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Comparing Phantom models – which one should you buy?

UPDATE SPRING 2015: The Phantom 3 (not listed in this post) has arrived and prices have changed! Click here to read my article about the new Phantom 3.

There are a range of quadcopter brands and models out there, but by far the most popular when it comes to upper range hobby quadcopters seems to be DJI’s Phantom range. They’re reliable and easy to use, at least compared to many competitors. But which should you choose?

I did a lot of research prior to buying my Phantom 2 Vision+, and I’m glad I did! From camera quality to the included gimbal (image stabilizer), you do get what you pay for. The actual bodies seem to be quite similar though.

Here’s an overview of the models available and how they differ. Which one suits you depends on your budget and the purpose of your quadcopter:

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Phantom 1 – $478
  • No camera included
  • No gimbal
  • Comes with a small plastic GoPro holder
  • No app support or video downlink to your smartphone
  • Smaller battery
  • Flight time: 10 minutes

Should you buy it? Probably not. If you want a model where you can add your own camera, go for the Phantom 2 instead.

FC40 – $568.99
  • Same base as the Phantom 1
  • Comes with a basic camera
  • No gimbal
  • Flight time: 10 minutes

Should you buy it? Maybe. If you’re looking for a very basic flying camera but want the DJI brand, this is the cheapest option you can get. However, there are cheaper models among other brands that do a similar job.

Phantom 2 – $679
  • No camera included
  • Gimbal and camera can be added, for example a GoPro
  • No app support
  • Video downlink to your smartphone as an add-on only
  • Larger (more expensive) battery
  • Flight time: 20-25 minutes

Should you but it? If you have your own camera already, yes. You still need to add a gimbal yourself, but it could still be a cheaper option than buying a quadcopter with included camera.

Phantom 2 Vision – $799
  • 14 megapixel/1080p camera
  • No gimbal, and you can’t add one
  • 300m Wi-Fi connection for smartphone video downlink
  • 60 degree camera orientation (straight forward to angled downward)
  • Larger battery, same as Phantom 2
  • Flight time: 20-25 minutes

Should you buy it? I did, then I cancelled my order. And I’m glad I did! The price jump to the Vision+ model seems high for minor upgrades (such as extended wifi range), but what really makes the difference is the gimbal. The camera is essentially the same, but without a gimbal, video footage will still be shaky. A gimbal makes a huge difference! Go for the Vision+ instead, or the Phantom 2 with an added gimbal and your own camera.

Phantom 2 Vision+ – $1299
  • 14 megapixel/1080p camera
  • Gimbal included
  • Range extended for the smartphone video link: up to 700m
  • 90 degree camera angle – from straight ahead to straight down
  • Same larger battery as the Phantom 2
  • Flight time: 20-25 minutes

Should you buy it? Maybe. If you already have a GoPro or similar, a Phantom 2 with added gimbal is cheaper. If you’re not serious about image quality, a Phantom 2 Vision or even the budget FC40 is a far more economical option. If you’re a serious film maker, you might even want to start looking beyond the Phantom series, although we’re then talking a completely different price range. If you, like me, want a top-of-the-line quadcopter without leaving the hobby category, the Vision+ is a great choice.

Which quadcopter do you own, or consider buying?


1 reply »

  1. I have my Phantom for two weeks now and have had nothing but a blast with it. If you think you can just jump into this hobby and do wonderful thing with it you will be disappointed. It takes skill, practice, study and caution to get the full enjoyment out of it.a


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