Elegant and powerful, the DJI Phantom 4 Advance is by far one of the most popular drones for enthusiasts and professionals all over the world. Sleek and dependable, DJI’s upper tier unit equips a powerful camera with multiple sensors for unparalleled performance.
Unveiled two years ago, The Phantom 4 Advance successfully bridged the gap between the standard Phantom 4 and the Phantom 4 Pro. With a price less than $300 from the former, it’s target market ranges from the casual hobbyist to professional videographers. It is, however, being challenged by newer, smaller, and smarter drones.
Will it falter with the newest range of quadcopters flooding the market today? Or will it still be a solid pick? Let’s find out.
Who the Phantom 4 Advanced Was Designed For
Released on April 30, 2017, the Phantom 4 Advanced catered to folks that were either restrained by the Phantom 4’s limited commercial application and the Phantom 4 Pro’s intimidating prowess.
At the time of its release, the Phantom 4 Advanced was a boon for those looking for the practicality of a low to medium tier unit and the reliability of a premium class drone. With a starting price that’s at least $300 coleus mpared to the Pro version, prosumers had a run for their money, considering the specs for both drones weren’t that far off.
DJI Phantom 4 Advanced Review
What we like:
- Amazing 20MP camera.
- Videos are shot in 4k with 60 fps.
- Good flight time between 20-25 minutes
What we don’t like:
- The standard propellers are noisy.
- No detachable camera.
- Obstacle avoidance sensors in the front only.
The Phantom 4 Advanced has three notable features that set it apart from the Phantom 4. DJI’s mid-tier drone now has an improved camera, an updated FlightAutonomy system, and some tweaks to its design materials. The upgrades also allowed the former to operate to the standards of entry-level commercial use.
- The integrated onboard camera equips a 1″ CMOS sensor that can capture 20 megapixel still images. A mechanical shutter also fixes previous issues with the rolling shutter distortion.
- Distortion is now significantly reduced, allowing for better image quality while flying at high speeds or tracking moving targets. Upgrades to video processing allow for H.264 4K at 60 fps or H.265 at 30 fps with a 100Mbps bitrate. The drone can now record with HDR, allowing for smoother post-production.
- The FlightAutonomy system uses GPS and GLONASS satellite positioning for easy tracking. The Phantom 4 Advance also now has five vision sensors, ultrasonic range finders, and redundant sensors. The hardware enables for better hovering, auto braking, and obstacle evasion while flying.
- The drone also uses magnesium and titanium alloys. It’s now lighter and more rigid than the Phantom 4.
What Comes in the Box?
When you purchase a DJI drone you get everything you need to start flying. However, there are a lot of extras you can purchase and a few different packages available. We’ve listed everything you get with the basc package below.
- Aircraft body
- Remote controller
- Intelligent Flight Battery
- 8 Propellers
- Charging and USB cables
- Micro SD Card and carrying case
Before getting into the specifications of the Phantom 4 Advanced, it is essential to discuss what differences exist when we make a straight comparison between the Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Pro. You can check out the table below for reference.
Phantom 4 Advanced
Phantom 4 Pro
|Product Position||Entry level commercial drone||Entry level commercial drone with the added benefit of an obstacle avoidance system|
Phantom 4 Pro
|Take-Off Weight||1368 g||1388 g|
|Max Flight Time||Advertised 30 minutes||Advertised 30 minutes|
|Vision System||Forward and downward vision system||Forward, backward, and downward vision system|
Phantom 4 Pro
|Obstacle Sensing||Front obstacle avoidance||Front & rear obstacle avoidance, left & right IR obstacle avoidance|
Phantom 4 Pro
|Camera Sensor||1? CMOS 20MP||1? CMOS 20MP|
|Max Video Recording Resolution||4K 60P||4K 60P|
|Max Transmission Distance||FCC: 4.3 mi||FCC: 4.3 mi|
|Video Transmission System||Lightbridge||Lightbridge|
|Operating Frequency||2.4 GHz||2.4 GHz & 5.8 GHz|
Phantom 4 Pro
-Take-off Weight: 1368 grams
-Dimension (Diagonal size excluding propellers): 350 mm
-Max Speed: 72 kph
-Max Flight Time: 30 minutes (we found 20-25 minutes to be more realistic)
-Sensor: 1″ CMOS 20MP
-Lens: FOV: 84 degrees, 8.8 mm/24 mm (35mm format equivalent) , Aperture f/2.8-f/11 auto focus at 1 m to infinity
-Operating Frequency: 2.400-2.483 GHz
In addition to the key features mentioned earlier, there are several Intelligent Flights Modes and Flight Performance improvements. These modes include; Draw, Active Track, Tap Fly, Return to Home, and Gesture Mode.
Draw is the next level up from waypoint flying. The operator can use their finger to draw the path for the drone to fly. The drone will move along at a locked altitude allowing for the pilot to focus on the camera.
ActiveTrack uses advanced algorithms to lock on to people, vehicles, and animals. Smoother shots can be captured using this feature. Pilots can choose between following in front or behind the object, flying alongside, or keeping the camera locked on the subject while the drone flies wherever it needs to.
TapFly allows the pilots to tap the screen, and the drone will fly to that location.
Return to Home
Return to home mode does what its name implies but will automatically choose the best route to avoid obstacles.
Gesture Mode is the ultimate selfie assistant. Pilots can take shots of themselves using their arms when facing the camera.
Flight performance improvements include; flight modes, sensor redundancy, Intelligent Flight Batteries, and the DJI Go 4 app. The Phantom 4 Advanced hasthree flight modes; Position, Sport, and Atti.
- Position mode lets the drone connect to GPS and is ideal for holding positions accurately.
- Sport mode allows the drone to not rely on GPS, giving it heightened agility and speeds up to 45 mph (72 km/h).
- Atti holds the drone’s altitude allowing for smooth footage.
- Redundancy means safety. Having dual compass modules and dual IMU’s is a significant plus.
- Intelligent flight batteries allow you to see how much time is left in the air and will automatically land the drone if power is too low.
- The DJI Go 4 app is a photographer’s dream. The operator has full access to all the controls one would expect to have on a manual camera such as; ISO, shutter speed, image formats, balance, and more.
Pros & Cons
As with any platform, there are several things we love about the drone and areas we wish DJI had done differently. Here is our list of pros and cons for the Phantom 4 Advanced.
- The 1″ CMOS camera sensor is fantastic and captures beautiful 20MP images. Video is shot in 4K with 60fps@ 100mbps.
- Built-in return-to-home safety feature is very reliable.
- Both GPS and GLONASS and flight times are good at around 20-25 minutes.
- The obstacle avoidance system and VPS give the pilot peace of mind.
- Max range of 4.3 miles and a top speed of 44.7 mph and great pre-programmed features that even allow rookies to fly like a professional.
- The standard propellers are very loud and when flying forward can sometimes be seen in the camera.
- The camera is not detachable so you must be happy with what comes in the box.
- Signal transmission is not available at 5.8GHz.
- Unlike the Phantom 4 Pro, there are no obstacle avoidance sensors on the side or in the back of the drone.
Charging the battery
Using the included charger and Intelligent Flight Battery is easy. The connector from the charger to the battery is molded to mate perfectly with base of the battery.
It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to charge a fully drained battery.
Setting up the Controller
The controller is always better to set up first before the drone. The ability to place a tablet on this control is a convenient feature. First, unfold the tablet mount from the RC. Attach the tablet into the mount, connect it to the remote using a USB cable, and reveal the two antennas at the top of the remote.
Looking at the remote, the button on the right is the return to the home button while on the left is the power switch. Press the power button once and release it. Next, immediately press the power button again until the green and white LED’s light up, and the remote makes the familiar DJI beep.
Setting up the Aircraft
The aircraft is almost ready to fly out of the box. Remove the foam wedges that lock the drone and gimbal into place. Next, insert the battery into the quadcopter and use the guide grooves to line it up correctly.
For the four propellers, you’ll notice some propellers have a silver ring, and others have a black collar. The Black ring propellers are attached to the motors with black dots. Silver rings connect to the rotors with no dots. The propeller blades will show you which direction to press down and turn for the propellers to lock into place.
Now that the aircraft is now operational press the power button on the Intelligent Flight Battery and release. Then press it again and hold it until all four of the green LED bars light up. The drone is ready to fly once it connects to the remote and DJI Go 4 app.
DJI’s Phantom 4 Advanced boasts a beautiful combination of sleek design, impressive performance, and excellent photographic capabilities. After running the Phantom, 4 Advanced through all of its functions and abilities we were glad to see it live up to its hype.
We’ll begin our review by discussing our thoughts on the design. We were pleased with the remote. The controls and feel are very familiar to anyone who has flown DJI drones. While it’s still bulky and a little heavy when compared to other controllers on the market we liked it a lot. The addition of a tablet holder made us very happy. The holder is large enough to fit even a 5th generation IPad.
The aircraft is lightweight and sleek. The care put into the aerodynamics of the drone is noticeable. The placement of sensors for obstacle avoidance and range finding made sense for the operation of the drone without getting in the way. The landing gear for the drone is sturdy; however, leave the camera unprotected in many situations. Overall it is a great package. Once airborne, we found flight performance did not disappoint.
Handling was very responsive and smooth out of the box. The drone responded to the controls without hesitation. Breaking and sudden course corrections felt natural and safe. The drone quickly rose to a height of 400 feet without any difficulty at all. We found flight distance to be about 85% of what in the manual, however, the cause might be some interference in the area.
In position mode, the drone was very steady. Hovering was very smooth. In Sport, we were able to get close to the max speed, and in Atti the drone stayed level as we filmed. The battery lasted closer to 22 minutes for us on average than the advertised 30 minutes.
We ran the drone through all the Intelligent Flight Modes; Draw seemed to be a bit more challenging to get to work than one would expect. After playing with it for a bit, we were able to use it more efficiently.
ActiveTrack worked well. Once the subject was locked on to, the drone was very good at following. One cautionary note we found is while doing this; the drone may get too close to objects before obstacle avoidance stops it.
The camera is fantastic. As photographers, we played with all the settings and felt as if we had a manual camera in our hands ? the built-in tools help novice photographers. The Auto White Balance (AWB) did a pretty good job of staying in line with the settings we would have manually selected. In post-production, we found the quality of the images and video to be excellent.
Overall we think this drone was a hit for DJI. When we first got our hands on it two years ago, it was just what the doctor ordered and remained so to this day. The Phantom 4 Advanced is the perfect starter drone for anyone entering into the commercial space and looking to do it as economically as possible. While there are a few sacrifices in capabilities when not going all the way to the Phantom 4 Pro, the Advance model is still a solid choice two years down the line.
There are many retailers selling packages for the Phantom 4 Advanced. Bundles include a wide range of accessories from landing pads to backpacks. With two years on the market, there are a lot of accessories to choose from; We think these are a few good ones to consider;
You will need more batteries than the one included in the package. For those looking to use the Phantom 4 Advanced in its intended purpose as an entry-level commercial drone, we recommend having at least 4 Intelligent Flight Batteries.
For commercial photographers, you must have ND filters. Polar pro makes a great set of these specifically for the Phantom series. Spare propellers are, of course, a must. We never like to go out without at least two extra sets.
Finally, although the drone comes in a foam case, it isn’t ideal for use. A backpack that can safely carry your Phantom 4 Advanced and everything you need for it is essential. We recommend the Lowepro DroneGuard BP 450 AW. Be sure to check out our review of the backpack on Drone Riot.
For those looking for similar power and capabilities outside the DJI family, we recommend considering one of the two drones listed below.
Yuneec Typhoon 4K
The Yuneec Typhoon 4K has many of the capabilities we love in the Phantom 4 Advanced and its selling around $700. With the ability to capture impressive 4K video and 1080p/120fps slow motion video, photographers will not be disappointed. The camera also sits on a three-axis gimbal, but unlike the Phantom 4 Advanced the camera is detachable. The Typhoon 4K even comes with a handheld SteadyGrip for capturing ground shots.
Features we like about the Typhoon 4K are;
- A distortion-free lens which allows for a 115-degree wide-angle view
- Smart features such as return home and Watch Me/Follow Me
- The removable gimbal and handheld accessory
- Ability to stream video to other devices
Features we would like to see improved on the Typhoon 4K are;
- The drone operates only on Android devices
- Setup takes a little longer as you need a unique tool to attach the propellers
- Calibration is required almost every time you fly, and the onboard compass needs a real compass to be appropriately calibrated
Although no longer in production, the 3DR Solo is a capable drone that retails around $500. The Solo is ready to fly out of the box and is designed to work with the GoPro Cameras. Because of the drone’s open source, SDK’s an API; it is easy to add customization to the camera payload. A feature many photographers enjoy. The drone is competent in performance, but you will not find collision avoidance or other sensors located on the Phantom 4 Advanced.
Features we like about the 3DR Solo are;
- The Solo can move fast! The maximum speed is 55 mph (89 kmph)
- Distance is impressive with a range of 6 miles (9.5 km)
- The lightweight of just over 3 pounds makes the drone very portable
Features we would like to see improved on the 3DR Solo are;
- The Solo does not come with a camera. You must buy the GoPro or another camera separately
- Some pilots have reported the Solo tends to drift while in hover
- The GPS module is for some reason placed under the battery which can block the signal
The Phantom 4 Advanced has undoubtedly stood the test of time. This entry-level commercial drone has been in the hands of professionals for over two years with far more praise than criticism.
We have used the drone professionally since its release and have found it reliable in function with a high-quality output for both image and video.
While there are a few sacrifices, one makes in not paying for the Phantom 4 Pro the Phantom 4 Advanced is a great choice considering the $300 price difference.
After running the drone through all its functions and looking at the package as all whole, we could not be more pleased with DJI. To all those looking to become commercial drone pilots, we wholeheartedly recommend the DJI Phantom 4 Advanced.