DJI Phantom Review

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The exact model I use now and recommend for the Phantom series is the DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse H3-3d 3-axis Gimbal and Gopro Hero 3+ Black Edition — click on that to pop over to Amazon and see the latest prices.

But first, a video and link to the review for the DJI Inspire!

See my DJI Inspire Review!

Now I use the DJI Inspire to do all my quadcopter stuff. It’s an upgraded (and more expensive) version… you can see more about it in this crazy video below! :)

First Video: Floating Above Bora Bora

Let’s get right into it with a sample video… this may do more than any of my words below! (be sure to click the little gear to make it hi-rez!)

I’ll put a little making-of version of this video below.

The music in there is “Jetstream” by the incredible Luscine. Click that link to see their Soundcloud channel! And thanks again to the team over there at the Four Seasons Bora Bora for making such a fabulous resort that was so amazing to shoot from the skies above…

Why do I prefer the GoPro version of this DJI Phantom?

The very long-named DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse H3-3d 3-axis Gimbal and Gopro Hero 3+ Black Edition is the best iteration of this system, I think! The video quality and photo quality is just amaze-maze! You can see some sample videos and photos below!

I used the original Vision that has the integrated camera, but I found the photos to be a little soft. Also, whenever I would shoot in RAW mode, it seemed to take 5-10 seconds to take the photo. I find that the GoPro 3 takes really good photos, even though they are just 14-megapixel JPGs. As long as I am shooting in good light, I am generally happy with the results.

Keep in mind too that I am a fairly hardcore photographer that likes my big thick RAW files! For example, now I am using the A7r (see my Sony A7r Review here on the site) as my main on-the-ground (heh) camera. So, while I kind of like the RAW files that come out of the Phantom Vision camera, I am still partial to the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition.

Combo video & photo mode

My favorite setup with the GoPro Hero 3 on the DJI Phantom is to set it up so that it does HD Video while also shooting a still photo every 5 seconds. Most of the photos you see from below are from that setup! 1080p video is more than good enough for me. I could amp up the GoPro to higher video settings, but then I loose the ability to take a photo every five seconds.

Now, if I wasn’t lazy, I would do 2 flights. The first would be ultra-highdef video and a high frame rate before landing and changing the settings for an all-photos flight. One advantage of an all-photos flight is that it automatically takes 2 photos per second, which gives you a lot to choose from!

Flying the Quadcopter in Sydney. It’s so easy and fun to fly! Love to Mick Love for taking this cool photo during our Google/HBO Game of Thrones photowalk event!

Live view on the GoPro setup?

When I tell people that I use the GoPro, they look at me with concern, asking, “Don’t you want the live video on the screen while you fly?”

I did have that for a long time with the original Phantom Vision, but I did not like it very much. I often found it very confusing, and I preferred just to watch the quadcopter and make good guesses. Besides, in photo mode, it takes 2 photos per second automatically, which is very handy. I get to aim the camera any direction, including straight down, and I generally guess pretty good!

You CAN make your GoPro do live video to your mobile device via WiFi, but DJI does NOT recommend this. It can interfere with the other communications, which are important to the flight.

I also flew another setup in China from DJI where they had a third-party live video system all hooked in there. It was quite cumbersome to hook up and get going… to me, it was just too much trouble… So I do 99% of my flights “blind” but I’m never disappointed with the video footage or photos.

Second video – Beijing from Above

Here’s a video I made in Beijing. I actually got detained by the Chinese Police for this. If you click on that link, I have the whole story!

That music is by the great Jon Hopkins. The name of the track, fittingly, is “A Drifting Up.” Thanks to Chris Craker for the introduction.

Flying the Quadcopter – behind the scenes

Here’s a video that shows more about the Bora Bora one. Sorry it starts out with some stuff about my Sony A7r, so you can just skip that bit if you wish! :)

Sample Photos

And here are some sample photos!

HDR Photo

I love aiming the camera straight down… I think this is also why I like looking out of a plane window so much… I want to do it all day long!



Oh my gosh – how beautiful is this place? Even though it is beautiful from the ground level, it’s really remarkable how surprising the view is from just a bit above. I showed this photo to several people that have worked there at the Four Seasons for many years, and they were absolutely shocked at the angle. I think taking photos from new perspectives like this is so exciting!



If you watch the behind-the-scenes video for this on the review page, you can see more how this shot was made… mostly just lucky!



Just what I always wanted, my own small deserted island! How cool! I find that when I do these straight-down shots that I prefer to have the GoPro set on the wide-angle mode because it makes it look like the quadcopter is much higher than it really is.



Now, I don’t love this shot, but I’m putting it up anyway. The light was starting to get low here, and this is when the GoPro doesn’t do so hot. There are many artifacts and other problems with this photo. But, I still kinda like it, despite the flaws.



I love that the top-down view is often kind of confusing. This was taken wide-angle, but I used the Profile Correction in Lightroom to make all the lines nice and straight again.



The amazing blues that the GoPro can capture!! This is a view of the Pacific ocean in the other direction off the island.



Here’s my Yoga teacher Sara doing some light paddleboard yoga in the morning! And here’s a shot of me!! hehe



This is one of my favorite shots and I didn’t even take off yet! This kind of shows how awesome the GoPro camera is!



Another crazy view from above that shows the lovely colors of blue. I also profile-corrected this one so the horizon was straight across. Sometimes I leave it curved though, because I like the effect.



Which one do you want to live in? I shot this from room 101, right below. I was laying on my back by that little plunge pool. Actually, one of my favorite ways to fly this thing is laying on my back!


Quadcopter Perspective

The perspective from up above is truly amazing. I find myself trying to picture what it looks like from above then launching the quad to confirm. It really makes you think about 3D space in a different way.


World Park

Here’s one from their little World Park where they have all the world’s monuments in semi-miniature. It’s a strange place, truly. I treated this one with the new Analog Efex Pro 2 from the Nik Collection


Trees on Roof

I didn’t even notice there were trees growing on top until I got the quadcopter up there!


Drum Tower

Looking down near the drum tower.


Ming Tombs

I like how they lay out the towers for the Ming Tombs in this pattern. I bet the original designers would have enjoyed seeing this perspective.



Getting up high in the 798 area gave a nice perspective on the industrial detritus.


Ming Tombs From Above

One of the Ming Tombs from above. This is honestly the straightest shot I’ve ever taken! I didn’t even have to rotate it 1% in Photoshop… and I was 1000 feet up in the air!


Drum Tower Axis

The amazing drum tower sits right in the middle, along the central axis.


Willow Path

A beautiful path of willows bends into the distance.


Beijing From Above

Here’s a view from over the Northeast Tower. This is the most popular area to take photos in Beijing… so I was happy to see what it looks like from a thousand feet up with the sweet DJI. I had this set to take a photo every 5 seconds while recording HD video!


  • Stephen

    I have a few questions Trey. What do you edit your GoPro videos in ? I know FCP 7 doesnt like to play mp4 and I havent played much with FCP10. I know Premiere Pro CC its pretty good and has presets from lens distortion removal for the Gopro. Whats your preference ?
    Also I read that some people shoot when using the DJI in Gopro setting 1440P, just to have a little more head room on the 16×9, incase they want to move up or down the vision. Do you think its worth it, or just stay in 1080P ?

    And my last question would be, what frame rate do you thinks best to shoot in when using the DJI and go Gopro ? For example Im thinking maybe if you want to slow down the vision, it maybe best to shoot in a higher frame rate, but I dont quiet understand and if so what would the time line settings be, ie 30fps placing the 60fps video on the timeline and then slowing it down ? (sorry that turned into a q and a) Thanks Trey.

  • treyratcliff

    Hey @disqus_cSA3xQ6kL0:disqus :)

    I edited the Beijing one with FCP X and the Bora Bora one with iMovie. Both seemed to work with no prob. As for format, I just stay in 1080P, although I don’t consider myself a video expert!

    For frame rate, I stay at 30FPS so I can continue to take photos every 5 seconds automatically. I actually prefer 60FPS, though. If you want to slow down 60FPS to more slo-mo, just extend the time of that segment in FCP or iMovie! :)

  • Stephen

    Thanks for the reply Trey, always good to hear your thoughts. My DJI arrived today, but I missed the delivery.

  • Riverbum

    Trey, I have the Phantom FC40 and love it. The video quality from the on board camera is pretty good. Stills are ok too. I may eventually move up to a GoPro set up, but this is meeting my needs at the moment. I just hope the FAA doesn’t place any additional restrictions on them beyond the commercial use permitting fiasco that is currently under review.

  • treyratcliff

    Yeah, it will be so interesting to watch what happens with the restrictions…

  • Mike

    Are you referring to the camera on the Phantom 2 Vision + or on another model? I’m concerned about my ability to use guesswork when taking photos and videos. Additionally, I want to have the newest features such as the GPS mapping. Cheers.

  • treyratcliff

    I believe that the Phantom 2 Vision+ camera is the exact same as the previous version. The big difference is the gimbal

  • Connor Katz

    Out of pure curiosity, have you tried mounting the a7r to it? Could it even lift it? You could get some really cool vantage points with it if you could. I have no idea how you would trigger the camera, a wireless remote possibly? If you could make it work that would be amazing!

  • treyratcliff

    No – I don’t like to mod my quad too much… The GoPro is so good though… I don’t see much need.

  • John

    I would be very interested to hear your comments on this setup – as i currently use Nikon D800 with HP 3200PS 44 inch to make my own canvases, 30×40, 20×30 and custom, do you think your combination would be up to this , as i really don’t want to go down the 5-6k route for a large copter to do this

  • treyratcliff

    Yeah – don’t waste money / risk money on a giant quadcopter setup for all that… just go small. You can still make a decent 20×30 canvas with a 14 megapixel image from a GoPro, and these GoPros will only get better.

  • John

    Thanks Terry – one assumes that the Phantom and gimble will be upward compatible with the Hero > range. Would you go alone the FPV way or can i achieve real useful static images doing it your way blind with the go pro only – how do you get pan shots and such like on your amazing Bora Bora footage

  • KennethLNOR

    Amazing photograph’s, Trey.

    I have written some comments in your China Detention post. I hope you can or are willing to educate other photographers about the dangers when using a quadcopter like DJI Phantom, but first you must understand the risk you are taking with your quadcopter or so called “DRONE” as the media like to call it.

    In several images you are flying over populated areas, houses and buildings. What if one of the motors on your quad fails? What if an ESC fails?(ESC is the speedcontroller) The quad will fall and it will crash. About two pounds of plastic, heavy and dangerous LiPo battery and 3 rotating props (if you don’t remember to cut the throttle) will hit something. Maybe you are lucky and it will hit the ground and no one is there to witness it. But what if you hit a car while it’s going down a road or a person?

    The RC community is not as big as the photography community, if you can reach out to other photographer with a “flying camera” like the DJI Phantom it would help us. If the RC aircraft hobby gets regulated and we are not allowed to fly our planes and multicopters you can always go back to taking pictures but we are left with nothing.


    Never fly above people. Remember/read the FAA and AMA rules/guidelines, don’t fly above 400feet….

  • Mark

    Hi Trey, any advice to flying overseas with all your gear? how have you been transporting the Phantom in addition to your full backpack of DSLR gear? And most importantly I guess, have you had problems with traveling with all the batteries the Phantom requires? I’m considering getting one for a upcoming trip in a couple months and have be told by a couple phantom owners to “take as many batteries as you can.”


  • ZiPP3R

    I’m seriously considering picking up a DJI Phantom when the hero 4 comes out. I’ve read that flight time is generally 22-25 minutes pretty much everywhere. How accurate have you found that? I’d likely buy one extra battery, but was curious how long they take to charge from a wall outlet (or car if you’ve tried).

  • Pablo Mendez

    Hey Trey… How do you feel about DJI’s new Inspire 1?

  • treyratcliff

    It looks REALLY amazing, huh?? Very excited about it

  • chris

    Great article you actually convinced me to buy the DJI Phantom Aerial UAV. I love it! I found it for super cheap on amazon

  • Dave Camara

    Hi Trey, Really amazing work! I am doing some work for a Mexican Contractor and an owner of some small resorts North of Cabo San Lucas. Since I have had my fare share of ridiculousness with the seemingly made up rules of Mexican customs, with just regular camera gear, I am wondering if you have any insight on what to expect on bringing a phantom drone down there. Any help or advice would be appreciated.

  • Manos Parcharidis

    Hello Tray, Very nice Article and Job. When use DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse H3-3d 3-axis Gimbal and Gopro Hero 3+ Black Edition is there a option to see the view in Iphone or Samsung phone like the RTF Phantom 2 vision? And can you shoot/record pushing something in the remote control during the flight?

  • Paddy

    Hi Trey, I am now a fan and love your work. I was looking at a DJI Phantom but I am seriously considering getting a Yuneec Q500 Typhoon because of what you get for the price. Have you seen the Yuneec Q500 and what are your thoughts?


  • Paddy

    Hi Trey, Love your work and will be signing up for your HDR tutorials. I was looking at the DJI Phantom but I am seriously considering buying the YUNEEC Q500 TYPHOON. What you get for the price is quite amazing, here in NZ where everything is usually three times the price, the Yuneec Q500 Typhoon retails for $1900 and in the US they are around $1200. Have you seen the Q500 Typhoon and what do you think of it?

  • Paddy

    Hi Trey, Love your work. I was looking at the DJI Phantom but I am seriously considering buying the YUNEEC Q500 TYPHOON. What you get for the price is quite amazing, here in NZ where everything is usually three times the price, the Yuneec Q500 Typhoon retails for $1900 and in the US they are around $1200. Have you seen the Q500 Typhoon and what do you think of it?

  • Paddy

    Hi Trey, I have become a fan and love your work, I have also become a fan of aerial photography and videography. I was looking at the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ but after a bit of searching and reading a lot of reviews I have decided to go with the
    YUNEEC Q500 TYPHOON. Here in NZ the Q500 Typhoon sells for $1900 nzd and in the US it is around $1200. Value for money I think it is hard to beat…

    Would like to know what you think

  • Jessica Little

    I’ve been thinking about getting one for wedding photography, I think it could add an unique element to my pictures for the clients they wouldn’t get elsewhere. Great review and thank you :)

  • Rocco Saya

    You can easily do FPV (First Person View) with go pro 3+

  • David H Dennis

    All Phantom models sound like an entire hive’s worth of buzzing bees. I would think they would ruin the mood of any wedding.

  • AR

    Can I ask about the RAW files of dji phantom 3? Can they be open with Lightroom or Photoshop? Thanks for help. :)

  • Gale Stoner

    Just purchased the Phantom 3 Pro to shoot several golf courses for prints in their clubhouse. Not sure how to deal with the issue of “commercial photography” and the need for an FAA exemption and a pilot’s license. Anyone with experience on how to get around the requirement for the pilot’s license?

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