out port to a future model that the Vision quad-copter could use.

2. GoPro could buy DJI.

DJI already sells a model that's compatible with a GoPro camera and on top of that, uses a gimbal to eliminate any movement. It's just the standard Phantom 2. We sell it for 869.00 which includes the gimbal, no sales tax outside of Utah, and free overnight shipping. www.dronesetc.com
post #9 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Have they fixed the battery issue where the unit just drops out of the sky without warning? Wanted to get one, but watching a $1200 toy drop into the ocean isn't really fun.

Virtually every case I've seen with any of our customers who have suffered from what's called a "fly away", only happened because they didn't calibrate the compass before flying. These drones have several safety features in place to virtually eliminate any chance of them failing, as long as you operate them correctly. www.dronesetc.com
post #10 of 56

I consider "drone" the wrong descriptor for this device. It's not really different from a radio-controlled helicopter or plane, so I'd call it an "R/C model" or "R/C quadrocopter".


Edited by SpamSandwich - 3/15/14 at 5:48pm

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GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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post #11 of 56
It's nothing like a traditional R/C helicopter or plane. The Phantom series of drones from DJI can fly totally autonomously, thereby making them drones.
post #12 of 56

What kind of insurance is required? I know in California, flying model aircraft is not allowed in state parks without liability insurance and a permit.

 

I like this unit very much and could see someone developing a nice business around it such as for high end real estate sales promotions.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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post #13 of 56
Really cool. I'm happy with my AR.drone for the price, but it's neat seeing higher end options!
post #14 of 56

I was just checking their website and they have professional units too like for $10K and you still have to add your own camera such as Red.

 

The Phantom 2 (no vision) for $699 looks nice too especially if you already have a GoPro H3. I am planning to buy a GoPro with the next model release. Maybe I'l spring for the DJI at that time.

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post #15 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

What kind of insurance is required? I know in California, flying model aircraft is not allowed in state parks without liability insurance and a permit.

 

I like this unit very much and could see someone developing a nice business around it such as for high end real estate sales promotions.

 

That might now be possible following the recent ruling that the FAA do not have legal authority to outlaw commercial drone use. They are appealing that decision though.

post #16 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

I was just checking their website and they have professional units too like for $10K and you still have to add your own camera such as Red.

 

The Phantom 2 (no vision) for $699 looks nice too especially if you already have a GoPro H3. I am planning to buy a GoPro with the next model release. Maybe I'l spring for the DJI at that time.

 

Especially with the new LightBridge dual control and HD FPV link that seems to have a range of at least one mile.

post #17 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

What kind of insurance is required? I know in California, flying model aircraft is not allowed in state parks without liability insurance and a permit.

I like this unit very much and could see someone developing a nice business around it such as for high end real estate sales promotions.

Or for taking photos of celebrities for supermarket tabloids.
post #18 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by quinney View Post
 
Or for taking photos of celebrities for supermarket tabloids.

I would have never thought of that but I could imagine photographers having on-board weaponry to shoot down or electronic jamming competing paparazzi, sort of like kite fighting. 

 

Seriously I could probably pay for this equipment in a month just taking aerial video of my friends' coffee plantations for promotional purposes.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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post #19 of 56

Reading more about the Adobe lens distortion correction plugin, I'm not so sure I like the P2 Vision camera since the lens correction only applies to Raw files, apparently not to video, That fish eye lens is really distorted. I suppose it depends on the aperture/ FOV settings and all, but I'm thinking more towards the GoPro version instead.

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post #20 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

When I saw the videos, I thought that the one area in which it falls down in is the aerial footage. It's constantly jerky and quickly becomes wearing to watch. To that extent, it's an expensive toy. I'm sure it's great fun to play with.

I noticed that too.

You could compensate by adding a gimbal -- but that would increase weight, battery and cost.

You can mitigate the problem by post processing the video.

Here's a short comparison showing a quick and dirty image stabilization with Final Cut Pro X. The areas under the bridge and the arch shows the difference best:



You can do a lot finer stabilization by spending a little time with the various settings.

FCPX can compensate for low light and punch up the video too!,


Edit: Oops, Sorry -- I originally posted this to YT as private ... OK, now!
Edited by Dick Applebaum - 3/15/14 at 4:18pm
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post #21 of 56

Thanks Neil! Interesting review! May I humbly ask a delicate question or two?

 

First, some of the footage looked a little jerky. Would you attribute that primarily to a new user becoming familiar with the unit, or to it being an inexpensive lightweight device with less-than-completely-professional controls? In other words, if I want totally smooth performance, am I likely to get it from this unit with practice or should I budget for a "professional" craft?

 

Second, if you were spending your own money, would you buy the version you tested or the GoPro version? I'm guessing you sacrifice the tilt capability if you use the GoPro?

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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post #22 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post
 

Thanks Neil! Interesting review! May I humbly ask a delicate question or two?

 

First, some of the footage looked a little jerky. Would you attribute that primarily to a new user becoming familiar with the unit, or to it being an inexpensive lightweight device with less-than-completely-professional controls? In other words, if I want totally smooth performance, am I likely to get it from this unit with practice or should I budget for a "professional" craft?

 

Second, if you were spending your own money, would you buy the version you tested or the GoPro version? I'm guessing you sacrifice the tilt capability if you use the GoPro?

 

The GoPro version is on a 2-axis gimbal, so has full tilt and rotation, and is also rather better stabilized as a result.

post #23 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

 
Thanks Neil! Interesting review! May I humbly ask a delicate question or two?

First, some of the footage looked a little jerky. Would you attribute that primarily to a new user becoming familiar with the unit, or to it being an inexpensive lightweight device with less-than-completely-professional controls? In other words, if I want totally smooth performance, am I likely to get it from this unit with practice or should I budget for a "professional" craft?

Second, if you were spending your own money, would you buy the version you tested or the GoPro version? I'm guessing you sacrifice the tilt capability if you use the GoPro?

The GoPro version is on a 2-axis gimbal, so has full tilt and rotation, and is also rather better stabilized as a result.

I haven't bought a GoPro yet.

With a gimbal, donut you need weights to counterbalance the unit to reduce stabilization.

Also, isn't the current GoPro limited as far as attaching additional lenses?


Don't get me wrong, the GoPro seems a great value for the money -- but I can't justify it.
"Swift generally gets you to the right way much quicker." - auxio -

"The perfect [birth]day -- A little playtime, a good poop, and a long nap." - Tomato Greeting Cards -
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"Swift generally gets you to the right way much quicker." - auxio -

"The perfect [birth]day -- A little playtime, a good poop, and a long nap." - Tomato Greeting Cards -
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post #24 of 56
This is about the most one-sided review I've ever seen. I own a Phantom. The original model which flies the same but has a shorter battery life. I also purchased the Zenmuze Gimbal and the GoPro camera. I had a project I was working on.

It is "relatively" easy to fly but it is really hard to maneuver. If you Google some realistic reviews of this setup what you'll realize what this means is you can make it go up and down, left and right just fine. But try to get a particular shot at a particular angle is very hard to do. The reason for this is you are flying in three dimensions. Even from 30-40 feet away it gets very hard to tell which is the front of the machine and if you are trying to turn and keep it oriented in space it is hard to do. It also gets hard to judge distance when you are not near it. I've crashed mine into trees and bushes when I thought there was still lots of distance to the obstacle. The very hardest The best example is try to point this thing at a person and fly around the person in a circle while photographing them. It is almost impossible because of the way you have to work both joy sticks and keep it rotating and going around.

It was fun to use and it gets a lot of attention from bystanders. But it is very frustrating and scary for fear you'll break it. It takes a lot of work to get good steady shots (that ski area shot is a good example and is shaky as hell) and because of the price, think long and hard before you buy one. It is a expensive toy with limited use. Mine now mostly collects dust.
Edited by MidwestAppleFan - 3/17/14 at 5:36am
post #25 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post
 
Don't get me wrong, the GoPro seems a great value for the money -- but I can't justify it.

 

It's a great two- or three-trick-pony. Its benefit is decent quality in a tiny package at an affordable price. When you need that, it's hard to think of something better. BUT, when you need a long lens or decent audio or green-screen or a zoom or running handheld… there are better choices.

 

When the situation calls for it, having a GoPro is awesome. I just wouldn't want it to be my only camera.


Edited by Lorin Schultz - 3/15/14 at 4:41pm

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

Reply

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

Reply
post #26 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

 
What kind of insurance is required? I know in California, flying model aircraft is not allowed in state parks without liability insurance and a permit.

I like this unit very much and could see someone developing a nice business around it such as for high end real estate sales promotions.

That might now be possible following the recent ruling that the FAA do not have legal authority to outlaw commercial drone use. They are appealing that decision though.

Ha! Crazy California!

San Francisco is considering a ban on releasing butterflies at weddings and other events.

http://rt.com/usa/san-francisco-butterfly-ban-781/


Every year when my daughter plants her garden she buys and releases several containers of lady bugs -- a totally natural way to reduce pests like aphids.


Sigh, I suppose that'll be banned next.
"Swift generally gets you to the right way much quicker." - auxio -

"The perfect [birth]day -- A little playtime, a good poop, and a long nap." - Tomato Greeting Cards -
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"Swift generally gets you to the right way much quicker." - auxio -

"The perfect [birth]day -- A little playtime, a good poop, and a long nap." - Tomato Greeting Cards -
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post #27 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

 
Thanks Neil! Interesting review! May I humbly ask a delicate question or two?

First, some of the footage looked a little jerky. Would you attribute that primarily to a new user becoming familiar with the unit, or to it being an inexpensive lightweight device with less-than-completely-professional controls? In other words, if I want totally smooth performance, am I likely to get it from this unit with practice or should I budget for a "professional" craft?

Second, if you were spending your own money, would you buy the version you tested or the GoPro version? I'm guessing you sacrifice the tilt capability if you use the GoPro?

The GoPro version is on a 2-axis gimbal, so has full tilt and rotation, and is also rather better stabilized as a result.

I haven't bought a GoPro yet.

With a gimbal, donut you need weights to counterbalance the unit to reduce stabilization.

Also, isn't the current GoPro limited as far as attaching additional lenses?


Don't get me wrong, the GoPro seems a great value for the money -- but I can't justify it.

 

The GoPro is somewhat limiting with a fixed, and very wide, lens that is not ideally suited to aerial work, but it does produce great images. The Phantom 2 with the Zenmuse gimbal is optimized for the GoPro, and it doesn't need any balancing.

post #28 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by MidwestAppleFan View Post

This is about the most one-sided review I've ever seen. I own a Phantom. The original model which flies the same but has a shorter battery life. I also purchased the Zenmuze Gimbal and the GoPro camera. I had a project I was working on for a local TV show and we wanted some aerial scenes for the show.

It is "relatively" easy to fly but it is really hard to maneuver. If you Google some realistic reviews of this setup what you'll realize what this means is you can make it go up and down, left and right just fine. But try to get a particular shot at a particular angle is very hard to do. The reason for this is you are flying in three dimensions. Even from 30-40 feet away it gets very hard to tell which is the front of the machine and if you are trying to turn and keep it oriented in space it is hard to do. It also gets hard to judge distance when you are not near it. I've crashed mine into trees and bushes when I thought there was still lots of distance to the obstacle. The very hardest The best example is try to point this thing at a person and fly around the person in a circle while photographing them. It is almost impossible because of the way you have to work both joy sticks and keep it rotating and going around.

It was fun to use and it gets a lot of attention from bystanders. But it is very frustrating and scary for fear you'll break it. It takes a lot of work to get good steady shots (that ski area shot is a good example and is shaky as hell) and because of the price, think long and hard before you buy one. It is a expensive toy with limited use. Mine now mostly collects dust.

 

Sounds like you didn't fly it using FPV, so yes - it would be very difficult. That's not the application under review.

post #29 of 56

I also added in the on-board 5.8Ghz link to goggles for FPV.  It helps but it really takes two people.  FPV only lets you see what is in front of you.  Nothing to the side, behind, or above you.

 

To do this right you need DJI's more expensive copters.  They have better 3-axis gimbals and the ability to have a pilot flying and a camera man to get the footage.  The pilot can make sure it does not hit anything and the camera man with a 3-axis gimbal has much more flexibility to get the shot.  These also have more sophisticated flight control systems that will allow you to automate difficut shots like POI (Point of Interest).  So you can get great shots for about $7,000. 

 

Believe me I've done a lot of research on these things and spent a lot of time learning how to fly the Phantom.  If you are rich and want to have some fun.  It is fun.  It is not as easy as they make it out and the Phantom is limited as a serious tool.

post #30 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by MidwestAppleFan View Post
 

I also added in the on-board 5.8Ghz link to goggles for FPV.  It helps but it really takes two people.  FPV only lets you see what is in front of you.  Nothing to the side, behind, or above you.

 

To do this right you need DJI's more expensive copters.  They have better 3-axis gimbals and the ability to have a pilot flying and a camera man to get the footage.  The pilot can make sure it does not hit anything and the camera man with a 3-axis gimbal has much more flexibility to get the shot.  These also have more sophisticated flight control systems that will allow you to automate difficut shots like POI (Point of Interest).  So you can get great shots for about $7,000. 

 

Believe me I've done a lot of research on these things and spent a lot of time learning how to fly the Phantom.  If you are rich and want to have some fun.  It is fun.  It is not as easy as they make it out and the Phantom is limited as a serious tool.

 

Fair enough, but if you were using FPV then I don't understand why you would not be able to tell which direction the device is facing. For professional video I agree that the bigger platforms are more suitable, but it is really quite remarkable what you can get with a GoPro-equipped Phantom, and there are plenty of examples on the web of very usable footage, with the wide-angle lens being the main limitation. The Phantom also provides significantly longer flight time, which is important for some applications.

 

Were you using the P2 or the original version?

post #31 of 56

The original version. One time the prop nut came off. Thankfully it was not too high in the air so the crash was not that bad.  They are durable and can withstand crashes fairly well.  The Phantom 2 fixed the prop nut issue.  When we started we did not have the FPV feature but even when we did, it only helps you know which way you're facing.  You can't just look at FPV because you don't know what is to the side or above you like power lines or tree branches.  You have to look up and down while trying to fly it and capture the footage.  Its like doing three jobs at once.  With LOTS of practice you can get good at it and do OK.  But my whole point with this review is it is not as simple and care free as the reviewer made it out to be. 

post #32 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

I noticed that too.

You could compensate by adding a gimbal -- but that would increase weight, battery and cost.

You can mitigate the problem by post processing the video.

Here's a short comparison showing a quick and dirty image stabilization with Final Cut Pro X. The areas under the bridge and the arch shows the difference best:



You can do a lot finer stabilization by spending a little time with the various settings.

FCPX can compensate for low light and punch up the video too!,


Edit: Oops, Sorry -- I originally posted this to YT as private ... OK, now!

Wow, that makes a big difference. Seems like they should bundle in Final Cut Pro X!
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post #33 of 56
I want one!

The folks saying the video is jerky ... That's the rookie pilot. 1biggrin.gif

I live near a lake with hundreds of large gators, I'd love to video there.
Edited by digitalclips - 3/15/14 at 9:11pm
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post #34 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post
 

Thanks Neil! Interesting review! May I humbly ask a delicate question or two?

 

First, some of the footage looked a little jerky. Would you attribute that primarily to a new user becoming familiar with the unit, or to it being an inexpensive lightweight device with less-than-completely-professional controls? In other words, if I want totally smooth performance, am I likely to get it from this unit with practice or should I budget for a "professional" craft?

 

Second, if you were spending your own money, would you buy the version you tested or the GoPro version? I'm guessing you sacrifice the tilt capability if you use the GoPro?

The jerky footage you're referring to was mostly due to the weather. While hard to tell with the fisheye lens, it was very snowy and windy out. The camera is pretty stable in normal conditions, but I would say it was mostly the wind, plus some of my inexperience piloting it, that led to shaky footage.

 

While I prefer the GoPro's quality, I really enjoyed the ability to view footage live with the Vision camera via the Wi-Fi range extender. This wouldn't be possible (as far as I know, at least) when using a GoPro, which has short range connectivity with the iPhone.  Our review was focused on testing this device with the iPhone, which is why we didn't test the camera-less version. If you're comfortable piloting it without a live view, I think the low-end model with a GoPro would be fine. Just don't let it get too far out of sight (something easy to do with a drone this powerful).

post #35 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

You can do a lot finer stabilization by spending a little time with the various settings.

 

As usual, it's a balance between shakiecam vs. stabilization artifacts. Jerkiness is annoying, but sometimes the image pinch/bloat introduced by the stabilization causes an unconscious barf reaction that's even worse! :)

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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post #36 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nhughes View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post
 

Thanks Neil! Interesting review! May I humbly ask a delicate question or two?

 

First, some of the footage looked a little jerky. Would you attribute that primarily to a new user becoming familiar with the unit, or to it being an inexpensive lightweight device with less-than-completely-professional controls? In other words, if I want totally smooth performance, am I likely to get it from this unit with practice or should I budget for a "professional" craft?

 

Second, if you were spending your own money, would you buy the version you tested or the GoPro version? I'm guessing you sacrifice the tilt capability if you use the GoPro?

The jerky footage you're referring to was mostly due to the weather. While hard to tell with the fisheye lens, it was very snowy and windy out. The camera is pretty stable in normal conditions, but I would say it was mostly the wind, plus some of my inexperience piloting it, that led to shaky footage.

 

While I prefer the GoPro's quality, I really enjoyed the ability to view footage live with the Vision camera via the Wi-Fi range extender. This wouldn't be possible (as far as I know, at least) when using a GoPro, which has short range connectivity with the iPhone.  Our review was focused on testing this device with the iPhone, which is why we didn't test the camera-less version. If you're comfortable piloting it without a live view, I think the low-end model with a GoPro would be fine. Just don't let it get too far out of sight (something easy to do with a drone this powerful).

 

You can easily add a 5.8 GHz live SD video downlink to the GoPro version, or just upgrade to the upcoming LightBridge which provides long-range HD FPV and control (~ 1 mile) on a 2.4 GHz dual link.

post #37 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

You can do a lot finer stabilization by spending a little time with the various settings.

As usual, it's a balance between shakiecam vs. stabilization artifacts. Jerkiness is annoying, but sometimes the image pinch/bloat introduced by the stabilization causes an unconscious barf reaction that's even worse! 1smile.gif

Yes ... and add to that:
  • the video I stabilized was downloaded from the Internet @720p instead of the 1080p available from the camera original
  • the downloaded video was multiple clips assembled into a single video -- if each clip were stabilized separately the results would have been better
  • the low light exacerbated stabilization problems
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post #38 of 56

The music from the first video in this article immediately made me think, "The iPhone Controlled Drone, The Future & You - A Centron Production". Ok, that's all I have. Sorry. Carry on!

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post #39 of 56
The music in this video was so bad I had to turn it off half way through.

That said, this product looks very cool - a bit expensive for a non pro, though.
post #40 of 56

This is funny for Apple fans.  See if you recognize which commercial this video appears to be based on:

 

http://we.dji.com/en.html#home

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