Its been a few days since DJI Announced the new Phantom 4 Pro and I have had a chance to delve into the detail on both craft anf feel DJI have made some major steps forward but they both leave most users with the question should I upgrade ?
Having looked over the information and spec’s and while mid cycle release can often be just be minimal changes there are a number of very good reasons why you should consider the Phantom 4 Pro over previous models.
Here are some of the reasons why.
The all new 20MP Sony EXMOR 1” sensor is around 4x larger than the 1/2.3 inch sensor used in the Phantom 3 and 4 models,the size of sensor that a camera has ultimately determines how much light it uses to create an image and it stands to reason that a bigger sensor can gain more information than a smaller one and produce better images.
Here you can see the size difference
This sensor setup means DJI have had to fit all new optics, its got eight elements , 2 aspherical arranged in seven groups giving it a 24mm equivalent focal length, that is a little narrower fov than the P4 but not substantial.
2: Mechanical Shutter and Focus
The mechanical sutter on the Phantom 4 is uses in stills and burst shooting modes only, with a max speed of 1/2000s it helps eliminates rolling shutter distortion with fast moving subjects or when flying at high speed, DJI say the electronic shutter has also been improved with a max shutter speed of 1/8000 seconds, using a mechanical shutter can also result in lower noise in the sensor, since while the shutter is closed, there’s no light at the sensor at all.
DJI have included the same tap to focus feature we have seen on the Mavic Pro, this allows a manual focus option of 1m to infinity.
3:HEVC H.265 Codec
One of the biggest surprises was the addition of a complete new codec option H.265, one of the biggest complaints with the X3 and phantom 3 and 4 was the level of flickering in dark regions and moire, most of this stems from the way the H.264 codec works and the GOP frame setup,basically a codec is a method of reducing the recorded file size while trying to retain as much detail as possible, its able to reduce the amount of space needed by not actually recording each full frame, instead it looks at what has changed between the last frame and the current one then it stores data about the differences between the the images but not the actual frame its self, in playback it uses this data to create frames between the actual captures ones, in H.264 creating middle frames called P and B frames from the 1st original one and using the difference data it stored, the problem with this is it only actually captures a full new frame every 8 so when filming areas of subtle change like grass and water the codec interpolates a lot of the solid color with minimal movement like the surface of grass moving with gentle wind,then when the new 8th real frame comes along you get a large step change in movement or color and its noticeable. H.264 was never designed to compress 4K video and was conceived in a 1080P area, The methods of compressing the image down like 16×16 macroblocks is just not optimizes for 4K.
Here is where H.265 steps in, specifically designed for the 4K area is uses all new methods for predicting difference in frames, things like variable size transforms (from 4×4 to 32×32), quad-tree structured prediction areas from 64×64 to 4×4, candidate-list-based motion vector prediction and many more intra-frame predictions modes means these issues should be vastly improved.
H.265 also allows much smaller file sizes as well as improved output, while the 2 x smaller than H.264 is a theory we should see the ability to store about 1.5x the amount of 4K video to the SD card., the downsides to H.265 is the processing overhead needed both onboard aircraft and at decode side as well, the Phantom 4 Pro can record video in 4K 60fps in H264 but is limited to 30fps in H.265.
4: New Ambarella H1 SOC 100Mbps Bit Rate
With the new Sensor there is also a new SOC, The Ambarella H1 supports 4K Ultra HD H.264 video encoding at 60 frames per second for high-speed live-action recording with smooth slow‐motion capabilities. It also supports the new H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) video standard for 4K Ultra HD encoding at up to 30 frames per second, providing higher image quality at lower bitrates as well as faster video uploads and higher resolution video streaming.
The H1 also includes advanced Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) for stable video recording during windy or high motion conditions, along with H.265 support it allows up to 100Mbps recording bitrate, this a very welcome change and will allow for much more detail in 4K recording mode, coupled with H.265 it should provide much better footage with less artifacts and moire, it also filters down to the lower resolutions and the 1080P 60fps has 80Mbps in H.264 and 65Mbps in H.265.
5: Rear and Side Object Detection
On the Phantom 4 while the Object avoidance worked well I did find some limitations when
using it in confined areas like woods and narrow spaces, the sides we especially a danger zone, while the front sensors would pickup anything out front while avoiding one thing it could put its self into another especially between trees and branches, more than once it pushed its self into branched while avoiding ones out front for me.
DJI have resolved this by added 2 x rear facing optical cameras as well as side Infra red sensors, this means it can now see its environment better and should make the Phantom 4 Pro much more stable and safer to use in confined spaced compared to the Phantom 4
It has a total of 5 direction of obstacle sensing and 4 directions of obstacle avoidance, front and back optical sensors side infrared sensing system, placed on the left, and right sides of the aircraft these measure the distance between the aircraft and any obstacles using infrared 3D scanning when in beginner and Tripod Mode only, these sensors have a horizontal fov of 70° and a vertical fov of 20°,a maximum range of 23ft (7m) providing a wide view of the scene to the sides of the Phantom.
6: Smart RTH
This is a feature that was highlighted on the Inspire 2 but went under the radar on the Phantom 4 Pro, the craft can automatically choose the best route to return home depending on environmental conditions, It records its route as it flies allowing it to return along the same route avoiding obstacles if the control signal is disconnected.
Based on its altitude at the time of disconnection, the Phantom 4 Pro is also able to adjust its flight path to avoid obstacles it has seen during its flight, at takeoff,it will record the scene below and compare its recording with what it sees as it returns for more precise landing, also if any obstacles are found or there is water it will alert the pilot and hover at an appropriate height helping the aircraft to land more safely.
8: Other Features
As well as the above DJI have added a number of new features to the intelligent modes on the phantom 4 Pro
New DRAW allows you to simply draw a route on screen and the Phantom 4 Pro will move in that direction while keeping its altitude locked.
In ActiveTrack pilots can now choose between Trace that follows behind or in front of a subject, avoiding obstacles automatically, Profile that will fly alongside a subject at a variety of angles to get profile shots and Spotlight that keeps the camera trained on a subject while the aircraft flies almost anywhere.
In TapFly they have added TapFly Backward to fly in the opposite direction of the tap, i.e. tap in the bottom right corner of the screen to fly backward towards the top left and
TapFly Free that locks the forward direction of the Phantom without locking the camera direction allowing it to turn as it flies via yaw.
I believe the above features make the Phantom 4 Pro decent upgrade over the previous model and worth highly considering.
Costing £1589 Uk/ $1499 US and is available to order now from the DJI Order Phantom 4 PRO Now
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