When the history books come to be written about the rise and rise of the quadcopter, we suspect that one of the names which will be high on the list will be that of DJI, makers of the Phantom 2 Vision ‘flying camera’. The company has managed to single handedly carve out a new segment in the ‘prosumer’ gadget world, the personal camera drone. And they’ve done it with style.
The Phantom 2 Vision ships in a very professional looking box, which is immaculately packed with everything you need to get flying fast. We say fast, but there are two things to stress here. The first is the fact that these are real flying craft, not toys, which means that you should spend time learning about the flying characteristics and challenges before slotting it all together and rushing out the door.
Even though the Vision has been designed to be as user friendly as possible, it still has the ability to cause damage and injury if not flown responsibly, so it pays to watch the teaching videos and practice how to fly at low altitude and speeds at first. That said, the whole thing is very exciting the first time you get it out of the box.
The first thing that strikes you is how much care and attention has been put into the design of the quadcopter. Granted it’s an expensive piece of gear (at around the price of a good basic DSLR), but even so, the makers have thought of everything, even down to a small screwdriver which may be needed to switch frequencies from one geographic region to another. When they say this is ready to fly, they mean it.
The box contains, a battery pack, controller, the quad itself, two sets of props, clamps, a WiFi range extender to give increased flying distance/height options and the battery charger. Putting it all together is very easy, and can be done in a matter of 15 to 30 minutes depending on skill level, at which point you need to install the free smartphone/tablet app to test it all out.
As you’ll see from the video below, it’s all very clearly marked out and the documentation is excellent, so there’s no puzzles involved in putting it all together.
If you’ve ever flown any kind of remote control aircraft, including the latest toy quadcopters, you’ll know that they’re all tricky to master. It’s the hand eye coordination that’s the hard part, especially when it comes to navigating your way around obstacles in 3 dimensions. But the DJI folk have done a superb job of minimizing the risks involved with flying this quad, and it’s a superb job.
1. They offer a great set of user documentation on their site.
2. The use of GPS for stability really makes it much easy to familiarize yourself with the craft before attempting more complex maneuvers.
3. The ability to view through the on-board camera while flying, along with detailed flight information really is a massive boon for newcomers. You can see exactly how much battery time is left, change the angle of the camera to get different videos and images, and generally manage the craft brilliantly from the smartphone or tablet screen.
4. It features fail-safe ‘return home’ functionality, so that if it gets lost or batteries in the controller fail, it will automatically return to the place where it took off from.
However, I have to confess that even with the ease of use it is still easy to suffer problems. For one I had a small meeting with some tree branches first time out, and secondly, I’m still finding it tricky landing without spitting the thing over on its side. This, just to be clear, is because I’m obviously stupid.
The other important thing to mention of course is the camera, and in that regard again, the craft does extremely well. The 14 megapixel camera takes high resolution video and photos at the touch of a button, and the fact that you can aim your camera from the ground using your phone really helps make sure you can capture solid results.
Of course with any moving platform you’re going to have vibration, especially in even slightly windy situations (as on our video), but the bending and flexing you see as the stabilization software tries to compensate, is a small price to pay for the ability to video from the air on a budget. Remember that this is a) affordable and b) easy enough to fly that anyone can do it with minimum practice. Astounding.
The final thing that’s extremely impressive is the flight time. Until the Phantom 2 Vision, lower cost quadcopters could be expected to fly for around 10 minutes if you were lucky, before needing a charge. DJI has changed all that by including a stonking great 5200mAh battery in the pack which will deliver around 25 minutes of flight time, which is unprecedented. You can video a whole aerial movie in that kind of time, and it’s certainly good enough for most serious purposes as well as recreational.
The combination of all the above features means that we can see this type of craft being used for everything from home consumer hobbyist purposes to building inspection, guerilla search and rescue and more. The flyability and shootability have basically opened the skies to a whole new range of activities.
The DJI Phantom 2 Vision is a superb product in every way. As a quadcopter it flies faultlessly, (although there were some early stories about fly-aways, when the system seemed to break down), and it really does offer everything that a newcomer to taking aerial photography and video would need.
A few years ago a quadcopter like this would set you back several thousands of dollars and not delivered anywhere near the image quality or FPV (first person view) functionality through the phone. The fact that DJI has managed to do this at this price point is absolutely amazing, and for that we have no choice but to give them an Editors Choice award.
Lightweight, multi-functional integrated aircraft and camera
Camera remote-control by DJI VISION APP
Range Extender increases Wi-Fi distance to 300m
Anti-vibration camera platform with single axis stabilisation
Virtual Radar aircraft locator on mobile device
Range of camera tilt options
Multiple, continuous and timed capture options
HD Video Recording (1080/p30 or 1080/60i)
RAW and JPEG picture formats
PHANTOM 2 VISION Weight
Hover Accuracy (Ready to Fly)
Vertical: 0.8m; Horizontal: 2.5m
Max Yaw Angular Velocity
Max Tilt Angle
Max Ascent / Descent Speed
Max Flight Speed
15m/s (Not Recommended)
Tilting Range of Gimbal
Communication Distance (open area)
CE: 300m; FCC: 500m
4 AA Batteries
140Â°/ 120Â°/ 90Â°
Support of multi-capture, continuous capture and timed capture
Support of HD Recording (1080/p30 or 1080/60i)
Supports of both RAW and JPEG picture format