DJI Phantom Review

Check The Latest Prices!

Starting at a reasonable price, these Phantoms are a great way to have fun and experiment with your photography and video. For other camera/software recommendations, see Trey’s Gear and Tools here on the site.

Video Review of the Phantom

Here’s a video review of this amazing quadcopter. Note this is a video review of the Phantom 4, which has roughly 90% of the features of the Phantom 4 Pro. I’ll note what is different in the Phantom 4 Pro below.

Common Question 1: Which DJI Quad should I get? The Phantom, the Mavic, or the Inspire?

DJI makes three quadcopter types. I use the Mavic 30% of the time for “quick shots and videos” and the Phantom 4 Pro the other 70% of the time for more serious photography and videos. Here’s a simple way to think about it, compare it to regular cameras.

  • Compact Camera: The DJI Mavic — It’s small, easy to carry, fast to launch, and takes more than good-enough photos during the daytime.
  • DSLR: The Phantom 4 Pro — It has a bigger sensor (4x as big as the Mavic and Phantom 4 non-Pro, but not as big as a DSLR, so forgive that part of the analogy), 20 megapixel photos, 4 direction collision detection, more shooting options, and a built-in bright tablet on the controller.
  • RED Camera: The Inspire 2 — This is a more serious rig that is much bigger and more cumbersone but allows two people to control (one to fly and one to operate the camera) as well as upgraded video functions. You can also check out my DJI Inspire 1 Review.

Common Question 2: What’s the difference between the Phantom 4 and the Phantom 4 Pro?

I recommend the Phantom 4 Pro. There are a lot of flavors of the Phantom and it can be a little confusing. Just get the best, and don’t worry if you are not a “pro” and just think of yourself as an amateur. All the Pro features are things that any amateur can benefit from. What do you get with the Phantom 4 Pro that is different than the Phantom 4?

  • 1 inch sensor, which is 4x bigger than the P3 or even the P4 (non-pro). This means collects 4x as much light and is much better in low-light situations. (Think sunrise / sunset with less noise!)
  • 20 megapixel photos vs. just 12
  • Integrated LCD screen. It’s extremely bright and convenient. No need to use your phone and it’s always ready to go and easy to see in the daytime. This is a problem with the other models because sometimes it’s quite difficult to see a phone screen in the daytime.
  • 24mm lens, so a bit of a tighter shot than the other 20mm
  • 2 more mins of battery time
  • A bit faster
  • 4 areas for obstacle avoidance rather than 2. This enables many more automatic flight modes.

First Video: A look at the power of the quad

Here’s my favorite compilation of video shots I’ve collected over the past three years. Enjoy!

Another Video

Here’s a good example of what you can do in about a week in a location!

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!

What’s it like to fly?

It’s REALLY easy and fun! Here’s the key thing that new people are surprised by… if you just let go of the controls, it stays steady in the air. It’s also connected to at least a dozen GPS satellites that helps keep it steady if there is a cross wind.

Now there’s a really nice tutorial built into the app that takes you through the basics. Anyone can do it… literally, anyone.

Let me back up a second. So, there are two pieces to the puzzle. There’s the quad and then there’s the DJI Go app that you run on your phone or tablet. I like running it on my iPad because the screen is so big and I like to see the live video. The app lets you do all kinds of stuff. Not only can you configure everything, but you can also use the app to take photos, record video, and more.

Photo Modes Galore

I do love taking video, but maybe I get the biggest kick out of taking photos from unique angles! And there are as many options for this camera that people are used to with modern digital cameras. You can even do auto-bracketing if you wanna make an HDR photo. Mega cool! You can shoot in RAW mode too, which gives you a lot more flexibility for post-processing. One complaint is it does take the photos a little slow. For a set of 5 brackets, it may take up to 3-4 seconds. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s definitely not as fast as my handheld cameras. A second complaint is that Autobracketing only steps by 0.66, so my 5 stops go from -1.33 to +1.33. I don’t know why this is not configurable. A third complaint (getting pedantic here) is that every time I fly, I need to go turn on Auto Exposure Bracketing again.

Other Awesome Features

This Phantom series of quads has So Many Features I could go on and on. The camera itself is 3-axis auto-stabilized, which makes for buttery smooth video. The controller is very fun too — it’s like an XBox controller and you can do almost anything right from the controller rather than clicking around the screen on the app. For example, it’s really easy to use the controller to aim the camera straight down or any angle you wish. There’s even a built-in flight simulator so you can practice! Fun! 🙂

Bonus Video – Phantom 4 Pro Footage

This is all footage from the Phantom 4 Pro that I shot here in New Zealand — all locations are less than an hour from my studio here in Queenstown (a little Queenstown plug there!). Music is “AMB – Set in Stone”

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! 🙂 Note this was a video I shot back with the Phantom 2, so it looks a bit different and a bit more ropey.

A video and link to the review for the DJI Inspire 1

You can see more about the Inspire in this crazy video below I made in Hong Kong! 🙂 And a link to the DJI Inspire 1 Review.

Sample Photos

And here are some sample photos from my various quadcopters!

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.


The Homes Nearly Floated Away

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.


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!




from Trey Ratcliff at

from Trey Ratcliff at

from Trey Ratcliff at

  • 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! 🙂

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

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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+

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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?

  • Yes they can ! 🙂

  • Good questions Gale – yeah I don’t know much about that stuff… sorry 🙁

  • I couldn’t agree more. I find myself flying the Phantom 3 more than the Inspire – it is more ‘accessible’ and wildlife doesn’t usually flee in terror. 🙂

  • Stephen Van Vickle

    I would be more interested in the camera settings that you would recommend.

  • Jay

    I wouldn’t buy anything from DJI at all. I own an aerial photography company. I purchased two units from DJI. One was direct. One was from a reseller. Both units had something wrong with them. One of them had a hardware issue. Five months later, no one is helping after I received in writing that DJI would fix my problem. DJI has the worst quality assurance and customer service of any company I’ve ever done business with. Total garbage.

  • Xavier

    If you are thinking of getting a drone beware of this product. I bought the professional version, along with three extra battery packs + backpack. I spent a total of almost $2k. I went on a road trip to Canada to document/shoot aerial shots of the places we visited. While flying/recording above a church (well within the drone’s safe range) the remote control lost signal with the drone. I pressed every button to activate the fly back feature and get my drone back to safety, without any success. I spent more than 2 hours looking for the device thinking it was still in the air but could not find it.

    I wrote to their customer support, only to get a response 22 DAYS LATER telling me that they would be happy to offer a 30% discount (which still nets them a profit), if I decided to buy it again. I replied back the same day explaining that after all the money, and specially the footage I lost I would appreciate a bit more help. It’s been a week and half since I sent them that note (along with 3 other follow-ups). I’m yet to hear from them.

    SOLO smart drone (not this unreliable product) sends and logs flight data, 20 times a second, in both the controller and the copter. In other words, if this had happened to me with a SOLO device I could prove that it WAS NOT my fault – even if I lost the copter. DJI doesn’t offer this. Therefore, if this ever happens to you, they will just give you the silence treatment that will also imply you are a lier – which is exactly what’s happening to me. Lastly, with a SOLO device you can upgrade your camera, as supposed of getting stuck with the not-so-impressive camera DJI offers in their drones. A HUGE PLUS IF YOU WANT TO USE THIS LONG TERM.

    I hope this helps.

  • Marco Mazzocchi

    Hi everyone
    I’m a licensed drone pilot and I want to say that, unconsciously, a lot of photographers break the Law filming or taking pictures with a drone.
    In many Countries, and for sure in all EU and USA for film or take pictures with a drone you must have a licence issued by the local Aviation Authority. Besides the drones pilots are subject to severe criminal penalty if the flight is against the Air Traffic Regulations, just for example:

    1) is FORBIDDEN to flight over people and properties WITHOUT proper securities on ground

    2) in almost all cities the airspace is R rated flight zone, so is needed a special permit for the flights

    3) the max altitude permitted is between 140 to 150 mt (depend by the Country) and clearly mosto of the pictures are taken from above that

    etc.. etc..

    I warmly invite all those that want to fly a drone to get acquainted with the regulation of your own Country…

  • Cody

    I am going to bora bora in August. I have a splash drone auto. I am looking for advice and help on getting it there as well as laws once there?

  • Anything goes in Bora Bora I think ! 🙂

  • wco81

    The first video is great! Are you doing any kind of post-processing of the videos, such as color, contrast, etc.?

    Are you just using the default autofocus and exposure settings of the Phantom cameras? The night skyline shots look great and sharp, little noise, though maybe underexposed compared to a long exposure.

    How do you carry on your drone and photo gear on flights?

  • Dawid

    Hey, live broadcast to Facebook using DJI P4, doing standard application DJI GO?

  • Owen

    Hi Trey, do you think the inspire 1 pro with the X5 is a worthy purchase? I’m trying to decide if I go that route or the phantom 4. I’m looking to shoot stills mostly and really care about the photo quality. Thanks

  • destravlr .

    Please cut the background music, or at least cut it way back. It’s very distracting.

  • Stu – SIC

    Thanks for the feedback! Much appreciated.

  • danCER

    you said, “I had this set to take a photo every 5 seconds while recording HD video.”
    Really? I didn’t think you could take photos while recording with the Phantom.

  • Stu – SIC

    Yup, its possible. Trey takes images all the time while streaming/recording video from the Phantom 4 on his Facebook Live broadcasts.

  • danCER

    Thanks, I must have the version that doesn’t allow that.

  • With the DJI Mavic just coming out, which would you recommend.

    The Phantom 4 or the Mavic. About ready to buy my first drone and of course DJI had to come out with a new model so now I’m in a quandary as to which to get. Which would be better for taking HDR photos with.

  • Good question. I’m leaning towards the Mavic but really haven’t used it enough to say for sure!

  • Some reviews I just watched seem to indicate the picture quality wasn’t as good and there was some comment about the focus

    So looking forward to your option as I do want to take pictures with it a long with the video and all the reviews were just mentioning the video

  • Lyn

    Hi Trey, you have me leaning towards the phantom 4 over the Mavic, any chance for a review soon

  • Janice Miller

    I love my DJI Phantom! I’m so amazed at how much the price has come down. I got mine from Amazon ( ) and I got an INCREDIBLE deal! It reminds me of how flatscreen TV’s used to be so expensive. If you want a good deal, try the link I suggested with Amazon. It seems to be the best way to go 🙂 Safe flying!

  • yeah – they are getting really cheap now ! 🙂

  • The Phantom 4 Pro is REALLY good – with that 20 megapixel camera — just updated the review above! 🙂

  • JoshZhao

    If you think mavic is exceed budget you can also get some refurbished entry version DJI from their website:

  • kingstonjam

    What kind of backpack did u get for your DJ phantom ? Do u check it in or carry-on ? I suppose if u do check-in, u probably need a much sturdier item than a backpack.

  • kingstonjam

    I suppose people do jaywalking….

  • kingstonjam

    Realtors use it now for their home marketing videos.

  • Marco Mazzocchi

    Indeed people do jaywalking, but you cannot compare the two things, a drone can be VERY dangerous if not properly used, even lethal, there are idiots that can fly few kilograms of metal and plastic just few hundreds of meters over your head, would you like to be hit by one of those? I don’t! Say nothing to other idiots that fly a drone next of another aircraft, would you have a major jet failure because a drone get sucked into and air intake? Examples are counted on the hundreds….
    So, please, start the brain before even think to take off one drone!

  • Stu – SIC

    Trey uses the case that the Phantom arrives in. Nice and simple 🙂

  • kingstonjam

    My phantom had the styrofoam case in a box. But that styrofoam case cannot be checked-in, and is barely usable for travel – on flights, etc. Perhaps you got some super upgrade version.

    Anyway – i will see Trey this weekend for the London photowalk, and hope to get a chance to ask him. Will post answer if I get to ask him.

  • Stu – SIC

    I’ve double checked and it is the foam case. You can see Tane holding it here: He says the airline didn’t care. Batteries were of course in the hand luggage.

  • kingstonjam

    I think we are on the same side. I’m not proposing the extra crazy stunts, but on the other hand, I wonder if we have to buy our own island to use this device. There is a middle ground where one can take pictures without filing for every fed, state and local license….

  • Marco Mazzocchi

    Many legislators (may vary by Country) allow to use drones by unqualified people in “safe” areas like rural areas, out of airport traffic and so on, problem arise whenever the drone are used in areas where can be potentially dangerous, too many people see the drones as toys, and sometimes are advertised as such, but they are not and in hands of irresponsible people can be a threat. Before take off think: and if I loose control of the damn thing and I kill someone? If you feel confident that such a thing cannot happen, just because there is no one you can hurt in miles, then enjoy your flight.

  • Bob Johnston

    I’ve had DJI Phantoms for 4 years with no problems till I purchased the Phantom 4 Pro in March 2017. Three weeks after purchasing from Staples, it disconnected and took off. It had a Return To Home set and supposed to RTH when it disconnects but it didn’t. Instead of returning to home, it just took off, under ideal conditions and DJI will no assume responsibility. Staples has been giving me the brush off blaming it on DJI. Either way, I’m out $2,500 and no one will stand up to the problem. It is advertised to RTH but they don’t . That is the end of me dealing with DJI and Staples! NO Support!

Newsletter Sign Up

The most beautiful newsletter ever!